Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section12

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Section 12: Warriors of Fortune: Mercenaries in the Second Age of StrifeEdit

Chaotic daemons and insane monsters were not the sole benefactors of the anarchy inflicted upon the galaxy, in the wake of the twin traumas of being nearly slaughtered wholesale by the New Devourer, and losing the Emperor's guiding light. Hired guns, and soldiers for sale preyed upon the misery of the galaxy, like vultures picking at the black, distended eyes of a water-logged corpse. It is an inevitable part of any way or conflict, that these callous, dead eyed pragmatists, would seek to make a swift profit from the anarchy. And, throughout the ten thousand years of Strife, these mercenary groups and factions found themselves with a eager market for their services.

Thus, these forces, loyal to nothing but profit, were a common sight across the entire breadth of the galaxy.

1) The Serf-soldiery of KriegEdit

Krieg, a planet of barren toxic deserts and choked, murderous skies, found itself in a terrible predicament during the initial stages of the period. The planet produced no food produce, had very little industry that was not blasted to ruins, or in a permanent state of grim disrepair. With the sudden loss of supplies from the wider Imperium, and a vast population of soldiers, who could not be used for other purposes on their world, it would seem Krieg verged on extinction.

However, the problem of so much soldiery would soon become a peculiar advantage to the beleaguered Krieg. The Planetary Governor of krieg opened communications with a nearby semi-forge/industrial world, Cocentrine, which happened to be in contact with an agri world, known as Garden Omega-Hex. This triad of worlds, each within a few short warp transits of each other (each transit only taking a few months), hatched a plan to save themselves and their direct neighbours.

Krieg would re-instigate the previously-forbidden false-womb procedure, creating ever more soldiers, ever more quickly. These men and women matured swiftly, and from the age of one, they began to be trained in war, across the vast wastelands of Krieg.

These Krieg Marines were equipped by Cocentrine, which churned out massive numbers of lasguns, flak jackets, helmets, artillery, and even a special kind of carapace armour of highest quality, not to mention other battlefield equipment (like shovels), and exported these to Krieg, where the soldiers were outfitted for war.

Cocentrine also exported more productive agricultural tools and luxuries, to Omega-Hex, which in turn, exported numerous food stuffs to both the industrial world complex, and to Krieg, in order to feed her populace. Of course, these imports were not sufficient to feed both Krieg's civilian populace, and the massive numbers of soldiers. Thus, the genius of Krieg's governor, Viktor Van Conenburg, came into play. 

The massive numbers of highly trained, determined and efficient soldiers of Krieg, were converted to a new purpose. The Death Korps of Krieg became the Serf-Soldiery of Krieg. Krieg soldiers were sold to any petty Imperium or empire (xenos or otherwise), that could afford them. After a one off payment of something valuable, that Cocentrine needed, the buying Empire could purchase varying numbers of Serf-Soldiers, anywhere from a couple of squads, to an entire, fully equipped regiment of Kriegmarines. The Serf-soldiers, indoctrinated at birth to believe that serfdom and servitude to foreign masters was the highest form of piety, did not question their commercialisation. Once sold to the buying empire in question, the triad of Krieg and it's neighbours, relinquished any responsibility for their soldiers. The empire that bought them has to feed them and look after their new soldiers, at their own expense. However, they were worth this price, as the Kreig remained, as ever, excellent soldiers.

Thus, by M44, there were examples of Krieg troopers fighting in armies across the entire galaxy, from tyrannical alien warlord's armies of conquest, to the most pious and self-aggrandising of petty Imperiums. Even the Ophelian Imperium, at some point, purchased Krieg-muscle, to aid in their second war against Tallarn.

Krieg, the world of war, soon became a world of commercial conflict, growing wealthy and prosperous on the backs of its own self-imposed slave trade.

2) The KrootEdit

The Kroot, a race whose biological imperative is to encounter as many diverse opponents as possible, would inevitably retain its mercenary traditions, regardless of increasing Tau pressure to stop this practice. This became more than just a moral issue to the Tau. The bitter Tau, who had seen the older races ruin and despoil so many worlds, believed that the older races did not deserve the galaxy, and enslavement or coerced servitude was the only solution. The mere suggestion of the Kroot actually helping their foes, was disgusting and abhorrent to them.

However, the Kroot continued this process, sending out war spheres far out into the ever-more anarchic galaxy. Soon, this process had to become much more secretive and undercover, as Tau influence expanded beyond and around Pech. The Kroot could not openly dissent, lest they be brought into conflict with the Tau Imperial war machine.

Thus, Kroot were a common sight across the galaxy throughout the period, lending their services to any race willing to permit them to devour the slain, or take a share of the plunder of a successful raid or invasion.

Yet, the Kroot could not hope to continue this practice indefinitely. Eventually, several Kroot war parties, returning from a successful war against the Nekulli Republic, were intercepted by Tau patrols, and destroyed. This sparked outrage amongst the Kroot, and equal but opposite anger from the Tau high command, who saw this as evidence of Kroot dissent. 

In 634.M45, Commander Hawksight, current leader of the westward reaches of the Tau Empire, mobilised an expedition into the Kroot-held worlds. The war lasted almost two decades. Forbiden from exterminating the Kroot from orbit by Ethereal decree, the Commander was forced to engage the Kroot on the ground, on their home worlds of Pech, and the neighbouring terra-formed worlds, abundant in Kroot life. The Tau, by this point, had technology almost seven centuries in advance of the Kroot. Yet, despite this, the Kroot fought a masterful guerrilla war, assaulting the Tau at weak moments, before melting back into the wilderness. The Infuriated Tau forces used ever more devastating tactics, in a vain attempt to engage the Kroot in open war. The war depleted many resources, on both sides, and costed many, many lives. Such was the apparent slaughter, that many of the Ethereal councils of the inner Sept worlds, began to call for withdrawal from Pech. After all, they argued, were the Kroot not intended to be allies? Even Aun'Va became restless over the war. He did not want his forces bogged down in internal conflicts, not when there was an entire galaxy to conquer.

Eventually, war broke out between the Tau and their allies, and the Thexian trade empire, and their own allies, in the galactic north. Resources were needed for this war, and thus Aun'Va ordered withdrawal from Pech, effective immediately. Thus, the Kroot survived. However, what really, really annoyed Commander Hawksight, was that throughout the entire conflict, the Kroot mercenaries continued to operate, somehow evading Tau patrols. No amount of conflict could prevent the Kroot from spreading themselves throughout the Segmentum, in their quest to bio diversify.

3) Janisar's FremenEdit

This brutal band of mercenaries had a humble start, deep within the Hexian Imperium, to the galactic north west. They were initially a shipping group, a private company of merchants, who had maintained a fleet of transports. When the galaxy suddenly shattered into rival groupings, they offered their services to the Hexian Imperium. This was a particularly weak Imperium, which hadn't the military power to requisition the fremen's cargo fleet, and thus the fremen could charge whatever they wanted, and became rather wealthy. However, due to the lack of military protection provided by the Hexians, the fremen, under the sickening mutant CEO of the fleet-based enterprise, Janisar, hired soldiers to protect them from piracy and rival post-Imperial shipping companies.

Eventually, the fremen discovered that they could get far more money from helping to fight in conflicts across the sectors, and perhaps even beyond. Thus, ever more former naval frigates, captured xenos craft, and converted cargo ships, were purchased from diverse entrepreneurs.

Janisar's fremen became infamous across a dozen sectors, as brutal and cold mercenaries, loyal to no one but themselves. They hired professional killers and soldiers from a wide range of backgrounds. Orphaned Imperial Guardsmen and stormtroopers, former Rogue trader staff, now-penniless and desperate for work, soldiers from destroyed Imperiums and fallen empires. Thugs, murderers and dregs from all across the galaxy's underworld. Bizarre xenos breeds from hundreds of different worlds. All were permitted to join, provided they pulled their weight, and made the fremen a tidy profit. Their equipment was of the highest quality, bought from any xenos or human empire they could buy from.

They became one of the most successful of mercenary brigades across the entire galaxy. 

Of course, these three are but the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of separate bands and companies sprang up during this period, all hungry to get a share of the undoubtedly lucrative trade of war. For, depressingly, in a universe of such misery and pain, war was the only consistent franchise left.

The Shape of the Nightmare to Come: Section NavigationEdit

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Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk