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"The Dark Pattern is the unholy and artificial working of the ancients. By their awakening, they shall reveal their meaning, and all mankind may cry out in horror."

—Last words of Astropath Qi Lamerne

Nunc is a Dead World located in the Jericho Reach, far from the salients of the Achilus Crusade. Unbeknownst to the Imperium of Man, it is also a Necron Tomb World.

Until the final Terran years of the 41st Millennium, Nunc was a world that offered no interest to Human forces within the Jericho Reach. Its climate is unappealing, its resources are limited, and its location is far from the major Warp passages.

The world bears signs that it might once have been abandoned by some xenos species, but the evidence of that habitation is ancient and easily ignored. Without any technology to recover or significant resources to exploit, there was little reason to fully study or even attempt to colonise the world.

In light of more recent discoveries, that decision has been called into question. Clearly, there are ample reasons for Imperial assets to be interested by the activities that have taken place on Nunc.

History

During the height of the ancient Jericho Sector, almost all of the region's habitable worlds received at least a preliminary survey. A few surviving references within limited surviving texts suggest that Nunc was of only academic interest.

Even these initial studies indicated that it was inhospitable to life and offered few resources to make it an ideal candidate for colonisation. However, those second-hand references survived because of the anomalies present on the Dead World.

In spite of the absence of active life forms, there were clear indications that at some time in the ancient past, another intelligent species dwelt upon Nunc's surface.

Those anomalies included a number of geographical elements that were organised in a way suggestive of the ruins of ancient structures. Additional evidence -- which is still visible from space -- suggested that there were substantial roads connecting these structures.

Notably, these structures are more readily recognisable from space than from the surface. At ground level, they appear to be little more than heavily corroded hills, piled high with the debris from the world's frequent sandstorms.

Standard protocols believed to be in place within the Jericho Sector should have led to a thorough study of the world, so that any surviving xenos contamination could be cleansed. However, there is no indication that any such surveys or cleansings took place.

A few anecdotes do survive, which indicate that at least one Adeptus Mechanicus expedition ventured to the surface as part of a study to search for any xenos artefacts or technology.

However, neither the few surviving sector records nor any known Adeptus Mechanicus records exist of this survey. That could either be an indicator that the individuals involved chose to remain secretive about their findings or that there were no findings of note.

Collapse

Prior to the Age of Shadow, there were no known permanent Human settlements within the system. Since the Jericho Sector's collapse, there have been at least six different groups of refugees who attempted to establish colonies on the world.

All came out of desperation, as they watched their home worlds collapse into anarchy. None of these groups had all of the supplies necessary to found a permanent colony, and few of the expedition's members had any of the training necessary to survive upon such an unforgiving world.

Not surprisingly, none of these colonies were able to survive on their own. The world's infertile land made agricultural efforts extremely challenging. The lack of significant wildlife meant that there was little game to hunt.

The different groups of colonists chose the world because they hoped that they could escape from the teeming masses of Humanity that had doomed the Jericho Sector.

While they succeeded at escaping Humanity, few found anything resembling salvation. Tens of thousands died as they tried to establish some sort of foothold on the arid world.

Fortunately, Humans are a persistent lot. Out of those who travelled to Nunc, a few from each colony did manage to learn enough to survive before the planet could defeat them.

These staunch survivalists took up residence within caves that dotted cliffs of many of the world's ancient mountains. Within these tunnels, they were able to find adequate shelter, harvestable fungus, and a limited supply of water.

Limitations on the available resources consistently kept the Human populations quite small, but a number of these groups were able to persevere. Because of their struggles, the world's societies soon lost much of Humanity's knowledge and culture. In spite of this, they were able to maintain a limited language closely related to Low Gothic.

The 41st Millennium

Near the end of the 41st Millennium, some of the world's ancient geographic anomalies have begun to shift. At the same time, the world's weather patterns have also begun to change. What little water had been present has become an even scarcer commodity.

This has significantly impacted the few Human residents and could be a herald of even more severe conditions to come. Initially, as water dried up, many of the small communities began to battle over the limited resource.

In a few short solar months, the world's small population had decreased by more than fifteen percent. As the shortages continued, there was little indication that this trend would change.

At that point, however, a new threat emerged. Ancient obelisks erupted from the world's depths and protruded once more upon its surface. These black structures were inscribed with complex geometric patterns.

As they appeared, their initial tenders also began to emerge from deep beneath the world's surface. The small, mechanical creatures resembled insect-like scarabs.

Initially, the drones appeared in small numbers, which were unable to threaten any but the weakest of Humans. However, within solar weeks, massive swarms of the scarabs began to emerge. These hideous forces were capable of rending the flesh from a healthy adult Human before he could even attempt to flee.

In the solar months and Terran years that have followed, additional xenos have continued to appear. Most of these mechanical soldiers have been of demonstrably humanoid form. In short order, they exterminated the Human population.

One Deathwatch Dark Hunter passed through the system in 241.816.M41. Its report indicated that there were several vessels of xenos origin in orbit above the planet.

The unknown vessels fired upon the Imperial craft, but it was able to escape to file a report with Watch Fortress Erioch. These xenos, now identified as Necrons, clearly represent a significant threat to the Imperium.

Environment

Nunc's average daily surface temperature in its temperate zones exceeds 40 degrees centigrade. Nearer the equator can be significantly warmer.

The world's orbit approaches the inner boundary of habitable systems for its star. Its atmosphere's upper layers are also surprisingly thin in gasses that would protect it from cosmic radiation.

Because of this, the world's surface is often struck by massive blasts of energy and particles that descend from the void and devastate its surface. This has left the world bathed in a level of background radiation that pervades all who dwell upon its surface.

Virtually all life is subject to frequent and unstable levels of mutation. In order for Humans to survive, anti-radiation drugs are a necessity -- one which the unprepared Human colonists lacked.

The amount of water available upon the planet's surface is also extremely low. The small polar caps actually hold the majority of Nunc's surface water. There are no significant rivers or streams.

The few small oases among Nunc's endless deserts are extremely high in arsenic salts. These contaminants make them toxic to Humans, though most of the native flora and fauna are capable of processing them -- which also leaves these same life forms unsuitable for Human consumption.

The sole accessible resource for water is the one that the Human colonists eventually came to depend upon. Much of Nunc's surface is spotted with jagged mountains that break up the vast deserts.

These irregular, bedrock structures jut from the planet at sharp angles, forming passages that often only concentrate the world's powerful winds. The cliff-faces of many of these mountains are dotted with caves of uncertain origin. Many of these caves extend for kilometres into the mountains and extend deep into the planet's crust.

Far from the dry atmosphere, many of these hold pools of stagnant water. A few even connect to underground lakes and rivers, beyond the reach of the heat and the daylight.

Most of the caverns appear to be of natural origin -- likely formed at a time when there might have been much more water flowing across Nunc's surface. Others seem to be extremely regular, as if some ancient species had constructed or modified them for its own purpose.

The more regular tunnels often feature complex geometric depictions, even near the entrances. These symbols would likely have drawn significant attention from any researchers who might have visited the world during the height of the ancient Jericho Sector.

Nunc's wildlife is quite limited. The vast majority of life forms dwell either within a few metres of the world's limited oases or among caves. The largest of these are lizard analogues, which grow to roughly ten centimetres in length.

They feed upon the small insect analogues, which also live near the water sources. The lizards within the caverns are often edible, though their appearance is extremely similar to the specimens found nearest the oases, which are toxic.

The only plant life is found near the oases. These are mostly small scrub brushes that are capable of persevering through the planet's milder sandstorms.

Under more severe conditions, these same plants are often uprooted and tumble with the winds. As the plants are covered in thorns, they can represent an additional minor hazard for anyone caught unprotected in a sandstorm.

Many fungal analogues grow among the world's cave networks. Some of these are mildly chemi-luminescent. Because of this, those who travel through the cave network often have just enough light to proceed through the tunnels.

Some of these are also safe for Human consumption. While they are hardly appetising, they did represent the primary food source for the Humans who dwelt upon Nunc.

Nunc's bedrock has a surprisingly high concentration of metal ores. If a serious effort were made to mine these, the many mountains could be converted to raw materials in a fairly straightforward manner.

The largest expense of such an endeavour would be providing survivable conditions for any Human workers and, of course, defending them against the newly emergent xenos.

Culture

There is currently only one intelligent species active upon Nunc, and they are xenos. The cybernetic Necrons have resumed their ancient role as the dominators of this foreboding Desert World. The workings that they had once left dormant have begun to return to life. Various automatic systems have reactivated.

The ancient mechanical life forms are in the process of gradually returning to full activity. Weapons systems and production facilities buried deep beneath the sands have returned to the surface and begun to create the process of full activation.

Nunc's reactivation is likely linked to the message that the Chanovokh Dynasty sent to the Suhbekhar Dynasty. In ancient times, this planet served as one of the central hubs for the dynasty within the region of space now known as the Jericho Reach.

Because of this, Nunc was among the first to receive the command to awaken from its long-lasting slumber. All evidence suggests that this reawakening is proceeding with minimal difficulties.

Unless something is done to avert it in extremely short order, Nunc could soon become a fully activated Necron Tomb World. This clearly represents a major threat to everything that dwells within this portion of the galaxy.

The system's initial activations proceeded according to ancient plans. Structures that had been concealed deep beneath Nunc's surface began to reconfigure so that they could once more emerge from their tombs.

Canoptek Scarabs were among the first Necron creatures to activate, so that they might re-establish function on the ancient systems in the correct order. As additional systems and facilities awoke, more complex and higher-ranking members of the Necron race came online.

The Human contamination was soon identified and the ranking members commanded Necron Warriors to dispose of them. The Warriors found little challenge in overcoming these primitives and the task was completed in a matter of solar days.

Since that time, a veritable army has awakened. As more and more facilities have become activated, the pace has continued to accelerate.

Multiple Necron vessels have been reactivated and launched into orbit. A number of Dolmen Gates on the world's surface have also been activated. Defensive networks that have slept for millions of Terran years are again active and capable of protecting the world from any outside influence.

Tens of thousands of Necron Warriors, Immortals, and even members of the still-sentient Necron aristocracy have come back online. The world's ultimate capacity and the full numbers of its populace remain unclear, but by all appearances they are vast.

Nunc now represents a significant threat against the efforts of the Achilus Crusade. The Necrons are virtually certain to oppose all other intelligent life within the Reach. However, the Imperial efforts have been the most active in seeking to gain dominance in recent years.

Unless something is done to prevent the world from achieving full activity, that could abruptly change. The Necron forces have vast assets at their disposal and are capable of travelling through their Dolmen Gates to many of the habitable worlds within this region of the galaxy, and beyond.

Once the Deathwatch comes to terms with the full nature of this xenos threat, they must take drastic action to stop it. All available resources of Watch Fortress Erioch might need to be committed against this terrible foe. Additional resources from the Achilus Crusade would also be required to assist.

Nunc represents a major infestation of a xenos species that actively seeks to obliterate Humanity's encroachment. With their vast technological expertise, the severity of the Necron threat cannot be overstated.

If Imperial assets are to overcome them, some action must be taken in short order to prevent these undying cybernetic beings from fully activating and exploiting all of their resources.

Sources

  • Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 85-88
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