This page is a work in progress, part of the Imperium Asunder project, a fan remake of the warhammer 40 000 history.
The Great Diaspora
The fall of the Imperium plunged human space into chaos. As word spread of the Emperor’s death and the Warmaster’s ascension to power, the Imperial machine was shaken to its core, individual parts straining against one another in directionless panic. In time, the fist of the Warmaster would secure the worlds of his new Imperium, but for now, disorder reigned. Amidst the death throes of the old order, countless undesirables, malcontents, and condemned saw their chance at freedom delivered to them, and there was a great migration out of Imperial space. Directionless and alone, many thousands of these refugees saw their journeys cut short, or found themselves plunging into dangers greater than any they could have imaged, the galaxy burning around them as Chaos tightened its grip upon what was once Segmentum Solar. For every vessel that was lost, however, ten more sailed on into the great unknown of the void.
It would be many years before the first of these travellers began to gather, banding together to scrape into being something resembling a unified nation. Hereteks and criminals, Mechanicum deserters, terrified refugees, conquered peoples from advanced civilizations like the Interex – slowly but surely, they came together, with little to bind them but a truth that burned like fire in each and every mind. The Emperor had been wrong. His way had ended in a galaxy aflame. His vision had destroyed their homes, torn down their accomplishments, and delivered humanity into the arms of something greater and more vicious than even He. Even in an abject state of exile, lost and adrift amidst the stars, that thought offered a measure of vindication, and from that came the desire – the need – to rebuild. To recover their past greatness, snatched away from them by the Emperor and his Imperium.
How precisely the first Archeotect fleets came into being, or when, is hard to pin down. What can be said for sure is that, by the closing days of M32, there were vessels of the burgeoning order observed moving between the stars with startling regularity. Their mission was one of recovery, at least at first. They picked the galaxy for remnants of days long passed – a time when mankind was altogether greater than it had ever been since. Their efforts were disparate, coordinated only in the vaguest sense, and were it not for a sudden twist of fate on the eve of M33, the Archeotects might have remained a footnote, eventually stamped out by time as much as by any number of eager jackboots. Without no banner to call their own and no allegiance to any but those close to them, these ragtag flotillas gradually migrated far to the galactic north, seeking to be free of the constant warring that characterized life in a galaxy of the Emperor's making. They sought to find isolated worlds and untouched, ancient relics of the Old Night, far beyond the borders of the squabbling Crusader States and the rapacious hordes of Chaos. So it was that more and more of these fleets congregated in the dark space at the very edges of Segmentum Obscurus and Ultima, where the stars were spread thinly and there were no jealous kings to lay claim to their findings.
The future of the Archeotect Collective was unearthed, without particular ceremony, on a distant world beyond the edges of known space – the largest sphere in a system of nine. The discovery made on that barren, airless world would forever change the disparate remnants that flew under the Archeotect banner, and immortalize those heading the mission, both figuratively and literally. The distant stars beyond the light of Segmentum Obscurus had long been the aspiration of many an Archeotect seeking to unearth some great secret of the ancient past, but few could claim to have made it as far as the outer systems, wary of the ancient horrors that and remnants of Old Night that roamed those cold starways. It took a man with nothing to lose – a descendant of the old Mechanicum by the name of Isador Vanth – to brave the territory and eventually land upon the surface of Phenex Prime. By all accounts a star fading far too soon, the captain’s career had been one of disaster, brushes with the fledgling Crusader States having destroyed much of his parent fleet and cost him the greater part of his crew. Whether he himself was strong of character or command is not documented, and matters little, for he returned from Phenex Prime with the blood of kings in his veins.
Amidst the dust of an ancient kingdom, Vanth and his fellows discovered a technology long lost to the varying empires of mankind. In the years after his transformation, in the turmoil that would follow, Vanth described how it called to him - how he and his crew seemed to sense some presence infringing upon their waking thoughts, twisting in the dark hours of sleep, guiding them into the light. When they finally made planetfall amidst the ruins of the fossilized city, the shadows of its inhabitants splayed across its walls and arches, they trekked for hours before finding the source of their strange visions, deep below the bedrock of the metropolis. It was a shifting shape of perfect, unreflective pitch, its angles shimmering from one form to another, from cube to sphere to dodecahedron. Vanth's writings would describe it as spitting static light and filling their eyes with visions and truths, speaking to them in mathematical sequence, its angelic language blasting apart neurons and reshaping them in its image, too sacred and potent to be comprehended by mortal minds. But he and his crew understood that every vision had significance, every aching burst of will had meaning, and as they stood, mesmerized by its glory, it accepted them into its presence, reshaping them.
Vanth and his crew returned from their long sojourn beneath the pale light of the outer stars as more than mere men and women, imbued with the strength and knowledge of an age long passed, and they brought their discovery to every Archeotect fleet they could find a way to communicate with. This would eventually lead to the birth of House Vanth, the first of the Apotheotect Lineages, and the formation of the Archeotect Collective as it exists today.
The Outer Systems Alliance & the Formation Wars
While the sons of the Old Imperium continued their Brothers' War across the breadth of the galaxy, the dark starways beyond the edges of known space were experiencing a renaissance - one of a kind not seen since the burgeoning years of the Dark Age (referred to by the Archeotects as the Age of Enlightenment). The knowledge embedded into Vanth and his crew, along with the technology that had made them more than mortal, was lighting up the dark between the stars. For the first time in over a thousand years, a feasible infrastructure was beginning to form between the disparate refugees and seeker fleets that would come to comprise the Archeotect Collective, forgotten insights into the nature of Warp travel and the mechanics of the materium allowing for a growing spider-web of spatial relays and waypoints that connected world after world and fleet after fleet. Progress was slow at first, stemming solely from Vanth's parent fleet, and the systems where habitable worlds were to be found were few and far between out beyond the light of civilized space, but every connection made was an explosive step forward, each success building upon the last, and soon Vanth's message was spreading at an incredible speed.
The first steps toward the establishment of a united governing body were tentative at best. Many of the vast flotillas that had fled out into the dark during the turmoil of the Imperium's fall were wary of any outside authority, and rightly so - it was a point of agreement between all that no one man could be enthroned as lord over all, and no tribe could be allowed to direct another, for to accept such a state was to invite the failures and horrors of the Emperor's ill-fated reign. There was also the matter of Vanth, and the growing sect of 'Vanthians' that advocated full integration with the technologies discovered on Phenex Prime. The Outer Systems Alliance, as it was called in those days, had spread from Phenex Prime, much as it has spread from the efforts of Isador Vanth, and many leaders among the colonies and flotillas looked on at the progression of affairs and worried over the centralization of power. They saw the Isador's growing following as a cult in the making, saw how Phenex Prime sat at the center of all outer-system affairs as an uncomfortable reminder of Terra and its absolute sovereignty over the Imperium of Man. There were many, too, that doubted the origins of the technology that pulsed in Vanth's veins; whether it was truly the remnant of a lost human civilization, or something wholly alien in nature, and these ideas were adopted by many of Isador's political detractors as points of contention.
One of the greatest factors keeping the Outer Systems Alliance - and in turn the future of the Archeotects - whole during this time of upheaval and suspicion was the existence of an outside enemy. The human remnants of Imperial civilization were not the only refugees to have fled out into the cold dark beyond the galactic rim. Many alien species, each one determined to survive the calamitous fall of mankind into Chaos, has eked out their own niches amidst the outer stars. Few of these xeno species were amiable to intrusion by humanity. The Imperium had not been an ally to them, and its disastrous implosion at the hands of the Warmaster had annihilated millions of xenos worlds. To most alien refugees seeking to scrabble together an existence amidst the stars, the presence of mankind was akin to a ticking time-bomb. A hundred small but costly wars were fought on a hundred more fronts, every new foray into the black expanse risking the discovery of some new alien species that would likely be less than content to share the sparse words of the outer systems with mankind. It was during this endeavor to secure humanity's place in the dark of the outer rim that the prowess offered to those that embraced Vanthian thinking was most evident - these enhanced humans were more than a match for any foe, and they responded to new threads by adapting and innovating at an astounding pace. The Formation Wars, as they were called, were instrumental in keeping Outer Systems society at large united, their combined might necessary to ward off the predations of xenos and worse, but they also confirmed that if a violent schism were ever to occur, those that denied Vanthian thinking would need a sizable advantage in order to achieve victory.
The War of Exiles
In the closing days of the Formation Wars, as the last Illithyd enclaves and Hrud swarms were routed from their strongholds or sent fleeing into the long dark, Isador made a symbolic gesture of goodwill that many would come to see as the ultimate example of his iron resolve. Knowing that many feared what Phenex Prime stood for as the center of the Outer Systems Alliance, and seeking to dispel all notions that embracing the potent technologies recovered on its surface would lead to a new cult of rulership and a new emperor, Vanth ordered the total destruction of the planet. The Hedron Mind, as well as all inhabitants, were evacuated, and the planet was used as the test subject for a powerful spatial collapse weapon, causing it to implode into a hyperdense mass that would eventually blossom into a bright, resource-rich neutron star.
As symbolic gesture, the destruction of Phenex Prime was moderately successful in swaying hearts and minds, but for a great many the goodwill it generated was seen as a death knell for the way of life they had clung to for so long. The first seeds of schism were small - words were traded of greater autonomy and political distance between the disparate forces of the Alliance, studies were encouraged to confirm that Vanth's gift to mankind was indeed the boon he claimed it, and the first tentative systems of enhancement regulation were proposed. Few points of compromise were found. Vanth and his supporters preached that the technology of Phenex Prime was humanity’s forgotten gateway into glory – that it was their responsibility not simply to brighten mankind’s understanding, but to find their perfect forms, and that there should be no limitations to this pursuit. The early days of this debate were tense, but civil, both parties united in mutual desire to see humanity restored to its past greatness. As time went on, however, rifts in doctrine deepened, and, not six decades after the Formation Wars were brought to an end, Archeotect society saw its first civil war.