|Galactic Position||Cloudburst Sector, Thimble Subsector|
|System Overlord||Harek abn Alnasr, Clan Ahad, Lord Subsector Thimble|
|Worlds in the system||Two, one inhabited|
|World Type, Name||Hive World: Thimble|
|Tropospheric Composition||Nitrogen 76%, Oxygen 19%, Argon 1%, Water 1%, Carbon Dioxide 1%, Ozone 2%|
|Government type||Adeptus Terra|
|Adept Presence||Adeptus Mechanicus, Adeptus Arbites, Adeptus Ministorum, Adeptus Astra Telepathica, Adeptus Administratum|
|Climate||Hot, windy, very little free water|
|Geography||Wide, barren blocks of land, separated by dry riverbeds, roughly 2.4 times the size of Terra, little tectonic activity|
|Gravity||0.97 Terran Gravity (with evidence of higher gravity prior to Terraforming)|
|Day Length||24 Terran Hours|
|Economy||Gelt Thrones and Silver Thrones|
|Principal Exports||Textiles, Shoes, Finished Clothing, Manpower, Industrial Goods|
|Principal Imports||Food, Raw Materials, Fertilizers, Water|
|Countries and Continents||Three continents, no national divisions|
|Military||Thimblan Argent Shields (medium quality PDF), Thimblan Argent Swords (medium quality Guard), Night Slaughter (special circumstances)|
|Contact with other Systems||As the only Hive World in Cloudburst, Thimble is in constant contact with other worlds by mundane and psychic means|
|Tithe Grade||Exactis Prima|
|Population||28,000,000,000 (human), 12,000,000,000 (servitor)|
Resembling nothing more than its namesake, Thimble is one of the two great industrial centers of the Cloudburst Sector, the other being Cognomen. Thimble is a Subsector Capital, the System Capital, a military staging area, a fleet anchorage, and the biggest resource sink outside the Forge Worlds for a hundred light years in every direction. Known throughout the Segmentum Ultima as the final word in fashion, in quality of clothing manufacture, and in perfectionist zeal, Thimble is an odd world, and utterly critical to the Imperium in Cloudburst.
Thimble was once called Levitna, a world of the ancient Terran federated government. Remarkably little of its ancient past is still categorized, even by the Administratum, but it is known that it was one of the Long March Colony Fleet’s destinations. Why Levitna and not Septiim, Celeste, or Goldlight, all containing far more comfortable worlds, the Administratum does not know. Levitna was first colonized in M16, making it one of the first few worlds colonized such a distance from Sol. In those days, neither humanity nor the Eldar had yet reached their peak, and occasional alien attacks were neither uncommon nor inconsequential. At some point after that, a great defensive structure, long since decayed, rose on the moon named Iocanto. The remains of this structure are still visible with binoculars from Thimble’s orbit, and the Imperial attempts to rebuild it have barely touched the surface. A Salamander assigned to a Deathwatch Kill-team, there to dispatch an Ymgarl Genestealer pack some decades before the Glasian Migration invasions, noted its eerie similarity to the ancient Prometheus Station in orbit over Nocturne, only apparently larger. The structure sports a series of interconnected plasmic focusing arrays that can spew magnetically-contained balls of plasma at targets faster than the ones mounted on Imperial warships can, granting the weapons far greater range. The Mechanicus is eagerly restoring them, but progress is hampered by the delicate and aged under-tunnels of the structure.
Levitna itself initially weathered the changing of the times relatively well, but the rise of the Iron Men hit Levitna hard. With its labor force in uprising and its population in panic, the Terran Administrator unleashed horrible weapons of mass annihilation on the lower levels, destroying the renegade Iron Men but instantly crippling the massive plasma-thermic reactors at the hearts of the Hive World’s infrastructure. The subsequent abandonment of the Eldar and the madness of the Psychic Awakening did Levitna no favors. Its population fell from over forty billion human souls to under four hundred million in only fifty years, a die-off that even Mars had never experienced when its Terraformer Engines failed during the Age of Strife. The Inquisition has strived in vain to establish precisely how the damage to the world was done, and so quickly. The best the investigators can come up with is that somehow, a Warp Entity, perhaps not even a true daemon, managed to worm itself into the massive power grids that kept life on the dying world stable. When the Administrators tried in urgency to restart them after the rise of the Iron Men, the Warp being spread some terrible contagion around the world, instantly striking much of the world low. Such simultaneous and massive death would have opened a Warp portal in the latter-day Imperium, while the Warp is stronger, but at the time, it did not. The event, the Imperium surmises, was still more than enough to ruin utterly the world’s habitability. The planet’s population fell to barbarism and poverty. Interestingly, there are hints in the world’s remaining population and architecture that approximately four thousand years before the Imperium re-contacted the world, Levitna underwent some internal renewals. There are two distinct layers of ruins in some hives, one newer and lower-tech. As best the Inquisition can surmise, the world enjoyed a brief respite from oblivion thanks to a charismatic leader who rose from the ashes to try to restore society and the plasma power cores, but after they failed, the people tore the person down.
By the time the Imperium regained contact with the world, thanks to legendary Explorator Justin MacDonald, Levitna was a graveyard. The hives were still more or less intact, thanks to massive jerry-rigging, but the biosphere was wrecked, the moon base was nothing but scrap and dust, and the world population had dropped to twenty million at most. MacDonald observed that the world looked like a box of thimbles from orbit, with its divot-covered hive towers looming high through the atmosphere. The name stuck, and when the population joined the Imperium in desperate hope for a future, the name changing on them was the last thing they worried about.
As Cloudburst grew, so did Thimble. Vast forces of Mechanicus workers labored day and night to bring the plasma-thermic reactors back online. They were structurally similar to the ones that powered some of the ancient Terran hives, but the power infrastructure had decayed so much that some had to be replaced entirely before reactivation could be safely attempted. When it was, all of the hives managed to turn on, one by one, and Thimble lived.
Two thousand years have passed, and life in the great, silvered hives is different. At one point, merely finding water was next to impossible. Now, the amount of water in the hives is just barely enough for the needs of all the planet’s residents. The food influx is a problem, however, given the loss of Chlorit. Although the hives have largely managed to avoid food riots so far, with only a few hundred deaths to show for it, the creeping approach of famine may not be avoidable much longer.
After the reacquisition of Thimble for the Imperium, the restoration kicked into full speed. Two hives were so badly damaged that their residents had to relocate to another hive while repairs progressed. The Mechanicus was eventually able to bring the hives’ outer shells to impermeability once more, but internally, there is no denying that time damaged some hives worse than others. Even after thousands of years, the hives that were more badly damaged prior to Imperial re-annexation are noticeably more likely to have significant poverty and water cleanliness issues.
The Ecclesiarchy was the loudest proponent of repopulating the hives rather than tearing them down, after the Mechanicus. In their minds, a world that could house so many billions more people was ideal for the purposes of the Emperor. Adding so many faithful followers to the Ecclesiarchy, of course, was a worthy goal in its own right.
Inside individual hives, unique cultures have adapted. As the hives repopulated and reindustrialized, the populace enjoyed a brief period of dizzying-fast standards of living improvement. This naturally led to disorder as the subsequent industrial demands and tithe payment quotas set in. In the interim, the Imperium had elected not to import noble families from other worlds, but to let the natural winners of the race to make themselves more useful to the Imperium become the world’s new Highborn. This was perhaps not the ideal solution, as the vicious competition for the most comfortable residences on the crowns of the vast hives drew blood almost at once. The lower hive levels quickly turned to lawlessness as the Mechanicus activated factories and machines that locals had long since converted to residence space, displacing even some of those who had stayed free of the conflict in the crowns.
After a hundred years of increasingly pointed demands from the Administratum and Mechanicus, the Imperium had had enough of waiting. The Adeptus Terra sent a force of Stormtroopers from Hapster and over two hundred thousand Ecclesiarchal Missionaries and Priests to restore order and faith. After ten years of simmering hostility, the Emperor’s word slowly calmed raging tempers. The Administratum did their part by organizing huge showings of pre-Imperial recordings of Thimble life, with the scav tribes and cannibal gangs rampaging through what were now thoroughfares and factories, just as an unsubtle reminder of the improvements the Thimblans were enjoying, and who was responsible for them.
After order slowly returned, the families that had managed to be the most publicly loyal to the Imperium during the anarchy accepted residence in the crown palaces of the hives, and the rest of the population went to work. Though the populace largely decried the rewarding of such flagrant brownhounding, the result was a world that eventually fell in line with Terra and Cloudburst, and that was all right in the Administratum’s mind.
The population of the world exploded over the next two thousand years. The Imperium imposed no initial birth limits, and food was abundant in the early years, as the supplies from a dozen Agri-worlds put a chicken in every pot. The factories churned to life again as billions of kilotons of raw materials and processed ingots arrived for use. Above all, though, the future of Thimble was decided by the reactivation of a single, colossal factory in the core of Amethyst Hive, the largest hive to survive the Old Night relatively intact. Amethyst, so named for the color of the dirt around it, was unambiguously the manufacturing hub of what had once been Levitna’s northern continent. The hive had a higher proportion of factory-to-residences than any other did. Its extensive surface solar panels, more than any other hive by a factor of four, showed clear signs of maintenance and frantic upgrading, dating to after the loss of the main power grid. Moreover, the hive crown palace was completely gone, literally flattened at the foundation level into the hive structure itself. That told Imperial archaeologists that the inhabitants had tried to seal themselves off from the collapse of the industrial levels and been thrown down for it, or something of equivalent weight in social war. The Imperium put a high emphasis on bringing Amethyst back online. Its distinctive green and grey solar panels and oversized hybrid thermoplasmic core thrummed with power again before long. The factories themselves, the Imperium noted with interest, apparently devoted the high majority of their output to clothing of every sort. Amethyst, the Administratum decreed, would serve just that function for the rest of the planet.
Years later, as Amethyst came back online, the world began receiving gigatons of every fabric, dye, textile, flexible polymer, and leather imaginable. Factories churned out billions of articles of clothing of all sorts, from the most mundane shirts to the complex nanoweave lattice armor that Cloudburst Inquisitors now buy here exclusively. Adeptus Mechanicus discoveries of clothing fabrication technology from other worlds’ STCs and factories filtered down to Thimble through the army of enginseers and Tech-adepts that maintained the great foundries. Of course, many Thimblans resented the fact that their world had been pigeonholed as the haberdashery of the stars. The planet’s reputation rarely reflected that it also produced trillions of Thrones’ worth of other goods. The clothing factories got all the credit for the world’s economic renaissance, and the other ones get none, they grumble. This is a fair assessment, given that Thimble also manufactures extraordinarily cheap aircars and the best vinyl paint in the Segmentum Ultima that isn’t from a Forge World.
Outside the hives, Thimble is a barren orb of brown and grey. Thimble is a Hive World in the vein of Armageddon, in that the world beyond the hive walls is survivable, but bitterly unpleasant. Some Mechanicus eco-stabilization efforts have made the polar regions at least comfortable, but the equatorial and tropical regions are wastelands of abandoned cities, collapsed waterways, and dead earth. The polar regions are above freezing temperatures year-round, but benefit from occasional snowstorms and deep reservoirs of fresh water. This allows some small agricultural work to occur here, using artificially bred pollination organisms and creeping fruit vines that grow on any surface. The equatorial area is the most interesting to Imperial historians, who note the abundance of Ork shipwrecks there. The complete lack of any Ork spores in the system suggests that the Ork ships were killed in orbit, presumably by energy weapons given the lack of pre-crash impact marks on the Ork wrecks. Mechanicus teams in heat-resistant armor have retrieved megatons of Ork scrap there and fed it into the foundries of Thimble’s hives. Now that they have moved on, scavengers pick over the oxidized remains, looking for their fortune among the garbage. Some of these scavengers pay protection money to the House Ironsights nomads who travel from sight to sight, buying and selling goods from them.
In orbit, Thimble sports the array of traffic buoys and other platforms that any Imperial Hive World enjoys. A complex web of over one hundred thousand satellites and stations dances along their orbits, shepherded into the right slots by their control platform. The massive Thimble Orbital Command and Logistics Station is a monster of the void, with over fifteen kilometers of radomes, antennae, hab blocks, defense guns, cogitator banks under two-hundred-meter armor walls, Mechanicus shrines, and docking bays. It more strongly resembles an Astra Militarum space station in its layout. The Imperial Navy and Guard both have local command offices here, for the coordination of the vast manpower tithes the world periodically gives up. The lumpen, irregular, hastily designed platform grows in fits and starts as the Navy or Mechanicus find themselves needing new offices built, storage spaces erected, or budgetary surplus quickly spent.
While this has resulted in a void station that is uglier than sin and a budget crime to maintain, it has also resulted in the perfect administrative hub for the Thimble Subsector. Once it became clear to the Departmento Astrocartigraphicae that Levitna could be rebuilt as Thimble with no long-term loss of economic power for the Sector, there was no real question as to whether it would serve as the Subsector Capital. Whine as other worlds’ Administrators may, the disproportionate power of Thimble in the Cloudburst Sector ensures that it will reign over the Subsector, come what may.
The buildup of Agri-worlds in the Sector goes a long way towards feeding the hungry people of Thimble. Although it benefits to some extent from the limited agriculture of its own world, Thimble is a toxin zone on too much of its surface to feed itself, like most Hive Worlds. With Forender diverting its own product to Cognomen, Thimble instead draws its nutrients from the Goldlight and Oromet systems, with some extra provisions from Gorum’s Folly.
Deep in the base levels of each hive, often extending hundreds of meters down into the crust of the planet, the industries of Thimble churn. Great elevators and pressure lifts allow for the workers who don’t just live in their factories to commute to their plants, while limited living spaces inside the factories ring around the clock with the hum of great presses and magno-looms. The Adeptus Mechanicus insists that the Machine God has blessed the workers lucky enough to live in these apartments. The factories play host to spools of fabric miles long, extruded from polymer presses and textile cutters. Vats of dye and reeking, noxious pure whiz by on overhead conveyors. In sound-proofed galleries, technicians inspect each bolt of cloth and curl of leather for flaws and defects.
Company stores in each hive allow employees to buy their own uniforms if they wish, often customized at the employee’s discretion. The rates are high, given how abundant the materials are, but some workers take pride in wearing their work, or so the human resources administrators insist. Beside the great clothing factories, other industries make do with what space they have. Metal forges and grav-lift fabricators slap and clamp together the famous Thimble Sparrow aircars, while munitions presses the size of an Astartes Cruiser churn out ammunition by the kiloton. Protein recyclers and water purity engines work constantly to provide as much as they can for Thimble, as its growing population is taxing nearby Agri-worlds ever harder. Meanwhile, the subterranean cores of each hive glow blue-green with plasma energy, as the hybrid thermoplasmic power plants suck heat from the planet and plasma from their gantries, and generate electricity for the self-contained worlds above. Amethyst Hive enjoys somewhat more comfortable homes and better-built factories than the other hives, and more energy too, but it is also held to a standard of production the others are not.
In Amethyst, vast factories of Dark Age manufacture and Mechanicus maintenance produce the goods for which Thimble is justly famous. Here is the great Flaxweave Foundry, the most prestigious clothing factory in the Sector and beyond for many hundreds of light years. Each floor is individually sealed from the others with machines of Old Terran brilliance. This ensures that a mold spore outbreak on one floor – always a problem in hive factories – will not destroy the stocks of textile on adjacent ones. It also prevents illnesses carried by workers on one floor from spreading to the next, so that the whole factory need not close down in the case of a viral epidemic. Steam and radiation sterilizers purge undesirable life-forms from the raw material, while armies of hundreds of technicians maintain the vast micro-separator that ensures a total lack of contaminant materials in each batch of product.
Each floor specializes in the production of one specific form of clothing. The lower floors produce various undergarments and bandages, often with the same materials. Waves of flowing fabric material whip back and forth between eight-story spindles and megalooms. The workers of the factory, always quick to find some levity in their drudgery-filled work, have named the huge nylon-sorters the Superloominal Planes, which the Administratum Overseers find annoying and the Tech-adepts find hilarious.
One floor up, the elastic corers and polyester spinners churn out billions of socks, from those worn by farmers in waist-deep mud to those a dilettante might don in the hopes of looking well-heeled. Beside them, artisans develop the real deal. This is footwear so expensive that even some actual Highborn would look at the price tag twice to make sure they read it correctly, then see Flaxweave’s name on it and buy it just for that. Silk and nylon pressers and combs the size of firetrucks spin together athletic wear that only a planetary champion scrumball team could afford.
Above them comes the real moneymaker. The next several floors consist exclusively of tunic, pantaloons, and belt manufacturing. The foundries here, including the Flaxweave ones, make nigh-indestructible torso- and waist-wear, including the ever-popular Celestial Dueling Ascots and the tabards that the Librarians of the Blue Daggers wear into battle. Flaxweave also weaves the uniforms of Dagger tank and ship crewers. The fact that Flaxweave has the exclusive license to manufacture the clothing the Daggers can’t or won’t make for themselves is a point of pride for the owners of the clothing combine, and they check every single article of clothing for a single thread out of place. Ballroom outfits have their own sub-floor. The Flaxweave Design Council briefly pondered hiring a permanent staff Astropath to communicate the latest fashion trends from the noble ballrooms of Celeste directly to them, but a few chilling warnings from the Adeptus Astra Telepathica put a stop to such musings. That, and the staggering cost of hiring a psyker in Cloudburst in the first place.
Above those floors comes the glove and belt section, where specialized handwear and belts drop from mile-long conveyors into velvet pouches at the ends. Scurrying menials carry the bags to quality assurance technicians, waiting in sealed compartments with loupes and magnifiers. Each glove and belt is carefully examined for flaws, assuming the order was placed specially by a customer, and isn’t part of the bulk orders of gloves that Thimble sells by the tens of billions, often to their own citizens.
This is the only place beside the Blue Dagger section that manufactures purpose-ordered military gear. Most military clothing comes from dedicated assembly lines in sealed parts of the hives, not just Amethyst, but gloves are cheap enough and often enough replaced that every hive that makes clothing makes them, and even Flaxweave is no exception. Fingerless sniper gloves, fire-proofed Flamer-carrier gloves, water-tight sub-oceanic bomb disposal gloves for the Sea Dragons, and even the single-use vinyl gloves used by Guard surgeons and cooks: Thimble makes them all. Some clothing combines specialize, making one kind to the cost of the others, but if it exists and you can wear it on your hands, somebody on Thimble will make it for you. Headgear and shoes are not part of the general combine productions. These require more specialized tools and are not made in such profusion, and so while most combines at least have a controlling share in a hatter or cordwainer of some kind, their productions are rarely integrated into the main factories. The different materials usually used in such production also play into this; to save storage space, they are located on-site where the hats and shoes are made. Thimble provides the helmets for nearly all of the Guard forces and Navy forces in the Sector, save the ones with integrated electronics, which come from Cognomen. The Daggers make their own, as do most Inquisitors, but even the Celestial Guard itself buys their general infantry helmets from Thimble. Thimble’s many cordwainers do a roaring trade in making every kind of shoe, from the supported ones for Ministorum Preachers who have to stand and gesticulate for hours at a time, to the silent ones for PDF Killteams, sneaking after mutants in undercities. Of all the items of clothing made on Thimble, it is shoes that it sells to its own citizens in the greatest volume, coincidentally.
Of course, Thimble makes things besides clothing, its many other business owners would loudly protest. Indeed, Thimble makes the famous Sparrow Aircar, the cheapest non-Forge World model in the Segmentum. Although perhaps not the most reliable machine in the universe, this electric-fueled hybrid aircar can soar up to seventy meters over a solid surface and fifteen over a liquid, and even comes with various environmental-proofing technologies to allow its owners to fly them through low-pressure zones or forest fires. It is a common sight for travelers visiting Thimble to see a halo of aircars orbiting the silver peaks of its artificial hive mountains as local well-to-do flaunt their wealth. For even wealthier customers, the Thimble Pterodactyl is the luxury limousine of choice, or the Moonshot for the people so rich that the only thing left to buy is a flying house. Any larger, and the line between an aircar and a luxury airplane becomes somewhat blurred.
Thimble’s immense manufacturing base and extensive, positive trade relations with nearby wealthy worlds means one thing for its military: logistical boons. The Thimblan Argent Shields enjoy uniforms demonstrably better than those of poorer Sectors’ Inquisitorial Stormtroopers, with only their helmets made off-world. The Argent Swords, their Guard equivalent, have combat fatigues only a Mordian wouldn’t mistake for dress wear. As the Inquisitorial presence on the planet has carefully – at times lethally – ensured that the ruling caste’s obsession with the finest clothes does not fester into a Slaaneshi attitude or corruption, this foppery is permitted, albeit with some bewilderment by green Throne Agents. Who could ever possibly care this much about clothes, they wonder.
Thimble also contains many thousands of smaller shops and businesses that are perfectly willing to make special orders. Inquisitors sometimes send people to shop here for them, or even do it themselves. Thimble’s many fabric works allow small traders here to make ropes, backpacks, assault webbing, and other plasticine fabric items here at tiny costs to themselves, allowing them to sell gear that would cost twice as much on Celeste or Septiim Secundus.
Thus, the discerning Rogue Trader, Inquisitorial Agent, and Imperial Flag Officer shops Thimble first and Cognomen second. Some shops sell goods to Rogue Trader dynasties for long enough that they are eventually bought out by the Rogue Traders and told to change no part of their business, so successful do these relationships become. Custom dueling suits, exploration gear, camouflage for exotic locales, and even vehicle upholstery: if it’s flexible and you touch it, you can buy it from the specialist shops of Thimble’s upper marketplaces.
Of course, not all of the buildings in the hives are dedicated to industry and fashion, not even in Amethyst. Domiciles fill the middle and upper levels of each hive. Every hive has hab blocks, individual apartments and mansions, and Ministorum poorhouses. Shrines to the God-Emperor of Man perch like birds on the outsides of massive factory blocks, accessible only by aircar or elevator. In other places, where the original designs of the hives peek through, more orderly mass transit systems and sound-proofed apartments provide choice places to live for the discerning middle manager.
Above them, the great Thimble Docks stick like birdfeeders above the thin clouds of the planet. These tall structures split away from the stalks of their hives and allow for exterior access, though of course many of the outer structures in most hives have at least some air vents or a patio under a bubble. These are no picturesque vistas, though: these are vaulting, massive spaces of travel and trade. The Thimble Docks have support beams below that travel all the way to the punctured bedrock underneath the hives, and some even have starship-grade inertial dampers and artificial gravity plates for stability. Here, mile-long VTOL pads let whole flotillas of shuttles and cargo barges deposit their goods from orbit, or send up fresh product to space. The great mag-lev trains that connect the hives stick their tracks outside the hive’s outer surfaces here, race down the sides, and pull up to skim over the ground below in armored tubes. Each hive, regardless of how hard the Mechanicus had to work to make it habitable again, enjoys a core of scrumball field-sized elevators near their Dock, if they have one, to move people and cargo to whatever level they need. It takes a full hour for each to go from the top of its route to the bottom.
Reaching the upper levels requires using different elevators. Cynical observers may note here that these elevators tend to be the places from which local Enforcer and even Arbites precincts emerge. It is true that the Arbites are obligated to protect all Imperials, but even the Highborn, if they cared enough to debate the topic, would admit that they tend to focus more on the Highborn themselves, as it should be. After all, it isn’t like the Emperor put the commoners in charge.
Larger hives have other common features. Many have islands of black on their metal shells where air exchangers and solar panels collect oxygen and power to augment the hive supplies. Others sport huge surface-to-space lasers and the capacitors for them, given by the Mechanicus or restored from the original colony. Some have localized Void Shield projectors which they can use to defend the hives from orbital shelling, but these are rare because of their extraordinary costs.
The higher levels of the hives, like in most Hive Worlds, are places of leisure and gluttony. Here are the elite haberdasheries and clothiers, but here also are the arrays of businesses that cater to anybody with wealth or taste. Now well above the clouds and pollution of the exterior and interior of the hives, the Thimble Peers and the merchant families that compete viciously to join their ranks live here in splendor. Though not quite as difficult to speak to as the Highborn of older Hive Worlds like Scintilla or even Terra, the residents of the Thimble Hive palaces have a distinct trend towards boredom and lavishness. The intrigues of the Subsector Court are the only diversion some scions have, especially if they are from one of the families that made their mark early in Thimble’s history of Imperial competitive cooperation and sat on their laurels afterward. Courtly battles and even death duels are disgustingly common among the nobles of Thimble, but they are rarely so effete and dainty as they may be in other Hive Worlds, where publicly losing at regicide or a public fart are scandalous. Thimble noble duels have consumed whole buildings as the participants unleashed artifacts they received in trade from visiting Rogue Traders in exchange for their foundry’s exotic clothing.
The hives of Thimble, being easily linked to each other by their massive mag-lev trains, are far more culturally interconnected than most Imperial hives. Thanks to the ease of travel within and without, the noble and hiver gangs that operate within them often have footprints in more than one hive, rather than being constrained to one. The fact that vehicular travel is safe outside and the abundance of aircars has ensured that the rapid pace of redevelopment of the crumbling hives of Thimble has had its pace matched by the spread of the gangs and Houses into the spaces that reopen for Imperial habitation.
When the world was being charted by the Imperium for occupation and colonization, they quickly discovered the hundreds of megatons of Orkish shipwrecks at the planet’s boiling-hot equator. These wrecks, long crumbled beyond any salvageability, still constituted vast amounts of salvage and loot for the Adeptus Mechanicus. When the Mechanicus sallied forth from their ships and from the few intact ground cities of Levitna to pillage the wrecks, they took with them enormous crawlers, shielded from the intense heat with plates of thermo-reflective materials and hyper-white paint. To crew them, the Mechanicus recruited thousands of the non-mutated dregs of Levitna, and paid them a pittance to live inside the crawlers, operating the equipment under the supervision of Tech-Adepts.
As the years went by and more of the resources of the dead ships was recycled into the general construction of Thimble, the crews of the crawlers came to enjoy their new lives a bit more. The Mechanicus was not concerned with how the crewers spent their time, so the crews were allowed to start families or take up hobbies, like making decorations and art out of the less-valuable minerals recovered from the shipwrecks. Eventually, trade blossomed among the crawlers. While the Adeptus Mechanicus crawlers operated the magnetic cranes that pulled the shipwrecks apart and broke them up for transport, the crewers would take time to meet the crews of other crawlers and trade stories and goods. The Mechanicus was totally indifferent to these human distractions.
When the surface remains of most of the wrecks were collected, the Techpriests re-tasked. With the rapidly-rising demand for more Techpriests and Tech-Adepts in Levitna’s rebuilding hives, the effort required by the salvaging of the remaining wrecks, many of which were in isolated and dangerous places, was deemed too high.
That left the crawlers. The crawlers were still usable, and had since become a home for the thousands of crewers and their families. The families pooled their money and bought several of the crawlers. The Adeptus Mechanicus was not pleased by the implication that the simple peasants of the planet could operate the machines, but the rocketing demand of the hives for Techpriests did not leave them much choice. A deal was struck to allow for the Mechanicus to retain a small number of their Techpriests on them to oversee the crewers in their new lives.
Since then, the Mechanicus portion of the crawler crews has dropped to nothing, as the crawler crews simply did not notify the Mechanicus of the deaths of their original contingent. The crawlers spread out over the wasteland, using their magnetic cranes to pull apart ruins and shipwrecks, and selling the scrap in the cities. The fleets of crawlers slowly grew as more vehicles joined them as outriders. Eventually, the roving crawlers formed the nuclei of their own family structures, and became a loose Clan in the style of the ruling classes. The Clan named itself Irontreads in honor of the machines that carried them.
Since then, the peaceful life of the nomads has grown far harsher. As Thimble’s population expanded, the imported families of hivers from other Segmentae brought their rivalries and styles with them. This included those who were uninterested in living in the hives proper, and eventually left the hives to farm the poles or join Clan Irontreads. With the diaspora came conflict. Some of the ex-hivers quickly took to a raiding life, especially against the hugely valuable crawlers and polar farms.
Within a few centuries of the hives being half-restored, the total population of the wastelands had risen to several million. Some of the Orkish shipwrecks had been fully excavated. The craters these left behind sometimes became homes for the nomads or settlers, even given the incredible heat, and tunnels that extended from these craters turned into warrens where whole communities live. Clan Irontreads took to roaming around the paths left by the Adeptus Mechanicus, visiting nomad communities and bringing trade with them, and picking up anything the settlers had found but couldn’t use to sell in the hives.
The ever-rising population of raiders in the wastelands has led to significant conflicts among the settlers and the raiders. Clan Ahad couldn’t care less than they do what the raiders, settlers, and nomads do, so long as the planet meets its tithe quotas, so the wastelanders are left to fend for themselves. Clan Irontreads’ huge crawlers came under attack from opportunistic raiders looking for scrap or a permanent home in the heat-repellent shell over and over. Eventually, the Clan took to arming their crawlers and caravans with guns, often mounted on retractable turrets that can withdraw under the heat-resistant shell. When they had taken several raider convoys down, they renamed themselves to Clan Ironsights and began ‘requesting’ protection money from the local communities to cover the costs of replacing the lost munitions and fuel.
Over time, Clan Ironsights morphed from a collection of interrelated crawler crews to a genuine mobile army, with upwards of seventeen thousand combatants and twice again that number of noncombatants. The Clan is widely distributed, but when their crawlers and their fleet of white-painted outriders congregate for trade or marriages, they can muster up a defensive force that can outgun any other non-military force in the wastelands with ease.
The Clan maintains a few fuel depots in the outskirts of the hives, generally near elevators and tramways that can carry the goods they make or salvage to the hives to be sold.
As the only Hive World in the Cloudburst Sector, and therefore the only place with enough people and enough money to generate them, the Highborn Hiver populace live like jealous kings. The highest families and the relatives of the System Overlord Clan are fully aware of how boring and how inhospitable life would be outside the hives, as indeed several million dirt farmers could attest. Life for the scavengers who pick over the rusted Ork hulks at the equator have it even worse, since they get all of the harshness of wasteland living without the benefits of not boiling to death if they step outside unshielded. The lesser noble houses, however, live in carefree oblivion. These are the houses of the Great Families; they are the familial networks that own the massive clothing foundries of the hives. Some have spread their wealth to the stars and bought or founded whole trading clans, with fleets of ships and even a few Navigators, plying the stars and delivering goods. Still, the peculiar noble structure of the Thimble peerage places them below the families that rule the hives directly, and the world itself.
The Thimble Planetary Governor serves as the leader of the Clan that answers to the System Overlord, which is not an arrangement that the Governor’s family always appreciates. The Overlord of a system is all-powerful within their system under the Cloudburst Administratum, and only death or a unanimous vote from the Subsector Overlords can dislodge him. The current System Overlord is the Subsector Overlord, and as such, by ancient Segmentum law, can claim the Planetary Governorship of his own homeworld any time they want. As such, the Planetary Governors of Thimble in the past have not uncommonly drunk themselves into an early grave out of boredom or spite. Whenever a heresy pops up in the Thimble Subsector, so the joke goes, the Governor started it.
At present, however, this is a minimal concern. The current Planetary Governor’s Clan is engaged in a far higher degree of work and oversight of Thimble than they would normally be. This is because the System and Subsector Overlord, Harek abn Alnasr of Clan Ahad, has been working feverishly on the Moon Development Project. This is an ambitious goal by any measure. The Project seeks to build extra facilities on the moons of Thimble. The first, Iocanto, has already been built on once before, that much is obvious. Harek has toured collapsed Dark Age buildings there, stuffed full of archaeotech and treasure by their builders. The Overlord would like nothing more than to rebuild this base, and establish a new one on Malvaceae. So far, nothing more than pilots have arisen, but both are promising. The stations the Mechanicus has built there, thanks to the urging of the Adeptus Terra Council that Harek leads, will someday serve as the command and control hubs of the entire Subsector, and project their firepower so far away from their surface that they will be able to hull a Glasian Cylinder, Harek boasts. The somewhat more grounded claims of the Mechanicus put this between ‘Abaddon will repent any day now’ and ‘Guilliman’s just sleeping off a hangover’ in terms of likelihood, but they agree that more defenses can’t hurt. Beyond serving as an extra layer of defenses, however, Harek has other plans for the moon stations.
Harek’s ultimate goal for the moon bases is to serve as the focal point of a completely new colonization project. The ambitious Overlord obsessively pours over the reports coming in from Explorators and Rogue Traders in the Oldight Exo-zone and Cloudburst Circuit. He has read page after page after page of reports about strange aliens, dark tombs, dead planets, and gleaming gems of life and sustenance out in the voids of non-Imperial space. Harek’s dreams are aflood with schemes and plans to make his system, and it is his system, into the launching point for a wave of thousands of colony and trader ships, to carry Clan Ahad’s descendants out to rule a whole second Subsector in his name. His relative youth for a Subsector Overlord means he may even live to see it happen. More likely, though, the inevitable delays in the work of the Administratum and Mechanicus in categorizing and securing these worlds mean he will be long dead by that time. That doesn’t trouble him, though, for the Hereteks to whom he traded a full underhive’s worth of scavengers promise that the brain-transference machine and personal cloning device in his secret laboratory on Iocanto are working perfectly.
Most families of wealth and power on Thimble have less horrible aims and means, however. These families rule the great manufacturing combines of the planet, and they couldn’t care less about moon bases, non-hiver scavengers and farmers, or the burdens of rulership. The self-maintaining factories and companies they own are well-oiled machines, run by Administratum and Mechanicus elites. The noble owners, from great houses of Cloudburst like O’Neill and Zhong, kick back and explore ever more expensive ways to relieve their boredom. The headaches this causes the Ordo Xenos cannot be overstated. There isn’t an Ultima Rogue Trader worth his weight in paper who doesn’t buy their house’s clothing from Thimble. More than a few Rogue Traders have traded xenotech for particularly nice clothes, and the Imperial Navy increasingly relies on the noble-owned clothing foundries of Thimble for their fireproof vacuum repair suits for their ships. This means that military-grade Imperial and Xeno weaponry winds up in the hands of Thimble noble scion twits with appalling frequency. Ordo Xenos investigators have arrived on the scene of massacres in noble estates on reports of small-scale alien invasions, only to find that a single servant pressed a button they shouldn’t have while cleaning the master’s alien grenade collection.
Sometimes, these artifacts serve a darker, more purposeful role. The Ordo Xenos is aware that the general public is not conscious of the role Tzeentch plays in the Glasian Migrations, but is conscious that their technology is sinful and must be destroyed. This has never, ever prevented enterprising humans from trading and buying things, not once in mankind’s history. As a result, the Cold Trade of proscribed Glasian hardware into Thimble noble houses is brisk and competitive. Aristocrats with no other occupation in their minds pay outrageous sums to own real Glasian Ruin Guns or Corkscrew Rifles. Sometimes these are more than conversation pieces or emergency personal defense weapons.
The Inquisition is alarmed at how easily this technology seems to be filtering into the population of Thimble. An interdiction of arms freighters is simply not possible, given that Thimble is the number one supplier of manpower to the Imperial military in Cloudburst. As such, all the Inquisition can do to stop this Cold Trade is publicly execute all participants they capture, and pray that if the forces of Chaos are planning something, the Arbites will catch it in time to stop it, as they did on Maskos fourteen centuries before.
The Clans and Houses of the Highborn families of Thimble are dizzyingly complex compared to those of Celeste and Septiim. Part of the reason for this is that many, if not most, maintained the ties of breeding, politics, allegiance, and territory that predated Imperial integration, unlike the vast majority of Cloudburst planets. The ancient families of old Levitna had genealogical records that trailed back over twenty thousand years, many of which were themselves families of Old Terra. Families band together in inter-related and autonomous bodies called Clans, each of which could have hundreds of thousands of descendents on Thimble. The ruling Clan is that of Ahad, which contains the families of the System, Subsector, and Planetary leadership among its members and vassals.
Wealthier Clans contain individual Houses, which are interrelated families of nobles and mechants who control off-world and domestic trade. Well over 75% of all commercial activity in the Spindle system passes through the Houses of Thimble in some capacity, with much of the rest being that of House Carvan’s agricultural work. However, the Houses, being only a few thousand strong, can’t possibly oversee the tens of millions of Thimblans in any granularity. Deeper in the hives, where the massive manufacturing structures are not working around the clock, untold millions of humans and mutants labor and live far from the sight of the lofty Houses. There are exceptions. House Lienzo, for instance, dabbles often in the lower classes for sport.
Ahad does not have the huge mercantile connections of the Houses Zhong and O’Neill. Its focus instead is on politics, and its power is immense. Houses Zhong and O’Neill are both members of the Clan Vorbach, but that Clan has been so utterly consumed by the skyrocketing wealth of those Houses that it exists as a mere vestige on paper, with but a single other family that represents the Houses to the planetary government. Other Clans are vassals of the wealthier Clan Ahad and its loftier rivals, those who own the massive factories on Thimble that feed the tithe requirements of Spindle. Thanks to the bored and destructive lower nobility of Thimble giving the planet such a bad name for its frequent role in the illegal trade of xenos artifacts, these Clans are frequently the subject of intense Inquisitorial scrutiny. Even the wealthiest Clans on Thimble are not immune to the brutal invasiveness of Inquisitorial investigations.
It is a sore point for the people of Thimble that the system does not have a Cardinal. Surely, its population is large enough to merit one, given that far smaller worlds in other Sectors have them. In fact, the delay in the appointment of new Cardinals has nothing to do with the people of Thimble; the delay stems from the ineptitude of the Synod Ultima, which has yet to find a qualified candidate among the Hive Archbishops of Thimble despite ample time in which to do so. Once a Cardinal of Thimble emerges, they would join the Synod Cloudburst on Celeste posthaste. There are also rumors among the Deacons and Priests of Thimble that a small Convent of Sanguine Soul sisters may open on the planet soon, though this remains unsubstantiated for now.
As a Hive World, Thimble has two things in abundance at all times: industry, and extra people. The days when Thimble had so much empty living space that colonists had to be imported from other worlds to keep the machinery running have been over for a thousand years. With the notable exception of Amethyst Hive (which has no underhive because its sublevels are one giant power plant) and Singer Hive (the scav population of which all mysteriously disappeared thirty years ago), all the hives of Thimble have more bodies than beds. Thimble is also a Subsector Capital, and is thus responsible not only for raising a great domestic army to defend itself, but also a fleet and field army to defend its holdings. As such, massive tithes of men in fresh uniforms appear in the ledgers of the Officio Munitorum every year. The people of Thimble take active pride in the quality of their forces, which is ironic in the Munitorum’s eyes; they’re not very good fighters. For whatever reason, be it diet, lifestyle, mindset, or just simple poor genes, Thimble troops outside their elite Scions seem predisposed to coming in squarely in the middle of Munitorum readiness and fitness exercises. This does not make them a liability, of course, they are still fine fighters for the Imperium. They are simply less qualified than the Munitorum traditionally expects hivers to be. Hiver soldiers of the Imperial military have the reputation of being tough, self-reliant, and good at working in teams; these are all traits that the Navy and Guard prize. Thimble hivers, however, have few of the gang allegiances that Necromundan or even Terran hivers possess. All Hive Worlds have crime, and therefore all Hive Worlds have Imperial Guard conscripts ready to go, but Thimble has not (yet) developed the rampant criminal tribalism that leads to so many hiver gangs forming. This leads to less early-life combat that could drive survival instincts home in childhood. Perhaps this explains their lack of the stereotypical hiver Guardsman traits, like body tattoos and thuggish language.
Regardless, when Thimblan Argent Swords fight, they do so clad in the very best uniforms and armor money can buy. Many worlds build their weaponry, also, with Cognomen providing advanced firearms, Maskos providing grenades and flamers, and Cognomen and Solstice splitting the vehicle requirements between them. Argent Shields work and train in their bases on the planet itself, in walled-off hab blocks and bases on the surface, shielded from the boiling air by Mechanicus technoarcana. The fact that all wars in Thimble history have occurred inside the hives means that Thimble troops are not well trained to work in concert with artillery or airstrikes. As urban warfare troops, they are rated third behind Maskos Warriors and the elite Cloudburst Defenders overall in the Cloudburst Sector. Again, like most hives, Thimble builds as much of its own wargear as it can. The sheer number of troops it tithes up every year means that Cognomen can’t equip its general infantry with their masterpiece rifles; they have to equip dozens of other worlds, and do not have enough left over for Thimble’s troops too. Therefore, Cognomen provides the designated marksmen and snipers of the Thimble regiments with their weapons, and the rest are either manufactured locally or shipped in from Fabique or Solstice.
The Thimblan Argent Swords prefer the use of Leman Russ tanks and rarely field anything larger. The confined interiors of the Thimble hives mean that the Swords do not need to worry about claustrophobia in their deployments, which makes their special operations and urban fighters adaptable to space combat.
The Imperial Navy recruits many of its crews from the Spindle system, and its many thousands of space habs, space stations, void platforms, moon bases, and of course Thimble itself regularly pledges hundreds of thousands of people to the Navy’s crews. Notably, Thimble does not have much of an officer’s tradition. Instead, the majority of the Navy’s officers come from Oglith, Nauphry, and Coriolis.
Thimble also controls one other specialist formation, one unique to Thimble. Beyond the Scions and Commissars provided by its Schola Progenum, Thimble has one military deployment in addition to its Navy and Guard commitments. In a supposedly abandoned agricultural station in the dead zones near the Ork crash sites, the Mechanicus built a great tunnel, leading down through the rock and dead dirt to a natural cave they expanded with Maskos mining machines. The Mechanicus dug out more caves and caverns, until nearly two cubic miles of space stretched out under the surface, with food and power provided from the surreptitiously-reactivated agri-station.
Inside the complex, a force of killers trains and waits. The Thimble Night Slaughter, the premier Inquisitorial black ops force in the Segmentum north of the Maelstrom, hides away from the world. The Night Slaughter know the real reason that Thimble’s asymptote of average soldier quality isn’t that the world has no gangs or that the Scions take all the good fighters. The real reason is that they are quietly siphoned away from the conscript yards and enlistment centers, and taken blindfolded to the secret, nameless bunker. Beneath the planet’s surface, tens of thousands of soldiers wait and train, each hypnoconditioned and commanded by implants to serve. Every week, there is at least one casualty in the fierce, vicious training the Night Slaughter endures. Training takes place in teams of ten, with a member cycled out every week to keep the groups fresh and the drills interchangeable. Under the watchful eye of Lord Commissar Beleph Dour, these killers train to fight in unpredictable circumstances, like the fluctuating gravity of a Space Hulk or the blinding madness of the Warp, or even the twisting halls of the Webway. The Holy Ordos convened this army of specialists, none of whom are listed as alive or even missing on Astra Militarum records. The Inquisition knows that one day, perhaps one day soon, the armies of Nurgle, Slaanesh, and Khorne will team up to battle Tzeentch in the streets and skyways of the Cloudburst Sector. Someday, either Tzeentch’s experiment will end, or the other three Chaos Gods will work together to stop it, and when it does, every heretic, every cultist, every traitor, every uncollected psyker in the Cloudburst Sector will rise up under Tzeentch’s thrall, and the Chaos Civil War in the sector will begin. When it does, the Night Slaughter will also rise, to battle them. Consisting of tens of thousands of brainwashed soldiers, or so their leaders think, the Slaughter are trained to the highest standards the human body can endure, even beyond that of the Urgent Response Forces of the Adeptus Arbites. Genetic enhancement, hypnosis, cybernetic augmentation, even psychic impulse-planting make these soldiers into the absolute peak of human potential. Night Slaughter troops that age past thirty-six cycle into Inquisitorial Stormtrooper service so that their training does not go to waste.
The Night Slaughter troops think that this is the secret plan of the Ordos; they assume that the Inquisition wants these soldiers to be constantly training in anticipation of the day that they will fall on the surprised Traitors and drive them from the Sector. What Lord Commissar Dour knows is that the ‘accidents’ that account for the losses the Slaughter endures in their training are nothing of the kind. Every week, the best soldier in the Slaughter is knocked unconscious and stashed in a great cryo-crypt, even deeper under the surface, and protected by psy-wards and techno-sorcerous barriers of the Dark Age. Four psychic Inquisitors live in residence in this secret vault, watching over the thousands of frozen killers, looking for even the slightest sign of daemon incursion. After all, armies are expensive, and while most active members of the gradually expanding Night Slaughter will never see battle against the forces of Chaos, to let their skills go to waste would be downright criminal. Hundreds of thousands of cryo-crypts sit unfilled beneath the training grounds, with tanks, non-Carapace-linked Power Armor, guns, armored vehicles, combat servitors and Servo-skulls, and even a platoon of Martian Baneblades with full wargear upgrades ready to go. When Tzeentch drops his charade, the Ordos will be ready.
Of course, the question has arisen in the ever-contentious Ordos about whether the resources spent on them are actually spent properly. This constitutes an entire army of multiple brigades of elite soldiers, and a platoon of Superheavy Tanks. Surely, this would be better spent, the doubters argue, in active expansion of the Cloudburst Sector, or the defense of Oglith. If not, perhaps for the rest of the Imperium. There are Hive Worlds in the Segmentum Solar with a greater industrial output than the whole Cloudburst Sector; Mars creates more goods for the Imperium than Cloudburst four times over. Perhaps this elite, loyal, secret, and well-equipped army would be better deployed against the Ork Waaagh! creeping ever closer to Armageddon, or the forces of Khorne rampaging through the Solar/Obscurus border. Cloudburst may be a vibrant, loyal, and expanding region, but it is not yet indispensable. Those Inquisitors who have staked a claim on the project, however, believe that the forces of Chaos are gnawing at the seams of the Sector. The region was only barely Imperial, three thousand years before. Of course the rest of the galaxy could use an extra elite, secret army. Surely, though, if the Imperium were to abandon Cloudburst in the face of a quantifiably Chaotic threat, that would signal to its other enemies a weakness, an exploitable weakness. Necron Dynasties across known space are already staking claims on Imperial worlds and even whole sectors. Wouldn’t giving up Cloudburst without a fight in the face of a threat greater than the Glasians suggest that they could stake a claim on even more?
Ultimately, this debate rages on in the Palace of Maskos. As with so many Imperial Inquisition debates, there is no clear, unambiguous answer. For now, the Night Slaughter awaits in their crypts and their barracks. In an emergency, they could deploy. What would constitute such an emergency, none yet know.