Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Clearly An Important Species

Horus Rising: Brotherhood In Spiderland (II)

Emperor's Children vs Megarachnids (copyright unknown)

The galaxy is better off without the Megarachnids.

In so wide and untameable a realm as the Imperium and its surroundings, there is very little that can be called inarguably true, but this proposition comes as close as any. Lethally fast and utterly hostile? None of our lives are less safe for their destruction.  Perhaps those most foolish and blinkered among our xenoentomologists lament the loss of interesting specimens, but were they to actually meet a Megarachnid, they would be dead in seconds and no-one would mourn them.

Thus does the cleansing of Murder represent the strongest case for the excesses of the Great Crusade. Not here the extermination of a peace-loving race like the Keykelid, the internecine murder of the battle for High City, or the hunting down of the Diasporex fleet. This war was simple: kill or be killed.

Except.  Except that Mersadie Oliton's question still can be asked. Why not simply leave them alone? 

One of the most iron-clad axioms that underpin our Imperium is that the ends justify the means.  From the enslaving of the lowliest mutant to the planetary abomination of Exterminatus, we are taught never to question whether our goals are worth any price. No-one ever seems concerned with the obvious response: how can we be sure our goals are what we're actually purchasing?

Consider how else the war on Murder could have played out.  Hundreds more Astartes could have been perished. For all their destructive might, even during those early, heady days of conquest the Legions were not inexhaustible.  One more marine dead in one war is one less ready to defend the Imperium from newer, perhaps greater threats. We need only look at the ten thousand years it took the Imperial Fists to reclaim the conquests of Rogal Dorn lost during the Heresy, or the lack of resources that led to Tau'n surviving long enough to spawn an entire interstellar empire, to realise the perils of a wasteful war.  The Megarachnids might even have forced a stalemate so bloody the Legions chose quarantine over genocide, and now there is a terrifyingly dangerous xenos race in the universe that has acquired a taste for man. Emperor alone knows what havoc could have broken out had the Megarachnids gotten their way onto the Legion's Stormbirds.

The hypotheticals do not end there. It was millennia before we learned the genestealers of Ymgarl were forerunners of the Tyranid blight. Might we not learn one day the same is true of the Megarachnids? A race of murderous giant arthropods of many forms but seemingly one mind?  There are biological differences, but if the Tyranids can grow Razorfiend cruisers and ripper swarms, they can grow an extra pair of limbs.  Each and every shield-storm that rolled across the white skies of Murder might have been nothing more than a beacon to the Great Devourer: "Prey is here".

Our point here is simple: it cannot possibly follow that a policy of total extermination must be the only way to keep humanity safe. Not for the sake of mercy, but for self-interest. Had we ever succeeded in wiping out the Eldar, Hive Fleet Kraken would have consumed Ichar IV and headed straight for Macragge.

There are times, to use an Old Earth phrase, when it would be wiser to keep our powder dry.

But such an approach was utterly unthinkable to the Astartes Legions. For a certain mindset, there can be no action less advisable than inaction, no crisis that cannot be resolved simply by ratcheting up the killing. That no imaginable scenario is insurmountable other than leaving things the way they found them.

Ultimately, there can be no question that this is an unsustainable approach. The arithmetic is entirely too simple: our enemies multiply as our casualty lists are added to.  One day, perhaps one day soon, we will open a new front and find there are no men to support it.

On Murder, the Astartes commitment to charging heedlessly at every problem ended up working out.  This did not always prove to be the case.


What Was

We've talked already about the Great Crusade and its tendency to knock over human cultures it doesn't like and wipe out aliens they don't much fancy the look of.  The Keylekid were a peaceful species, though, and the Megarachnids seem to be utterly hostile and lethal.  How do you feel about the idea of the Astartes trying to wipe them out?

Well, once again, it's not like they were heading out into the galaxy to cause problems.

They might do sooner or later, though, and humanity needs planets.

They don't seem intelligent, though. More like guard-dogs. They might have been created for just that purpose, maybe. Guarding the trees.  There's obviously something sentient on the planet, controlling the weather.

Could that not be a natural defense reaction?

Maybe. But the Megarachnids are described as being a melding between flesh and metal. They sound created.

So then they could end up on spaceships, just under someone else's control.

Or they could just want to be left alone, like that Next Gen episode where everyone gets their mind wiped because those aliens don't want people hanging out in their star system.  That's to say nothing of the fact that these things probably wouldn't be nearly so scary on other worlds, because they wouldn't have the shield storms.

Plus, anyone smart enough to make these things must surely be capable of being reasoned with.  There's no need to just go in and attack. It's an attitude problem. Tarvitz says he's proud of not being able to understand the aliens.  Why? Surely that would be a good thing to do, if only to understand their enemies better.  It's classic self-defeating xenophobia.

Wolves are from Cthonia, Children are from Chemos. How does that feed in to your increasingly well-developed theories on primarch/Emperor genetic heritage?

It's interesting that they're allowed to wear the Emperor's Eagle. Does that mean the Emperor is their primarch?  Their name certainly suggests that. Are they the top legion, then?  I suppose it all depends on how the Emperor became Emperor, and how the other primarchs came about.

Also, I think Tarvitz was massively overreacting over his eagle getting schmushed. Is it really worth getting so carried away because your decorations are damaged?

It's what that decoration represents.  Like when Sharpe took an Imperial Eagle at Talavera.

Sharpe? You're asking the wrong girl.

Gods, you really wasted your childhood, didn't you.

Also, it was fictional, so you can't use it here.

Sharpe himself was fictional, Cornwell wasn't making up the Peninsula War.

I suppose there's no point asking me about any of this, not having any experienced battle-lust. But I don't think if anyone had burned a picture of Queen Victoria, or smashed up her coat of arms, anyone would have cared.

I'm not sure that's true, but there's two distinct elements here. One, is there any such thing as a symbol worth getting angry about, and two, is this one of them?

There certainly isn't such a thing as a symbol worth getting more angry about than having your mate get decapitated.

Fair point.

What Is

Let's start with the killer spider-type things.  I know sci-fi isn't really your forte (if I published some of your comments regarding Star Wars we'd get death threats), so how do these gribbly slash-monsters strike you? Interesting? Boring? Oddly familiar?

Spiders? Mechanical spiders? Those robo-spiders from Stargate?

Oh, the Replicators. I was imagining something more armour-wearing, less built from Mechano.

What else do you want me to say? Doctor Who? Is there one in that? Alien?

I was thinking of Starship Troopers.

That's a parody, right?

Yes, of its own source material. Fuck Heinlein.

There was a giant spider in Anaconda, I think.

What the hell were you doing watching that with your snake phobia?

That didn't develop until later.

After watching Anaconda, maybe. Though I'd think developing a phobia of Jennifer Lopez's acting would make rather more sense.

She was in that?

Ah, you've blocked it out. My apologies to your therapist for bringing it up. But to return to the point...

I'm not especially enjoying them. They're a bit two-dimensional right now.

You're not intrigued by there being two totally different types?

It's just a sensible policy for GM monsters. Besides, there might be more than two types.

I meant up to now.

That's what I mean.  Maybe there's more types but the Astartes are far too racist to notice. "Oh, they all look the same."

It's impossible for white people to tell giant killer alien spiders apart.

So far we've seen infantry bugs and Luftwaffe bugs (Luftk√§fer?). It's like the first level in a computer game.  What do you think the bugs have ready for later on?

Tunnelling bugs. Swimming bugs. Fire-breathing bugs. Tree-hugging bugs.

Why would they need tree-hugging bugs?  Or do you literally mean hippies?

No. Like poisonous tree frogs.

They're only dangerous if you eat them.

Or lick them.

Why would -

Maybe they jump out of trees and transform into beautiful women the Astartes can't help but want to lick. Cobwebs!  Cobwebs made of swords.

This is like taking acid with H. R. Geiger.

What are the Luna Wolves up to whilst all this planet-side death is going down?

Flying on over. Well, after they've tidied up 1463 (Sixty-three Nineteen), anyway.

Is purple a good colour for an army of interstellar death?

Purple is associated with mourning, and it's regal. 

So it's like a bunch of toffs have arrived to kill you.

Or are mourning your death.

So why did they shoot me? That's sending mixed signals, toffs!

Purple is also pretty.

What Will Be

How do you see the story of Saul Tarvitz and Lucius developing from here?

I think Tarvitz will end up with the Luna Wolves, and become friends with Loken. They seem like they'd get on pretty well.  Lucius will disobey orders and try and take the Megarachnids on his own, and get killed. Or he becomes a space pirate and/or a futuristic member of the Three Musketeers.

Or does Tarvitz have to commit hari-kari because his eagle got smashed up?

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