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The Calixian Arbites often picture their role the way their Lord Marshal does: the Imperial Adeptus stands, inviolate and impeccable, above a great wretched mass that must be kept in order by stern law. While they are aware of the Arbites’ charter to police the operations of the Adeptus itself, and there are many records of the Arbites taking down individual Adeptus renegades, in general the Arbites turn their gaze outward toward the self-evidently corrupt and criminal Imperial citizenry. It is this focus that has given the Esteemed and Gentle Order a niche in which to thrive on many worlds of the Golgenna Reach, most notably the mining worlds such as Sepheris Secundus and Luggnum.

The Order is a mutual-support network for corrupt Adeptus officials. It has no initiation ceremonies, no distinctive garb, and certainly no hierarchy or leaders. Its bylaws are mostly encoded in unspoken understandings among its members about how to behave toward one another and what to expect of one another. They have no interest in undermining the Imperium or elevating themselves to lords and nobles, nothing so vulgar. The Order is the logical outcome of shrewd operators realizing they can collaborate to make far freer, safer, and more prosperous criminal lives for themselves together than they could apart.

Every member of the Order has been chosen because they have something to offer. Military Procurators divert tithed supplies, manipulate purchases, or introduce “specially tailored” systems for issuing Imperial Guard scrip that happens to require a massive increase in the size, resources, and, therefore, influence of another Order member’s Administratum bureau. An Administratum archivist might introduce retroactive “errors” into a bonded tithe-hauler’s records that pull the gaze of the Magistratum (or indeed the Arbites) away from the activities of an Order member in the Adeptus Astra Telepathica who is ensuring that tithe quotas for a neighboring system go out carefully adjusted. The Order members there will turn in a lower tithe than the planet legally owed and divert the rest back into the coffers of the Governor, who then will show her appreciation with lavish “donations” to keep the adepts in fine style, with any irregularities in her own finances concealed by forged religious donations courtesy of an Order member in the Adeptus Ministorum cloisters.

The Order is something of a different beast from the ruthless and openly violent private guilds or noble houses; an adept of any standing is someone who has learned how to slip through the vast Imperial bureaucracy like an eel in murky water, using quieter and more elegant tools to achieve their goals. They do best on populous and civilized hive worlds where the life of the elites is easier and scrutiny less rigorous, or on feudal worlds where the Adeptus enclave is an unchallenged power and an Order member is freer to make their own rules. They shy away from frontier worlds and warzones, where the grey bureaucracy that is the Order’s element is leaner and provides poor concealment. They also avoid the Adepta Sororitas and Adeptus Mechanicus, whose values are too at odds with the Order’s to be safe, and the Navigator Houses---while wealthy and eminently happy to dabble outside the law, the politics of the Navis Nobilite are apt to turn murderous far too often for the Order’s liking.

Potential recruits bring themselves to the attention of the Order by demonstrating intelligence, resourcefulness, and a suitably loose set of morals concerning their sacred oaths of duty (they will certainly have sworn a number of these during the course of their careers---the Order only interests itself in adepts with a high enough rank to be useful to the existing membership. Once a recruit has been suggested by a member of the Order and considered and approved by two others, the courting can begin. The approaches are always subtle and delicate, gauging the potential recruit’s suitability and willingness to co-operate while scrupulously avoiding anything that might actually incriminate them.

The most delicate phase is when the topic turns to corruption. So many things can go wrong at this stage: the subject may panic when they find out that another knows of their illicit dealings or refuse to believe that their interlocutor does not intend to act on that knowledge. Reactions upon learning that there is a wide, hidden network of criminals like themselves can vary wildly---some try to alert the Arbites in a fit of conscience, or some attempt at a double-cross, some attempt to attack the Order directly, others flee, and some refuse all entanglements and continue on their own. If the recruit sees reason and becomes a member, they are taught some of the simpler ciphers, code-words, and Order etiquette, and are shown, by way of a couple of carefully-prepared favors, how much they stand to profit from their new association (then are shown what the Order expects of them in turn). Few Order members know very many other conspirators directly; this is both a security measure and a deliberate tactic, since by keeping the identities of their contacts to themselves an Order member can broker deals and siphon off part of the pickings.

Of all the trans-planetary crime networks in the Calixis Sector, the Esteemed and Gentle Order is probably the least dangerous, both to the Imperium as a whole (the Order has a vested interest in a strong and stable Imperium that can continue to line their pockets) and to individuals within it (the Order generally considers violence vulgar and prefers to discredit and impoverish those they need out of the way). On the other hand, any Arbitor would agree that the Order constitutes the foulest imaginable crime against the laws of Him on Earth. It is not a question of who they hurt, the harm they do is to the oaths they swore to the God-Emperor and their crime is the violation of duty by one in whom the Emperor and the High Lords have put their trust. If the Arbites ever realize the full extent of the Order and the nature of the crimes they facilitate, the purge will be swift, ruthless, and bloody enough to become the stuff of legends generations from now.

That said, to date the Order has successfully kept itself hidden from Arbites scrutiny---its members are under no illusions about the stakes if they are caught, and take no chances on discovery. As a matter of policy no Arbitor, no matter how apparently pliable, has ever been approached for membership, and the slightest hint of Arbites involvement during the Order’s extensive vetting process will see the recruit dropped like a stone and never approached again.

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