"The coward represents as great a threat as the traitor. The traitor at least stands by his convictions."
- —Commissar Holt
The thin atmosphere on Cressid does little to insulate the world from the chill of the void. Before the onset of the ancient Jericho Sector's Age of Shadow, records suggest that the great refineries may have warmed the world so that it could be safely inhabited. In the millennia since those shut down, the world has once more become a cold and barren wasteland.
Those who choose to live upon its surface must endure miserable conditions as they attempt to eke out an existence. Such a fate is far too kind for those who have chosen to abandon their sacred responsibilities to the God-Emperor.
Were it closer to the salients of the Achilus Crusade, dramatic action might be taken. As it stands, the resources necessary to conquer such an inhospitable planet are better spent in other environs for the time being.
The Adeptus Mechanicus has maintained the most complete archives of records from the time of the ancient Jericho Sector. While even those are fragmentary, analysis of the surviving supply and resource allocation reports strongly suggest the most significant sources of raw materials, warehousing, and manufacturing in the sector.
Numerous surviving transaction reports indicate that Cressid represented a significant source for heavy metals, including a number of rare ores. It is difficult for anyone to precisely measure the quantity of materials obtained, but these records suggest that the world may have represented as much as 7% of the metals used by the ancient sector's numerous Forge Worlds.
It is clear that at least one mercantile family worked to maintain assets on Cressid in conjunction with the Adeptus Mechanicus. The name of that family is lost to the ages, yet some portion of its legacy remains in the form of the countless ruined structures and unstable mines that litter Cressid's crust.
Many bear an unusual iconography that overlaid the sigils of the Adeptus Mechanicus on the entrances to the structures and on surviving fragments of the ancient servitors that once worked there.
Many of these components are not consistent with any current patterns, suggesting that these servitors may have been constructed using a template particularly focused upon mining work under these harsh conditions.
Analyses of the remains of the world's once vast structures suggest that the planet was never heavily inhabited. All indicators point to the systems being largely automated, depending primarily upon servitor labour, only relying upon Humans for necessary maintenance and supervision.
This may explain why there are no known surviving Human populations that can trace their ancestry back to ancient times. Alternatively, Cressid's harsh environment could simply have killed any who tried to survive on the world without external support.
Cressid was clearly incapable of functioning as a self-sustaining Imperial world. Once its support network was eliminated by the sector's collapse, the few Humans required to maintain operations were incapable of living under its harsh conditions.
The planet supports very few native life forms. Most of those that have been identified are poisonous to Humans without extensive processing.
This lack of native life also means that there are no known local sources of promethium necessary to power Imperial vehicles. In fact, with its relatively scarce amounts of organic substrates, there are a limited number of materials inhabitants can burn to generate heat and power.
It is believed that the mercantile interests were the first to collapse. Without their support, agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus attempted to keep the mines operational -- largely through the use of vast numbers of servitors. Over time, as resources continued to dwindle, maintaining those servitors became a monumental task.
Ultimately, there simply were not enough replacement parts to keep all of these critical systems fully functional. The Adeptus Mechanicus chose to concentrate its efforts on other worlds, effectively abandoning Cressid.
This left the world without any Imperial defences, save for the watch station maintained by the Deathwatch. The station's files confirm that even without Imperial assets, the planet was only rarely completely abandoned.
The substantial concentration of relatively rare and complex minerals continued to command attention through the Age of Shadow. These included visits from several xenos races, including surveys of less than ten solar years duration by both the Aeldari and the T'au. It is unclear why neither of these races remained upon the planet for an extended period of time.
However, it is likely that both ultimately found the conditions far too unstable for colonisation. Records also indicate that there have been at least two attempts at colonisation by Humans who actively oppose the Imperium, but neither of these groups has survived.
The 41st Millennium
In 801.M41, Watch Station Cressid was attacked by Human Renegades. A routine Deathwatch patrol identified these Renegades, and the battle-brothers saw to their elimination.
Unfortunately, later reports have suggested that those Humans represented only a comparatively small portion of the Renegades who currently inhabit the planet. Continued monitoring by the watch station indicates that there may be a sizeable population still resident.
Seismographic recordings from the watch station suggest that the Renegades arrived when a significant impact hit the planet's surface. Corroborating that data with recordings generated by its auger arrays suggest that the impact was generated when an Imperial cruiser crashed upon Cressid's surface.
Nobody has been able to get a precise count of the survivors, but they are likely to number into the hundreds. The vessel could well to be one lost from the Achilus Crusade. As the watch station has recorded no distress calls from these survivors, they are presumed to be deserters who turned away from their responsibility to the Imperium.
Crusade High Command routinely sends scout vessels out in search of any ships that have gone missing. While Cressid remains far from all three of the crusade's salients, it is present on Imperial charts. Presumably, crusade vessels are obligated to investigate it for signs of life as part of these routine investigations.
The Deathwatch is aware of this protocol, but -- as they do not wish to have their watch station further disturbed -- they have taken no action to accelerate this process.
These Renegades suffered significant losses in the aftermath of their attack upon the watch station, but a few survivors have gone missing under other mysterious circumstances as well. It is unclear if these deaths were due to exposure to Cressid's inhospitable climate or if there might be other threats present on the world.
There are no confirmed reports of xenos activity, but there may be elements that could have escaped notice. The watch station has been scheduled for more regular visits, so that the Deathwatch may respond to any new threats in a timely fashion.
Cressid orbits near the edge of its star's habitable range, and is a frigid world as a consequence. It also has a remarkably low amount of surface water, most of which is concentrated as ice in the planet's small polar caps. Most of the remainder of the planet is a windswept desert.
Powerful cyclonic windstorms regularly sweep across these barren regions, dramatically shifting the planet's sand and exposing hidden portions of bedrock. Watch Station Cressid has recorded wind speeds in excess of 500 kilometres per hour, and they seldom drop beneath 100 kph.
The powerful storms have worn the surface of the planet virtually flat; there are no mountains and very few hills of any note. This factor undoubtedly contributes to the severity of the storms, as there are few surface elements to break them up.
The changing geography also makes surface navigation extremely challenging. The watch station is the only feature on the planet that Imperial forces can consistently locate because of its triggered vox response. Often, even it is buried beneath hundreds of metres of sand.
Other landmarks on the planet are most easily located based upon their position relative to the watch station.
The hostile conditions have left little opportunity for native life. Flora consists largely of fine scrub plants, which are as capable of growing while held aloft by the winds as they are when settled on Cressid's surface. During rare moments of calm, the plants settle to the ground and litter the surface of the endless desert.
When the windstorms come, they are often blown and hurled by the sand. When the scrub becomes shredded by the storms, each part is capable of eventually growing into another plant. This adaptability has enabled them to become the world's dominant life forms.
Confirmed reports on native animal life recount little more than a variety of slow-moving insect and other arthopod analogues, which dwell within the sand dunes. These feed upon the fragments of scrub as well as one another. In principle, they could threaten the reserves of any Humans, but they are extremely slow-moving and not known to swarm.
Any stockpiled goods are far more likely to be lost to windstorm than they are to these small creatures. Visitors have little to fear from the predators -- a rare mercy, given how deadly the weather conditions can be.
The planet's deep mines, however, represent a substantially different ecology from its surface. The environment remains absolutely frigid, but it is at least isolated from the scouring winds. Most of the passages were constructed millennia ago during the height of the Jericho Sector.
Some of these interconnect with natural passages that are millions of Terran years old. A variety of fungal life forms have taken root within these regions, taking advantage of the comparatively favourable conditions, though even these must function with very limited amounts of water.
Cressid's unusual concentration of heavy metals dictates that the fungus-like growths have a biochemistry that is extremely toxic to Humans. For Humans to survive, even within the mines, they must have some means to synthesise food that is not dependent upon local agriculture.
Anecdotal reports suggest that there may be some larger fauna that dwell within the mine shafts. However, none of these reports are confirmed. This might represent a native life form that developed during a time when the world's surface had more favourable conditions or indicate that the planet's depths have a completely distinct ecology.
Alternatively, due to the region's previous Human habitation, these might be descendants of some organism that Humanity inadvertently introduced during the mine construction.
Even at the height of the Jericho Sector, Cressid was scarcely inhabited. Those who worked in the mines were brought from off-planet, as the costs of establishing a permanent colony were deemed irrecoverable.
Most of the workers came as transfers from penal colonies. These poor wretches repaid their crimes against the Imperium by dying in the planet's depths.
A few of the remaining immigrant workers consisted of more highly trained miners and administrators. These individuals travelled to the world under contractual terms. A few were lucky enough to even survive, fulfil their contract, and flee the planet.
The only others were followers of the Machine Cult who oversaw the necessary development and ongoing maintenance of the planet's mine system.
Even among these devotees, service upon Cressid was considered a chore, as the brutal winds left surface maintenance an endless and unrewarding task. Ultimately, none of these groups developed a significant culture and none left a legacy behind.
An enclave of Imperial deserters from the crashed vessel Malleus Veritatis represents the only current Human habitation on Cressid. The community is not large, but over the past two solar decades it has become self-sustaining. This is largely due to the resources that survived their vessel's impact upon the world's surface.
The light cruiser had a crew of thousands and was reasonably well provisioned for those numbers. It also had substantial capability for hydroponics growth as well as a corpse starch reclamation facility. The majority of these deserters continue to live aboard the ruined hulk, which is now often buried beneath the world's endless sands.
As the watch station has not detected any transmissions from the craft, it is assumed that either the astropath and the vessel's vox systems were both damaged or the current residents would prefer to dwell upon the planet rather than return to active duty with the crusade.
Under some weather conditions, Watch Station Cressid can detect transmissions from the internal vox systems on the ruined ship. Analysis of the recordings suggests that the deserters have divided into at least two factions, which are at war with one another. The reasons for this condition remain unclear but may simply be a consequence of their desperation.
When Deathwatch Battle-Brother Skorsa eliminated the Renegades that attempted to attack Watch Station Cressid, his reports indicated that they were particularly well-equipped. Further studies of the armaments recovered indicated that they were standard-issue equipment for the regiments of the Scintillan Fusiliers regiments of the Imperial Guard.
There was little indication that any of the equipment had been defaced, so at least those units may have maintained their loyalty to the Imperium.
His report has not yet been passed on to the Achilus Crusade. In the intervening years, the survivors may not have been able to maintain their loyalties. Encounters between Imperial forces and these deserters might turn decidedly violent.
- Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 70-73