It has occurred to me that the Imperium is on the brink of civil war. A while ago I found out, before 6th Edition was released, that the Space Marines would become allies of the Tau Empire, charged by the Emperor in the dying days of the Heresy to protect the evolving species from the predation of a hostile galaxy as they represented the Imperium’s greatest hope in defeating Chaos, the Tau being immune to the lure of the Ruinous Powers.
Now, rather than get drawn into a debate about the age of the Tau race and all that chuff because I don’t write the game, let’s just assume that this is the case. And seeing as Codex Space Marine chapters and Tau are now bum chums according to the new rule book there is clearly something going on.
The story goes something along the lines of a communicae is discovered from the Emperor to Guilliman ordering him to protect the Tau. Needless to say his sons immediately snap to it as do the chapters who follow the codex with any kind of rigidity. So now we have a divergence – a chunk of the Imperium including the Ultramarines and many, if not all, of its successors all following the word of the Emperor that not only goes against one of the basic tenants of Imperial society from before the Heresy but one of the corner stones of the Imperial Cult.
To put it more simply, mindless xenophobia is a corner-stone of Imperial culture and now the most honoured and revered Space Marine chapter and its allies are now offering comfort to the enemy.
This arguably makes them heretics. I imagine the Ordo Xenos especially will have something to say about what the Ultramarines and their buddies are up to. It’ll certainly give the odd Arch Deacon an apoplexy.
More over there will inevitably come a time when the Imperium chooses to move against the Tau and the sons of Guilliman and potentially other chapters will be forced to move against them. The odd Imperial Guard regiment torn to bits can probably be swept under the Imperial rug but for Space Marines to wage war against one another could catapult the Imperium into a new war and with it a new Heresy. This ties in with the rumours that either the next edition of 40k or a Forgeworld supplement will be set at the dawn of the 42nd Millennium and the Imperium is little more than armed camps with formers Imperial generals trying to carve out Empires and Space Marines at war with each other for one reason or another.
Needless to say from a gaming point of view it would allow gamers to play each other with their Marine armies without it being a ‘training exercise’ and commercially I’m sure won’t harm sales. But perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of it already. Space Marines who adhere to the Codex Astartes defending Tau from the likes of, say, the Blood Angels is something that no one could turn a blind eye to. As soon as the first shot is fired the Imperium would be at war and battle lines would be drawn very very quickly.
The funny thing is that I’m not quite sure how it would go. Presumably, once the Ultramarines were able to explain to their brothers that they were acting on orders from the Emperor then other chapters should side with them quite quickly. Certainly the likes of the Space Wolves and other first founding chapters would fall into line.
So the question stops being would there be a civil war – as it seems fairly certain – and instead becomes how long would the Imperial Guard last against 1125 (approx) Space Marine chapters if the High Lords refused to heed the message from the Emperor? The question also remains – how long would it last before either the High Lords surrendered or the Ruinous Power, Orks, Tyranids and everyone else descended on the Imperium and ripped it to be pieces?
These musings take me in one rather depressing direction – the days of humanity are numbered. Unless the Dark Angels can succeed in their task, that I prattled on about here, and kill the Emperor allowing him to be reborn. Chaos is moving and the Imperium is weak. It needs to set aside its dogmas and gather allies. Between the Eldar and its webway network and the Tau’s immunity to the lure of Chaos they are the only choice.
The Civil War will cast humanity down and only the Space Marines and those loyal to them will survive but an Astartes sacrifices his humanity for the betterment of his charges so will there be any humanity left at all?