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"Medicae, know that thy life depends upon thy abilities. Failure to restore the lord general to health is heresy punishable by death."

—Lord Commissar Vance Theren

Skapula is a Dead World and a former Forge World of the Jericho Reach upon which the Deathwatch maintains a watch station. It is a world under T'au occupation and is also a Necron Tomb World.

Once a centre of medical science and advanced biomedical technology, the world is now of little value, known only to possess pockets of rare minerals used in a variety of crucial manufacturing processes throughout the Imperium.

Due to this strategic value, the planet has been marked for reclamation by the forces of the Achilus Crusade in due time.

The T'au have made a number of attempts to breach Watch Station Skapula, but so far the structure has held. Its sensors are keeping the Deathwatch apprised of the situation on Skapula, which provides the Imperial forces with vital data for their future planned assault.

There are pockets of Human nomads on the world who used to work the mines when the world was under Imperial jurisdiction.

These people have been largely left alone by the T'au thus far, as they likely present little threat to the T'au Empire's interests on Skapula.

Overview

Once, the medicae facilities of Skapula represented one of the most advanced technical resources within the ancient Jericho Sector. Creating such a crucial pool of highly skilled healers required the assistance of many of the region's most profitable planets.

To maintain such a level of advanced treatment required a steady stream of additional patients as well as a supply of test subjects.

As the sector collapsed into anarchy and obscurity during the Age of Shadow, the resources necessary to maintain those facilities were no longer available. Those who dwelt upon Skapula soon discovered that their society was not at all self-sustaining.

When this world collapsed, desperate pilgrims found no solution to their health crises. Instead, they discovered that the world that might represent their salvation was just another bed of depravity.

History

In the early days of the Jericho Sector, Skapula was a world held by the Adeptus Mechanicus and used primarily for the manufacture of medical supplies, advanced medical experimentation and development, and specialised medical treatments. Over the course of the millennia, its reputation grew substantially.

Components for virtually every health monitoring device in the sector came from the world. Those who worked in the medical field knew its name through the simple act of using the equipment manufactured there. Over time, the world's legends grew simply by the nature of its familiarity.

However, the myths surrounding Skapula were not entirely unfounded. The members of the Magos Biologis who worked and studied on this world were certainly the most talented in the sector and among the most talented in the Segmentum Ultima at the time.

Their primary area of expertise dealt with cybernetic implantation technology, but one particular focus included the revivification of necrotic tissue -- returning dead tissue to a lifelike state.

While this research was primarily used to extend the functional lifespan of servitors, some of the ancient legends suggest that it may have also seen limited use on Human patients.

According to these tales, when they approached their deathbeds, nobles on other worlds within the Jericho Reach would often attempt to arrange transport to Skapula. Their hope was that their lives might be even further extended beyond what was possible for standard rejuvenat treatments.

A few legends even suggest that one or more individuals arrived upon Skapula within stasis chambers, mere moments from death. If these stories are accurate, the researchers were so talented that many such patients could be completely restored to a healthy life.

Notably, there are no records to corroborate such reports. It is entirely possible that these stories arose from simple speculation based upon the world's well-deserved reputation as a highly capable medicae treatment facility.

Collapse

At its height, Skapula was far more than a treatment and biomedical manufacturing centre. The talented members of the Machine Cult who worked upon the world were devoted to identifying the most effective ways to employ life-saving technology under a variety of conditions.

Effective study of these techniques required a consistent supply of unusual patients, in addition to the raw materials needed for the world's manufactoria. When patients were not available, the Tech-priests had to either study ancient records or create appropriate patients using prisoners or servitors.

As the Jericho Sector's resources became more limited, several of the most skilled magi left Skapula to travel to Forge Worlds beyond the sector where their expertise could be better used.

Without their most talented researchers, many of the remaining Tech-priests fell to infighting and political manoeuvring. There was little effort to attempt to quickly exploit the remaining resources and rebuild their expertise.

Instead, individuals took charge of separate factions, with each attempting to seize control of resources for their own purposes as they neglected to share their information and equipment with one another.

Secrecy and deception became paramount. Ultimately, none of these groups were able to effectively unify the Forge World with anything resembling effective leadership.

Skapula's collapse occurred just as the Jericho Sector's other worlds most needed a resource for charity and mercy. Many more members of the Adeptus Mechanicus left the world, seeking to establish new exclaves on the sector's other habitable worlds.

A few stayed, but these groups became even more isolated from one another. In time, most of these groups -- both on and off the planet -- turned away from the Machine Cult's core teachings.

They began to delve into forbidden areas of research, ultimately ignoring all of the warnings and studying fields that could only be considered heresy.

Those few Humans who dwelt upon Skapula and were not affiliated with the Adeptus Mechanicus had no other functioning society. When the Tech-priests left, they were unable to fend for themselves.

These individuals soon formed primitive, isolated feral tribes who warred over the few remaining resources. In short order, the Skapulan society was unrecognisable, and barbarians held sway.

41st Millennium

In the final years of the 41st Millennium, there have been two significant events that could substantially alter Skapula's future. The first was when Watch Station Skapula detected the arrival of an expedition from the T'au Empire's Velk'Han Sept.

It is believed that these xenos discovered the ruins of the ancient Adeptus Mechanicus enclaves on Skapula and have begun to explore them. Agents of the T'au have not yet shown any signs that they seek to establish a colony on the world.

However, they have had numerous -- often violent -- interactions with the few remaining Heretek enclaves, as well as the barbaric Human tribes. These appear to have been associated with their efforts to study the ruins of Skapula's ancient manufactoria and medicae centres.

Imperial records offer no clue regarding what information might have been left behind when these enclaves were abandoned. None know what data might have survived after several millennia of isolation and scavenging.

However, if the T'au were able to gain access to these data, they might gain significant understanding into the complexities of Human biology. If the T'au were to learn something that could be exploited on the battlefield, it would be disastrous for the efforts of the Achilus Crusade to retake the region.

On 724.815.M41, Watch Station Skapula also witnessed another event which has raised concerns among the forces of the Ordo Xenos. A geological event was recorded near the world's equator. After more than three solar days of exceedingly rhythmic quakes, a sinkhole more than four kilometres in diameter opened.

Within hours, an ancient cityscape emerged upon the world's surface. All of the structures were made of an unblemished metallic substance, and their surface writhed with complex glowing green symbols and gold circuitry.

Deep beneath Skapula's surface, an ancient Necron crypt had begun to awaken. A few of the mechanical creatures from this lost city came into conflict with several of the Human groups, as well as the T'au, in short order.

However, the conflict has not yet escalated beyond chance encounters and skirmishes. By all appearances, these newly revealed alien forces are only in the earliest stages of emerging from their long sleep.

Environment

Skapula is located well within the habitable zone of its star. Most locations within the world's temperate zones average a daily temperature of twenty-five degrees centigrade. The planet's weather patterns are seasonal, with a particularly severe rainy season that lasts for three solar months.

During this time, the driving acidic rains can inflict substantial damage on anything that is unprotected from their influence. The rest of the year, clouds of toxic pollutants often roll across the world's surface as a thick and deadly fog. Those foolish enough to travel unprotected through the murk seldom survive to recount the dangers.

Skapula served the Jericho Sector and the Adeptus Mechanicus as a Forge World for millennia. During this time, agents of the Machine Cult ruthlessly stripped the world of its varied resources and mercilessly unleashed waste products upon the planet.

There are no records of the nature of the planet's biosphere prior to the Mechanicus' arrival, but there remains very little native life today. While the world may have been chosen based upon the limited number of organisms that could be affected by the manufactoria, it is much more likely that the indigenous creatures were simply unable to cope with the changed environs and went extinct.

Though it has been millennia since the manufactoria were largely shut down, the planet shows little sign of having recovered from that ecological damage. Much of Skapula's surface is covered in toxic bogs. These foreboding locations are filled with oily water that varies in depth from a few centimetres to more than ten metres.

A combination of pollutants and swirling murk makes it impossible to judge the depth by eye. Walking, swimming, or boating through these places can be extremely challenging, as the depth fluctuates wildly and inconsistently.

A few mutated, amphibious predators haunt these bogs, hunting everything that moves. Their prey is mostly fish, insects, and smaller amphibians.

However, they do not hesitate to attack much larger creatures, often co-operating to do so. There are no forests, nor many tree analogues that yet survive upon Skapula. Most of the plants that have been observed are various low-growing scrubs.

A variety of algae and more complex aquatic plants also grow among the world's seas and its countless bogs. Some of these plants are better adapted to tolerate the world's toxic conditions than others, but these are also invariably poisonous to Humans.

Unfortunately, few of these species are capable of effectively breaking down the broad array of complex toxins that entered the environment as waste from the medicae centres and manufactoria.

Consequently, most just absorb the toxins through exposure, and then unleash them upon the ecosystem once more after their decomposition.

The largest structures upon the world are the ruins of the ancient Adeptus Mechanicus facilities. Some of these are still partially inhabited by the world's population of Hereteks and mutants. Far more, however, have been ignored for millennia and left to corrode in the absence of any maintenance.

Even the ruins that are still in use are dilapidated, crumbling structures. Those who dare to enter the buildings to attempt to recover any ancient secrets incur substantial risk. Floors and roofs collapse without the slightest provocation.

Ancient chemical storage facilities have corroded, leaving pools of toxins, acids, and many flammable materials. Countless heavily mutated organisms reside within some of these facilities, descendants of experimental tests which were abandoned in an age long past.

Culture

Skapula is occupied by two distinct groups of xenos as well as two distinct populations of Humans. These different groups each have their own objectives, which are clearly in conflict with one another.

In spite of this, the populations are small enough and the world large enough that they have not yet had to enter a state of constant warfare. Depending upon how various issues come to a head in the coming solar weeks and months, that could change suddenly.

None of these groups have significant resources in place for a conflict, but for the xenos populations, that situation could likewise change abruptly. If either faction commits its resources to an all-out conflict, the shape and direction of Skapula could shift.

The surviving Humans can largely be broken into two distinct groups. There are several small enclaves of Hereteks yet active on this world.

These groups are largely isolationist and reasonably well defended. In the face of superior opposition, they might unite together, though some would attempt to flee the planet instead.

The Hereteks have no known ties to the local Chaos Stigmartus forces, but if provided an opportunity, they might quickly turn to ally with them.

Currently, they lack significant manufacturing capacity, but if provided with adequate raw materials, they might be able to reactivate some of the ancient abandoned Mechanicus facilities.

Several primitive Human tribal groups are also active on the world's barren surface. These savages constantly war with one another over the most secure locations for communities and the world's limited resources.

From a cultural perspective, these people are scarcely recognisable as Human. Most of their gear consists of equipment scavenged and repurposed from the ancient Mechanicus ruins. Some of these groups have dedicated their lives to the Ruinous Powers, but others remain completely ignorant of any world or powers beyond their pitiful existence.

The T'au expedition to Skapula was initially little more than a minimally equipped exploratory mission. Their initial purpose in the journey to this world was simply to engage in a research and salvage expedition to the ruined Adeptus Mechanicus structures.

During the course of their investigation, the massive earthquake heralded the return of the Necrons. In response, the T'au sent a plea for reinforcements to their leadership among the Sept. While reinforcements have not yet arrived, it is likely that some support elements could reach Skapula in fairly short order.

The Necrons have only begun their process of reactivation from the Great Sleep. Watch Station Skapula has detected very high levels of thermal and electrical energy being used within those structures. The full nature of their actions remains unclear, but only a few small sorties have been confirmed as leaving the one known Necron tomb complex.

The full nature of their resources has not yet been determined. The single tomb could represent the entirety of the Necron forces on-world. Alternatively, it might be a herald of things to come, as additional structures and forces might emerge from the bowels of the planet.

Sources

  • Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 14, 93-95
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