"They call it the breadbasket. I call it the soft underbelly. If it falls, Askellon starves."
- — Decrypted Vox-intercept from deep within Vouxis Prime
Located along the Grand Processional, the most stable Warp route in the Askellon Sector, Kalto is a large Agri-world whose bountiful production has made it the breadbasket for the untold billions who dwell within the neighbouring sub-sectors. This high productivity is believed to be due in part to Kalto's negligible axial tilt which, when combined with the planet's stable orbit relative to its brilliant orange star, creates a near-perpetual growing season ideally suited for agriculture.
Kalto is particularly known for its production of padonus rice, a genetically-modified crop developed by the Magi Biologis of Core Theta, as well as large quantities of local emdur grain. Such advantageous planetary qualities have led many scholars to believe Kalto is actually the result of ancient terraforming during the sector's founding, or of some other nameless techno-sorcery from the Dark Age of Technology.
Others interpret the world's relative Warp route stability and remarkably earth-like gravitational pull as evidence of divine providence, while some within the Inquisition and elsewhere view the deadly boneweed, prolific xenos relics, and other unexplained events during Kalto’s history as evidence of an as yet unidentified threat.
The most catastrophic of these events happened scant ages ago, when a merchant vessel arrived to discover Kalto’s verdant lands and gothic structures inexplicably abandoned, with fields of overgrown crops and livestock wandering loose. Search as they might, the crew found no answers to the mystery, save for a few desiccated corpses locked inside a tarnished security spire, and a grainy vid log of spectral figures. This sudden disappearance of the planet’s inhabitants precipitated an intense famine amongst nearby Hive Worlds. In the following decades, the numerous attempts at appropriation and infighting among political factions made Kalto a byword for bickering and intrigue. The most egregious of these was the founding of Forge Paellus, which occurred when a huge Adeptus Mechanicus cruiser deposited the forge’s prefab foundation into the hollowed-out heart of the Loradon mountains.
It is said that cries of consternation over this act rang out in the highest levels of the Pellucid Tower on Juno, and that it came remarkably close to dragging the Rubicon Sub-Sector into war. Eventually, after months of fierce politicking, numerous assassination attempts, and intense negotiations, the competing interests finally renounced their claims on the valuable world. Kalto is now firmly under the control of the Adeptus Administratum. The Adeptus Mechanicus, however, still retains a substantial presence there, much to the resentment of the august Kaltan Ecclesiarchy.
Those Who Came Before
Though records of Kalto date back to the earliest days of the sector, little is known of its earlier discovery or initial colonisation. Dark tales from these times describe beings veiled in shadow and malice that once roamed the forests at night, sadistic warriors who cackled excitedly as they dragged the unwary into the spirit world in order to feast on their souls. Known as the Void Watchers, many believe these malevolent beings are the source of the vile boneweed tendrils, which they used to inflict excruciating pain on their victims and provide their fighters with cruel sport.
In addition to the countless signs of ancient human habitation, numerous xenoarcheological surveys have uncovered scattered ruins across the surface of Kalto. Members of the Scholastica Psykana have also occasionally taken an interest in these discoveries, though most of their studies revolve around the psychic resonances and mysterious energy signatures emanating from the ruins themselves. The most peculiar of these xenos relics are the twisted grey pylons that rise from the ground in regular intervals, like vines of granite interlaced with intricate veins of brilliant silver. They are said to be highly resilient, slowly regrowing any sections that become damaged over the years. Some of the more radical savants who devote their studies to such mysteries even claim that the pylons grow and recede over the course of centuries, their movements linked to some unfathomable external stimuli which remain elusive.
Lords of the Harvest
Following the cessation of disputes over command of Kalto, the Adeptus Administratum took direct control of the planet’s governance, installing one of their own as Praefect to ensure the continued flow of vital crops. Though supposedly only a temporary precaution, this provision has remained in effect for centuries. Whether this oversight is the result of bureaucratic gridlock or devious design remains uncertain. Recently, however, the servants of the Kaltan Adeptus Administratum have been more concerned with collating the increasingly disjointed and outdated trade manifests, mercantile parchments, and anticipated tithe projections than exercising any real power on the planet below. Their leader is Adept Torintane, a man who has spent the majority of his two hundred year tenure as Praefect submerged within the potent juvenant salts and bioinvigorant fluids of a personalised data-tank. Despite his advanced age, the Adept’s increasingly overwhelmed staff continue to feed him a constant stream of information through a neurolink interface, though the centuries of confused and contradicting reports have gradually taken their toll on the elderly man’s sanity.
As a result, the puritanical adept is now convinced that every department of his order is rife with heresy and rebellion, and he has ordered his ruthless Vigilance Servitors to exterminate anyone found guilty of even the most minor infraction. A term of service within the austere walls of his orbiting residence-basilica is a death sentence, and the paper-strewn corridors are said to echo day and night with the sounds of terrified screams and insane laughter. His primary rival is Planetary Governor Naullis Von Maunx, who also rules the infamous Metothine Gate. However, the Adeptus Administratum’s refusal to rescind its claim on the Praefecture makes him beneath the aged Torintane in authority, a status which Von Maunx has attempted to reverse many times during his reign. He is a deceitful, dangerous man whose contempt for the aged Torintane has led him to gradually usurp much of the old man’s influence through bribery, intimidation, and deliberate infusions of contradictory data to hasten the erosion of Torintane’s sanity.
Torintane, meanwhile, sees Von Maunx as yet another devious malefactor in his ailing domain, and the ancient adept never misses an opportunity to censure his subordinate, or submit his decrees to endless reviews, tedious debate, or in-depth scrutiny. In recent decades, their relationship has become so poisonous as to threaten open hostility, though both sides hesitate to act without assurances of support from their respective allies. By contrast, the natives of Kalto are a hardworking and simple lot, their lives dedicated in equal measure to their faith in the Emperor and their hereditary duty towards the harvest. Such lessons often come at the end of a lash, and many of the more seasoned workers develop a distinct tolerance for pain and privation before their first season is out.
The Kaltan faithful are also taught to regard rest as a transgression of faith, and that to collapse from exhaustion is preferable to failing their sacred burden. Many do just that, and the fields are said to be littered with the bodies of those who fell during their labours, their corpses constituting a final offering of flesh to the world that sapped their strength. As this extreme workload takes its toll on their physical bodies, many workers are eventually modified to supplement their failing physiologies, with limbs replaced with specialised harvesting implants, and bodies augmented with water recyclers and thick slabs of vat-grown muscle. Most workers also wear various rudimentary wire cages or other crude implants over their faces that serve as constant reminders of their devotion and sacrifice, while preventing them from partaking of the crops they harvest. Such augmentations are a pivotal moment in the life of Kaltan workers, who often view them as symbols of the devotion and sacrifice necessary to commit themselves fully to their sacred burden. The Kaltan Mechanicum has not been hesitant in recruiting those who proudly display their mechanical improvements into the Cult of the Machine, though many question exactly what these enigmatic keepers of technology hope to achieve by enlisting so many souls to their cause.
Compliancers are the agents of planetary law within the docking hubs of the Metothine Gate, and all are charged with administering both the edicts of the governor and the numerous accords and charters ratified within the great trade halls. However, as the wording of such decrees is uniformly labyrinthine and often deliberately vague, Compliancers must often rely on their own interpretations of these statutes when resolving any disputes. Regrettably for many of their victims, this judgement almost always favours their current employer, and few who encounter these corrupt and brutal officials walk away unscathed.
Armed with vicious blades and rumoured to be recruited from Adept Torintane’s most diligent vassals, Vigilance Servitors are ruthless killing machines. Highly modified, their cadaverous bodies twitch and judder from the potent chemical stimulants that course through their veins. They are all absolutely relentless in their search for the slightest hint of laxity or inactivity, and many eventually die from the strain of obeying the impossibly severe parameters of their maniacal programming.
Some are so wholly consumed that they allow the boneweed to permanently embed itself in their flesh. This gruesome act grants them even more intense visions of violence and bloodshed, though few have the stamina or will to survive the grisly ordeal. Known as Auguras, they alone are able to master the terrible visions and forge them into a weapon to be wielded against the untainted. Yet such visions come at a terrible price, for they must constantly slake their thirst for fresh blood in order to feed the burrowing parasitic vines. Other afflicted lock to them, recklessly sacrificing themselves to satisfy the calls for slaughter radiating from the corrupted bodies of these twisted and tortured souls
The Metothine Gate is a massive cluster of orbital docks that remains locked in geostationary orbit above Kalto. Within these marbled halls, replete in all their silver and bronze inery, dwells Governor Von Maunx as well as the individual mercantile societies. Amidst these organisations, the majority of trade on Kalto takes place under the constant attention of the Metothine Magnates. Though bound by Imperial decree to provide for the ever-increasing demands of the Askellon Sector, they are shrewd and calculating individuals who, with but a word, can sentence millions to privation and destitution.
Due to the nature of Imperial commerce, as well as the vast fortunes at stake, few accords struck within these opulent cloisters are reached without a heavy cost of blood and suffering. Instances of bribery, assassination, armed confrontations, and other forms of treachery are commonplace. Yet despite such risks, competition for an audience and a Kaltan trading charter is fierce among the many merchant princes and traders who frequent Kalto. The governor’s corrupt officials, meanwhile, care little about such blatant disregard for human life, their own efforts focused solely on ensuring the continued function of the profitable docks or the interests of the highest bidder. Von Maunx carefully watches over all deals, if only to confirm he also gains a proper slice of the profits.
Forge Paellus is a massive fortified structure buried beneath the crumbling remains of an abandoned pre-Imperial city, and which now serves as the mechanical heart of Adeptus Mechanicus activity on Kalto. Beyond its colossal gates, the massive Skerab harvesters that trundle across the golden fields are born, and through these same gates the newest initiates of the cult of the Omnissiah disappear. There are also rumours of other, more unsavoury practices and research being carried out inside these towering walls. The increasing laxity of the ruling Magos and his attendants has only served to perpetuate such idle speculation. Many have also observed a decrease in their interactions with outsiders, as well as a disturbing trend of eliminating their external vox implants and biological speech organs through gruesome and crude surgical techniques.
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Within (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 85-88