A Standard Template Construct (STC) system was an advanced, artificially intelligent computer database created during the Dark Age of Technology 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 onset of 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 not just to 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.
An STC system was possessed by every group of human interstellar 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 solar 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 standard years by the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who believe that STCs are the most holy of artefacts, gifts to Mankind from the Machine God.
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. Little, if any, technological innovation and invention exists in the Imperium, 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 of Man 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. Some Imperial historians have theorised that the scientists of the Age of Technology somehow foresaw the coming of the Age of Strife, and created the STCs to ensure that their knowledge would not be lost to future generations. 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 of the most sacred of holy texts, a font of all knowledge, a quest for the holy grail.
The STC was an advanced, artificially intelligent computer data storage and fabrication 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 communication for several millennia. Each group of colonists carried such a system with them when they embarked for their new homes. It enabled the colonists to build efficient shelters, power 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 in the form of holographic schematics.
The rare complete STC Library is said to contain the total sum of all knowledge possessed by 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 simple transport 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.
STCs in the 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 led to the ability of the Imperium to construct such mighty vehicles as the Land Raider and Land Speeder, 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. The Men of Iron, artificially intelligent (AI) constructs created by humans to fight their wars and carry out tasks that might otherwise risk a human life, eventually turned on their masters. This machine rebellion, the Cybernetic Revolt, sparked 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 database to be found. Only through the recovery of the ancient print-outs from the full STC systems has Mankind scraped together much of its knowledge and its current understanding of advanced Dark Age technology.
Known STC data in use by the Imperium at present has created the ubiquitous Land Speeder, the Thunderhawk gunship and the Land Raider of the Adeptus Astartes, along with Lasguns, starship components and most of the other advanced technologies of the late 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 worlds of the Imperium fed since its earliest days.
STC Discovery Incidents
- Unknown Date.M30 - Technoarchaeologist Arkhan Land led an expedition into the Librarius Omnis of Mars. Within, he rediscovered the STC hard-copy templates for the Land Raider and Land Crawler. He also discovered the templates for rare anti-gravitic plates as well as recorded theories of their use. These would later be used in the development of the Land Speeder.
- Unknown Date.M30 - The STC designs for the Baal Predator were discovered on the planet of Atium III amidst the ruins of the Arch-Heretek Lord de Ladt's fortress by the Blood Angels Space Marine Legion. The Blood Angels never handed the designs over to the Mechanicum as Imperial law required and instead returned with them to their homeworld of Baal, where the original database remains to this day.
- Unknown Date.M31 - 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 declared war on them. After a brutal 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 the recovered technology is still on Mars, hidden away and hoarded by the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Unknown Date.M32 - During the period of Imperial history known as "The Forging," there was a slowing of the decline in the Imperium's technology and new growth in the interstellar economy due to the rediscovery of a valuable STC database in the Cana System as the Imperium expanded.
- 104.M35 - The War of Recovery unfolded when patchy reports of technological wonders on the planets of the Mortuam Chain reach Mars. Hoping that it might be possible to recover new STC database fragments, the Adeptus Mechanicus launched an expedition which began an escalating war that lasted for over a standard century. Aided by the advanced weaponry they recovered, the forces of the Mechanicus freed the human colonies of the region from xenos occupation and several first generation copies of STC databases concerning certain individual technologies were returned in triumph to Mars.
- Unknown Date.M36 - The STC schematic for the Centurion was unearthed in the aftermath of the Age of Apostasy and, once sanctioned by the Adeptus Mechanicus, the vehicles produced from it found their way into the armouries of almost every Space Marine Chapter.
- Unknown Date.M36 - The STC templates for cybernetic combat suits known as the XV Bellam Ravager and Thermae Missile Suit were discovered by the Adeptus Mechanicus, but proved too difficult to reproduce.
- 322 - 384.M39 - STC fragments called the "Aegis Data Fragments" were discovered in the Calixis Sector during the Adranitian phase of the Angevin Crusade. They contain a few new small arms patterns, systems schematics and Augury interfaces. Known schematics within these fragments included the Minerva-Aegis Las Carbine, Aegis Anbaric Shock Blaster Pistol, and the Sollex-Aegis Energy Blade.
- Unknown Date.M39 - The STC template for the Omega Pattern Plasma Blastgun was discovered by Explorator Magos Valistle Hum'nal.
- Unknown Date.M40 - The STC template for improved jet engines was discovered by the Dark Angels while hunting a suspected Fallen Angel known as Baelor the Imposter in the Nephilim Sector. Designated the "Lionheart Engine," the technology was used to modify older aircraft designs and the end product was an agile aircraft with improved speed called the Nephilim Jetfighter. This vehicle is still exclusive to the Dark Angels 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 had illegally hoarded lost technology in contravention of Imperial law that requires all recovered technology to be handed over to the Mechanicus, the Dark Angels adamantly denied possessing STC databases of any kind.
- Unknown Date.M41 - An STC database template for a Combat Knife was discovered by two Astra Militarum scouts that proved "sharper and lighter and tougher" than previous designs. They were hailed as heroes by the Imperium for this discovery, and were each rewarded with being raised to the Imperial nobility and made Planetary Governors. The new Combat Knife design was adopted by 30 Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes.
- Unknown Date.M41 - A large 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.
- Unknown Date.M41 - A rare STC template known as "Panacea," containing the cures for several types of common diseases and toxins, was unearthed by the Forge World Verdigris IX. Despite the Verdigris Mechanicus' best efforts to protect it, it was stolen by a Dark Eldar named Aurelia Mlys and her Kabal during the Panacea Wars.
- 755 - 778.M41 - An STC template 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 just the 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 STC Constructor also held and/or could create other STC designs. 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.
- 998.M41 - An artefact called the Omnicopaeia was sought after by Magos Delphan Gruss. This device was believed to be a data storage mechanism that contained every STC schematic created during the Dark Age of Technology. Its existence became known after Delphan Gruss examined numerous STC legends; he has since devoted his life to finding the artefact. In 998.M41, rumors erupted across the Imperium that the Omnicopaeia lay on the Daemon World of Hell's Teeth in the Maelstrom. Due to the immeasurable value of the device, the Adeptus Mechanicus mobilised billions of Skitarii for the reclamation operation.
- 999.M41 - An original STC template for a new Battle Titan, a so-called Castigator-class autonomous bipedal weapons platform, created for fire support and siege operations, was discovered on the planet Chaeroneia by a team of Grey Knights led by Justicar Alaric investigating that long-overrun Imperial Forge World . It was much larger than an Imperator-class Emperor Titan and made use of superior technology. The STC was also discovered on that world, but was unfortunately destroyed by the Grey Knights to prevent it from being stolen by the Forces of Chaos.
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition)
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pp. 16-17
- Codex Imperialis by Rick Priestley, pg. 42
- Codex: Skitarii (7th Edition)
- Imperial Armour Volume Two - Space Marines & Forces of the Inquisition, pg. 45
- Index Astartes: Centurions (6th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987) by Rick Priestley
- First and Only (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Dark Adeptus (Novel) by Ben Counter
- Monastery of Death (Novel) by Charles Stross