The Skitarii (sing. Skitarius), also known as the Tech-Guard and the Legiones Skitarii, are the cybernetic military forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus of the Imperium of Man. To a man, the Skitarii are warriors born. They take pride in their holy work, glorying in the power of the Omnissiah as He drives them to ever greater feats. Reticules and calibrators pick out targets with uncanny accuracy, Galvanic Rifles bark and Servitor-bullets find the skulls of the foe. Rad Weapons borne with martyr's strength turn the battlefield ever more toxic until it is as befouled as the Red Planet's own wastes. On titanium limbs the Skitarii stalk the war zones of the galaxy, looking from above like the columns of rust-ants that hunt the dunes of Mars.
Their boundless faith in the Machine God and His prophet, the Omnissiah, drives them on without sleep. Their meditations on divinity are rest enough. Once contact is made with the enemy their pace does not slacken, yet neither does it increase. With the barest of shivers the Skitarii receive doctrina imperatives from Tech-priest masters in orbit. Rifles and carbines are raised to shoulders in perfect unison, and bloody war begins.
Skitarii are used to defend Mechanicus Forge Worlds, manufacturing installations elsewhere in the Imperium and often accompany high-ranking Tech-priests and Magi as their bodyguards. Skitarii also serve as the armed forces that defend the Mechanicus' Explorator vessels that explore the galactic frontier. Skitarii safeguard the massive war engines of the Centurio Ordinatus as well as Titans on campaign from boarding actions and prevent hostile forces from reaching the war engines' dead zone, where its main weapon batteries are useless. A number of Titan Legions maintain their own Skitarii detachments for this purpose, known as Secutarii, and if they do not, their Mechanicus masters will provide ample forces to protect the God-machines.
Warriors of the Machine-God
The Skitarii are the bionic heart of the Adeptus Mechanicus' legions. Their tireless legions defend the Forge Worlds of the Imperium, annihilate the enemies of the Tech-priests, and fight at the vanguard of the Quest for Knowledge. As the technocracy of the Cult Mechanicus extends its reach into the stars, the cybernetic Skitarii are always at the fore. Underneath their augmetic battleware, the warriors of the Skitarii Legions are still technically human, yet each has been mutilated, dismembered and extensively rebuilt to better serve the Omnissiah's will. Their manifold augmentation ensure not only their lethality, but also their utmost obedience. Neurosync implants allow the strictly-ordered Skitarii cohorts to fight in perfect concert, each maniple permanently uplinked to their masters via invisible streams of information. To compare a maniple of Skitarii to a platoon of Imperial Guardsmen is to compare a well-oiled gatling gun to a simple iron hammer. The Skitarii do not simply crush their foes, but instead pitilessly blast them into bloody chunks of flesh. Even as they do so they record every tiny screed of data for later analysis. Just as the Skitarii upload the martial capabilities of the foe to their masters, the Tech-priests download their own programs into the Skitarii. It is usual practice for a legion's overseer Tech-priests to monitor each battle from a scryer-ship high above. Floating in a sea of data, each Adept sends battlefield commands down via data-tethers to the Skitarii on the planet below. In this way their soldiers can be remotely augmented, used as eyepieces, forced into suicidal engagements, or even possessed entirely. The ever-devout Skitarii see these incidents as the divine spirit of the Omnissiah entering them and acting through them to the betterment of the Imperium. To the Tech-priests, their minions are little more than electric puppets jerking upon strings of pre-programmed impulse.
The Skitarii Legions do not fight alone, for they escort the vast goliaths of the Centurio Ordinatus to war, and even march in the shadow of the God Machines of the Titan Legions. It is the Skitarii that bolster the battle robots of the Legio Cybernetica and they who act as bodyguards for Tech-priests brave enough to take the field. Collectively, they have fought alongside the Astra Militarum, the Adepta Sororitas, the Adeptus Astartes, and even the Primarchs of legend. Throughout the millennia the Skitarii Legions have fought with impeccable skill and discipline even when the colossi and ravaging daemons slaughter them in droves. In doing so they have assimilated a functionally infinite amount of information for their masters. The Adeptus Mechanicus never deletes anything, and its appetite for knowledge knows no bounds. A Skitarii Legion's sacred duty to protect its Forge World is second only to its quest for hard data -- information for their masters to digest, or to archive away unheeded to gather the dust of aeons.
The combat archives of the Skitarii Legions are so extensive it would take a Lexmechanic a thousand lifetimes to comprehend them. Even the Secutors that assess Skitarii battle doctrine have only scratched the surface. Only the Omnissiah knows the true sacrifice His selfless legions have made in His name:
- The Flames of Heresy (ca. M31) - During the cataclysmic events of the Warmaster Horus' betrayal, the brotherhood of the Mechanicum is broken apart. In the Heresy's aftermath the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Skitarii Legions are born anew.
- The Dark Fate of Vheinos (221.M32) - When the Astropathic Choir falls silent upon the Civilised World of Vheinos, Forge World Lucius sends its Skitarii to investigate at gunpoint. The resultant rebellion sees heresy spread like wildfire, just as the Tech-priests had calculated. Within solar days the Skitarii find themselves outnumbered eighty to one -- a ratio high enough to trigger rad warfare protocols. A solar month later the Skitarii leave the planet a lifeless wasteland, its Astropathic duct excised and permanently relocated to one of Lucius' moons.
- A New Breed of Overseer (802.M33) - House Taranis begins the practice of sending the Nobles that fail to enmesh properly with their Imperial Knights to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Though unfit for a place in Taranis' Knight armies, each of these cyborg warriors -- known as Psychosis-Neuracanium -- are from primaris grade Imperial stock, and prove to be excellent raw material for the creation of Skitarii overseers.
- Terrorforming of Atasca IV (085.M34)
- The Moirae Schism (ca. M35) - During the dark days of the Nova Terra Interregnum, a terrible secret tears the Adeptus Mechanicus apart. The servants of the Cult Mechanicus were split in two by a doctrine that claimed to be able to read the future in minute fluctuations in the blessed Astronomican. Furthermore, the future the schismatics read in the wave functions spoke of a future age in which the Cult Mechanicus and the Ecclesiarchy were merged as one unified creed adhered to by the entire Imperium. Needless to say, neither body would countenance such a thing and internecine war soon split the Adeptus Mechanicus in two. As a result, the Forge World of Moirae is blasted to dust, but not before the schism spreads throughout the Cult of Mars, the Titan Legions and several Space Marine Chapters with close ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Over two thousand standard years of bloody strife pass before the baleful doctrine is considered fully purged.
- The Grand Hunt (303.M35) - House Raven, having felt the teeth of Eldar raiders from the paradise world of Geminex one too many times, formally petition for Skitarii aid. Twelve cohorts are sent to Geminex, grid-search tactics driving the Exodites and their allies from the planet's sacred places and into the crosshairs of House Raven's Imperial Knights. The Eldar of Biel-Tan retaliate, striking hard from hidden Webway portals. The Skitarii fight on through everything the Craftworld can throw at them. Once hard data has been gleaned from every one of Biel-Tan's war assets, the Skitarii withdraw en masse, leaving the remaining Knights of House Raven to make a desperate last stand.
- The War of Recovery (104.M36) - Patchy reports cite technological wonders on the planets of the Mortuam Chain. Hoping precious STC databases can be uncovered, an Explorator fleet replete with macroclades of Skitarii is launched. This begins an escalating war against an Eldar counter-invasion that lasts over a standard century. Victory is finally won when the Skitarii use the very weapons they recover against the foe, and several first generation, munitions-grade STC databases are returned triumphantly to Mars.
- The Xenarite Schism (335.M36) - Stygies VIII comes under attack from dozens of Deathwatch Kill-teams when news of the Xenarites' dabblings with alien technology reaches the Ordo Xenos. The Adeptus Mechanicus are forced to employ radical measures in order to survive the ensuing purges.
- The Burning Goliaths (170.M37) - The Skitarii of Graia join the Legio Ignatum ("Fire Wasps") in hunting a trio of Chaos Titans. The traitorous God Engines are brought to battle in the shadow of the mountain-sized Castle Retross, though the Chaos host that spills from its gate slowly begins to tip the balance. Victory is only secured when Skitarii arc weaponry overloads the War Spirits of the Traitor engines. As the castle is razed, its tumbling walls are lit by their giant, flaming corpses.
- The Occlusiad (550.M37) - The north-western fringe of the galaxy is ravaged by the Apostles of the Blind King, rogue Tech-priests who view Humanity as an affront to the Machine God.
- The Shadow of Silica Animus (335.M38)
- The War of the Golden Cog (785.M39) - The Fabricator-General of Mars claims ownership of the riches of the Fortress of the Soulless, lair of the Culexus Temple. A disastrous civil war between Mars and Terra is averted by a sniper's bullet, but the artefact known as the Golden Cog is left in Skitarii hands.
- Fires of Conscience (009.M40) - The rogue Tech-priest Veriliad, after leading his Skitarii to a stomach-churning victory during the Cremation of Alcadia Secundus, knowingly destroys the STC database for Phosphex Weapons, also called Phosphor Weapons, a tech-heresy for which he pays with his life.
- The Gothic War (139.M41)
- The Forbidden Runes (664.M41) - After the disastrous Battle of Elixia, Skitarii survivors are sent to extract the runic inscriptions upon the ancient standing stones of Grave's End. In doing so, they open a long-forgotten gate into the Warp. Elixia is consumed by a daemonic invasion, its remaining populace subject to Exterminatus within the solar week.
- The Death of Tyran (745.M41) - A terrible new foe looms from the void. On the far reaches of the Eastern Fringe, the Adeptus Mechanicus research station of Tyran Primus comes under attack from the Tyranid threat. Despite a stalwart defence by Magos Varnak's Skitarii cohorts and an entire regiment of Astra Militarum, the planet is conquered and its biomass devoured in short order. Varnak manages to compile a data-codex that reveals the dread truth of the planet’'s last few solar hours and fires it into space before triggering the outpost's runes of ending.
- The War of Neotech (747.M41) - The T'au settlers of Vesh'yo find themselves fighting for their lives against three Skitarii Legions. There the ancient weapons of the Adeptus Mechanicus are pitted against the clean, cutting-edge technology of the T'au Empire. War Cohorts from another eight Skitarii Legions are deployed before victory is finally secured. During the clean-up operation, six star freighters full of Tau war materiel find their way back to the Forge World of Tigrus.
- Rain of Fire (748.M41) - After the Battle of Macragge, a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Behemoth winds its way into the Skitarii-held Daugel Helix. Using the knowledge recovered from the Tyran data-codex, the Skitarii fight back. The Cohort commander Alpha 9-Thyrrc turns the tide by saturating a stratum of the atmosphere with gas from the planet's promethium refineries. After his Onagers' neutron lasers set the skies aflame, each new rain of Tyranid spores incinerates those xenos planetside instead of reinforcing them. A triumphalist data-codex is compiled and sent to the nearby Forge World of Accatran, where it is swiftly filed away in the Archive Anomalis and forgotten.
- The Curse Entropic (865.M41)
- The Unknowable (991.M41) - Skitarii from Stygies VIII are sent to the diluvian-class world of Magogue when the planet's industry dries up its oceans to reveal Necrontyr architecture. The Skitarii fight valiantly against the Necrons of the awakening tomb complexes, allowing the planet's islander people to evacuate to a man, but are badly outmatched. Only their commanding Tech-priests, hunting for knowledge behind the lines, escape the ensuing carnage. However, in doing so they clash with Trazyn the Infinite. One by one the Tech-priests are collected in stasis fields and displayed as part of a monument to Magogue's fall.
- Ultimate Power (998.M41) - Clues to the location of the Omnicopaeia are uncovered upon Hell's Teeth, a Daemon World on the edge of the Maelstrom. The Omnicopaeia, an arcane device that contains every STC database with a psychic component, is of immeasurable value. Many billions of Skitarii are despatched to Hell's Teeth with all haste. The entire Adeptus Mechanicus is abuzz -- should the legendary Omnicopaeia be found, they will finally have a way to control, precipitate and even weaponise Humanity's psychic dawn.
Creation of a Skitarii
The Skitarii seek to grow ever closer to the Machine God by augmenting their bodies with inviolate metal. Each new wound is a chance for bionic revelation. Such is their fanaticism that even healthy organs and body parts are cut away and replaced. To face a Skitarii Legion is to fight against warriors that are less than human, and yet far more deadly. As with so much of the Cult Mechanicus' business, the truths of the Skitarii's creation are kept a close secret. Most Skitarii are born into the service of the Mechanicus either as natural-born human Menials of the Cult Mechanicus who are cybernetically-enhanced specifically to serve as Skitarii or they are genetically-engineered clones or vat-born humans who are cybernetically enhanced from the moment of their accelerated "birth," much like certain types of Servitors. Others are repurposed from mind-wiped convicts or warriors handed over as punishment for failure or desertion. Unlike those cybernetic Menials, most vat-born Skitarii are allowed to retain at least a modicum of their higher brain functions so that they can follow the more complex orders often given on the battlefield. Regardless of origin, all find a fanatical faith in the Omnissiah soon after their inception. It is then that their true transformation begins.
Without exception the Skitarii have pallid bodies of puckered flesh and sutured cybernetics. Ceramic valves and adamantium sockets stud hard knots of pallid, translucent muscle. Even the brains of these warriors are grotesque hybrids of grey matter and twisting neurocircuitry. The most blessed pass a point called the "Crux Mechanicus," their body more machine than flesh. Those that reach this stage of mechamorphosis are known as "Skitarii Alphas." Some go on to attain the rank of "Alpha Primus" -- overseers who can operate independently for standard years if necessary, as solid and reliable as the titanium that replaces their flesh. One who looked for consistency in Skitarii augmentations would be sorely disappointed. A soldier of the Mechanicus may have a punchcard skullslot and leather bellows for lungs, whilst at the same time housing quantum bioware in his brain. It is often said that were one of these enhanced warriors to be rendered down, traces of nearly every element known to man could be found somewhere in the remains. The Tech-priests know this to be no exaggeration, for dissection is but one of the dark fates a Skitarius might undergo in order to satisfy his masters' predatory curiosity.
Skitarii train with their integrated cybernetic weapon until they are of the appropriate age to be sent into a war zone. To guarantee their undying loyalty to the Adepts of Mars, all Skitarii undergo various forms of psychosurgery. Some have their minds wiped of both emotion and personality and are implanted with mental directives designed to ensure that they follow the orders of their commanding Tech-priest or Magos without question, even to the point of being essentially remotely controlled. Other Skitarii are allowed to retain a certain degree of personality, although their defining traits will always be belligerence and the desire to fight. Skitarii undergo genetic enhancement programmes that develop strength and aggression, and are physically and cybernetically augmented to further these traits.
During combat the Tech-Guard go into a hormone-induced rage, and likely become addicted to the adrenal high that close combat delivers. Despite this, however, the Skitarii, particularly their commanders, are neurally modified so that the analytical parts of their brains remain a bastion of calm amidst a storm of wrath, allowing them to quickly evaluate the tactical and strategic situation and then act accordingly. Along with their ability to understand binary code which can be nearly instantaneously sent, received and understood by Skitarii's augmented cerebral cortices, this allows them to operate with a remarkable degree of cooperation -- something all the more stunning to be seen in a seemingly ragtag, raging horde. Like all of the Adepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Skitarii are experts at multitasking, and a Tech-Guard officer can, for example, effortlessly engage in vicious close combat, direct the forces under his command, oversee the tactical situation of the battle and provide coordinates for Balisteria artillery detachments, all at the same time. As mentioned above, however, not all members of the Tech-Guard are so skilled, and some are merely remotely controlled or pre-programmed cybernetic weapon platforms, though these variants are primarily used to guard static locations. The level of cybernetic enhancement may vary between each Skitarii. Some may have a few genetic and bionic enhancements, while others may have replaced whole organ systems with advanced technology.
Due to their extensive modification, the Skitarii can excel in almost any environment. Each legion hails from a hyper-industrialised Forge World -- extreme doses of radiation are nothing to those who have trodden the toxic wastes of Mars. Even in the time-ravaged fringes of the Halo Stars the Skitarii Legions march onward. They have painstakingly conquered worlds across the breadth of the galaxy, and whatever perils they face, their march falters not.
Composition of a Skitarius
- Eternal Vigilance - The Skitarii have their eyelids removed upon inception, for they must harvest data for their masters at all times. To prevent them from losing their sight to the hot grit of their Forge Worlds, goggle-like augmetics filled with blessed salves are sealed into place. The targeter arrays inside them are miracles of the Omnissiah, their sophistication the bane of the Skitarii's foes.
- The Breath of Mars - The Skitarii filter air into their lungs via cognis rebreather tubes that plunge deep into the chest. When necessary they can draw upon a reservoir of polluted gases harvested from their homeworld.
- Blessed Raiments - The heavy robes that the Skitarii wear to battle are lined with tiny leaden leech-spheres that absorb harmful energies. Branded above the hem is the Skitarii's squad number and the symbol of the Forge World to which he belongs.
- Tools of Conquest - The weapons of the Skitarii are ancient and revered in form. They are all modified either to fire advanced ammunition types, or to harness the most baleful power sources yet discovered.
- Rad-Censer - This pitted bronze sphere is linked to a mechanalysis pack which connects the Skitarius to the digital imperatives of his masters. Its chimes inform the bearer when ambient radiation is at critical levels.
- The Red Planet's Due - In imitation of the ancestor cohorts that first ground their limbs to stumps upon the dunes of Mars, the Skitarii cut off their lower legs and replace them with prostheses of inviolate alloy.
Skitarii War Cohorts
Each Skitarius is but a single cog in a war machine that spans the entire Imperium. Controlled by the neurosync imperatives of their masters, the Skitarii are organised into War Cohorts capable of overcoming any foe. They work in glorious concert, every footstep or twitch of the trigger finger optimised to further the cause of the Cult Mechanicus. The mission of the Skitarii is to steal enlightenment from the galaxy and impose order in its place. Yet for all the vaunted objectivity and logic of the Cult Mechanicus, for all the cybernetic replacements they embrace, the Tech-priests are still driven by human emotions and desires. Their War Cohorts are just as often sent to battle as part of a private agenda as they are to further the Omnissiah's cause. The Skitarii themselves care not. They fear neither the monster nor the fiend -- for them, it is enough to serve the Omnissiah's will, as espoused by his holy prophets. Even in death they offer sacred data to their invisible masters high above. In return they receive doctrinal sacrament with every new day of war, and they are grateful for it. Every battle is a chance to feel the holy Motive Force enter into them, possessing every synapse and engram and slaving them to a higher consciousness. Those who feel the bliss of the Omnissiah's touch will fight like lions, every shot or blow calibrated for maximum lethality. Though such individuals usually go to the Great Maker soon afterward, those that survive are treated as saints amongst their War Cohorts. Even those fugue states that see such God-touched individuals adopt elimination protocols outside of active war zones are soon forgiven, and the death toll ignored.
The original maniples to cross the desert reaches of Mars on foot were armed only with Galvanic Rifles. They escorted their masters from north to south across an equatorial belt infested with cannibal Servitors and rogue machine intelligences. As the centuries marched past, these escorts were refined over and over again until they evolved into the Battle Maniples of the late 41st Millennium. Many variants have been codified, from the Maniples Automata of the Legio Cybernetica to the teeming Auxilia Ordinatus, but the core fighting formation remains the War Cohort. A Forge World's Skitarii Legion is divided into a number of macroclades, which are in turn broken down into cohorts and maniples. The vast majority of Skitarii War Cohorts are not borne into battle by armoured machines or aircraft, but simply stride to the front line without stopping, even should they have to start the journey solar months in advance of their allies. They will wade through poisonous swamps and bubbling lakes of tar to arrive at the front line on schedule, wave after wave of Skitarii marching around chains of Onager Dunecrawlers in imitation of Mars' nomadic caravanserais. Their tireless pace echoes the constancy of their dutiful souls -- it is said that a Skitarius would rather walk himself to death than disobey a direct imperative.
Overseers of the Skitarii
The cyborg warriors that command the Skitarii cohorts passed the Crux Mechanicus long ago. Some are little more than a fleshy head sutured to a mechanical body, but from the most basic Alpha to the most vaunted Sicarian Princeps they are all worthy of respect. The war-forms of the Skitarii's leaders are typically compact, though each is possessed of inhuman strength and endurance. Those that have come through the Vanguard are so heavily irradiated that the ground becomes barren in their footsteps -- only with regular visits to rad-cleanser chambers can they be kept from slowly devolving into gruesome black mush. Those that hail from the ranks of the Rangers have a taste of their masters' omniscience, and the paranoia to go with it. Those hailing from the Knight Worlds, typically young Nobles who have failed the Ritual of Becoming, are physically indomitable but have their brains implanted with motive-selectors and memory-catheters to keep their rages in check. Whatever their faults, Skitarii commanders are able to process a daunting amount of battlefield data. Each knows the military capabilities of his cohort -- and those of the foe -- to an obsessive degree. This savant-like wisdom makes these leaders fearsome foes indeed, for they have often won the battle before the first shot is fired.
Forces of the Skitarii
The Skitarii Vanguard, known informally as rad-troopers, bring the baleful touch of the Tech-priests to the far corners of the galaxy. They fight in the most inhospitable conditions possible, for over the many civil wars waged by the Cult Mechanicus, the Vanguard have learned not only to endure baleful energies, but to weaponise them. Such a high volume of radiation bleeds outward from a Skitarii Vanguard’s wargear that even to stand nearby is to become weakened and fatigued; for non-Skitarii to be stationed in the same barracks is a death sentence. The Vanguard themselves are theoretically safe inside their war plate, but on the rare occasions these warriors unscrew their helmets, the sight of their missing teeth and hairless, sore-pocked skin tells the awful truth. Though Vanguard troopers' signature rad-carbines slowly kill their wielders, their effect upon those struck by their bullets is a hundred times worse. Should enough hyper-irradiated shot penetrate its target, the secondary effects of the rad-volley become amplified to the point where not even a Tyranid could possibly survive. Because of this the Skitarii Vanguard are assigned to the most hazardous war zones the galaxy can offer. They bear this duty stoically and in solemn silence, fighting to the last in the name of their inhuman god.
To fight the foot soldiers of the Cult Mechanicus is to kill or be killed, for the Skitarii Rangers never give up when hunting down their foes, and their stamina is legendary. In the lean and hungry days of Man's hominid ancestry, a hunter would kill far larger prey by tracking it to the point of exhaustion. It is this principle by which the Skitarii Rangers hunt the reaches of the galaxy -- once the Rangers have been despatched, they will home in on their quarry at a slow but relentless pace. At first their victims, ranging from pirate warbands to xenos warhosts, slip the net of Skitarii gunfire easily enough. If they flee far enough solar months will pass, even standard years -- long enough that the terror of the initial engagement is all but forgotten. All the while the Skitarii Rangers march in silent, unstoppable lockstep through trenches and ruins, their noose closing a little tighter with every night. Just when their quarry assumes itself safe, a constellation of blue will-o-the-wisps appears on the horizon. Almost imperceptibly, it grows closer and closer -- and then darkness lights up with blazing gunfire. The Skitarii, for whom the engagement never ended, close in again and again until the deed is done.
The Ruststalkers of the Skitarii Legions fall upon their foes in a slashing, stabbing frenzy. Their transonic blades blur as they dart and cut like the weapons of gladiatorial knife-fighters, the deadly resonances they transmit bypassing armour as if it offered no more resistance than a hologram. The Ruststalkers were originally devised as cybernetic assassins, sent into the Red Planet's wastes to hunt down feral Servitors and other undesirables excommunicated from the Cult Mechanicus. They proved so effective at their task they were repurposed and militarised into groups known as killclades. Since that day they have fought on the front line of the Cult Mechanicus' many wars. The weapons of the Ruststalkers are sinister examples of the Adeptus Mechanicus' mastery over the laws of physics; they emanate a strong, sick hum that plays on the soul. When these horrible devices are put to use, their sonic field swoops across a variety of wavelengths until it finds the right molecular frequency to simply pass through whatever armour their foes are wearing. The gory results, though they take a second or two to manifest, are considered by the Tech-priests to be well worth the wait. So lethal is this offshoot of sonic technology that the Tech-priests have refined it into many different forms. These range from stiletto-swift razors to the much-feared Chordclaw, a needle-fingered gauntlet capable of turning a man's flesh to quivering mulch.
Sicarian Infiltrators are perhaps the most sinister of the Skitarii's warrior clades, for their neurostatic bombardment robs their victims of their senses. When hunting, they emit a white noise that fills the visual, auditory and even olfactory spectrums with static, leaving their foe all but helpless before the killing begins. Tall and slender, Sicarian Infiltrators pick their way across the battlefield with the stilted grace of spearfisher birds. They were not always this way, however, for each Sicarian is far from whole -- not in spirit, nor in body. As with their Ruststalker brethren, every Sicarian was once a warrior of the Skitarii who, in the pursuance of the Cult Mechanicus' agenda, was blasted limb from limb, extensively burned, or otherwise dismembered. During the data-harvest at battle's end, if these fallen are judged still fit to serve the Omnissiah, they are not incinerated but instead taken back to the augmetic slabs. There they are given a new lease on life by the addition of slender but powerful metal limbs. Technically speaking, all the Magi Biologis require to create a Sicarian is a head, a torso and some limb-stumps, though a detachment from emotion and a knack for inspiring fear is vital for best results.
An Infiltrator can bypass enemy defences with ease, though this ability owes nothing to stealth, nor skill. Instead it hinges upon the potency and variety of the disruptive wavelengths they broadcast from their domed helms and jutting antennae. When the Infiltrators approach, their prey's every sensory apparatus is bombarded by overwhelming stimuli. Vox-casters howl with anguished feedback whilst vid-screens craze with fizzing static. Yet this crippling assault is even more effective upon natural senses than artificial ones. Ears ring with cruel tinnitus, eyes water and turn red, and the taste of burnt metal fills the mouth. It is all the Infiltrators' victims can do to remember how to breathe. As their prey clasps hands over bleeding ears and screws shut bloodshot eyes, the Sicarian Infiltrators simply walk into point-blank range and open fire. This sensory assault, though broad in spectrum, is calibrated precisely by the Tech-priest sanctioning the despatch of these macabre assassins. Those Skitarii sent to fight alongside the Infiltrators are given null-codes that transmute these frequencies used into harmless song; to them, the constant barrage of neurostatic coming from each domed helmet is nothing more than a soft psalm to the Omnissiah's glory. For this reason the Infiltrators are seen as wise and holy heroes by their Skitarii brethren, talismans against data corruption that fight a selfless war on the front line. Only to the enemy is the truth revealed. There is little virtue left inside these merciless prowlers, and what personality remains is interested only in death.
The distinctive shape of the Ironstrider Ballistarii strikes fear into the heart of xenos, Renegade and Imperial Commander alike. Marksmen beyond compare, the Ballistarii have at their command the anatomical data, defensive capabilities and weaknesses of every race the Adeptus Mechanicus has encountered. Tirelessly searching the galaxy for high-value targets alongside their Skitarii Ranger escorts, the Ballistarii stalk from the ochre mists with their oculist lenses flaring. To fall under the azure beam of their omnispex is to have but a heartbeat left to live. For a Ballistarius sniper, making a killshot is as easy and as natural as drawing breath. Ironstrider Ballistarii are mounted upon the same long-legged combat walkers as their Sydonian Dragoon counterparts, able to walk the most hostile of terrain for years on end without rest. The monotask Servitor charged with the duty of steering the Ironstrider is often the first component to fail, its long-suffering body finally wheezing its last. Upon such occasions the Ironstrider will keep pacing out into the hinterlands on its last heading. It can only be repaired by the ministrations of a Tech-priest upon a grav-bier who will excise the dead flesh and install a replacement even as the engine walks on. The strider will later be returned to duty as if nothing had happened, the remains of the former incumbent cast into the dust without comment.
When a squadron of Ironstrider Ballistarii near a war zone, the sum total of the Adeptus Mechanicus' knowledge about that enemy's leader-figures is downlinked into their data-banks. Target reticules flicker and datagheists glow, each searching for a thousand different iterations of the enemy commander-form's silhouette. When a positive ident is achieved, that Ballistarius will be rewarded with the chime of a brass bell and an intravenous dump of hyperfocus stimulants. The information is quickly shared with the hunter's squadron, and their Ironstrider engines, formerly pounding across the battlefield at a fearsome pace, will slow to an exaggerated stalk. For a Sydonian Dragoon to attempt this would risk his steed toppling, but the gyroscopic stabilisers attached to each Ballistarius' Ironstrider engine compensate. This gives the appearance that time has slowed down around the squadron as it lopes on the spot or creeps forwards with macabre grace. It is from this mobile but steady platform that the gunner takes his shot. With the power of cognis heavy weaponry at his fingertips and the enemy's weak spots under his crosshairs, a Ballistarius could shoot through the hull of an enemy tank and still hit the vehicle's commander in the eye socket. Though it would never even occur to the Ballistarii to boast of such kills, their Tech-priest masters ensure their deadly accuracy is well known across the Imperium.
Sydonian Dragoons stride the battlefield like graven idols given life, charging from clouds of sacred incense to slam crackling taser lances into the scattering foe. In their wake they leave a ragged trail of corpses that stretches to the horizon and beyond. Mounted on the marvel of science that is the Ironstrider engine, the Sydonian Dragoons know not the concepts of doubt nor rest. Theirs is the power of endless motion put to the purpose of death. The first Sydonians settled a vast cratered area of Mars swathed in dense acidic mist. In the schisms that haunted Mars' past, those with stilt-augmetics could stalk these mists and yet live, their elevation allowing them to escape the worst effects of the acidic fog whilst remaining hidden from the enemy. The Sydonian Dragoons echo the tactics of these warrior-explorers. Using incense exhausts, they march through an ochre cloud redolent of ancient Sydonia. Many a foe has been confounded by this mist long enough for the Dragoons to mount a deadly charge. Though the monotask Servitor that steers each Ironstrider engine towards the foe is all but mindless, its rider is a tried and tested Skitarii warrior. Once the Dragoon has spotted his quarry, he will mark it with a bullet from his phosphor serpenta or radium jezzail. The glow from the impact guides his unit's next charge even in the fog of war. Within moments, one so marked is assailed by a stampede of titanium-hard feet and high-yield taser weaponry.
During the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy era, Protectors were a type of Skitarii comprised of genetically-enhanced humans drawn from the Adeptus Mechanicus' Menial underclass who serve as the personal bodyguards, law enforcement officers and fighting force for the high-ranking Adepts of the Mechanicus. They were often tied to the service of a specific Forge City on Mars or one of the other Forge Worlds. They differed from the standard Skitarii in several small ways, most notably because their faces were covered by a bronze skull mask with glowing green eyes and they were dressed in red robes the colour of old rust. They were noted to smell of spoiled meat and machine oils. It is not known if this type of Skitarii is still utilised by the modern era Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Rho-Mu 31 - Rho-Mu 31 was a Protector of the Forge of Magma City on Mars who served Mechanicus Adept Koriel Zeth, the Mistress of Magma City. Despite appearing distanced and cold towards strangers he retained some decidedly human traits, including humour.
The Skitarii are fearsome foes, relentless in the pursuit of the Omnissiah's agenda and equipped with the most advanced weaponry in the Imperium. Ultimately, though, each is but a cybernetic vessel for the will of the Tech-priests. In the heat of battle, the Skitarii will be remotely controlled by data imperatives that boost their minds and bodies to inhuman levels.
Doctrina imperatives are codified to yield the maximum spectra of hard data. At range, the Skitarii benefit from protector imperatives that vastly increase their accuracy, suppressing close quarter combat drill programs in order to bolster targeting subroutines.
- Hazard Optimisation (Gamma) - Commanded to bring their ranged weapons to bear by gamma-level imperatives, the Skitarii stalk forward into firing positions. Their Tech-priest masters, unwilling to risk full possession at this critical moment, gently increase each cohort's accuracy to a higher lethality.
- Gundrill Symbiosis (Beta) - The Skitarii blend their souls with the Machine Spirits of their weaponry until gun and wielder become one. A split second of silence follows as the Skitarii meditate upon sacred firing doctrine -- then the night lights up as deadly accurate firepower criss-crosses the battlefield, scything down the foe wherever they may hide.
- Binharic Omniscience (Alpha) - The Skitarii find their minds possessed by blessed binary, the entire battlefield reduced to a series of zeros and ones through which the causal path to the enemy's demise is clear as day. Rapt in this display of the Omnissiah's might, the Skitarii bullseye the foe with merciless, inhuman efficiency.
When the enemy close in, the Tech-priests controlling each maniple download conqueror imperatives that boost the martial subroutines of their Skitarii minions and galvanise them into physical action at the expense of their more elaborate targetting programs.
- Mindstate Secutor (Gamma) - The warrior wisdom of ancient and experienced Secutors is force-loaded into the Skitarii's minds. Each thrilling pulse of data gifts them knowledge of the most efficient way to despatch the foe at close quarters whilst retaining a reserve of strength for later use.
- Technomartyr Concords (Beta) - Devotional commands spool through the minds of the Skitarii at dizzying speed, each new imperative driving the warriors of the Omnissiah further into the ranks of the foe. One so compelled will fight with the skill of a true weapons expert, his mind and muscles filling with the boundless energy of the Motive Force.
- Hyperaction Protocols (Alpha) - The Skitarii feel the press of an invisible hand upon their minds as the Machine God drives them to assault the foe. They wield blades, goads and lances with the pinpoint skill of master Secutors, making their foes seem clumsy and blunt by comparison.
The Forge Worlds of the Adeptus Mechanicus are the cornerstones of their technocratic empire. A single Forge World can provide war materiel sufficient to supply an entire sector. Polluted strata of industry belch smoke from every region not lost entirely to biohazard or schism. Indentured serfs go about their labour like worker ants in a planet-sized hive. Archeotech workshops nestle amongst cyclopean guns, macroscaffolds loom over rivers of bullet casings, and fleshy sludge trickles from weapon-testing grounds into yawning food vats. Buried amongst the Forge Worlds' sprawling archives are secrets that could bring the Imperium's salvation or plunge it into damnation. The truth is immaterial, for to navigate the wilderness of data would drive even a Fabricator-General quite mad. It is in the red-hot guts of the Forge Worlds that the Skitarii Legions are born. Cohorts without number march out to protect the sovereign realm of the Omnissiah. Their sole desire is to bring His illumination to the darkness of the void and transmit every iota of information they uncover, even if it means razing everything in their path.
Notable Forge Worlds
Mars' Skitarii Legion is the most glorious of all its kind. Its warriors consider it a great privilege to wear the ancient heraldry of the Red Planet, and are fiercely defensive of their Forge World despite its unchallenged position of power. Perhaps because of the acquisitive nature of their masters, the red, silver and black of Mars' War Cohorts is a common sight in each Segmentum of the Imperium. The holy cog-and-skull of Mars graces many Skitarii warriors and vehicles, a reminder that all must play their part in the greater war machine of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Skitarii Vanguard and Skitarii Rangers alike wear combat robes emblazoned with the icon of their Forge World. Skitarii infantry usually have their squad number emblazoned upon the hem of their robes for easy identification. Some specialist units, such as Sicarian Ruststalkers and Infiltrators, may wear a number on their helm or chestplate. The Alphas and Princeps of the Skitarii Legions often bear a skull in place of their Forge World icon. They may also display their maniple sigil, either appended to the squad number on their war robes, or on their chestplate or helm. The armour plates of Skitarii vehicles are the same hue as those worn by the legion's Sicarians.
Within the ranks of Agripinaa's soldiery, the sacred red and black heraldry of Mars is reversed. There are some amongst the brotherhood of Mars who imply Agripinaa's sense of truth and logic is likewise inverted. Ruststalker Princeps, Sicarian Princeps and Skitarii Alpha alike wear battle robes in the sombre black of their Forge World. Their wargear and armour is trimmed with ancient gold taken from those strata of Agripinaa's surface unscarred by war. Agripinaa's cohorts often fight across the war-blackened hellscapes of the Eye of Terror, where their dark colouration can be the difference between life and death. The warriors of Agripinaa bear the icon of the sacred cog bracketing a hermetic symbol. Some Tech-priests believe it is a representation of the Cadian Gate, the oval trapped within its lines representing the Eye being trammelled by Order itself.
The Tech-priests of Graia and their Skitarii forces accentuate the deep crimson of Mars with the bright red of spilt blood. Their detractors believe this is because Graian warriors take an unhealthy interest in each spray of gore that jets from their victims. Wearing fully-sealed battle raiments and electromagnetised cybernetics, the Skitarii of Graia have fought space battles across the silvered exterior of their masters' spaceborne metropolises. The warriors of Graia bear the icon of the solar cog. The rising sun at its heart signifies the dawn of a new age, while the cog that surrounds it shows that the Tech-priests of Graia intend to be its masters.
The battle plate of Lucius' Skitarii cohorts is dark, almost black in colouration. Like the armour of its vehicles, the plate is made from a rare alloy, scorched black by the artificial sun within the planet in a ritual known as the Solar Blessing. Ever since the Inculcata Schism, Lucius' Skitarii Legion have used the same system of markings as Mars. They even adopted the deep red of the first Forge World, although the cream and dark metal of their planet's original heraldry lie beneath. The Skitarii cohorts bear the icon of Forge World Lucius. The illuminated letter that forms Lucius' icon is burnt into the planet's own surface, each detail a dozen miles from top to bottom.
Unusually, the heraldry of Metalica's Skitarii is dictated by their battlefield role. Skitarii Vanguard and Rangers wear metallic armour plates and white robes with red linings. Sicarians usually wear white battle plate, forgoing red altogether. All of Metalica's Skitarii bear gunmetal prostheses and cybernetic enhancements made from the very same substance that covers the planet's surface. Its Alphas and Princeps wear metal mined from the peaks of the planet's titanium mountains. The vehicles of Metalica's War Cohorts are arrayed in the bone white of their Forge World's heraldry, though it is never long before they bear the marks of fire and destruction. Though Metalica's legions are fiercely independent from the cloying touch of Mars, the hammer and fist icon of Metalica is depicted in deep red in honour of their Martian forefathers.
Ryza's Skitarii Legion has a proud history and a reputation for unshakeable faith. As with many Forge Worlds, Ryza's Skitarii often bear purity seals of blood-wax and parchment to signify their freedom from harmful scrapcode. The ochre armour plates and robes worn by Ryza's Skitarii are the same hue as the immense rust dunes that bestrew the planet. The interior of these robes are deep red in memory of the blood that has been spilt there over the millennia. The illuminated "R" of Ryza is borne proudly by its warriors. This icon incorporates the skull and cog of Mars, a nod towards Ryza's ancestry.
Stygies VIII has been accused of heresy in the past. To show that its faith in the Omnissiah is pure, its heraldry incorporates the colours of Mars, albeit redistributed. The bulk of Stygies VIII's Skitarii wear long black robes, crimson armour plate and burnished steel cybernetics. Should such a warrior shed his robe, he could almost pass for one of Mars' cohorts -- a similarity Stygies has exploited many times. The officers of Stygies VIII fight at the forefront of the war for enlightenment. When their red, silver and black heraldry is sighted near an excavation or quarantine zone, the treasures inside will be seized in Stygies' name, whatever it takes. The stark white icon of Stygies VIII stands out from the dark robes of its warriors. It symbolises not just enlightenment, but the acquisition of knowledge no matter how steep the cost.
The weapons of the Adeptus Mechanicus are some of the most dangerous in the galaxy. As efficient as they are terminally unsafe, and powerful beyond mortal understanding, they have brought death to the galaxy for thousands of standard years. These are the weapons of Mars. The weapons of the Skitarii are a strange amalgamation of ancient science, modern technology and baroque craftsmanship. Carved wooden gun stocks, bolt action breaches, whirring dynamos and elegant brass triggers meld seamlessly with heat sinks, radioactive ammunition, lightning projectors and glowing fuel cells. They are the past and the present combined, terrifying in the devastation they cause and beautiful in their antiquated designs. This anachronistic combination is not due to the available materials or a desire for aesthetically pleasing weapons. Nor is it out of practicality; far from it. Trees don't grow on Mars (or any other Forge World, for that matter) and haven't for thousands of standard years. Technological advances have made bolt action rifles obsolete and the dynamos that power many Skitarii weapons have been superseded by more conventional power sources.
This practice of using seemingly-outdated weaponry appears a little odd until you remember the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus revere ancient technology. To them, the wargear and weapons designed during the Dark Age of Technology were at the pinnacle of their design and everything since is but a poor substitute. But these ancient weapons aren't just superior: they're vastly superior, inspired by the Machine God Himself and, as such, regarded as holy instruments. At least that's what the Tech-priests believe. To tamper with the design of one, even slightly, would be a terrible heresy. After all, who has the right to challenge the creations of a god?
Arc Weapons are powered by bulky permacapacitors shipped from Mars' Great Repositorium. Some of these zinc-plated blocks store energy from the days when the Imperium was young. They discharge with a loud crack, firing bolts of blue-white electricity that can fry a man's brain or overload a war machine's datacortex in a second.
- Arc Rifle
- Arc Maul - The Arc Maul is at first glance a bludgeoning weapon designed to crush and pulp its targets. However, when activated, it becomes a rod of lightning like unto those wielded by the gods of Old Earth. Those struck by an arc maul often convulse themselves to death as the riotous energies playing across them take their toll.
- Arc Pistol
Many weapons wielded by the Skitarii are so deadly to the wielder they're widely condemned by the rest of the Imperium. Their baroque beauty belies a singularly vile function -- not only to strike, but to render the battlefield as deadly as the rad-wastes of Mars. As dangerous as they are to their wielders, Radium Weapons are far more deadly to the enemy. Armour may repel the solid rounds, but only the most heavily-reinforced battle plate can protect the target from the baleful energy given off by the hyper-irradiated bullets. As more and more shots are fired, the area becomes increasingly saturated with radiation until a localised rad-storm occurs, striking down the enemy with radiation sickness and leaving the ground beneath their feet saturated and lifeless. Radium Weapons are so volatile that they eventually kill their wielders. The war plate worn by the Skitarii Vanguard, combined with their rad-leeching robes and augmetic limbs, goes some way to protecting them from the harmful feedback generated by these weapons, though inevitably some still seeps through. The Vanguard welcome this, for they are the Omnissiah's holy warriors and even the lethal touch of radiation is a sign of His blessing. Over time their bodies become so saturated with radiation they become weapons themselves, their mere presence enough to leave an enemy soldier reeling with nausea and a hacking cough laced with bloody phlegm. Death follows soon after.
- Radium Pistol
- Radium Carbine - The Radium Carbine is the most terrible of these weapons, every bullet it fires bathed in lethal radiation. To equip an Imperial Guardsman with a Radium Carbine would lead to immediate radiation poisoning and a horrible, though blessedly quick, death.
- Radium Jezzail
One of the most horrific substances of ancient Mars was Phosphex. Its method of manufacture lost thousands of years ago, this highly-corrosive toxin burned with an intense flame that could not be extinguished, short of placing it in a vacuum. Though the crawling horror of Phosphex Weaponry is all but forgotten in the Imperium, the blinding white fire of Phosphor Weaponry is still utilised by the Skitarii to mark out high priority targets amongst the battlefield murk. The Phosphor Weapons fielded by the Skitarii are all that remain of this lost knowledge, a sanctioned replacement for one of the Machine God's creations. They may no longer be able to reduce a world to ash, but they still cover the enemy in luminous particles, making them easy targets for other Skitarii. If those struck by the burning spheres fired by these weapons are not killed by the initial trauma, they are soon felled by the light-guided volleys that follow.
- Phosphor Blast Pistol
- Phosphor Serpenta
- Heavy Phosphor Blaster
Infiltrators use rapid-firing pistols to slay their foes, including the Flechette Blaster which fires hundreds of metal darts.
- Flechette Blaster - The Flechette Blaster is lightweight but lethal, a favoured tool of the Sicarian Infiltrator. It fires hundreds of tiny darts, each of which bears a dormant cerebral cell awakened in the gun's chamber. Where one dart hits home it emits a bioelectric pulse that attracts others, resulting in a series of impacts that burrow through bone.
- Stubcarbine - The Stubcarbine, though compact, has the stopping power of the Heavy Stubbers mounted on the tanks of the Astra Militarum. When a squad of Sicarians opens fire with these weapons, the air fills with a storm of solid shot that chews their victims to ruin.
Cognis Weapons, though superficially similar to that used by the rest of the Imperium, has one vital difference -- Cognis Weapon's Machine Spirit (artificial intelligence) has been permanently awakened by the rites of the Machine God. When the wielder is unable to give his full concentration, the warlike spirit of the gun will take over.
- Cognis Lascannon
- Cognis Autocannon
- Cognis Heavy Stubber
The Adeptus Mechanicus make heavy use of Taser Weapons, vicious prods and lances powered by hyperdynamo capacitors that store vast amounts of potential energy. When a solid impact is made with the enemy, the energy is blasted through their body, then re-harnessed by the weapon using the electrothief prongs at the weapon's tip.
- Taser Goad
- Taser Lance
Transonic blades emit a low, insistent buzz that makes stomachs turn and eyes vibrate in their sockets. When they strike armour, these weapons will adjust their hostile sonic field to match its resonant frequency, quickly slicing right through it -- and, in the case of the feared Chordclaw, turning muscle, bone and fat to jelly. Normally wielded by Sicarian Ruststalkers, the presence of these constantly-humming weapons is enough to invoke nausea and vibrate a person's eyeballs in their sockets. Constantly cycling through wavelengths, the blades tune in to the resonant frequency of a target, enabling them to slide effortlessly through even the thickest armour. To the Tech-priests, such an efficient weapon is most pleasing.
- Transonic Blade
- Transonic Razor
- Cognis Manipulator - Similar in design to servo-arms, the hydraulic pincers jutting from many Skitarii vehicles have been adapted to channel their host's machine spirit in times of adversity. Such appendages can effect field repairs on damaged hulls and weapon systems even in the heat of battle.
- Power Sword - A power weapon sheathed in the lethal haze of a disruptive energy field that eats through armour, flesh and bone with ease.
- Prehensile Dataspike - Usually mounted on a tail-like Mechadendrite, the dataspikes favoured by the agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus can stab into the cortex of enemy machines and steal their secrets within a couple of heartbeats.
Special Issue Weapons
- Transuranic Arquebus - The precision and inhuman efficiency that typify the Skitarii Legions are epitomised by these long-barrelled heavy weapons. Firing a shell composed of a depleted transuranium element, the arquebus can puncture a tank from one side to the other, the resultant pressure wave also pulping any biological creatures that may be sheltering inside. This weapon's high-calibre rounds leaves a trail of radioactive devastation in their wake. The effect on the enemy is threefold. The initial death-toll is horrific, thinning the enemy's ranks. The radioactive fallout that follows leaves the survivors weak and ill. The terror this spreads among the enemy's ranks is invaluable to the Skitarii and the Tech-priests' Quest for Knowledge.
- Galvanic Rifle - One of the first weapons used by Martian settlers, the Galvanic Rifle was modelled after the hunting flintlocks of Mars' past. The Mark IV Arkhan Galvanic Rifle is a precision tool in the hands of a Skitarii Ranger. Though these wooden and burnished brass guns appear to be primitive antiques, with its polished wooden stock and curlicues that echo the sandy seas of Mars' desert, the projectiles they fire are not. Each galvanic Servitor-bullet has a minute Servitor built into it so it can subtly manipulate its own trajectory. The bullet also houses a galvanic cell that causes all the potential energy of the target to burn out in a blast of electrical force. These bullets could, theoretically, be fired through a more modern weapon, but that would be against the holy teachings.
- Plasma Caliver - As volatile as it is deadly, the Plasma Caliver exchanges range for a truly terrifying rate of fire. A squad of Skitarii armed with several Plasma Calivers lights up the night with each volley. To say they risk life and limb in the process is a grave understatement, yet to their Tech-priest masters, such collateral damage matters not at all.
- Eradication Beamer - The thin yellow beam fired by the Eradication Beamer widens as it projects outward from the weapon's distinctive muzzle. Those in the middle distance will be ravaged on a molecular level by its impossible technologies. Those close by are simply atomised, their physical forms scattered to the hot winds of war without a sound.
- Icarus Stormcannon Array - The variant Icarus Stormcannon Arrays used by the Adeptus Mechanicus fill the sky with inescapable death. Comprising a twin Icarus Autocannon with Skyscryer Lenses, a gatling rocket launcher that fires salvoes of flak and an armour-piercing Missile Launcher, its combined firepower can shred an entire squadron of enemy fighters. An Icarus Array consists of a twin Icarus Autocannon with a built-in gatling rocket launcher and a built-in Daedalus Missile Launcher.
- Neutron Laser - The Neutron Laser is the last word in battlefield anti-tank weaponry. With a stabilised neutronic coil arc reactor as its power source, it is able to fire a beam so devastating it not only punches through the thickest armour but also sends out a blast wave of electromagnetic energy that scrambles circuits and synapses alike.
Special Issue Wargear
- Conversion Field - These fields convert the energy of hostile attacks into flashes of light. The more powerful the attack, the brighter the light emitted by the Conversion Field -- an effect which has resulted in more than one assailant being robbed of his sight.
- Digital Weapons - The Imperium's Digital Weapons, though ostensibly supplied by the Adeptus Mechanicus, owe their provenance to nimble xenos technosavants. Though short ranged, they can be triggered to discharge potent laser blasts or jets of flame just as the enemy believes the wearer to be at his most vulnerable.
- Enhanced Data-Tether - Seen as the mouthpieces of the Tech-priests, who in turn are the prophets of the Machine God Himself, those honoured with bearing enhanced data-tethers are obeyed without hesitation by their reverent Skitarii comrades.
- Infoslave Skull - The dextrous skull-and-digit adjutants that accompany senior Skitarii record hard data at a prolific rate. To know their findings are recorded and reported back is a great boon to the Skitarii, who draw courage and strength from the fact their sacrifices will not be in vain.
- Mindscrambler Grenades - Sicarian Ruststalkers are equipped with Mindscrambler Grenades harbouring the egg-sac of a Cthellan electrogenesis squid. When detonated, the resultant surge of bio-electricity causes heavy neural trauma in living creatures and artificial sentiences alike.
- Omnispex - The Omnispex carries a Raptor-class Machine Spirit (artificial intelligence) that can read heat emissions, data signatures, and biological waveforms even at extreme range. Should it be kept focussed for an extended period of time, it will determine the weak points of those it scrutinises and pass them on to its master.
- Refractor Field - A common sight in the ranks of the Skitarii Legions, the Refractor Field distorts the image of the wearer with a shimmering cloak of gravitic force. Incoming attacks that strike the field will be refracted into multi-spectrum bursts that dissipate into harmlessness.
- Skitarii War Plate - Skitarii warriors are protected by armoured plates designed to be worn for several years at a time. Secreted under a superdermal layer of ceramite alloy are recombinant cells that harness moisture from the wearer and recycle it. This liquid is transmuted into a gelatinous unguent that coats the inside of the suit, preventing the slow abrasion of the wearer's body whilst affording a measure of protection from the harmful emanations of their weaponry.
- Sicarian Battle Armour - Agility is of paramount importance to the long-limbed killers of the Sicarian brotherhood. To this end they go to war clad in multi-layered alloy that, though thin and flexible, provides admirable physical protection. This alloy, informally known as Aegium, acts as a capacitor that harnesses the energy of incoming attacks and disperses it harmlessly across the wearer's bionic frame.
The Skitarii are the armed forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the faction that produces and maintains virtually all vehicles and engines of war in the Imperium. As such, in addition to peculiar Mechanicus vehicles such as giant land crawlers, the Tech-Guard has access to every type of vehicle used in the Imperial Guard, Imperial Navy aircraft such as the Valkyrie, the Marauder, the Thunderbolt or the Vulture, and are known to have utilised the Rhino armoured personnel carrier. It is unknown if the Skitarii make use of other vehicles employed by the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, though one can presume that it is possible, if their Forge World is industrious enough to outfit its forces with them and fulfill its production quota. The Tech-Guard has no access to the Land Raider, as by the Emperor's decree issued during the Horus Heresy, those vehicles are the sole possessions of the Space Marines. The Skitarii also do not utilise Dreadnoughts, for the obvious reason that they must be piloted by a mortally-wounded Astartes.
The following vehicles are the most commonly used by Skitarii forces:
- Ironstrider Engine - Taking his inspiration from the stilt-legged seekers of the Sydonian Mask, the Tech-priest Aldebrac Vingh perfected the Ironstrider Engine in the early 33rd Millennium. His achievement was profound indeed. The strange bipedal apparatus he invented is as close to a perpetual motion machine as the Adeptus Mechanicus have ever seen, its efficiency close to perfection. Acting as a dynamo as it walks, once started the Ironstrider engine essentially powers itself. There are prototype models still circumnavigating the equator of Mars today. Sadly Vingh, never the most politically astute of his Tech-priest kin, was all but ostracised by his jealous colleagues. After his death the secrets of the Ironstrider Engine were lost. So it is that the Ironstriders of today are never switched off, lest their relentless Machine Spirit fade away forever. Thousands are put to use as mounts in the Skitarii cohorts, their riders lowered into the saddles of ever-circling 'striders by articulated cranes that overlook the Iron Stables. Others are guided onto industrial treadmills and cog-steps where they pound away in their hundreds, used to power inefficient but far deadlier machineries of destruction. Such is the way of the Tech-priest; to turn a work of genius into yet another weapon of war.
- Onager Dunecrawler - These walker-engines possess a daunting amount of firepower for their size; so much so that the unenlightened men of the Astra Militarum often compare them to walking guns. To the Skitarii, the Onager Dunecrawler is no mere weapon, but a walking reliquary protected by the Machine God. To the Tech-priests, it is little more than a tool of destruction, albeit one tempered in the fires of history. The Onager Dunecrawler's various armaments can blast apart squadrons of aircraft, punch holes through Traitor battle engines, or atomise enemy commanders in beams of blinding blue light. When on the hunt, their scuttle-legged gait and bristling appendages make them seem like predatory insects with a mighty sting. The Onager Dunecrawler owes its origins to the Mars Universal Land Engine. Fashioned by the technoarchaeologist Arkhan Land, the original M.U.L.E was inspired by the bad-tempered, insectile beast of burden that its maker believed walked Holy Terra in aeons long past. The Dunecrawler of the late 41st Millennium still bears very powerful weaponry, and the miniature fusion generator at its rear means it is able to outlast even the rugged vehicles of the Adeptus Astartes. Its guns are hard-linked to extensive databanks that can record its successes until it is as full as a tick bloated with stolen blood. The Dunecrawler's modifications allow it to send this hard data directly to its masters -- and conversely to channel their imperatives to the Skitarii around it. The Dunecrawler holds two crew, enmeshed with their Onager host in a strange symbiotic relationship. Its gunner is a Skitarii Ranger, his formidable marksmanship bolstered by a variety of autoscryer lenses. The machine's driver is a Skitarii Vanguard, his resilience to harmful energies allowing him to immerse himself in an electro-amniotic tank that allows direct communion with the Onager's Machine Spirit (Cogitator). Such crewmen will eventually be used up in the manner of energy batteries, but these drivers are easily replaced -- by inserting a new Vanguard into the filthy, electrode-rich soup, the Onager can be given a new lease of life. The Skitarii crewmen meet their fate uncomplainingly -- to serve the Machine God is reward enough.
Skitarii Vehicle Equipment
- Broad Specturm Data-Tether - A vehicle-mounted version of that carried by veteran Skitarii, the broad spectrum data-tether projects a Tech-priest's binharic blurts with such clarity it seems he is amongst the ranks of the Skitarii himself. Imperatives delivered via such information relays are more potent and reliable than any other.
- Emanatus Force Field - The overlapping force fields generated by Dunecrawlers are marvels of military science. Much like the Refractor Fields common to the lesser orders of the Martian Priesthood, they disperse hostile energies into the atmosphere, each incoming bullet transformed into little more than a flash of actinic blue light and a sudden tang of ozone.
- Mindscanner Probe - The Goliath-grade circuitry in this wondrous machine means it can only be borne by robustly built vehicles. When activated, it can detect any significant spikes of cerebral activity from nearby enemies. This triggers a series of bells, giving Skitarii a valuable second of notice before an enemy attack hits home.
- Searchlight - Searchlights are often fitted to vehicles so that the foe cannot use darkness as an ally.
- Smoke Launcher - Some vehicles have small launchers mounted onto them that carry smoke canisters. These are used to temporarily obscure the vehicle behind billowing clouds of smoke, allowing it to cross open areas in greater safety -- although it does so at the cost of being able to fire its own weapons.
Notable Skitarii Variants
Skitarii were generally divided into different types depending upon the role they were expected to play on the battlefield.
- Balisteria - The Balisteria were the artillery units of the Skitarii. The artillery used by the Skitarii ranged from Thudd Guns to massive Ordinatus pieces. The term Balisteria included both the vehicle or artillery piece, as well as the Skitarii crews manning them.
- Cataphractii - The Cataphractii were the Skitarii's armour units. The Skitarii made use of everything from small armoured personnel carriers like the Chimera and Rhino to heavy combat walkers and super heavy tanks such as a Baneblade.
- Classiarii - The Skitarii forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus take a variety of forms. On warships and Explorator vessels operating within the Koronus Expanse and the Calixis Sector, specially-programmed Skitarii are a necessity, for they serve as the members of boarding parties, security personnel and bodyguards where other forms of Skitarii would be impractical. Within the Mechanicus territories of the Calixis Sector, these warriors are known as Classiarii, a term of obscure meaning within the ancient traditions of the Calixian Mechanicus, believed to mean "mariners." Nigh-impervious to vacuum, fitted with thick, implanted armour, and equipped with an array of implanted weaponry designed for void combat and combat in the cramped enclosures of a starship, a Classiarius trooper is literally built for ship-to-ship combat.
- Herakli - The Herakli were Skitarii heavy fire support specialists. These massive, vat-grown cybernetic soldiers were as large as Space Marines and were capable of carrying heavy laser weapons and multi-barrelled Autocannons with ease. The Herakli wore heavy red robes and cowls that were covered in Mechanicus sigils and were protected by thick ceramite amour plating that covered their chests and shoulders.
- Huscarls - The Huscarls were the personal bodyguards of Skitarii officers and commanders, hand-picked by these individuals and trained by them to perfection. The duty of the Huscarls was to protect their commander in the heat of battle and make sure that no debilitating harm came to him.
- Hypaspists - Hypaspist Skitarii were the most basic augmented infantrymen of the Tech-Guard and were armed with cybernetically hard-linked Lasguns similar to those used by the soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Hypaspists were generally more powerful and skilled soldiers than standard Guardsmen as a result of the cybernetic enhancements that made them stronger and more accurate than normal humans and the psychosurgery they had undergone to suppress their emotional reactions and make them immune to panic or fear. However, this enhancement also made Hypaspists less independent and able to think for themselves in combat.
- Praetorians - The Praetorians represented the most elite troops to be found amongst the Skitarii. They were super-enhanced humans augmented by a wide array of cybernetics and integrated heavy weapons. However, many old Imperial sources also suggest that Praetorians are instead an elite Skitarii type similar to Imperial Guard Storm Trooper units, but possessed of advanced bionic augmentations, putting them somewhere in combat effectiveness and elite status between Storm Troopers and Space Marines. Some Praetorians are in fact a form of Combat Servitors, rather than living, cybernetic humans. They move on tank treads and are armed with powerful heavy weaponry, such as Plasma Cannons. All of these different variations of the Praetorian Skitarii are completely plausible, and based on the preferences of the Mechanicus Magi who build them.
- Sagitarii - The Sagitarii were the Skitarii's heavy weapon specialists. This class of Skitarii only include dedicated heavy weapons squads, as heavy weapons specialists attached to Hypaspist squads are still called Hypaspists.
- Tribunes - The Tribunes are the officers of a Skitarii unit. Though all Skitarii ultimately bow to the authority of the Adeptus Mechanicus' Magi and Archmagi, these are all command personne found at the grand strategic level. The Tribunes handle the day-to-day tactical and strategic command roles for the Skitarii.
- Venatorii - The Venatorii were created in the wake of the War of Brass that devastated the Skitarii Legions of the Lathe Worlds, leaving entire Forge Worlds of the Calixis Sector with virtually no troops left. The reigning High Fabricator started a discreet rearmament drive throughout the Calixian Forge Worlds. The more military minded Tech-priests were moved into position to help replenish the fighting ranks of the Mechanicus within the sector. It took many standard years to bring this grand plan together, but once everything was in place, the High Fabricator of the Lathes found himself with a new force consisting of some of the best-trained and best-equipped troops in the Calixis Sector. Dubbed the Venatorii, the new hunters were a force that was to remain separate from the recovering Calixian Skitarii forces and act as the true elite troops of the Lathes. With their unique organisation and frightening red armour, the few outside of the Mechanicus who were aware of their existence soon began to call them the "Crimson Guard."
- Executors Fetial - The Executors Fetial are the diplomats and ambassadors of the Titan Legions, and are noted to have undergone much of the same combat conditioning as the Skitarii, save for the rampant muscle mass increase and inducement of an adrenal battle trance. It is unknown if the Executors are considered to be official members of the Tech-Guard.
Relics of Mars
Relics of Mars are items of terrifying power that are sometimes bestowed upon a Skitarii Alpha or Sicarian Princeps by a senior Tech-priest for them to field-test. The following are known examples of such potent relics:
- Arkhan's Divinator - The Imperium is littered with the detritus of more than ten millennia of war. Amongst it are many useful discoveries waiting to be recovered by the Adeptus Mechanicus -- and in the case of unidentified archeotech, by their Skitarii Legions in particular. To aid his minions in the location of such items, the revered techno-archaeologist Arkhan Land fashioned a gauntlet around an armature of ancient Martian divining rods. One who wears this gauntlet will find his fingers twitching when he is near a relic of surpassing value, even whilst in the heat of battle. Uncanny though it seems, the subsequent investigation will often reveal exactly the calibre of treasure that the wielder needs in order to secure victory.
- The Omniscient Mask - Legend has it that the wearer of the Omniscient Mask can read the souls of men, each rendered as legible as the binaric calligraphy of the Illuminatoria. An object of great veneration amongst the Skitarii, those under its gaze fight all the harder, for each warrior fears he will be found wanting in the eyes of the Omnissiah's chosen.
- Pater Radium - Amongst the Skitarii there is a theory that Pater Radium is the heart of a nuclear reactor, the first of its kind to be built on Mars. The honour of carrying this ornate rad-pack is awarded only to those who have acted on their own military initiative and hence won the day. Little matter, then, that the horrifically powerful radiation it emanates cause the teeth, hair and bones of the bearer to degrade to mulch in short order. Its very presence is an honour to the legionary that bears it, and when the legendary artefact can reduce the strongest of enemy warriors to crawling weakness, who can question its sacred cause?
- Phase Taser - A true miracle of the Machine God, the Phase Taser crackles with transdimensional energy, leading several curious magi to theorise it was once far more than a tool of war -- though seeing as every one of them subsequently disappeared without trace, the Tech-priests have lately been content to leave it in Skitarii hands. One struck hard by the prongs at the taser's end will be instantly and permanently transported into another dimension, effectively disappearing from reality in a burst of crackling light.
- Phosphoenix - The blasphemous Tech-priest Veriliad essentially destroyed the Adeptus Mechanicus' ability to make Phosphex Weaponry. Having seen the crawling horror of the living, white-blue flame, Veriliad destroyed the lone known STC database for the substance's creation. Efforts to recreate it have been unsuccessful ever since. Decried as Heretic Technis by the rest of his order, Veriliad was tied to a stake and shot with the pistol known as Phosphoenix, the finest such weapon ever produced. Perhaps fittingly, he was burnt alive by the very living flame he had tried to extinguish.
- Skull of Elder Nikola - This yellowed, multi-lacquered Servo-Skull is perhaps the most ancient of its kind. It has been ghost-dated to the early days of Mankind, when primitive Terrans had barely evolved the ability to conjure light. Should the correct praise-psalm be sung to it, the halo of electrical power that surrounds its bony circumference will explode outwards in a ring of crackling force, scrambling the unnatural workings of enemy war engines.
Dark Mechanicus Skitarii
Ever since the first betrayal on Mars during the Horus Heresy, the Dark Mechanicus and their Traitor Titan Legions have utilised the Skitarii under their command to battle the forces of the False Emperor. They perform essentially the same functions for the Hereteks as their Loyalist counterparts, protecting the demesnes of their masters and going to war at their bidding, with additional duties such as overseeing the slave workforces labouring on the Dark Forge Worlds. The Dark Mechanicus Skitarii themselves have become changed and mutated by the power of the Warp as much as by their dark masters' twisted modifications and use of heretekal Warp-based technology.
- Citadel Journal 21, "Adeptus Mechanicus Detachments: Skitarii Tech-Guard of the Forge Worlds"
- Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus (8th Edition), pp. 48-53, 75-76, 79, 81
- Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus - Skitarii (7th Edition), pp. 4-39, 72-78
- Codex Titanicus, pg. 30
- Dark Heresy: The Lathe Worlds (RPG), pp. 39-40
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pp. 41-42, 130, 159, 304
- Imperial Armour Volume One - Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy, pg. 77
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (4th Edition), pg. 120-121
- Titan Legions (2nd Edition), pg. 31
- Mechanicum (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Deliverance Lost (Novel) by Gav Thorpe, pp. 420-421
- Helsreach (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Planetkill (Anthology)
- Titanicus (Novel) by Dan Abnett