|Galactic Position||Cloudburst Sector, Setting:CloudburstCognomen Subsector|
|System Overlord||Magos Erin Ermincrole|
|Worlds in the system||Six, one habitable|
|World Type, Name||Proto-Knight World: ABX202020|
|Tropospheric Composition||Nitrogen 78%, Oxygen 20%, Argon .9%, Krypton .5%, Water .56%, Carbon dioxide .04%|
|Government type||Local Peerage|
|Adept Presence||Adeptus Mechanicus|
|Climate||ABX202020 is a cold world with latitudinal bands of climate, only freely habitable within four hundred miles of the equator|
|Geography||1.04 times the size of Terra, largely uneven ground land with little ocean|
|Gravity||1.11 Terran Gravity|
|Day Length||28 Terran Hours|
|Economy||Gelt Thrones and Silver Thrones|
|Principal Imports||Food, Manufacturing Equipment, Colonists, Knights, Weaponry, Ammunition|
|Countries and Continents||Twelve continents, no national divisions|
|Military||Skitarii, Machine Cultists, Knights, Serf Legions|
|Contact with other Systems||Common|
|Tithe Grade||Aptus Non|
The dirty little secret of the Cognomen Priesthood and the sector’s most powerful potential asset, ABX202020 is a Proto-Knight World. The planet hosts the beginnings of a Knight House, House Matraxia, and hosts no Arbites. If the knowledge of the Mechanicus’s illegal activity on ABX202020 were to go public, the very least the Cognomen Priesthood would have to endure would be a public scolding for breaking with protocol, and more likely would have several of its members imprisoned.
Within the vast structure of the Imperium, there are two distinct sorts of Knight Houses. The first and most common is that of the Imperial Noble Knights. These are Knight Houses that serve the Imperium in exchange for trade and knowledge, and usually reign over a planet. These Houses have long chivalric traditions, most dating back over twenty thousand years. They receive supplies of Knights and ammunition from the Imperium in exchange for their service, and form the speartip of Imperial Battle Groups on dangerous missions across the galaxy.
The second and less common is that of the Mechanicus Knightly Orders, and these are direct partners and servants of the Red Planet. These Houses have less autonomy, but do not have to pay a tithe; they instead direct their resources to a nearby Forge World. ABX202020 shall soon play host to one of these Questor Mechanicus Houses: House Matraxia. Unusually, the Planetary Governor and System Overlord will be two different postings; rare enough in Cloudburst and unprecedented for a Cognomen satrap. The leadership caste of the planet’s Techpriesthood is already in place, and the system’s readiness to begin acting as a productive Imperial colony will be at normal levels in under three years.
The problem, as the Cognomen leadership sees it, is that the entire affair is technically illegal. The foundation of new Knight Houses is not illegal per se, but the creation of new Knight Worlds from whole cloth is, at least under most interpretations of the Questor Cognitio Doctrina of Mars: the Quest for Knowledge. Unfortunately for Cognomen, the prevailing interpretation on Mars is one that finds new Knight Worlds to be a crime.
However, the present Lord Fabricator, Beraxos, has simply had enough of Mars’s over-conservatism. The strategic situation of the Imperium now may be a distant problem from aboard the Ring of Iron, but at the very edge of the Astronomican, circumstances are grim. Beraxos is fed up with Mars’s apparent inability to clear up simple dogmatic questions, their grudging respect for Cognomen’s many accomplishments and growing power, and their stubborn and infuriating refusal to answer his Astropathic questions about proper protocol.
Beraxos has been trying to hail Mars and request clarity on the finer points of Mechanicus doctrine regarding military expansion for seven years, and despite receiving instruction on several other topics and routine shipments of blueprints, maps, and Skitarii, Mars simply will not answer his questions about the appropriateness of building a Knight World from scratch.
Enough, Beraxos has declared, is enough. ABX202020 is the perfect Knight World candidate: close to a Forge World, unscarred by aliens, never colonized by anybody, and bursting with natural resources. Its peaceful climate and lack of dangerous predators are just bonuses. The Mechanicus is in position to make the world into a Knight World, and Beraxos has decided not to let Mars’s inability to pick up his messages prevent him from working.
Of course, this has a huge risk involved. The last time a Lord Fabricator on Cognomen elected to ignore Martian restraints, Lord Fabricator Richardson was hunted down and killed by the Inquisition. In Beraxos’s mind, however, the distinction is clear enough between now and then to take the risk. Richardson was attempting to create a Taghmata, not a Knightly House. Taghmata were feudal armies of the old Mechanicum, while Knight Houses answer to none but themselves and the Omnissiah. The distinction may not be great enough for the Ordo Machina to care, but Beraxos is betting that the pressing need for more Imperial martial power will stay the Inquisition’s hand, especially if House Matraxia proves loyal and skilled. Also, the Legio Congelatio is grossly underequipped, and having even one Knight House back them up could make all the difference.
With this in mind, Cognomen has deployed their finest geo-scapers and landcrafters to the task. House Matraxia’s Thrones Mechanicum and first batch of Knights are done and ready to field, a full dozen of basic models. Meanwhile, a proper fortress for the Royal Family rises from the stone and dirt of the endless forests of ABX202020. The lack of a name for the planet is galling to the first-wave colonists, but Cognomen reveres names like little else, and they are taking their time in choosing the right one. Of course, Remilia Matraxia would like nothing more than to name the planet after herself, which the Mechanicus deems highly unlikely.
ABX202020 has other assets to benefit a new Knight World. It has no moon or other objects to obstruct orbital defenses, and its abundant iron and oil make perfect base ingredients for equipment for mining and manufacturing, though the world’s ecobalance will require some attention. Agriculture will be harder to get off the ground, since the soils of the planet tend to be rather resource-poor compared to many other plant-covered worlds, partly because of the nutrient-gobbling trees all across most of its habitable surface. The poles of the planet are barren arctic wastelands with little life and no chance of permanent colonization until far more advanced habitation technology arrives.
However, its largest asset is its proximity to Cognomen. Many Knight Worlds endure some distance from their partner worlds, but Cognomen is only twelve light years from Cognomen, a Warp flight of a few days at most even without a Navigator. With a Navigator, the flight would take two days under the worst conditions, which means that the planet can easily benefit from trade and patronage with the Forge World.
The planet’s rich crust has deposits of dozens of metallic elements, including the ingredients needed to make Ceramite, though it lacks Adamantium and uranium, both of which see use in more potent Knight designs. As much trust as the Mechanicus of Cognomen has invested in Matraxia and her family, the world will not enjoy any more means of building its own Knights than any other Knight World. The planet has abundant living space near its equator, and the fortresses of the Knight Holds will be able to support vast industry, but Cognomen’s relative lack of propriety only goes so far.
The Sacristans of House Matraxia are few in number, but they have only a dozen Knights to protect. The families chosen for Sacristan duty from the population of Foraldshold and Forender are recipients of great honor from the Techpriesthood, for obvious reasons, and their integration into the Tech-adepts has so far been smooth and quick. As with most Sacristans, they are forbidden from bearing arms into battle except in emergencies, but the Matraxia House is ferociously defensive of their charges. House Matraxia is also an oddity in the naming conventions and orders of battle among Houses of Knights, because of their youth and the secrecy of their founding. The significant majority of Knight Houses are independent of Mars and the Mechanicus to a great degree. Some few enter its direct service, trading long-term independence and autonomy for better machines and ships, but most guard their feudal demesnes and peasantry with zeal. Matraxia is technically a Questor Mechanicus house, and therefore both legally bound to Cognomen (inasmuch as anything happening on ABX202020 is legal) and unable to field very much without direct approval from Beraxos. However, the Mechanicus chose to enact naming conventions and internal hierarchies of the House akin to the more common Imperial Knight Houses than the Mechanicus ones, to shield the project from any suspicious eyes and to alleviate the potential for guilt among the chivalric Knight nobles.
This backfired at once, as Matraxia is only as grateful to the Mechanicus for her new position as she feels she needs to be, which is far less than Beraxos would like. She is still perfectly loyal, or else he would have had her replaced, but she has made it abundantly clear that she knows both that what Beraxos is having her do is illegal, and that she is beholden ultimately to her people and her Emperor, not Cognomen. For now, she displays this truculence only when she has something to gain from it. Her undeniable brilliance, which saw her lifted from an Adept Administrator Ninth on Forender to become High Queen of a world, has not left her blind to the realities of her situation.
A quirk of the Thrones Mechanicum that Cognomen has crafted for the House Matraxia is that they are brand-new, and thus un-imprinted. As a natural result, the Thrones impart effectively no chivalric impulses on the minds of their occupants. However, they contain no ancestral brain patterns, no hidden nuggets of wisdom and knowledge from which the current pilots may benefit. That, in turn, means that the Thrones of Matraxia do not impress absolute obedience onto their occupants quite as firmly as most would. That may not be a consequential contributor to the High Queen’s stubbornness, of course, but it can’t lessen it, and Matraxia herself has made it abundantly clear to Beraxos and Ermincrole that she is their ally and partner, not their slave.
Her actual slaves find that cold comfort. Laboring to build a whole community in the globe-spanning forests of ABX202020 is rewarding in its sense that one can look back over one’s shoulder and see the immense buildings one’s labor has erected, and that is it. The laborers of ABX202020 are poorly paid, poorly clad, and poorly moralized. The religious and morale oversight from spiritual advisors and shepherds of the Cognomen Techpriesthood is sparse at best, absent at worst. For now, Ermincrole is focusing all of his efforts on making the world as self-sufficient as it can be, which requires sacrificing propriety for pragmatism. Beraxos and Ermincrole both want the world’s food, water, and defenses to be self-sustaining as soon as physically possible, both to prevent outside actors from sabotaging their efforts and so that ABX202020 can actually accomplish something in the defense of Cloudburst. The concerns of the labor classes are at best a tertiary concern between sustainability and secrecy.
This is not to say that the serfs and peasants are forgotten, of course. Though High Queen Matraxia may be somewhat less obedient than most old House Nobles, she is still a powerful and chivalric woman, and she has seen the potential for worker resentments or even insurrections if things worsen for the peasant folk. That she might actually slow production slightly to see to the welfare of the people who will in the future be expected to serve her every whim baffles Ermincrole, while Beraxos finds it amusing but potentially dangerous. Her four children are all Noble Knights in their own right, and were among the first people to be born from the population taken from Foraldshold and Forender. Now all between twenty and thirty, they have completed their Rituals of Becoming and chosen their Knights from the first batch delivered from Cognomen.
The world also plays host to a small, temporary garrison of the Skitarii of Cognomen, not one soldier more than absolutely needed. Beraxos has spent thousands of man-hours attempting to convince the Skitarii of his world – who ultimately answer to Mars, after all – of the necessity of his crime, and to his infinite relief, most had eventually come around and agreed. He can’t dispose of those who disagree, of course, so he instead sends them to ABX202020 itself, to see his masterpiece firsthand. They are quartered comfortably in the construction camp outside Citadel Matraxia, where every day they see the members of the future Royal Family walk past in their Machine God-blessed war engines. Whether this will instill reverence or disgust, only the Skitarii know, but Beraxos’s people tell him none of the Skitarii have attempted to contact Mars behind his back yet.
The world’s other defense is the mighty Watch Station Redshield, high in orbit above. The Deathwatch were given the station by the Mechanicus some time ago, as much to serve as a guarantee of their silence on the topic of Knights as to ensure the terribly vulnerable world does not fall to aliens. The Deathwatch, for their part, are displeased with being given this knowledge, but they do not deny that Redshield is now a strategic lynchpin for the defense of the Cognomen Subsector from the enemies of Man.
The majority of the humans on the planet ABX202020 do not know of Redshield, nor does the Mechanicus want them to. The affairs of the Deathwatch are best conducted out of sight of the ones they protect, after all. High Queen Princeps Matraxia is well aware of them, and as High Queen of her House and Planet, Planetary Governess, and Princeps of her Knight Engines, it would be remiss of her not to know of her secret allies. She has done her very best to keep the Deathwatch placated and friendly, and they tolerate her as much as they tolerate anybody who has had their mind rearranged by exposure to a Throne Mechanicum. The fact that Matraxia has not proved to be as wholly pliable to the will of Cognomen as they would have liked doesn’t hurt matters.
Her lieutenant is her husband and High Prince Consort, Prince Cobus Matraxia. He is a more enthusiastic proponent of the immediate deployment of his House across the stars than any other. The House Matraxia may be small, he proclaims, but their hunger for honor and glory knows no limits. The Basilikon Astra does know limits, however, and so he has had to sit fuming in simulations and logistical planning meetings innumerable instead of venting his spleen against Orks and Traitors, for now.
ABX202020 lacks an Astropathic Choir. In an emergency, the Astropath in residence on Watch Station Redshield can send messages through the Immaterium, though the Mechanicus is careful not to ask too much of its Deathwatch allies. Beraxos doesn’t care one way or the other whether ABX202020 has an Astropath yet, but System Overlord and regional Magos of the Cult Mechanicus Erin Ermincrole is less keen on the idea. Like Beraxos, he agrees that Mars’s apparent inability to answer their messages is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. Also like Beraxos, he is a loud proponent of Cognomen’s ambitious expansion plans. Unlike Beraxos, he hates psykers with a burning passion, quite unbecoming an official of the Imperium. Ermincrole thinks that the power of psykers to touch the Warp is monstrous, and inherently threatening to the Quest for Knowledge. If psykers were meant to be, he asks, why do the great STC libraries on Mars in the Librarius Omnis contain so few technologies with psychic components? Why do the other psychic races of the galaxy hate Humanity so?
His machinations have prevented the Adeptus Astra Telepathica from dispatching an Astropath to the world yet, though he would be an imbecile to ignore their insistence for much longer. The Adeptus Terra still thinks this world to be a mere logging and mining colony, and are yet unaware of the size of the Knight World’s true, ambitious future. The Mechanicus would hate for Terra and Mars to learn of this project thanks to inadvertent revelation from an Astropath.
The world’s defenses at present consist of a small flotilla of Basilikon Astra warships, Redshield, and two incomplete Defense Lasers on the surface, built into camouflaged structures of Citadel Matraxia. The world’s eventual defenses will be far greater, and Beraxos has already sent over plans for entire arrays of void platforms and surface-to-space guns. Until then, the planet is terribly vulnerable. While Cognomen has some of the Knight designs, they have decided to withhold most of the designs until the world’s other defenses are in place. Most of the colonists of the planet hail from Cognomen and Forender, and the Mechanicus has trained some in self-defense, just in case the worst should come to pass, and the planet suffers invasion while the Knight House is not ready to fight back. Matraxia does not appreciate this, but begrudgingly accepts the necessity for now – all the chivalry and honor in the world are meaningless if their peasants are all dead. So far, the planet’s indentureship by the Mechanicus is operating precisely on schedule. The members of House Matraxia who chafe under the leadership – and rulership – of Cognomen have kept their mouths shut, though even Cognomen’s loudest detractors have admitted that other Knight Houses have fared much worse under Forge Worlds than they have. Still, until the world’s colonization, industrialization, and Knight deployment are complete –which will take three hundred more years at minimum – the world is Cognomen’s, and they know it.
That said, there are dozens of Knight Armigers under production on Cognomen, ready to be used to enhance the PDF of the planet once the Citadel is complete enough to house them. The Armigers are solid defensive platforms, and can work alongside the Secutarii of the Corpus Secutarii Congelatio to protect the precious Titans of the Legion once their numbers are great enough. Magos Ermincrole has decided to focus on full-sized Knights for now, in case the planet comes under sudden attack, but the world has a huge life sustainability potential and could easily house a full regiment of Armigers if the need arose.
The world’s future capital, the city in which Citadel Matraxia is being built, is a hub of dynamic construction and expansion. Hundreds of thousands of colonists from across the Subsector are streaming in to take their shot at a new life, and the first generation of native ABX202020 children has already been born. Eventually, the planet may even grow heavily populated to the extent that it needs a proper PDF and Arbites, which will blow the secret wide open if it hasn’t been already. Until then, ABX202020 labors under a peculiar combination of secrecy, militarism, and hope.