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Monday, December 7, 2020

The Subversion of Hive World Novgorod - Genestealer Cult Army Background

Hive World Novgorod lies in the outer reaches of the Segentum Tempestus, deep in The Veiled Region between Gryphonne IV and Bakka. The history of the original colonization of the world during the Dark Age of Technology, when humanity poured into the galaxy by the billions, has been lost to the ravages of time. With the coming of the Imperium, the planet became an important mining world with rich deposits of rare elements and a relatively small population. After the dark years of the Age of Apostacy, the role of the planet was modified to include not only mining, but manufacture of tanks and other weaponry for the Astra Militarum. While its production was low compared Forge Worlds like Gryphonne IV, its proximity to that world allowed it to share its unique Standard Template Construct designs. The resulting massive influx of workers soon outstripped available space for settlement and large hive cities were constructed over the mines and forges to house the burgeoning population.

The Galaxy (as of 9th Edition) - with Novgorod in green
Novgorod’s massive resources and locally produced munitions have allowed it to raise and equip entire Regiments of Astra Militarum – from standard Line Armies and Motor Rifle Regiments, to more elite Shock Armies.  During the Tyranid attack on Gryphonne IV, Novgorod Shock armies fought against numerous splinters of Hive Fleet Leviathan across the sector keeping their home world free from invasion.  While returning home from these warzones, a small clutch of Purestrain Genestealers was discovered on one of the command ships.  Rather than destroy these dangerous Xenos organisms, a few in the military elite saw it as an opportunity to increase the combat effectiveness of their troops and use the Tyranid’s own weapons against them.  They directed their medical overseers to dissect the Genestealers and find ways to combine their germ-seed with humans to create “super-soldiers” capable of defeating any foe.  

Gryphonne IV Pattern Leman Russ Exterminator

Undertaking his work under the greatest possible veil of secrecy, Chief Medical Overseer Markow’s vivisection of the captive genestealers revealed, as expected, that the organisms originated from one of the known splinters of Hive Fleet Leviathan – one with a greenish black and bone carapace.  These experiments also revealed how the xenos germ-seed was passed on to human hosts.  Armed with this data, Markow began experimentation in earnest to create the desired line of super-soldiers, and over the next few years through a combination of methods a variety of hybrid life forms were created.  Markow even developed a simple serum that would provide slight, but nearly undetectable improvements to the rank and file of Novgorod’s numerous ground armies.  Knowledge of this clandestine project was limited to a few senior officers, but then disaster struck.  The staff officers who sanctioned the project were killed in a shuttle crash.  Overseer Markow knew if his project were discovered, he and all of the super soldiers would quickly fall under the hammer of the Ordo Xenos, so he took the project underground into Novgorod’s largest industrial hive, Magnitnaya.

The hives (original art by derbz)

Magnitnaya Hive is a one of several sprawling industrial cities which dot the surface of Novgorod. Its multiple spires climb almost 12 miles into the planet’s polluted atmosphere while its base covers an area of over 150 square miles. The billions of souls grinding out a daily existence in the tank and armaments factories as well as those working deep in the mines in the bowels of the hive would serve well for the next phase of Markow’s work. By this point he had perfected several gene treatments, including one he had used on himself, becoming the first Biophagus on Novgorod. Setting up a clinic in one of the many workers’ areas, he offered miracle cures for the myriad ailments which plagued the overworked population. Word of mouth spread quickly and his client list grew until many thousands of workers and miners had been modified with the genestealer germ-seed laying the foundation for the explosive growth of a new cult across the planet.

Later photo of Markow in his lab in Magnitnaya

The Cult Takes Root

As Markow’s loyal patient list grew, Genestealer influence found its way into all aspects of lower hive life in Magnitnaya. The “Gifted” (as they began to refer to themselves) soon formed their own secret societies and hierarchies outside the official Imperial chain of command. A whole religion formed around the blessings of the genes. Its membership included adherents from many different walks of life from workers and functionaries to secretive gangs of cultists who would work to recruit others, or at least remove rival gangs. Psykers not affiliated with the Cult were viewed as the greatest threat, and many such individuals were removed either directly by the Cult’s enforcers or, in a twist of irony, turned over to the tender mercies of the Inquisition. As its numbers swelled, the Cult transitioned from a purely shadow religious organization and began to take on a political component. As the majority of those transformed by the xenos germ-seed represented the common classes of Imperial Society, the group began to espouse the overthrow of the ruling classes and replacing it with a Committee of the People – all controlled by the Cult, of course.

Revolutionary Poster - "Our cause is just, victory will be ours!"

Within a few months, the xenos germ-seed had began to spawn powerful individuals, including psykers, increasing the raw power the Cult could call upon. Coupled with the burgeoning numbers the overall political movement began to attract, Markow quickly realized it was time to begin compartmentalizing the Cult into different groups each with their own mission. Underhive gangs and zealots were tapped to spread the word of the Gifted across the population of the lower levels, all wrapped within the trappings of a secret society. Markow himself continued to organize the more political aspects of the workers and miners, but he also discovered through his military contacts that the infiltration of the Astra Militarum on Novgorod had continued unabated in his absence, with even a few high-ranking officers now under the influence of the Cult. While still small and tenuous, the Cult now had a multi-faceted foundation to build upon.

Infiltration of the Astra Militarum on Novgorod

Cult influence in the Astra Militarum was centered on Markow’s original unit, the 125th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment. Because its numbers had been decimated fighting the tendrils of Hive Fleet Leviathan, its commanding General had originally authorized the super soldier experiments in a desperate attempt to bolster its ranks. Many soldiers and a few of the officers had received Markow’s serum and began organizing themselves within the chain of command through careful transfers. Others were brought into the fold through clandestine treatments with Markow’s germ seed therapy. Eventually the Cult influence spread to the highest levels of command within the Regiment. 

Officially, the 125th was in an extended period of rest and refit. Men and equipment both had been severely ravaged fighting the Tyranids, and all of its tanks and artillery showed signs of hard, continuous use. Many more vehicles had been knocked out, but were repairable, while still others were good only for scrap. Upon its return to Novgorod, nearly all of the regiment’s vehicles were put directly into storage and repair depots for complete overhaul. The Brood Brothers of the 125th set about to cultivate, quite literally, allies among the Adeptus Mechanicus, and developed a clandestine plan to slowly re-build and expand the regiment’s combat strength. 

Ex-Soviet tanks stored in the Ukraine

Once contact with Markow had been reestablished, he was able to make further refinements of his concoctions available to the 125th. He included variants which would allow for the enhancement of abhumans in addition to the rank and file human infantry. Through his influence, the regiment was able to create hulking Ogryns and clever Ratlings completely loyal to the Cult. Unfortunately, the side effects of the treatment were more obvious than in normal humans. The Ogyns developed cranial ridges that would appear to be more at home on a Tyranid warrior than on an Ogryn. The Ratlings were less severely impacted, but the loss of all bodily hair made the individuals far more conspicuous than their human brethren. The regiment therefore strictly quarantined their abhuman units so suspicious would not be aroused prematurely.

Ratling snipers of the 125th with their deadly accurate rifles

By all outward appearances, the 125th Guards was severely depleted, but made up of very dedicated soldiers. While other Novgorod Regiments and Divisions would be rotated off-world to fight in the Imperium’s wars, the 125th lacked the heavy equipment and logistical support to engage in any sort of remote operations. For every vehicle that made it out of the repair depot, at least one would go back in. In some cases, derelict vehicles from other Novgorod Regiments would be transferred into the depots of the 125th and any apparently battle-ready vehicles would be transferred to active units for use off-world. The overworked Techpriest Enginseers and Servitors of the regiment’s Adeptus Mechanicus cadre never complained, but continued to toil away apparently rebuilding a viable armored force from scraps and derelicts. In short, the regiment’s maskirovka was nearly perfect.

The rare Valdor tank hunter with its neutron laser pressed into Cult service

In fact, the dedicated soldiers of the 125th were far more numerous than anyone suspected. Over the years, the regiment built up both manpower and equipment to unprecedented levels. Its actual combat strength was the equivalent of several regiments as many soldiers were quartered remotely and rotated through official bases. The 125th also managed to take over management of several vehicle depots across the planet. What appeared to be derelict vehicles were actually fully combat ready vehicles camouflaged by a shoddy and broken-down outward appearance. Over the years, Cult Adeptus Mechanicus operatives had managed to secure a wide variety of both common and exotic armored fighting vehicles from normal Leman Russ tanks and Baneblades to Valdor tank hunters and Mecharius tanks. Full platoons of anti-air and artillery of all varieties had been secured, including many ancient designs thousands of years old. They even managed to secure a small but effective Aeronautica contingent.

The Day of Ascension

Unlike many cults which respond to the siren call of a Tyranid Hive Fleet, the uprising on Novgorod represented a different imperative – the desire to bring all of Novgorod under the sway of the Cult. In short, it was a way to purge or convert the non-infected population and bring about a totally new order. The day dawned as so many other had on Magnitnaya hive, but the mood on the streets and in the mines quickly changed. Miners picked up their equipment, but didn’t head to their work stations. Instead, they marched on any loyal Imperial authorities and attacked. Included in their midst were many of the Cult’s less-human looking scions armed with everything from picks and hammers to mining lasers and flamethrowers.

Leader Domovoy directs his heavy hitters against Imperial loyalists

In the Underhive, the population began rising up led by the shadowy cultists of the gangs that had been slowly expanding their ranks over the years. These troops would serve as the rank and file soldiers of the civilian uprising supported by the Cults stronger hybrids like the wyrd-wielding Maguses, the deadly Primus, the sharpshooting Sanctus, all directed by a new and deadly entity – Leader Domovoy. Originally designated Experiment 626 by Biophagus Markow, Domovoy developed into a purestrain Genestealer of enormous size and psychic potential. Loyal only to the Cult itself, he set about directing and organizing the final Ascension, building on the foundation that Markow had so ably put in place. Helping coordinate his efforts was Nexos Vladimir Suvorov, who provided key intelligence data and prioritized initial targets for both the lead up to and execution of the uprising. 

Cult Deathstrike preparing to fire on the Day of Ascension  

On the surface, loyalist Imperial troops who had been called to quell rioting and civil unrest in Magnitnaya hive were shocked to see the ramshackle vehicles of the 125th Guards not only moving, but attacking their unprotected flank to devastating effect. Though most of the vehicles looked barely serviceable, they all bore hastily spray-painted Cult insignia on them and a few appeared to have golden Cult icons welded to their hulls and turrets. Hordes of Brood Brothers infantry charged forward behind standard bearers lofting the red and yellow flag of the Cult. The Loyalist Guard formations turned to face this new threat just as well coordinated Basilisk and Deathstrike fire hit their front lines decimating the Imperial spearhead.

Leman Russ tanks of the 125th attack the Imperial flank

Though they greatly outnumbered the forces of the Cult, Imperial forces on Novgorod found themselves outmaneuvered at every turn. Lines of communications had been cut, armories had been cleaned out or destroyed, key personnel were missing or had been found assassinated, and worse, the uprising was not limited to Magnitnaya hive. Markow had spread his elixir to other hives as well, and at least four other, smaller uprisings soon followed across the planet. The Cult now held the initiative, and their long sought Revolution had just begun!

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