Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Islands In The Stream

Horus Rising: The Dreadful Sagittary (I)

Where we're headed
Welcome citizens, to the Truth.

At first glance, it would seem that the interex represent a position almost as far from the Imperium as could be imagined, without having actively rejected humanity.  Where the Imperium is focused on war, the interex views conflict as an unfortunate fact, to be avoided wherever possible.  While the Imperium actively aim for the extermination of alien life, the interex will not commit genocide even in the face of invasion by utterly hostile alien races with which communication is utterly impossible. Their most powerful weapons are kept locked away so they might not be used, whereas the Imperium thinks nothing of allowing their Expeditionary Fleets ("contains a military component", Horus says, providing the first evidence of just how easy Lupercal found it to lie instantly and smoothly) to carry the horrific Life-Eater virus (just one more contributing factor to the Heresy - there is no such thing as a weapon so terrible no man will wish to make use of it).  They neither ignore nor obsess the threat of Chaos, as did the Imperium before and after the Heresy, respectively. They show no interest in converting the Imperium to their own thinking, whilst elements of the Luna Wolves and Blood Angels are straining at the bit to demonstrate the interex's error in fire and blood.  Even their name is more unassuming; it is interex and Imperium, not Interex and imperium. Moreover, the term implies and internal focus and an intersection of interests that the monomaniacal and expansionist Imperium could scarce understand.

This difference is perhaps the most crucial.  For all the other ways in which these two human civilisations fail to resemble each other, the central difference is that the Imperium wants to export its model to the entire galaxy. The interex - if they are to be believed, of course - has no interest in such violent missionary work.  This leads us to an interesting question.  We have seen already, as the Great Crusade reaches its outermost point, what a galaxy modelled according to Imperial dictate would resemble.  But what would it look like it the interex had their way?

I'm sure were we able to ask them, they would insist it was none of their business.  Even if that is their honest opinion, however, it does not prevent conclusions from being drawn. A galaxy in which the interex is untroubled by outside forces implies certain other properties, most obviously that there exists no force like the Imperium attempting to forcibly reunite humanity. Instead, we presume, countless small human civilisations would exist, some trading or forming alliances, others not.

This hypothetical new galactic order raises two further issues.  First, could this arrangement ever endure? The interex at its peak was less than half the size of the current Tau Empire, a race already under great pressure from greenskin hordes and the scattered splinter remnants of what was once Hive Fleet Kraken. It is by no means certain that those grey-skinned upstarts will survive the next few hundred years, and they only avoided swift extinction because Kraken did not strike a few degrees further to galactic north. Defeaters of the Kinebrach and the Megarachnid they might be, but could the interex really have survived a determined Waaagh, or an awakening Necron Dynasty?  Would it have even heard of the arrival of the Great Devourer before a hundred billion hive ships dropped into their systems to begin their feast? How could a society like the interex survive such overwhelming threats when there's every likelihood they would never even have heard of their arrival?

The obvious counter to this is that there can be no organisation slower to react and less heedful of calls for assistance than the Administratum.  A galaxy of resources to call on means a thunderous, unstoppable response, delivered with implacable might, deployed within a couple of centuries of a distress signal being sent. The Tau owe their lives and Prandium its destruction both to the sloth with which threats are recognised, considered, and dealt with by the Imperium. Perhaps smaller civilisations working with clear purpose - the Tau model itself, in fact - could respond with more speed.

(Of course, that phrase "working with clear purpose" is doing a great deal of heavy lifting here.  A galaxy in which a thousand human civilisations face their own threats from greenskins, genestealers, Hrud, eldar of all stripes, and the monstrosities of the Warp is one in which joining forces to fight overwhelming hostile aliens far to the galactic east - or to guard the Eye of Terror from daemonic incursion - seems difficult to imagine.)

The second issue is this: if we accept for the moment the premise that the Imperium was and is too zealous in its conversion of other human civilisations, can one draw a line at which the use of warfare is justified?  It is one thing to argue the interex should have been allowed to remain in its chosen format, and quite another to excuse, say, the vicious, murder-loving slavemasters of Angron's homeworld. At what point would the interex philosophy of live and let live break down? Live and let torture? Live and let enslave? Is the interex what the Imperium should be, or does perfection lie somewhere between the two extremes?

It is all academic, of course. We know the Imperium's single-minded devotion to unification overrode human planets' desire for independence across the entire galactic plane, and the interex are no longer in a position to answer our questions.  On occasion, however, it is important we linger on the questions of what might have been.  Not to wish for the road not taken - if indeed, that road would have found us a better destination - but to understand who we are and how we got here.  To remind ourselves we created this galaxy; it did not spring forth independently of our efforts.  Our choices and our reactions gave us this Imperium, and our choices and our reactions will determine how we, in these darkest of times, will survive, or at the least be remembered.


What Was

Horus' reminisces of his early days with the Emperor was an interesting look into his past, and gives us our first brief view at the Emperor himself. Did it shake any new ideas loose?

Yeah. Isn't Horus supposed to not have grown up Cthonia?

Um, yes. I don't understand why he's talking now like he was there as a kid.

Maybe it's memory implants?

Could be, I suppose. I forget. Anything else?

I'm not done ranting about this yet, because now I can't trust anything I'm reading.  Sure, twenty Primarchs - for twelve signs, so how does that work - and Horus is apparently the Emperor's favourite.  But maybe that's more bullshit.  And if even you don't know what's going on...

I can't remember everything!

...What chance have I got? Also, it's a bit disturbing that the Emperor is going around telling children they need to become mighty warriors. It smells a little like brainwashing. But then it clearly hasn't totally worked, because Horus is thinking for himself.  Even down to the star signs he's emulating, he's clearly going with his own choice rather than the one the Emperor assigned.

Why are all the Primarchs growing up on different planets?

I can't decide. Either the Emperor is creating Primarchs when he lands, or he's deliberately planted them through the galaxy to create power-bases ready for when he arrives as part of the Crusade.

What Is

Obviously, the big new in this chapter is the society of the interex. Bat-eared music obsessives with weird orangutan henchmen?  That's pretty crazy. But was it any good?

They seem much more - I think they use the word "mature". They're not afraid of other races, they've learned interacting with other species can be a two-way street, everyone can benefit.  They're more merciful than the Imperium, if indeed massacring an interstellar empire and leaving them to rot on just one world constitutes mercy.  It might be kinder just to do them all in.

It's tough when you can't ask your captives what they'd prefer, I suppose.

I like the idea of tying mathematics into music, and then using it as a language. That sounds like something we should try. Though of course if you build warning beacons that no-one other than you can even recognise as broadcasting messages, you may have taken things too far.

The interex seem quite Greek to the Imperium's Romans.  They're not bad warriors, but that's not what they're all about, they focus on maths and music and cultural development, rather than just smashing things.

It will be interesting to see how other characters will respond to the interex.  Particularly Sindermann.  On the one hand he's already started to question the way the Imperium go about things, but on the other he's no fonder of the idea of letting alien races wander around unattended.

So you're inclined to take the interex at face value, then?

Until we know more about them, which of course in Horus' plan.  Though it seems to be implying he'll change his mind about them at some point.

It can't be very often that people get in Horus' face, even members of the Mournival. Do you think Abaddon is likely to slink back and crave forgiveness?

I think he was very shocked when Horus threatened to take away the First Captaincy.  I think the very fact Horus says he's prepared to forgive makes me think Horus thinks Abaddon had a point.  But then this is what the Mournival is supposed to be about, isn't it?  Questioning Horus' authority is clearly a big no-no, though, especially in front of people.

So will he apologise?

He's going to have to. He won't give up on being First Captain, which means the only thing he can do is apologise, or hope Horus ends up dead.

I'd also like to note that if Eidolon had questioned Horus the way Abaddon did, Horus would have had his head, no matter the consequences with Fulgrim. It's obvious favouritism, which seems to be a recurring problem here.

If you decided to a carry a robot headless horsey about with you, what would you use it for?

Can it see?

I guess. You can put sensors where you want on a robot horse, I'd think.

I'd put books in the saddle bags - must be able to carry lots of paper, a robot horse - and make the inside a giant fridge-freezer, for ice-cream and cold drinks.  I'd make the tail into a kettle, so I could make tea.  No sugar, though.  I think if you're going to make a horsey wander around without a mouth its cruel for them to have to carry sugarlumps around as well.

Would there be anything stored in its giant pneumatic robo-horse-dick?

No! That's disgusting. Any anyway, mine's a lady-horse.

What star-sign would you like to be, if you could choose? Or would you stick with your giant space-crab?

I don't know what the twenty are.

Well, let's just stick with the twelve we know.

I probably look most like Leo.

Because of your hair being like a mane.


But those are for boy lions! You're a girl!

But I still look like one.  And I'd like a roar.  Or a sting. I could be the scorpion. No, I think I'm more a roarer than a stinger.  I wouldn't want to be a pair of scales; I'd always know how much I weigh.

Yes, scales always report their own weights, making them entirely useless.

I don't want to be a fish.  Or a twin. I argue enough with my sister without having to share a birthday. What are you?

A goat.

Because you're smelly and eat everything. I definitely wouldn't choose Sagittarius. I couldn't be a hunter. I can't even kill that damn squirrel who keeps stealing nuts from our bird-feeders. I'm going to stick with Leo, final answer.

What Will Be

How will things go down with the interex? Do you think they're as friendly as they make out?  For that matter, is Horus?

There's nothing yet to suggest the interex aren't being honest, and that their relationship with the Kinebrach is anything other than as advertised, but it's too early to tell.  Horus I think is genuinely biding his time, waiting for enough evidence one way or the other so he can explain himself to the Emperor. And obviously neither side are going to be entirely honest with each other, having only just met.  I mean, Horus is clearly underplaying the rampant xenophobia angle.

Yeah, it did seem somewhat disingenuous for Horus to describe his fleet as having "a military component".  Like describing university has having "aspects of drinking".

Horus might be playing angles here.  They might be able to gain some of the interex's technology. He might also be testing Loken, to see how his temperament deals with this new situation.

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