Standard Template Construct (STC) systems were advanced, artificially intelligent computers created during the Dark Age of Technology which are said to have contained the sum total of human scientific and technological knowledge. The STC was invented when human interstellar civilisation was at its technological peak. Introduced during the Dark Age of Technology before the Age of Strife, an STC allowed workers to build anything from a Lasgun to a fortified bunker or the fearsome interstellar warships now used by the Imperial Navy. STC systems possessed the ability to not just store information but also to produce new designs to meet changing circumstances. Examples of STC technology still in use are the Rhino Armoured Personnel Carrier, the Land Raider and the Baneblade. Imperial forces (especially those of the Adeptus Mechanicus) will go to any length to recover a lost or stolen STC, even if it means the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Imperial citizens. It is said that even the flimsiest rumors of an STC system will spark cross-galaxy journeys, titanic fleet search operations, and the spending of untold lives and treasure. A STC system was possessed by every group of human colonists before the Age of Strife, allowing them to build all of the equipment necessary for survival on an untamed colony planet. During the Age of Strife the systems fell into disuse, were damaged or destroyed, and so became increasingly rare, until they were lost entirely. In the Age of the Imperium, after so many thousands of years, it is unlikely that any have survived. What technological knowledge remains from the Dark Age of Technology survives only in the form of STC hard-copies that have been preserved and copied over thousands of years by the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who believe that STCs are the most holy of artefacts.
The Age of the Imperium is not a technically-inclined era in human history. It is an age where problems are solved by brute force and ignorance, where dangers are either too gross or too unthinkable to elicit any other response. Technological innovation and invention does not exist, and those that come into contact with technology use it with reservations and a reverence that is almost religious. The Space Marines, for example, treat their equipment and armour as if it were imbued with a will of its own - a fine chest-plate, well looked after and constantly maintained may reward its wearer by saving his life; whereas a Space Marine who neglects his equipment may be struck down by a leaking suit or malfunctioning weapon. Such is the will of the Emperor.
Much of the technology used by the Imperium is recovered from Standard Template Constructs, or STCs. These databases were designed during the Dark Age of Technology for use by human settlers establishing colonies on newly discovered planets. Their prime function was to enable the colonists to construct shelters, power generators and transports without prior knowledge. The designs contained within an STC were intended to be able to cope with anything - by the standards of their day they were rough and ready, big and brutish, hard to damage and easy to repair. During the Age of Strife human civilisation reverted to barbarism, and almost all of the technological innovations of the previous millennia were lost or destroyed. All that survived from before that terrible time were debased and corrupted versions of the old STC designs, scattered and lost on thousands of back-water planets across the galaxy. These databases contain lost knowledge from the Dark Age of Technology, and the Adeptus Mechanicus make it their business to find them -- the STCs are their equivalent to the holiest of holy texts, a font of all knowledge, a quest for the holy grail.
The STC was an advanced, artificially intelligent computer data system designed to provide construction details for human colonists during Mankind's early interstellar expansion across the Milky Way Galaxy before the massive Warp Storms of the Age of Strife brought an end to all interstellar travel and communications for several millennia. Each group of colonists carried such a system when they embarked for their new homes. It enabled the colonists to build efficient shelters, generators and transports without any technical knowledge and using almost any locally available materials. The user simply asked how to build a house or a tractor and the computer supplied all the necessary plans. The rare STC Library is said to contain the total sum of all human knowledge of the great human interstellar civilisation that existed before the onset of the Age of Strife, but as the technological level needed by the majority of the human population at that time was simple, most STC systems were for producing relatively unsophisticated technology like threshing machines and aircraft, not Warp energy taps or holographic field emitters. Very few examples of STC schematics for the more advanced devices have been found. The STC systems themselves worked by providing in a hololithic format the full schematics for a machine, device or vehicle according to the given needs of the user. This resulted in the production of some extremely sturdy, functional designs still found throughout the Imperium. Since no confirmed reports of a fully functional STC Library have been made since the Dark Age of Technology, the full nature and contents of the STC--and what technological secrets and wonders it may contain--remains unknown.
Age of the Imperium
Although the most advanced technological information eludes the Adeptus Mechanicus in the Age of the Imperium, through their efforts, much has been either recovered or reconstructed through the comparison of copies of STC databases already held by the Tech-priests of Mars. Recovered STC data eventually lead to the ability to construct such mighty vehicles as the Land Raiders, and rediscovered STC designs serve as the basis for all other Imperial technological advancement.
While the STC would prove to be the crown jewel of human technological achievement, they would also lead to the loss of that same knowledge. Men of Iron, artificially intelligent (AI) constructs created by humans to fight their wars and carry out jobs that might otherwise risk a human life, eventually turned on their masters, sparking a major war with humanity that would see much of the advanced interstellar human civilisation that flourished during the Dark Age of Technology destroyed and lost. This war occurred early in what was later named the Age of Strife, though it is unclear whether it came before or after the cataclysmic Warp Storms that destroyed the earliest interstellar human empires.
After Mankind's downfall and the following years of deep technological neglect and regression, it became very rare for an intact STC to be found. Only through the recovery of the ancient print outs from the STC systems has mankind scraped together much of its knowledge and its current understanding of Dark Age technology.
Known STC data in use by the Imperium at the present has created the ubiquitous Land Speeder, the Thunderhawk gunship and the Land Raider of the Adeptus Astartes, along with lasguns, starship parts and most of the other advanced technologies of the 41st Millennium. Perhaps the most important fragments of any STC led to the creation of the Land Crawler, a farming and utility vehicle that has kept the Imperium fed since its earliest days.
The Dark Angels recently rediscovered a new STC database in the later years of the 40th Millennium, using its information to create advanced vehicle engines. These engines allowed the Dark Angels to design their Nephilim Jetfighter, which is still a vehicle exclusive to them and their Unforgiven Successor Chapters. The Dark Angels also possess an STC database containing the designs for weapons known as Rift Bombs that can cause fluctuations in space and time. When faced with an inquiry by the Adeptus Mechanicus amid allegations that the Chapter has illegally hoarded lost technology in contravention of Imperial law that requires all recovered technology to be handed over to the Mechanicus, the Dark Angels have adamantly denied possessing any STC databases of any kind.
An STC for the Castigator-class Titan was once discovered; however, it proved to be corrupted by Chaos and was destroyed by Justicar Alaric of the Grey Knights. Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt also once found an intact STC (for Men of Iron, no less), but this was also corrupted by Chaos and had to be destroyed as well.
STC Discovery Incidents
- A Standard Template Constructor was found by Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt on the world of Menazoid Epsilon during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. The full abilities of the device were never made clear, but it is known that the device could make the actual objects (constructs) corresponding to a standard template, rather than producing designs. In this case, it made the legendary "Men of Iron"; robotic soldiery that were considered heretical in the Imperium because they possessed true artificial intelligence, but it is possible that the Constructor also held and/or could create other STCs. However, the device had been tainted by Chaos and the robots it produced were misshapen monstrosities that attacked humans on sight. To prevent the use of these robots, Gaunt destroyed the device. In this novel several statements are made regarding the importance of a STC found earlier: "Sixty years ago [...] a team of Imperial scouts found an intact STC [...] It was the Standard Template Constructor for a type of steel blade, an alloy of folded steel composite that was sharper and lighter and tougher than anything we've had before. Thirty whole Chapters of the great Astartes are now using blades of the new pattern. The scouts became heroes. [...] each was given a world of his own. It was regarded as the greatest technological advance of the century..."
- A STC Library was located on the planet Hito. This planet had escaped from the Warp and was reclaimed by the Imperium. The library was hidden by the local clerical Order of Heavenly Virtues who managed to deceive Imperial agents as to the library's existence to keep its secrets out of the Imperium's hands.
- An original STC Titan, a "Castigor-class autonomous bipedal weapons platform, created for fire support and siege operations", was discovered on the planet Chaeroneia by a team of Grey Knights investigating that long-overrun Imperial Forge World . It was quite larger than an Imperator-class Emperor Titan and made use of superior technology.
- Just before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy the Warmaster Horus encountered a technologically advanced human faction known as the Auretian Technocracy who still possessed some amount of Standard Template Construct-derived technologies. Having been corrupted by Chaos by this time, Horus declares war on them. After a brutal and grueling conflict, Horus gifted the recovered STC technology to the Fabricator General of Mars in return for the assistance of what became the Dark Mechanicum in his war against the Emperor of Mankind, but no more has been heard of it since then. It is possible they are still on Mars, hidden away and hoarded by the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Codex Imperialis by Rick Priestley
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987) by Rick Priestley
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- Dark Adeptus (Novel) by Ben Counter