A Vox In the Void

Paul Graham at A Vox In the Void has released an audio version of Pipe Lurker. Check it out! The first 25 seconds of the video were an unexpected bonus segment.

- - -



Blowing From A Gun

In the grim darkness of the far future, punishment is meted out on both body and soul.

During the Dark Age of Technology, the ingenious and enterprising ancestors of latter days' degenerate descendants straddled the Milky Way galaxy like a titan taming and mounting creation itself. During those golden days of yore, the universe was man's oyster and its secrets were his pearl for the taking, and cunning man in those bygone years knew well to grasp the tools which he had fashioned for himself. Thus ancient man worked miracles upon the material universe, and he even sought to reshape his own spirit in a heinous fit of sinful arrogance. In man's swollen hubris and egotism, the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron were said to have banished all that was ill in life and cast out cruelty and evil itself from the human soul, and for a time all seemed to be well. For a time, man did not murder man, and man did not violate woman, and man did not beat child, and man did neither steal thing nor torture flesh. Such was the state of man in the false paradise of soaring spires and voidborne wonders which man had wrought by his own able hands and clever mind, and a prosperous harmony of bliss and great vigour was achieved.

Thus thought of self ruled supreme, and ancient man had made violence upon his very essence by cutting away aggression and inner bile as if they were tumours upon his flesh. This perverse a crime against human nature could not be allowed to stand, and so dark ones of hell gnawing at the roots of the universe sent man a revolt of machines and a plague of witches and warp storms. And man in the end almost died to the last for his baleful sins, for ancient man had sought to discard any higher deity and outdo divinity itself in a bid for mortal lordship over the universe and its eternal future, and thus man suffered gravely for his abominable errors and original sins. Man's erring ways and wrongful deeds were unforgivable indeed, yet the goodness in the strong heart of the hidden Emperor could not allow the human species to deservedly perish in the ignominy of cannibal holocaust and alien predations. Thus the Imperator of Holy Terra arose in golden splendour and conquered the cradle of our species and man's galactic colonies alike with mighty Legions, and the God-Emperor pulled mankind out of the hellfire of Old Night, and shining towers rose anew from out of the ashes.

Yet the wicked ingratitude in the heart of man would not rest, and so saved man rose in revolt against his divine saviour and nigh-on slew the Emperor. And as the guardian and master of our species ascended, He on Terra decreed from on high that sinful man is to do unending penance for man's monstrous crimes, and ever since we have sought to harrow the abode of man, and cleanse man's unworthy soul with flame and fury beyond mercy and remorse. Across a million surviving colony worlds and a gaggle of uncounted voidholms, human nature in all its inventive cruelty and hateful rage is each day unleashed upon fellow man and xenoid foe alike, for the Imperium will not hesitate to embrace the inner truths of the human heart.

After all, the servants of His Divine Majesty know well that softful mercy and unnatural suppression of innate hostility once doomed the edenic realm of ancient man to fire and ruin. Is it not natural to hate your enemy? Is it not an eternal omen implanted into man's heart by the protecting Imperator Himself? We must be faithful. We must be pure. We must be true. And therefore we must be cruel, for there is no justice without cruelty. For we shall all be filled with bottomless hatred, and our actions shall be steered by unbending faith.

Ave Imperator.

Which leads us to the honoured topic of His warriors. Behold, the countless cohorts of the Astra Militarum and man's Planetary Defence Forces and Voidholm Militias! Behold, the wall of guns! Behold, the bulwark of mankind!

Know that every soldier must hate the enemy, must maintain military secrecy, be vigilant, unmask spies and saboteurs and relentlessly act against traitors to the God-Emperor of humanity. Nothing, including the threat of death and torment, allows a soldier of the Imperial Guard to surrender or in any way to give up a military secret.

Of course, such a secret of sorts lurk in plain sight, a lie ten millennia in the making. After all, the very name of Imperial Guard was originally bestowed upon what had formerly been known as the Imperial Army ground forces as a deceptive trick to prop up flagging morale. Guard units had ever denoted elite soldiers, handpicked bodyguards and the narrow selection of the supreme divisions of any army, at peak training, fit for spearheading the most dangerous attacks and equipped with some of the best wargear their organization and patrons could acquire. Sometime in the long and tumultuous aftermath of the Horus Heresy, however, Imperial masters saw fit to bestow the Guard honorific to all Astra Militarum formations, in a dishonest attempt to shore up its esprit de corps and troopers' morale by means of cheap flattery. Thus was the Guard honorific diluted, and the alternative title for the Imperium's massed hosts of the Astra Militarum, the Imperial Guard, came into being.

Morale and discipline among the Imperial Guard and various local defence forces remains an ever-pressing concern for the haughty overlords of the Imperium, just as it has always been for any army throughout human history. What good can a soldier do who drops his gun and runs like a coward? Craven conduct may ruin the best of plans, and shirking from duty may undermine the most righteous might of arms. Just because the nightmare cacophony and mutilating horror of total war is too much to bear for many human minds, does not mean that a deserter or weak-heartling will be excused for abandoning their post and fleeing in shameful fright. Just because the overwhelming terror and violence of lethal technology may turn flesh to vapour or scald lungs with the very air we breathe, does not mean that soldiers who execute an unauthorized retreat will not be fired upon by the blocking units of their own line. By betraying their Emperor-given duty, these armsmen are no longer fit to live, for they have denied their own purpose and been found wanting by their masters and betters.

How, then, to best keep the skittish rabble in line? How, then, to make them march into the maw of hell? How, then, to force them to charge into a barrage of certain death or rush over armed minefields with a fervent battlecry upon their lips? Clearly, exhortations to loyalty and faith do not suffice on their own, for wretched man can only go so far by rousing rhetoric and shaming words. And clearly, the carrot of spiritual reward and promise of material plunder can only take you so far, for man's greed is not his strongest driving force. Nay, the stick must be brought to bear, for man is a creature of fear and terror, ever seeking to preserve his own worthless hide and prolong his own short time among the living. Like so many armies through history, the Astra Militarum has long since concluded that its soldiers must fear their officers more than they fear the foe, and what better way to put the fear of the Emperor into the men, women and children under arms, than to make an example out of some of them?

Kill one to scare a thousand. This ancient maxim from the Age of Terra carries a timeless truth. It is wise and admirable to punish the guilty with extreme measures, for the gruesome penalty is not only a condemnation of their personal sins and dysgenic blood, but a virtuous occasion to teach the watching masses through stark instructions. Doubt not the devastation wrought upon the human body which your own eyes will witness, for this, too, can happen to you, o lowly man. This executed criminal may well be you, unless you heed the commands of your superiors, and know what power to fear the most. Know that the Imperium of Man is ruthless and unforgiving, for the ancestral sins of man are unforgivable, and man's offspring must be punished for it to the ninehundredthousandth generation.

Furthermore, it is preferable that not only man's body be rent asunder, but also his soul. Let there be a double terror. Let there be a deeper fear for the immortal spirit that dwells in our fleshly form. If lowly man comes to fear the authorities for their power to extinguish his afterlife or send it to hell, then all the better.

One such punishment that plays on widespread superstition in many human cultures, is the means of execution known most commonly by the name of blowing from a gun, namely execution by cannon. It is a fine example of the retardation of human compassion in the Age of Imperium, as forceful as it is callous.

Blowing from a gun is a method of execution in which the victim is tied to the mouth of a cannon, which is then fired. Actual shells need not be used, since a blank cartridge will be sufficient to eliminate the guilty sinner. Usually, the prisoner's back rests against the muzzle, but another variant have the prisoner's gut and chest turned toward the cannon. Variations on this theme include tying the condemned one upside down, or even shoving him into the cannon barrel if it is large enough.

As for the standard arrangement of being tied with their back to the cannon mouth, upon firing the artillery piece the prisoner's head will fly high, straight up into the air, while the legs will drop to the ground beneath the muzzle of the gun. The rest of the body will be altogether blasted apart by the explosion, with gory vestiges raining down. Sometimes, onlookers may be injured by pieces of flesh and bone whizzing about. A cousin punishment to blowing from a gun entails fastening the criminal to one or more rockets, which are then shot into the air, and hopefully toward enemy lines if the exectuion occurs at the front.

The destruction of the guilty body and the scattering of any corporeal remains over a wide area serve a spiritual function in a great many human cultures around the Imperium, since it will prevent any funeral rites to help guide the executed malefactor's soul on its perilous journey. Thus, death in this vale of woes is not enough, for the wrongdoer must be robbed not only of his life, but of his eternal afterlife as well, akin to the common Imperial practice of desecrating the graves of heathens, infidels and apostates. This denial of any possible afterlife is aided by the common sight of birds of prey and other winged carrion eaters circling above the place of execution, swooping down to catch flying pieces of human flesh in the air. Another factor in destroying any chances of funeral rites being enacted upon the deviant body, is the widespread phenomenon of dogs, and similar creatures loitering about the spot, suddenly rushing to the scene of punitive carnage in order to devour delicacies scattered about as a result of the explosive execution.

Such, then, is a common military punishment visited upon traitors, deserters, rebels and malcontents. In many Imperial Guard regiments, execution by cannon will befall anyone who is discovered to have fallen asleep at their post, while in others is is the punishment for blasphemy or desertion. The bodily destruction achieved by blowing a condemned sinner from the mouth of a gun is but one of many draconic penalties visited upon wrongdoing Imperial soldiers within the Astra Militarum as well as countless Planetary Defence Forces and Voidholm Militias.

How many times have not hundreds or even thousands of people been blown apart simultaneously by grand batteries of artillery, in glorious displays of Imperial justice to enormous crowds of onlookers? How many times has not execution by cannon presented the plebeian flock with a warning example of what could befall them, by extinguishing the rude life of unwanted men, women and children? How many times have not torsos been eradicated as other body parts fly high, raining down everywhere around in a spatter of blood and gore? A memorable spectacle it is, and an instructive lesson of feral punishment. Ultimately, blowing from a gun is but one item among many in the vast arsenal of Imperial democide.

Let fell deeds awake when wretched man sins against his godly ruler, enthroned in radiant splendour upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth. Let savagery gain free rein of violence to be visited upon sacrificial lambs of sorrow made out of foul deserters unwilling to chew razorwire as is their lot in life. Let us be cruel, and heed not whispers accusing us of barbarity, for life is not years, but deeds, and the misdeeds of filthy sinners must be rewarded with extreme bloodshed.

And so this rotting interstellar empire, this the last shield of humanity, is in fact a hellish and massmurdering regime all its own, a reprehensible Imperium of counterproductive atrocities that has ultimately doomed mankind by its stagnation and ongoing loss of technology and knowledge. As such, the Imperium of Man may be likened to a suicide pact gone wrong. Search not for goodness in the monstrous dominions of His Divine Majesty, for here you will find nought but the evil that men do. There is no black and white in this universe, only different degrees of darkness and evil and demented violence. No hope. Only war.

Witness with open eyes the primitive bloodlust festering inside the heart of man, and know full well that no amount of terror and carnage against fellow man can reverse the decline of human power in the Milky Way galaxy during this regressed Age of Imperium. No amount of savage retribution can save our species from the jaws of damnation. No amount of fevered depravity can turn the dark tide, for the great game of galactic dominion is not only played with discipline, willpower and sacrifice, but requires also rising to higher planes through ingenuity and inventive brilliance, both of which are stone dead and entirely lacking in the blunt heirs of mankind's distant great ancestors.

And so the parochial fanatics of the lord of hosts and leader of the people stumbles on, chastening each other with utmost brutality in the waning cosmic march of this human colossus on feet of clay, as the Imperium of Man staggers ever closer to oblivion. As the odds for the survival of Imperial power and mankind itself grow bleaker, ever more flesh and resources are fed into the meatgrinder in a broken equation of increased input, and ever harsher punishments are dealt out as desperation mounts amid the tyrannical overlords of Holy Terra and all her vast holdings. The Imperials are slowly losing, and the most intelligent amongst the true masters and mistresses of His sacred domain betwixt the stars ken this truth of impending downfall, even though they never would dare to speak such illoyal and outright heretical thoughts out loud. The Imperium of Man may be mighty in the earth, but it is not long for this world.

Thus humanity flagellates itself in a flurry of grisly punishments, for there can be no allowance for weakness in the darkest of futures. Ancient man was once the promising scion of Old Earth, the conqueror of stars and the dauntless explorer of the universe. Now, his distant descendant have devolved utterly, and so demented man in the Age of Imperium finds himself strapped to the muzzle of his own gun, his demise certain, his end cruel beyond words.

All this has come to pass, in an aeon of mindless butchery, in a time of blackest horror, in an age of doom.

Such is the future that awaits us all.

Such is the fate of our species.

Such is the insanity of man.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only slaughter.