A Shroud-class Light Cruiser is a Necron starship that has only recently appeared in the Necron fleets so far encountered by the Imperium of Man. The Shroud-class' existence was first recorded in 992.M41 during an engagement with the Battlefleet Pacificus of the Imperial Navy. In the six standard years immediately after, vessels of this configuration were observed on three occasions, and each time disengaged before Imperial vessels could bring them under fire. It was believed by Imperial intelligence that either the class of vessel or the crew of the ship was being tested in some way.
As with all known Necron vessels, Shroud-class Light Cruisers possess an unknown form of drive technology that allows the ship to undertake interstellar travel without the need to enter the Warp. The Shroud-class' drive technology eliminates the spacecraft's inertia, allowing it travel at extreme speeds and with extreme acceleration, whilst also giving the spacecraft an agility that few other ships can match. In truth, however, Shroud-class vessels, like all Necron spacecraft, primarily rely upon the use of Dolmen Gates to serve as portals into the Webway, which allows them to cross the vastness of space without resorting to the use of the Warp since the undying Necrons possess no psykers.
Shroud-class vessels excel at the task of fleet reconnaissance and are often deployed as the advance scouts for a Necron assault force, as they are especially stealthy vessels. A Shroud-class Light Cruiser's hull shape is a further refinement of normal Necron designs, making it very hard to detect using Imperial sensor technology; so hard, in fact, that orbital mines will even fail to activate when a Shroud-class vessel passes. Shroud-class warships are also equipped with superior sensors which are capable of relaying information gleaned to the rest of a Necron fleet, making them the Necrons' vessel of choice for long-range reconnaissance. The Imperial Navy has designated the Shroud-class to be a grave threat to their installations, for if they can penetrate the formidable defences of Mars with ease, as they did in 998.M41, then there is no Imperial base which can be considered safe from Necron penetration.
In 998.M41 five Shroud-class vessels launched a suicidal assault on the Adeptus Mechanicus’ homeworld of Mars and landed near the Noctis Labyrinth, seeking to carry out an unknown objective, though some analysts of the Ordo Xenos fear that their mission may have been to awaken the sleeping Void Dragon. Since this Mars gambit, Shroud-class Light Cruisers have been identified on six occasions acting as the long-range eyes and ears of a Necron fleet.
- 992.M41 First Encounters in Segmentum Pacificus - Shroud-class Light Cruisers are encountered for the first time in a series of multiple contacts with patrol fleets of Battlefleet Pacificus in the Segmentum Pacificus.
- 996.M41 Bora Culpa Incident – Shroud-class vessels are identified by non-combat observers before the population of Bora Culpa mysteriously disappears.
- 998.M41 Assault on the Noctis Labyrinth – Five Shroud Light Cruisers somehow manage to slip past Sol’s defences and penetrate the formidable planetary defences of the Adeptus Mechanicus' homeworld of Mars. After pursuing the invaders to the Noctis Labyrinth, a mine complex in the planet’s northern reaches, Mechanicus defence ships were finally able to catch the Necron vessels. Though all five were destroyed, it was only at a fearfully high cost, and one of the Shroud-class warships actually managed to land on the blessed red soil of Mars itself before being destroyed. What the Necrons hoped to gain remains a mystery, and various local members of the Adeptus Mechanicus have voiced wildly differing opinions regarding the future of the mine complex, ranging from its total destruction to the enforcement of a Perdita zone. Fresh from his expedition to the Dead World of Naogeddon, Magos Prime Reston Egal proved most strident in his cries for the site’s destruction with fusion bombs and its sealing with ferrocrete, but thus far his demands have been overruled by the higher echelons of command. It is known to the Inquisition's Ordo Xenos that the Noctis Labyrinth is the legendary home of the being called the Void Dragon, and they fear that the Necron incursion may have been linked to an attempt to awaken this ancient enemy of the Emperor.
Shroud-class Light Cruisers are composed entirely out of Necrodermis, a unique living metal which comprises the undying mechanical bodies of every Necron warrior, vehicle and starship. The material’s regenerative properties and hardy nature means that Tomb Ships are immune to the detrimental effects posed by celestial phenomena such as solar flares, radiation, gas clouds and nebulae, and are also able to repair their armour at a rapid pace during an engagement. However, standard Necron combat protocol dictates that a clean disengagement is preferable to a fight to the end, and Tomb Ships will do this by "fading out," where the vessel in question dematerialises into an unknown extradimensional space; taking it out of the battle. The standard armament of a Shroud-class Light Cruiser includes:
- Lightning Arc Batteries – Lightning Arcs use stored solar energy and, when activated, release it as a forest of living energy tendrils which envelop targets and probe for weaknesses. Lightning Arcs act as the main weapon batteries for Necron ships, but are different from the equivalents used by the other starfaring species of the galaxy in that the arcs they fire are able to split up and guide themselves to their own targets, providing a mass-strike ability like no other known ship-based weapon. A Lightning Arc battery is usually able to cover all angles of approach except for the rear.
- Battlefleet Gothic Armada, pp. 73-74, 77
- Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pg. 11