Standard Template Construct
"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."
- – Pablo Picasso
A long long time ago, the EMPRAH declared that humanity had to spread across the stars. He foresaw that humanity would need the resources of a galaxy to withstand the trials of the future: mad gods created by overindulgent jackholes, gun-toting walking foot-fungus infections, and emo robots with
plasma gauss weapons. A shame he didn't keep any of this nifty tool in his pocket or something just in case. A little foresight would've been appreciated, m'lord.
"But your eminence," asked some foolish minister, "only a fraction of 1% of our population has the skills and knowledge to survive outside our urban hives, never mind on worlds that haven't been terraformed yet!"
"Don't worry; I have a plan. For the past century I've been seeding book publishers with the idea of writing self-help books with names like '... For Dummies' and 'An Idiot's Guide to ...', and I invested in a manufacturing company in the Ikea Norse Hive when it was called 'Sweden'. Centuries later these and many other ideas will bear fruit in a push-button, turnkey, E-Z Bake oven colony procedure tool I will call "THE STANDARD TEMPLATE CONSTRUCT" and it will enable the most humble among us to reap the benefit of the stars!"
"... E-Z Bake oven, your highness?"
"Ah, an idea before your time. Actually not one of mine; clever little thing. I liked the frosting that came with the cake mixes."
Every colony-ship of humanity carried an STC with them, with easy-to-comprehend blueprints and instructions for everything that a colony would need, from how to use local resources to harvest food or irrigate deserts, to the architecture required to build mile-high hive arcologies or tap a planet's core for the magma pumps needed on forgeworlds. This also had the intended effect of making sure that manufactured goods were compatible between colonies across the Imperium of Man, and that the cultures would stay (relatively) the same and no colony would become so different as to seem as aliens to other humans. This is the reason why everyone across the Imperium speaks the same language, among other similarities between disparate colonies.
However, the STCs were created millennia ago. And there was a Dark Age between then and now. And some smartass decided to port the STCs to Android to make sure it would be "more compatible with the smaller devices colony ships will be carrying." As a result, no fully intact STCs are known to have survived to the modern era. All that's left are the short passages that have been copied religiously from generation to generation in each colony, but only what that particular colony needs... if it hasn't been corrupted by thousands of years of transcription (kinda like jpeg corruption amirite). Discovery of a new outpost of humanity is a prestigious discovery, as there's a chance that there may be parts of their STC that were preserved better than others, or even whole pages that are unseen elsewhere. Hoping beyond hope of course, there is still the possibility that an entire working, uncorrupted STC machine exists, probably on one of the worlds in the Halo Zone.
The STCs are a very important thing for the tech-priests of Mars, because they are a bunch of nutters who for the past ten thousand years have done next to nothing to promote technological progress because
they think their machines are alive and that modifying and developing them will hurt their precious feelings any tech more complex than a flintlock can and will be taken over by a zombie robot dragon living in Mars if used without protection. Finding an STC is thus the only possibility the Imperium has for restoring humanity to pre-technutter levels. If it manages that, it could surely wipe out all its enemies. Of course, the Mechanicus has a few good reasons for avoiding experimentation. There's more than a few planets that are now uninhabitable, or just plain gone after a magos decided to do some experimentation. See the contagion of Ganymede. Basically, Golden Age humanity was so damn advanced that dicking with its tech without understanding it is insanely dangerous. Imagine if we lost nearly all of our scientific and technological knowledge to the point your average Joe didn't know how to use a cell phone. Now, he finds a factory and tries to use it. You can imagine what would happen. Even worse, this could cripple the factory from being used by people who come along who actually do know how to use it. AdMech paranoia about people fucking with new technology makes a little more sense now, doesn't it?
But of course, this being 40k, where status quo is god, the damn things are lost forever. GW has finally gotten around to moving the timeline along, and while there has yet to be recent STC recovery, possibility is out there now. Though, the Emperor probably knows full-well that the Ark Mechanicus ships are STCs because he's the motherfucking Emperor. Who is smart enough to understand telling the Mechanicus something the cogboys would hear as "right there is all the knowledge and power you need to conquer humanity and turn everyone into slaves or servitors, have fun". Even more so that a complete STC is meant to be used to build up to Golden Age standards from absolute scratch if necessary. Which means one of them would completely negate the power of the Mechanicus and its place in the Imperium. Unless it's controlled by the Mechanicus, in which case it would be abused to control the Imperium and force the Machine Cult on everyone. Which is funny because the Machine Cult strongly resembles Christianity: Omnissiach = Jesus (extra irony that Emps either is Jesus or a thirteenth disciple), Machine God = God (and fits perfectly with God as the creator of the Cosmic Machine that is the universe). See Mechanism for real life Machine Cult like stuff.
On the bright side, there would also be plenty of cogboys who believe in upholding humanity over political power or conquest. Especially after ten thousand years of "humanity first and always" indoctrination added to normal Machine Cult lore, which they didn't have until the Emperor came along. On top of that the Emperor is the Omnissiah (though, probably not all Tech-Priest believe this). So, we'd have a techno civil war (probably destroying the STCs anyway) and the Imperium would be greatly reduced in size (still several times larger than everyone but the Orks combined) and advanced enough to make the height of the Great Crusade look primitive but still nothing compared to the Golden Age and no more STCs. Yay. At least then the AdMech might know enough and have enough tools to get back to performing science and experimenting in safe ways with enough data to get a sort of general idea for the direction of STC technology. They'd puzzle the truth of things out eventually so the humanity and the Imperium would be better off anyway. Especially now with the Eldar alliance as maybe they'd see keeping at least one STC intact and in the hands of Guilliman as a good thing worth fighting for in order to ensure the destruction of everyone but the Imperium. Hey, they know they can at least trust Guilliman to keep his word and prevent their extermination but everyone else would gladly kill them.
Revelations from recent STC recoveries
Scientific discovery after a dark age can be equal parts research and archeology, as a culture reclaims knowledge it has lost. The Adeptus Mechanicus is particularly interested in finding new STCs to fill in the gaps of their knowledge, to de-mystify parts of their manufacturing rituals, and to issue new and improved tools to the Imperium, and are willing to pay handsomely for even a fragment of an STC. Basically, if you find the STC for a better toaster you're set for life; find one for an entirely new weapons system and you'll probably end up being made governor of an entire planet (What would happen if you found a complete working one I wonder......).
Among the recent discoveries from recovered STCs:
- The Land Crawler all-terrain soil cultivator vehicle (if by "recent" you mean "late Great Crusade era")
- An artificial sweetener that doesn't have an aftertaste like foot sweat
- The Castigator-class Titan (whose STC turned daemonic, sidenote however that some Knight houses still possess some schematics but keep them close to their hearts...because using them to fuck the enemies of Man is beyond their severely limited comprehension. Or the designs will turn on you and murder everyone you love...)
- Cultural archives badly lost over the years but basically going back to before M0
- Jodorowsky's Dune (holy fuck watch it)
- The HXT-37 voltage transubstantiation cable for using 'AA' batteries in 'AAA' music players
- The 58th flavor of Heinz's ketchup
- Daemon-corrupted Men of Iron ...err maybe this wasn't such a good find. Cue Ibram Gaunt BLAMMING said STC.
- A simple (durable, cheap, mono-molecular) combat knife. Two IMPERIAL GUARDSMEN (!) found it and were rewarded with a planet each!
- Leman Russ Punisher and Eradicator (actually a case of "hey! Look at this Ancient technology I just... found. I didn't invent it at all, really")
- Various life extension methods like better juvenants, etc
- Helmets manly enough for space marine commanders
- Kamikaze neckbeard powered toaster ovens (Caestus Assault Ram)
- Baby's First Thunderhawk (affectionately called the "Stormraven Gunship" by some.)
- Super Baby-Carrier 40,000 (incomplete STC fragment, but they still managed to build the Nemesis Dreadknight out of it...)
- Miracle chocolate that somehow only manages to go to women's lovely parts. Extensively eaten by Boone
- Panacea - see the sad story below
- Dreadclaw Drop Pods. Something wasn't right with these folks Machine Spirit. Maybe they really were alive?
- Imperial Knights
- Praetor missile launcher
- Nephilim Jetfighter's engine
- Astraeus Super-Heavy Tank
Notice that most of the vehicles in this list did not exist until later editions of the game. This is how Games Workshop and Forge World justify adding units to armies (Imperial armies, anyway) -- they existed all along, it's just that the Adeptus Mechanicus only recently re-discovered (or "re-discovered" and most definitely did not invent) the STC pattern encoding them. Basically, you can know how to build the vehicle, but if you don't know what programs it uses or, possibly, what specific materials to use for more sensitive components, it isn't going to do jack, or worse, it kills you.
Of course, any time that a real game-changing STC comes along, something bad happens and it gets stolen, lost, destroyed, or corrupted, because grimdark. For example, in the 5th edition Dark Eldar codex, Asdrubael Vect's Ex, Lady Malys, tricked some Orks into attacking an Industrial world that had been fortified beyond belief. Every hive on it was crammed with guardsmen, and even titan legions and Admech forces were present because they had found an STC called Panacea that would allow
billions trillions quadrillions the whole of humanity to be cured of disease and poison (hint: Panacea is a literal cure-all). The Dark Eldar attempted to steal it by luring an Ork fleet to the planet where the Orks pretty much crushed all resistance (quite literally - by crash-landing on it), allowing the Dark Eldar to effortlessly take the STC (after the Orks stole it first, go figure). Of course the Dark Eldar don't use the same technology (and could not care less about cures for human diseases anyway), so at the moment it's collecting dust in Malys' Trophy Room, rather than alleviating the grimdark. At this point, we can only hope that the Dark Eldar manage to provoke the Imperium into launching a full crusade against Commorragh and rescue the STC in the process... yeah, right. that did happen before this incident, though.
Of course, this would all be doomed to fail once the Death Guard, Purge, and all the other forces of Nurgle surprisingly come to the aid of the Dark Eldar. That, or they'll just intervene in a desperate attempt to destroy this particular STC. After all, a literal cure-all being distributed across the galaxy would be a catastrophic blow against the Plaguefather, and it would weaken him to the point that plot development would be necessary, something that GW will avoid at all costs.
As a side note, Magos Delphan Gruss is an explorator who is convinced from studying STC legends that there exists an artefact called the Omnicopaeia. Rumoured to be either a data storage device containing either every STC invented or every STC related to psychic powers, it was rumoured to be on the Daemon World known as Hell's Teeth in 998.M41 with billions of Skitarii mobilized for a recovery operation.
Baron von EvilSatan's AdMech/STC copypasta
The Mechanicus does NOT have the technology. They haven't been living on some fancy paradise planet since pre-Fall. Mars is an anarchic nightmare shithole the moment you leave the safe zones into the kilometres of labyrinthine corridors beneath it full of rogue machinery, self-aware and malevolent AI from before the Fall, and the daemon programs of the Heresy. EVERYTHING in the databases is fucked. The databases are fragmented over the entire surface to the extent that it would be impossible to see one tenth of the total files in the ludicrously extended life of a Magos even assuming that they are completely safe to visit. And they are not.
The files have been corrupted into madness by the Fall, and the unleashing of the most potent informational warfare systems ever to exist to defeat the Iron Men. Nearly all of Mars was rendered uninhabitable, what they live in now is built on the top of the ruins. They send archeotech expeditions in to find shit, nearly all of them never come back. The sheer number of rogue war machine running around in there is sufficient to rape the mind. Then came the Heresy, which was not earth-exclusive. Mars as the second most critical planet in the Imperium was the site of fighting nearly as ferocious as on Terra, with Mechanicus loyalists and Hereteks fighting tooth, nail, and mechadendrite everywhere. Ancient machines were unleashed, viruses both normal and daemonic unleashed into all the computer systems. Nearly every single stored record on Mars was rendered unusable, and those that survived are half the time self-aware and don't like you, or daemonic and actively try to kill you.
If you come back with a schematic, it is almost certainly gibberish, and if it isn't, it's probably corrupted into uselessness. If it does come back whole it was probably malevolently fucked with so that instead of a Lasgun power cell it's a fucking grenade set to detonate the second you finish building it. Why do you think they want off-world STCs so damned much if they had them all here? The fucking Heresy is why. Off-world they only have to contend with the Fall's war and its effects on the machinery plus twenty thousand years of degradation with no maintenance. But at least off-world it'll probably just not work instead of actively seek to kill you.
Why do you think they seek to placate the Machine Spirit? It's because it exists. The fragments of trillions of self-aware programs, flourishing during the Dark Age of Technology and shattered by Man in his war with the Iron men, imprisoning the few who had not set themselves irrevocably into the machinery, a prison smashed wide open by the Heresy. Everything that can hold programming in the Imperium has a shard of a program in it. EVERYTHING. And you'd better fucking please it or it will do everything in its power to make your day shit. Sure, if it's a Lasgun it'll just not work or start shooting off rounds by itself, but if you piss off a Land Raider you can say bye-bye to half a continent. They apply these principles to things without spirits by habit, since they're so used to dealing with tanks that if not talked to just right might go rogue and annihilate the Manufactorum before they can be killed.
This is why they do not like ANYONE fucking with technology, because it is so rare to find anything that just works it is critical it not be compromised. That, and they do not have the actual knowledge to fuck with it intelligently, just through experimentation, which inevitably leads to slaughter. Pressing buttons to see what works is fine in a 21st century computer, but it is a very stupid thing to do at the helm of a 410th century starship with the destructive power to end solar systems. The entire knowledge base of humanity was lost. Not forgotten, but outright lost. Everything at all, poof. Nobody knows anything because the Fall fucked everything up and the Heresy double-fucked it. To rebuild the theoretical framework needed to design new technologies that don't kill everyone near them would require starting from the ground up. They don't have the time, and they never have.
This gets on to the point of war and what it does to technology. Someone will parrot that it makes it go much faster. Yes, it makes practical applications of technology go much faster. It also utterly stops all research on the scientific theories behind those technologies. This means that when war chugs along for a decade or two things get done. It means when it goes on too long you run out of theories to turn into technologies, and then you run out of technologies to apply. You stagnate. When you have been fighting in a war for survival in a drastically overextended empire, this is what happens. You are desperate for any extra materiel that can possibly be produced. Half your entire fucking military might went rogue, smashed the half that stayed, leaving you with the tattered shreds of a war machine to keep hold of an empire that was reaching straining point with an army far larger. There is no time for the sort of applied research programs that took Man twenty five thousand years to develop, in a time of unprecedented growth and prosperity.
This is also why the Adeptus Mechanicus insists on cargo cultism. It's because when you are dealing with things you barely understand because everything you knew about them was destroyed it is the safest and most reliable option. The rituals do not exists for mysticism, they exist because they are the most practical means of building, repairing and maintaining the equipment they have with the knowledge surviving. You don't understand why pressing that button makes it go, because the manual tried to take over your brain and the copies are all unreadable and the research base that would let you reverse-engineer it does not exist and cannot be built.
Why are the Tau doing so well with their technology? Because they had peace. Eight thousand years unmolested by any enemy and they were helped the entire time by the most advanced biological race in the galaxy. Give the Imperium eight thousand years of peace and I can guarantee you it will be harder than it was during the Great Crusade.
Since some still don't get the idea, try this.
Build a library, fill it with all human knowledge. You take it elsewhere when you need a book from it, but the book is only a simplified copy. You don't understand the real book, and you don't need to. Nobody takes the real books anywhere because why would you, when there's a whole library there?
Now that library goes rogue and the maintenance machinery starts killing everyone any-fucking-where near it. Where the fuck did they all come from, you swear to god there weren't this many, and there weren't because they're using the library's information to fight their war. The government fights a battle that destroys the planet against these robots and tears apart the library to stop them using it, only to be destroyed in the process. The library is leveled, cast into flames, every book burned and every computer virus-laden.
Then comes a man who worked there. He talks to the few surviving library workers, assembles their information, and starts rebuilding a city around the library and expanding it as the librarians find little scraps of paper and fragmented bits of files that stuck together just right read something. They rebuild a library from scrap on the ashes of the old. It isn't a shadow on the glory of the old, but it is all they have.
Then the city turns on itself, kills its master, and the librarians turn to rage. Half of them kill the other half and destroy the remnants of the library because where they're going they won't need science. Everything burns, and the city is left to a scattered few survivors, walls open to the world, with the hungry predators circling.
The Adeptus Mechanicus is the sole surviving librarian, desperately scrabbling through the ashes of paper and splinters of hard drives for anything to help him and the city he needs to survive just a second longer.
The Imperium isn't grim because things suck by choice and could be fine if a sensible person came along. That sensible person wouldn't survive fifty seconds of the reality. The Imperium is grim because every single shit decision, every single sacrifice, every single death, every single man woman and child suffering a shit life in the worst conditions imaginable, is the absolute best that can be done. It is a study of the worst happening to everyone and what part of your humanity must be sacrificed today just to stand a chance of survival, and all it asks is whether or not it would have perhaps been better to die.
Written by Baron von EvilSatan
The Ark Mechanicus (SPOILERS FOR PRIEST OF MARS)
You are Ark Mechanicus. You are Speranza. You are the bringer of hope in this hopeless age.
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
In this novel written by Graham McNeill, it is revealed that the Ark Mechanicus Speranza, an incredibly old and massive ship used by the Adeptus Mechanicus to explore new stellar territories, has some of the most advanced technological achievements of mankind encoded in its very structure. This revelation, unfortunately, was only discovered during a brief moment when one of the main protagonists of the novel, Archmagos Lexell Kotov, made some sort of spiritual connection with the Machine Spirit of the Speranza(alignment: True Neutral) in order to save the day, and he forgot what he had seen immediately after.
Which may suck, yes, but this was compensated by the fact that upon the Archmagos linking with the ship, the Speranza's AI went godmode, deploying all kind of unimaginably super-high-tech targeting systems that NOBODY knew it had, systems that were capable of functioning with 100% precision in the middle of a space-time gravitational storm, and detected and
crippled fatally damaged an Eldar cruiser in ONE FUCKING SHOT using a dorsal mounted BLACK HOLE CANNON so unbelievably advanced even the Necrons would have been scratching their heads trying to understand how it worked, although the narration tells us it involves antimatter, gravitons, and dark matter.
What makes it even better is that the Eldar ship was guided by a Farseer, and thus managed to actually DODGE the weapon's blast, which was explicitly stated to be moving at the speed of light. Of course, at the sort of distances combat is often fought in space, dodging light is very, very easy if you have foreknowledge of where it will be - for example, if you are a light-second away from the shooter, you have, by definition, an entire second to get off your sorry ass and move. The Speranza wasn't having any of it, and instead of missing like some plebeian battleship with its macro-cannons and lances, followed up with a chrono-gun shooting tachyons to shift the Eldar ship a nanosecond into the past to make the black hole shot connect. IT FUCKING TELEPORTED AN ENEMY SHIP THROUGH TIME SO IT WOULDN'T HAVE TO TURN AND FIRE AGAIN.
Another conclusion that some reading this scene have come up with is that the black holes the Speranza fires also mess with time themselves, and that the end result shifts the target back in time a few nanoseconds, forcing two iterations to exist at the same place and time, destroying both. This thing can basically telefrag enemies, like some kind of continent sized Doomguy. Regardless of whether this explanation or the one above are correct, both are badass.
That's right, lads, the Ark Mechanicus ships which the Imperium already own and operate could be the answer to the missing information of the STCs and more. A shame not even an Archmagos can access the information without immediately forgetting it all once the interface with the Machine Spirit has been severed. Especially given that, once linked to the ship, Kotov realized that (perhaps all of) the Ark Mechanicus used by the Mechanicum are complete, self-updating STCs.
Still. One-shotting an eldar cruiser with sniper-precision in the middle of a space-storm that should have made locating said vessel completely impossible, much less being able to fire at it with any hope of accuracy.
Indeed, also, it may or may not be because every time a higher STC device works correctly the Imperium suddenly wipes out of the table anything and we mean ANYTHING that it's thrown at them, what's up, Hivefleets? Get some space DNA-recombinant insecticide that uses quantum-whatever to preemptively neutralize your evolutionary countermeasures! Chaos Greater Daemons? Pff, now you DO NOT exist with my Empyrean Bomb! C'Tan shards? Let me show you what is to alter reality with my time-altering macrocannon! So yeah, if the Imperium ever gets these things working and mass-produced it's warranted at least one of the major enemy factions will be eradicated or become a minor nuisance, like it was in the Golden Age Of Technology.
(Provided the Necrons, Orks or Chaos/Dark Mechanicum don't produce their own variants. Talk about a Grimdark Arms-Race!) If the enemies haven’t advanced for tens of millions of years, they’re not going to. The Necrons don't have to, because they literally have 60 million years on mankind (albeit those who stayed awake all that time went a little nuts). Sixty million years and still primitive compared to peak Dark Age humanity. Man we’re fucked up seeing as our cool tech are almost all doomsday devices.
The best part, though, is that we now can gleefully point out how ridiculously primitive the Eldar are. Remember: the Dark Eldar maintained the technology of the height of the Eldar empire, so they haven't regressed technologically. They're also insanely primitive compared to Dark Age humanity. So, the Eldar probably know that (not having lost history, probably) and it would explain their snobbery. They're fucking jealous and intimidated because they know how scary, stupidly, utterly beautifully overpowered humanity can really be. To add insult to injury, when Eldar fight even mere Imperial Guard, they suffer heavy casualties even if they win (and they sometimes lose to the Guard, let alone Astartes). Heck, Vect’s plan to get rid of his rivals by instigating an Imperial invasion of Commorragh nearly backfired when just a few elements of like two Chapters laid waste to the city.
Eh, that last part about the Eldar being 'primitive' in comparison to Dark Age Humanity is debatable. It's important to keep in mind that while Dark Age humans had a lot of really awesome shit kicking around, a lot of them fucking died when those same machines rebelled against them (noting the machines went nuts or were corrupted does not argue against the Eldar being less advanced). In the same book that the Ark Mechanicus one-shots the Eldar cruiser, it only does so because it can, not because it's beholden to the Tech-Priest that's talking to it, or has some particular fondness for humanity. This motherfucker is TRUE NEUTRAL. It even tells the tech-priest that it doesn't care if it gets destroyed, because it will somehow continue even without its physical container. This machine does not give a SINGLE, SOLITARY FUCK about you. This is a rogue AI with the capability of generating pinpoint time-travelling singularities on a whim, with no sympathies or attachments to anything. And it doesn't go around blowing everything up because, well, it just doesn't and don't ask it why it doesn't. It's quite possible that the Eldar fully had the capability of creating ships with the same capabilities, but chose not to, because frankly it sounds like a really dumb fucking idea. Also keep in mind that the Fall of the Eldar wasn't caused by their technology, but by their culture becoming overly decadent and depraved. Eldar tech had progressed to a point of virtual stagnation, because what do you really need to invent when you've satisfied every need for your society? In the fluff, the Eldar had an interstellar empire around the same time humanity was figuring out agriculture, and that empire lasted until the Fall in ~M29. Meanwhile, humanity had already destroyed their own interstellar empires by around M25 (well, no, they didn't, Chaos, aliens, and the Eldar's fuckup destroyed said empire/federation, not human mistakes). Which kind of goes a long way in justifying the Eldar's views that humanity is a child race of reckless idiots (because the Eldar blame humanity for the consequences of the eldar's mistakes). Neither side really wins, though, since while humanity followed the rule of cool and had a brief but more kickass empire than the Eldar, Eldar tech stagnated and their empire survived long enough to devolve into orgy cults so fucked up they created an evil god. Again, no real winners here.