In an age of darkness, fools will grasp for any seeming hope that is offered them, like fishes will with bait.
During the Age of Terra, the bestial ancestors of man lived in packs, without which they were doomed to die alone. The forefathers of man dwelt in tribes and clans, each Human being an organic part of the communal organism to which they conformed. One of the worst fates to befall ancient man was to be exiled and cast out of the community, for what was man without his kin group? The rise of cities and technology would eventually diminish such natural ties, yet the organic bonds never disappeared even at the height of the Dark Age of Technology, when man in his error thought himself the master and remaker of all creation, including that of himself.
There have always been those who feel themselves alienated from society, those inclined to disagree with their congregation, those unwilling or unable to follow the herd. These souls, doomed to deviate, will often find themselves under intense mental pressure from the petrified order, rigour and terror experienced by leading a bleak life in the tyrannical Imperium of Man, for Imperial rule have long since developed into crushing individuality and free thought for the betterment of public order. Such misfits are as varied as they are malcontent: They may be groups barely tolerated to live for the sake of slave labour, such as mutants or the descendants of some ancient rebels. They may be people driven nigh-insane by exacting labours which they were unable to stand anymore, seeking an escape from their living hell, no matter what it may be. They may be people who have had their worldview shaken by some traumatic experience, or by thinking too deeply. They may be rich nobles bored out of their senses by rigid protocol and ennui. They may be failed students or members of aspiring classes lusting for power, influence, privileges and salaried state employment. They may be those who dream of a better tomorrow. Some may simply be weak-willed minds, easily led astray by the next person they meet. Others still may be of a more spiteful bent, unsavoury characters who feel unweclcomed by society and in turn reject society themselves.
Yet even such outcasts and deviants possess an innate need for a sense of belonging, and as such like will attract like in the seedy underbelly of cities and voidholms. Those lost to the flock by alienation will often seek radical experiences, pushing boundaries and abandoning mores and even sanity in a whirlwind of hedonistic partying and edgy experimentation among subcultures. In such a drug-poisoned morass of moral perversion, dangerous ideologies, harebrained sects and heinous thought of self thrive in that twilight zone where law and order seldom apply.
Thus it is that such deviants and malcontents tend to break with Imperial dogma and desert the Ecclesiarchal flock to which they once belonged, drifting ever more down pathways to damnation. Many may eventually find a new community in the myriad of obscure and illegal groups infesting mankind's urban centers like so many rashes and boils. Here, dropouts of society and those who refuse to fit in will be scooped up and processed by a veritable jungle of sects, dodgy clubs, forbidden movements, secret societies, orgy circles, mystery cults and weird gangs. There, they will be exposed to a whole new world of banished belief systems, exotic talk, underground presses, suppressed lore and heady ideas. Thus twisted grills will be put in the heads of new members, usually denying the Imperial Creed and spitting upon the Emperor's sacrifice.
Such are the paths that lead waywards into the clutches of such heretical cells as murderous Death Cults, crazed Chaos sects and hybridizing Genestealer Cults. A recent development out on the Eastern Fringe have also seen growing numbers of Humans won over by the insidious persuasion of stunningly eloquent Water Caste agents and their propaganda material advertising the grand benevolence of the Greater Good. Such foul apostasy have seen subjects of the God-Emperor transform into xenophile Tauists, those fifth columnist sympathizers of a hostile alien empire.
Once fully indoctrinated into the movement, the deviants and malcontents will themselves go out and attempt to recruit others for their cause. Careful conversations in the street and workplace will serve as feelers to probe potential targets, to see if they are a good fit for the underground group. Once fine prey have been identified, an invitation will be extended, and so these illegal dens of discontent and subversion perpetuate themselves.
Bolder still will be those sect members who act the part of the rabblerouser, braving gruesome retaliation by approaching passers-by openly, holding speeches, handing out heretical leaflets in the street and practicing the art of demagougery at constant risk of spontaneous lynching or arrest. Such underground propaganda will be accompanied by treacherous graffiti and posters sufficient to land the vandals in dungeons of unspeakable torture and torment. By all manner of manipulation will these salesmen of fevered ideas try to spread the disease of their minds, and oftentimes will they clash violently with rival sects in the streets of cities and corridors of voidholms. Indeed, it is common practice for hostile subverts to inform on each other to the authorities, using their much-bewailed planetary oppressors and Imperial bloodsuckers as a means to wreck the competition.
Controlling what people read, hear and see is a powerful tool, and this is why independent mass media is such a limited and often nonexistent phenomenon in the million worlds and uncounted void habitats of the Imperium of Man. Most printsheets, vox-shows and pict-firms that do exist, do so in meticulusly circumscribed form, working under the heavy hand of censorship, never far from summary execution or far, far worse should they ever publish anything contrary to the wish of Holy Terra. After all, the existence of influential propaganda organs outside state control could pose a challenge to Imperial rule, through a daily grind of slanted reports, choosing to highlight particular happenings over others, lies, or outright omission of events and information which runs counter to the image which the chattering lot would wish to project. There would also be endless needling and gnawing critique of the powers that be, as well as the crying foul about supposed injustices and the subtle spreading of ideas counter to Imperial interests. Indeed such propaganda methods are usually reserved for the Adeptus Terra and loyal elites only. The Imperium know well the power of propaganda and obscurantism, for it utilize it as a tool of control all the time, and it will tolerate no rival centers of brainwashing.
Yet such a war of words nevertheless rage under the surface on most Imperial worlds and voidholms, for in shady corridors and grimy streets will be found men and women brave, foolhardy, fanatical, desperate or insane enough to speak up for their cause. A cause altogether independent from the concerns of the greater Imperium, and which often runs counter to the Holy Terran cause. Maverick sects befoul Imperial settlements everywhere, but the same is also true for the all too common separatist groupings that want to cast off the heavy burden of Imperial yoke from their homeworld or voidholm. Imperial territories are likewise rife with innumerable angry movements which spring up because of particular grievances (such as an outrageously greedy and ruthless tax farmer, or certain dictates hampering the livelihood of people), and these particularists are concerned with addressing and righting those issues alone, often loudly professing loyalty and devotion to the Emperor for the uncaring ears of Imperial Adepta and warriors. Obviously, any and all challenges to rightful Imperial rule must be crushed without mercy.
For the most part, the constant efforts of subverts and perverts to sway public opinion away from supporting the fearsome monolith that is Imperial governance, are doomed to fail. Stray recruits can always be gained among deviants, but true mass following is always difficult to obtain in a theocratic police state, even in one as marred by inefficiency, corruption and incompetence as the Imperium is. Repression and propaganda remain great strengths of the draconic Imperium of Man, even after ten millennia of bloated decay and rotten bureaucracy. For all the petty sloganeering and streetcorner rabblerousing which roach-like heretics and malcontents can muster, Imperial authorities, preachers and propagandists can answer with a colossal barrage of twisted messages, desinformation and rallying of support of their own, firmly rooted in the masses' upbringing having occurred under the all-pervasive Cult Imperialis with its zealotry and fiery oratory.
Nevertheless, heretics and enemies of the Emperor everywhere know that they can count on one thing above all others in order to gain converts like a ravaging pandemic: Imperial failings. Grand mistakes and shocking mismanagement by the Imperium of Man remain the surest source of new cult members, for nothing readies man to switch saddles and loyalties so readily as when he bears the full brunt of fresh hardships and misery. When a new great famine reduces millions or even billions of Humans to skin and bone, and puts their children into mass graves or cannibal pots, some embittered survivors turn. When the tithe grows crushing like never before, and sees thousands upon thousands of innocent, hardworking people dragged off into debt slavery and lobotomization for cyborg-transformation into Servitors, some will turn. When faults and negligence higher up result in dozens of districts finding themselves in the dark without electricity or drinking water for months on end, leading to a nightmare of desperate looting, panic, predation and harsh suppression by arms, people turn. When the Arbites torture and kill entire families, the lone survivors turn. When lives are shattered, those who have nothing left to lose will take the plunge and give their valediction to mainstream society, or at least its rulers.
Imperial cruelties and dysfunctionality is far more often the result of corruption, bureaucratic inertia and incompetence than it is the child of necessary evil and the overruling demands of defending the Human species in a hostile galaxy of total war and cosmic horrors. The evil that men do is eternal and inescapable, yet this abominable malevolence is unnecessarily multiplied and amplified a thousandfold under the harsh overlordship of the Imperium. And so it is that perverted manipulators will grasp any fertile opportunities to spread dissent by questioning Imperial legitimacy and haranguing the leadership of planetary elites or voidholm oligarchs. When the time is right, these hidden heretics will step forth and disrupt the cohesion of their culture and break down social control by venomous tongues and frantic action. They will infiltrate organizations and spread defeatism and doubt, and they will gnaw at the foundations of Imperial might.
Rarely are there as prime opportunities for subverts as arise in the worst times of crisis. Especially so in the midst of the most draining wars of attrition that are also accompanied by rampant and visible incompetence, military disasters, massive shortages and baleful starvation on the home front. Moulding minds are usually best done during childhood and youth, yet the views of people may be reshaped like clay when they are at their most desperate and thirsting for some kind of solution to their woes. When they are begging for someone willing to promise your desires, someone able to inspire and make you dream big, yes, someone able to electrify the masses. Someone able to step forth and take the lead.
And so the subvertive movements will manifest their will to power by passive resistance, boycotts, terrorism, assassinations and sabotage. Despite the lethal reply of Imperial authorities, there will be riots and the defacing of Imperial monuments, mob attacks on Imperial personnel in the street and the burning of Imperial scrolls and tomes such as debt registers and books of faith. Coups may be attempted, if infiltration and backroom deals have gone far enough. The surging tide of malcontents will rise into full insurrection, and the rebels will raise the banners of the their heinous revolution, simultaneously waging a gruesome civil war in the streets with loyalist neighbours and pious family members who refused to shirk from the righteous Imperium. Strife will play out, as it always has. Brother will slay brother, and sister will strangle sister in a madness of carnage and hatred.
Such insurgencies are usually put down with overmighty force of arms, followed by bloodthirsty eradication campaigns and massive purges. Yet some revolts do succeed, at least for a while, and manage to topple Imperial rule. Then it will usualy be shown that the alternative to Imperial oppression is just another nuance of violent tyranny and rampant corruption under different flags, as one set of rulers is exchanged for another one during the exhilaration of a brand new revolution. The new men and women at the helm will pursue selfish interests, or worse yet pursue utopian pipedreams with fanatical zeal and lakes of blood staining the hands of the idealists in power.
And so the worst flaws of mankind play out again and again, set to a choir of broken promises and stillborn hopes. Enemies are to be crushed, after all. And to gain support, it is advantageous to sell a false option. Hand the firebrands some grand words and an empty idea that they can believe in, and use those revolutionary zealots to suppress dissent and cement your power. Of course, to have power is when you are able to do something, and no one is able to stop you. Furthermore, power is intoxicating and addictive, and yesterday's dogged rebel that became today's leading liberator will often be tomorrow's toppled tyrant. As a learned man in the distant Age of Terra once opined: It is safer to be feared than loved, for the bonds of love are fragile and dependent on obligation which is broken at every opportunity for someone's advantage due to the baseness of man. Thus the arts of power are ones of cunning and cruelty.
And all this is to say nothing of the otherworldly hell-orgy or certain doom at the hands of the Great Devourer that await those planets and voidholms who fall victim to revolts of Chaos or Genestealer Cults...
Treachery, heresy and rebellion remain an everlasting scourge of His Divine Majesty's sacred domains across the stars, as the Horus Heresy and Age of Apostasy well attest to. Disunity and strife may yet prove the undoing of humanity, and so the Holy Inquisition will never rest in its mission to root out this disease in the body politic. It will find the taint and purge any suspected deviants with extreme prejudice. Inquisitors will scour entire star systems and leave billions dead in their wake in order to hunt down sects and eradicate the inner circles of heretical cults and movements. It is better that a hundred thousand innocents burn at the stake than one guilty man escapes the claws of Imperial justice.
Retribution against rebels may not always be swift or efficient, but it will eventually occur with overwhelming force and a titanic input of resources. For the Imperium of Man will eradicate any threat to its security and power, and it will seek to enforce absolute obedience and blind devotion to the Emperor on Earth in its galaxy-spanning dominions.
Thus decrepit human civilization in the grim darkness of the far future is ever plagued by those deviants and malcontents who would become subverts and heretics, and ultimately betray their species and lord. While all such traitors to the Golden Throne shall be exterminated in due time, the fact remains that ordinary subjects of the Imperator risk being entangled in lies and deceit of subversive manipulators. Honeyed words and harrowing revelations may be whispered in alleys, hooked bait waiting to snatch the unwary away from the God-Emperor's light. Who can you trust?
Hope is the first step to disappointment.
And so the Imperium undergoes an endless cycle of subversion, oppression, rebellion and retribution, for the enemy within must be obliterated without pity. Without remorse. Without mercy.
As despairing souls look for alternatives to the grinding nightmare of drudgery and callous violence that constitute life in the Imperium of Man, they see the paths presented by the cults. All dead ends.
It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is no escape from the hellish horror that await our species.