Ambulon is a bizarre sight indeed, claimed by many to be a hive in its own right. The entire city is mounted on the back of a machine that slowly walks across the unstable rocky regions in the center of Scintilla’s main continent. The machine is extremely old, and was almost certainly already on Scintilla when the Imperium conquered the Calixis Sector. It is probably a pre-Imperial artefact, constructed by a civilization that fell before the foundation of the Imperium, though some claim it is a relic of pre-Heresy terraforming technologies. Certainly the skeletal ruins of moving constructs similar to Ambulon dot the central steppes. Ambulon’s unusual form affects every aspect of life in the city, from the industries that employ its middle-class citizens to the city’s customs and folklore.
Control of AmbulonEdit
Ambulon is navigated via a huge and very complicated control center, powered by arcane engines of incredibly occult design, in the area corresponding to its head. The Guild Peripatetica, highly superstitious engineers who keep the secrets of how to control the citadel-mechanicus, are constantly scrambling about the intricate controls making tiny adjustments to keep the edifice moving. Many tales of hive folklore dwell on the terrible consequences should Ambulon ever stop, varying from the city simply collapsing, to the machines becoming self-aware and devouring the humans clinging to its back.
The noble houses quarrel constantly over what orders to give to the guild, but they are also well aware that they should not bully or otherwise cross the Guild Peripatetica lest the engineers point them towards a crevasse or other dangerous obstacle and hold the citadel to ransom. The path that the machine takes is crucial to harvesting the deposits of oil, natural gas and precious stones that form Ambulon’s contribution to Scintilla’s tithe, and everyone has an opinion about where it should go next. Ambulon stalks the wastelands, mining and harvesting the planet’s natural resources, supplying the manufactories of Hive Sibellus and the foundries of Gunmetal City. Neither could function without Ambulon’s resources.
Ambulon tours the steppe wastes once every twenty-eight months, slowing to minute speeds in order to dock with Sibellus and Gunmetal City for a few days to offload ore and mineral resources. Between these celebrated ceremonial times of docking, Ambulon supplies Sibellus and Gunmetal City by way of regular land trains: ore-cargo crawler pods many kilometres long.
Life on AmbulonEdit
Ambulon’s constant movement means that even the most solid buildings are in danger of being shaken off the city’s structure. This in turn means that the city’s wealthiest and most important districts are located in the places where they are least likely to be destroyed, especially along the city-machine’s Spine. The Spine’s buildings are rarely as big as on hive spires, since space is at such a premium on Ambulon’s carapace, nor are they as tall, as they have to endure the constant swaying of the city-machine’s slow, rolling gait. The style of the Spine sees elegance and even minimalism preferred to the grotesquely grandiose ornamentation common in the great hives.
The nobles of Hive Sibellus, in particular, consider Ambulon to be a cultural backwater, whose nobles neglect the proper pursuits of beautifying their city and venerating their dead. In particular, the practice of excarnation (the burial practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead, leaving only the bones) practiced by the people of Ambulon is particularly abhorrent to their fellow Scintillans. Ambulon’s equivalent of the middle hivers are the hundreds of thousands of workers who inhabit tenement blocks piled up on the vast, shield-shaped back of the city-machine. These tenements are plagued by cityquakes caused by the city’s movement, and are all shored up and extensively repaired after past collapses. Few streets run between Ambulon’s buildings since there is not enough space for them, so the middle classes tramp to work across the roofs of the tenements, or even through each others’ homes.
Almost all the middle classers are engaged in harvesting or refining the raw materials that Ambulon gathers from the igneous wastes. The “head” of the city is equipped with immense drills that can be lowered into the rock, and when the city strikes oil, thousands of flexible pipelines are lowered from the edge of the city to pipe up as much of the oil as possible as the city-machine passes by. Working on these pipelines, which are controlled by webs of chains like the strings of vast puppets, is very dangerous and requires a hardy breed of men and women with no fear of heights. Ambulon’s many refineries process this oil into promethium fuel, some of which is piped back into the city-machine, while most forms the majority of the city’s tithe contribution, to be delivered to Hive Sibellus and Gunmetal City.
Other citizens sift through the rock thrown up by the drilling to pick out precious stones, which are then worked into industrial components, or cut for jewelry in workshops inhabited by generations of gemcutters (considered a hereditary occupation on Ambulon). Ambulon’s lack of space means that every citizen must justify his presence there and unemployment is illegal. Each household in the middle city is tied to a particular refinery, workshop or other industry, and its members may not work anywhere else. It is vitally important for every middle citizen to be properly recorded in the Rolls of Justification which each place of industry maintains, because if they cannot prove to the authorities of the Spine that they are permitted to fulfil the role in which they work, they are banished to the Underbelly.
Ambulon’s “underhive” clings precariously to the belly of the city-machine. It is known by a variety of colorful names such as the Underbelly, the Guts, the Vitals or the Hivegroin. Clusters of hovels blister down from the city-machine like warts, connected by makeshift catwalks and rope bridges. Many thousands of people live only a footstep away from plummeting to their deaths towards the rocky ground that constantly grinds by hundreds of meters below. Underbelly settlements are often scraped off the city-machine’s underside by ridges or peaks that the city-machine walks over, or are simply shaken off by the city’s movement. Life is short and very difficult here, and the Gutscum live off the detritus of the carapace above, constructing scoops to catch the effluent and waste thrown off the edge of the city, or they form bandit gangs to prey on the citizens who work near the edge of the city-machine’s back.
One prominent feature of the Underbelly is the cages hung from the edge of the city above containing prisoners condemned to the much-feared punishment of “dangling”. The prisoners are locked in a cage attached to a long chain, which is then flung off the edge of the city-machine and left to dangle, swaying with the city’s movement, until the prisoner starves and the cage is hauled back up. Hundreds of dangled prisoners hang from the city at any one time, and the Gutscum sometimes use them as target practice or, on very rare occasions, “rescue” them to induct them into Underbelly gangs, enslave them or pit them against one another in bloody gladiatorial fights. Ambulon folklore maintains that some dangled prisoners have survived for months hanging below the city, thanks to divine intervention from the Emperor, and were released when the cage was brought back up again to live saintly lives. In practical terms, however, dangling is a cruel, drawn-out death sentence.
- Zentos Cyran - Wealthy and respected merchant; secret member of the Brotherhood of the Horned Darkness
The shroud is the common name for an integrated suit of heavy protective gear including a temperature-insulating under-suit and a heavy, hooded blast coat of polymer and ceramite-alloy weave. The shroud takes it name from the vast magma-fed forges of Volcanis deep beneath the surface of Mars, and has long been a staple of heavy industrial hives and forge world gear, not least in Hive Magnagorsk on Fenksworld where it is the universal garb of the foundry guilders, though it finds equal use in the industrial vaults of Gunmetal City and Ambulon.
The protection provided by the shroud is doubled against fire, acids and corrosives. Unfortunately, because of its substantial bulk, the shroud also imposes a –10 penalty on Agility Tests while worn. The suit also has a built-in rebreather and photo-visor.
Head, Arms, Body, Legs, AP 3 (6), WT 20kg, Cost 350, Average
Vertical Spindle Set
The outer walls of hive cities are often nightmarish drops that can see an unfortunate buffeted by howling winds and toxic gas emissions before falling for kilometres and smashing to death on their armored flanks. However, the very inhospitable nature of this environment can prove appealing, as it can often provide an unexpected means of access to restricted areas. The need to operate on a hive’s outer shell gave rise to the invention of the spindle-set. Originally said to have been invented by menial tech-wights of the Vertical Hives of far-distant Hilraxis, the design travelled to the Calixis Sector with a succession of Chartist Captains. Currently, tech-wight menials and Reclaimators produce varying versions of spindle sets in several different hives. These devices have proven particularly popular on Ambulon (given that the entire hive exists on a mobile shell hundreds of meters above the ground) and Sibellus. They have not caught on in Hive Tarsus, on the other hand, as the burning desert sun heats the outer shell of the hive to unbearable levels.
Spindle sets consist of heavy, reinforced gloves and boots, connected with feed-lines and power leads to a central unit worn on the user’s back. The gloves and boot toes have blunt plates attached to them—powerful electro-magnets, activating when pressed against metal surfaces and deactivating when pulled from the attached surface in a specific fashion. In addition, the plates can detach from the spindle set, allowing the wearer to lower himself on adamantium-weave monoline. Anywhere from one to all four of the plates (both hands and feet) can detach in this manner. This device allows the user to climb any ferromagnetic surfaces (such as most iron alloys) without using the Climb Skill at 25 percent of their standard speed, even upside down. Unfortunately, the clanking of metal on metal, however soft, does impose a –5 penalty to any Silent Move Tests. By detaching from the magnetic plates, the user can also lower himself up to 50 meters.
Good Craftsmanship versions of spindle sets have inbuilt compressor launchers that allow the user to fire the magnetic plates at distant surfaces and pull himself in. This is a Half Action requiring a Challenging (+0) Ballistic Skill Test, although in the case of particularly large targets (such as a wall) the GM can grant a size modifier or waive the Test entirely. Best Craftsmanship versions use monofibre hairs on the plates that burrow into surfaces, allowing the user to climb any surface. Poor Craftsmanship versions do not have detachable plates or monoline at all.
Cost 1,500, WT 20kg, Rare