"All is transient. We need but endure."
- —"Leatherback" Hanes
The Rusted Claw is a Genestealer Cult that originated among the hardscrabble miners of the world of Newseam in the eastern Ultima Segmentum, though genesis infestations of the cult have been found on many Imperial planets in recent years.
Its nihilistic and ascetic adherents believe there is no value in material things, and that even their own bodies are worthless hunks of flesh and bone that must be reforged into something new and better by the alien beings they worship.
The weather-beaten, rugged survivalists of the Rusted Claw are more at home on the open wastes than they are in the claustrophobic confines of an Imperial underhive. They are the pioneers, the nomads and the prospectors of their deluded kind.
The Cult of the Rusted Claw is constantly on the move. Its adherents thrive on the fringes of Imperial society, rather than within its hidden heart, for they exemplify the cult's need to expand and settle fresh host populations wherever they can support a new gene-sect or infestation. Their willingness to roam across the most hostile reaches of the Imperium in search of settlements means they are hardy and resilient in the extreme.
Despite their dishevelled appearance, a cultist of the Rusted Claw is a formidable opponent; they can go for solar weeks without food or water, work tirelessly under a volatile sun, or take a bullet and keep on fighting till day's end without slowing once.
The cult can trace its beginning to the arid wastes of Newseam, a planet on the eastern edge of the Ultima Segmentum. The miners who toil beneath Newseam's crust unearth hundreds of tons of precious metal from the planet's strata each day. The sickeningly rich upworlders known as the Oremasters who control their fate forbid the downtrodden labourers from keeping even the smallest portion of the wealth they dig out from the seams, let alone spending it.
This prohibition causes a great degree of ire amongst the populace, who work their fingers to the bone in the name of uncaring masters. The backbreaking labour of their pick work yields them nothing more than food slops, nutrient paste and a few solar hours of sleep a night.
Some of the more precious metal they mine is smuggled away, for the eyes of the Newseam Minecorps Servitoria's overseers cannot be everywhere at once. Those who are caught, however, are auto-flogged, hung by the neck until dead, and their mortal remains branded with the thief's rune as a salutary warning.
The embittered underclasses of Newseam proved fertile ground for a new creed. When the pickaxes of a small work group dug through the remains of a buried voidship, the subsequent explorations awakened the Purestrain Genestealer hibernating within. It was the beginning of the planet's slide into the abyss.
Working in tandem with their Rogue Trader allies, the prospecting divisions of Newseam spread their worker populace from Frontier World to Frontier World -- and with each of its pioneering expansions, the dark secret at its fringes spread along with it.
Most cults have humble beginnings, but those of the Rusted Claw embrace their disdain for material possessions to the point that it becomes a bitter refusal to accept that anything has lasting value -- not even themselves. They are nihilists all, believing that they are but corroding material in a universe riddled with entropy.
Only by being subsumed, by being remade, body and soul, by the unknowable xenos entities they worship, can they ever become something more. Until that day they are nothing more than ambulatory scraps of flesh and bone, tattered cloth and rusting metal -- and anyone who thinks differently is a fool in need of a rude awakening.
This mindset, when twinned with the harsh lifestyle of the pioneer, leads to a scruffy and neglected appearance -- to spend too much time maintaining, embellishing or polishing is seen as a despicable and ultimately fruitless indulgence. Objects exist only to serve, and all material possessions are functional and disposable, just like the flesh that will soon enough rot away to leave only the immortal spirit behind.
This wide-roaming Genestealer Cult believes that the emptiness of the void consumes all -- even metal. They see the tarnish of every coin and the rust that eats away at every vehicle as divine entropy brought to their world by their hallowed Genestealer Patriarch, and they welcome its virulent spread.
They hold fast to the fact that all the works of the Imperium will rust away, corroded in body and soul, and that only the void that is left in its place will have true meaning and permanence. One day, they know, they too will become part of the nothingness beyond -- in the meantime, they will speed the dissolution of all civilisations in any way they can.
Only when the oppression of the upworlders is gnawed away completely will they be truly free to spread their creed to the four corners of the galaxy. Eventually all things must give way to the raw and barren truth of the void.
The cult is not named idly, for its wargear and vehicles are usually in states of disrepair and corrosion. Some elements of the cult can even rust the metal they touch, leaving russet fingerprints upon every metal up to and including adamantium -- there are pict-feeds of Maguses of the Rusted Claw reducing Imperial vehicles to corroded hulks simply by laying hands upon them.
Those agents of the Ordo Xenos who have witnessed this phenomenon believe the cult's most alien adherents harbour a nano-organism symbiote, perhaps contracted from or engineered by the Tyranids themselves; metallophagic and ravenous, this invisible predator can consume even bulkhead doors in a matter of solar minutes. Naturally the cult members see this phenomenon as a divine miracle.
Typically, each of the cult's gene-sects will breed a Kelermorph, a specialist bioform that occurs far more frequently in the wide-ranging Rusted Claw than any other cult of its kind. These pistol-wielding figures quickly become folk heroes amongst their kin, leading daring strikes against the pillars of the planetary establishment until the downtrodden masses unite behind them.
Being largely nomadic, the cult also has a high proportion of Atalan Jackal riders, who roam under the unforgiving suns of the Frontier Worlds in large mechanised gangs; while they wear leather coats and broad-brimmed hats ostensibly as protection against the elements, they mainly serve to hide their alien hybridisations from prying eyes.
The spies, saboteurs and rangers of these subcultures use comm links and even orbital communions to report their findings to their war leaders. This allows their Primus and their kin to operate in secret, gently influencing events rather than leading from the front. Meanwhile, the Magus will take position in the heart of a gene-sect and guide their thralls psychically, for they are still the mind behind the cult's expansion and -- unlike the Kelermorph, who is always awaiting inevitable martyrdom -- they are not so easily replaced.
It was the Kelermorph known as Golden Talon, of the Newseam Saints gene-sect, who first gilded one of his claws by dipping it in molten gold taken from the world's Palace of Commerce. This symbolic act of desecration was a potent reminder that though their Oremasters might grind them down, in the fullness of time the cult would take whatever it wanted, and nothing could stop them.
Although the Rusted Claw eschew wealth, valuing body and soul above ephemeral concepts such as mortal possessions, they are more than happy to remind the overlords of those worlds they infest that their trinkets and gewgaws can be snatched from their weak hands -- just as their breeding stock can be taken from them and turned to a higher cause with a single Genestealer's Kiss.
The dusty but adamantium-rich planet of Soharia becomes host to an infestation of the Cult of the Rusted Claw. Wide-roaming, they make little effort to conceal their growing influence. Planetary Governor Endst, loath to inform the proper authorities and hence invite a potential Exterminatus action upon his beloved world, resorts to drastic measures of his own.
After arranging systematic bio-scans via his extensive collection of Servo-skulls, Endst takes great pains to sort those untouched by xenos gene-taint from those who may be compromised. He does so in secret, for news of a Genestealer Cult insurrection has reached him from the neighbouring world of Ghord Ninth, and he dares not trigger a full uprising just yet.
Instead, those deemed genetically pure are gradually secreted in a network of underground bunkers, each locked with a cellular syringe system that keeps it inviolable against the alien. Then, when he is sure his core supporters are safe, Endst levels a systematic bombardment of hyperfusion missiles from his personal arsenal at all those cities he marks on his prized cartographs as "beyond salvation."
The solar-week-long firestorms that follow raze the planet's surface, eradicating 99% of the populace. Only the hardiest and most resourceful escape the firestorms, but unfortunately for Endst, they include a great proportion of outrider cultists from the Rusted Claw.
The years that follow, known as the "Dust Hunt," see those same outriders scour the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Soharia for the enclaves of pure-blooded humans forced to ride out the radiation of their own nuclear winter. One by one they are found, compromised, and corrupted by the agents of the Rusted Claw -- and within the solar decade, even Endst himself is converted to the cult's nihilistic creed.
The Xenos and the Beast
An infestation of the Rusted Claw finds it near impossible to move their Magus across the planet of Anacharos at anything faster than a walk. Their Magus' skin crawls with a high concentration of metallophage organisms, and any metal nearby instantly corrodes, rendering vehicles in his vicinity inoperable. Securing the aid of their allies in the Bladed Cog, they commission a succession of Departmento Munitorum crates made of plastic compounds that are just as hard as steel.
With these they are able to spread the war leaders of their cult from one planet to another. When their Primus, the resourceful Fender Threnn, hears word of a nest of Ferro-Beasts in the long-forsaken Yimbo System, he uses the same Munitorum crates to capture the armadillo-like metal-eating monsters by the dozen.
These he sets loose in the spaceports of Anacharos, causing utter havoc as the beasts go into a feeding frenzy amongst the richly appointed vessels. The distraction is used to full effect as the cult rises up against the rich upworlders -- who, when attempting to flee the planet, find many of their vessels already half-eaten.
- Codex: Genestealer Cults (8th Edition), pp. 26-27, 38
- Codex: Genestealer Cults (7th Edition), pp. 18, 44-45