The Order of Judicators is the dreaded secret service of the Imperium of Sidhae, the proverbial Spear of the Emperor (sometimes also less reverently referred to as the Surgical Knife of the Emperor). Engaging in a variety of missions from intelligence gathering and clandestine research to various forms of black ops including sabotage and assassination of high-risk targets abroad and at home, the Order has aptly been likened to a spear (or surgical knife) for it's reliance on quick strikes of surgical precision into the heart of the enemy.
The Order is unlike any other contemporary or historical national intelligence agency, nor are it's functions limited strictly to intelligence. If anything, it is structured more along the lines of historical monastic knightly orders, and does indeed have a strong quasi-religious element to it, from using historical ecclesiastical ranks to elevating the veneration of the Emperor to a literal religious worship level. In effect, the Order is something between a militant religious order, an intelligence/counter-intelligence agency, an elite paramilitary force and a holy inquisition.
The Judicators are deeply respected and feared throughout the Imperium and beyond, and for a good reason - a Judicator has the authority to commandeer the services and judge over life and death of almost every Imperial citizen, even the highest-ranking politicians and generals not being exempt from their scrutiny. The Order answers only to the Empress, and the sole exception to their authority is the Imperial Guard. With this authority, and their reputation as utterly ruthless and uncompromising champions of Imperial interests, the Judicators command such fear and awe that the mere presence of a Judicator on a planet is oftentimes enough to end most corruption and crime for the duration of his or her stay.
With a virtually limitless budget and very little restriction on how to spend it, the Order posesseses arguably the most advanced research facilities and technology in the Imperium (and probably the known Galaxy), having access to exotic prototype technologies too expensive, complicated and/or dangerous to mass-produce for wider use. The Order strives to recruit the Imperium's finest bodies and minds in it's ranks and ensure that these exceptional Sidhae attain their full potential in service of the Imperium. Thoroughly indoctrinated, extensively trained and upgraded with specialist augmentations often unavailable in any other Imperial service, each and every Judicator is a very formidable force on his/her own. Judicators specializing in assassination and combat are some of the most formidable warriors in the galaxy, trained, augmented and equipped to face overwhelming odds and supersoldier-level enemies single-handedly. Those specializing in combat support and scientific research have their mental faculties enhanced to rival supercomputers in processing power and speed. What makes them the most dangerous, however, is not their augmentations or training, but experience - even a freshly-ordained Judicator will have some 20 years of field experience behind him, more than most operatives from rival nations could hope to claim.
Structure and organization
Unlike a typical intelligence agency, the Order of Judicators is organized much like what it's name suggests - a monastic order.
The Order recruits it's novices by various means. Most commonly, they are selected by the Judicators themselves in the line of work. Traditionally, membership of the Order has been by invitation only - if being selected under circumstances where the alternative would be too dire or simply pressed into service under Judicatorial authority can be considered an "invitation". Nonetheless, being offered a position as a Judicator's apprentice is a very high honour indeed, so most Sidhae who receive such an offer usually accept it without hesitation in more than just fear of the consequences of refusal.
More recently, however (more specifically, following the Lenin Affair), the Order has been somewhat reluctantly forced to depart from the traditional process of recruitment by compiling a list of prospective candidates for new Judicators to select their disciples from, going as far as to openly recruit volunteers. The contact with the Mechanocracy and corresponding discovery of the existence of parallel universes made such a step necessary to retain the Order's capabilities that were already stretched by the ongoing conflicts with the Skargh Empire and the Federation of Mankind.
The fundament of the Order is a Judicatorial cell consisting of a fully-ordained Judicator and two to four of disciples bound to him much like squires to a knight. The Order eschews modern training methods for it's agents in favour of the more old-fashioned apprenticeship system, because it allows the master to train his disciples as individuals, honing their unique personalities and skill sets, developing them as individuals rather than a small part of a greater whole. A Judicator is defined by one's exceptional personal qualities and skills - applying modern methods suited for training masses of recruits to a single specific standard would be contrary to the very essence of Judicatorship.
Being an exceptional individual by any standards, a Judicator is free to handpick his team of disciples at his own discretion - the only requirement is that these individuals possess some exceptional useful quality or skill. As said before, the goal is to hone these disciples of equally outstanding individuals without adhering to any set standard. Judicatorial disciples therefore come from all imaginable backgrounds, from war heroes to death-row convicts - the only thing that matters are the specific qualities and skills they were selected for. A physically-unimposing programmer may be selected because of his exceptional aptitude for IT and recruited by a Judicator looking to put together a cell of cyberwarfare experts. A veteran soldier will most probably be selected for his impressive combat skills and more likely than not luck that enabled him to survive missions where others perished. Even a convicted mass murderer can make a good Judicatorial material because of his ruthlesness and casual disregard for taking lives. Whom exactly and why a master Judicator takes on his team remains at his own complete discretion - the Order doesn't care who does the job and how one does it, as long as the job gets done.
Cells are loosely aggregated in groups of 3 to 12 under an Abbot or Abbess, oftentimes the former master of the Judicators now running their own cells. This group, called a Convent, has no strictly-defined area of operation, it's cells quite possibly being spread out across the galaxy. The Abbot/Abbess serves as an intermediary between rank-and-file Judicators and the higher echelons of the Order, and will most likely be the only Judicator of higher rank that ordinary members will normally meet personally during their careers.
A larger Judicatorial division, composed of 3 - 12 Convents, is called a Chapter and is headed by a Chapter Master (or simply Master). Chapter Masters form the Conclave, the leading body of the Order, supervising and directing it's efforts according to the will of the Empress. The Conclave is rarely assembled in person, each Chapter Master normally working on his own and directing operations and projects of his own conception. The head of the Conclave is the Grand Master of the Order, elected by members of the Conclave and serving as the Order's only public representative. The Grand Master also holds a permanent seat in the Imperial Government, and the Twelve - the Empress's personal council of advisors.
While Judicators of all ranks are no doubt the most prominent members of the Order and number in the thousands, they actually make up only a small minority of the organization's total numbers. Much like historical monastic orders, the bulk of the Order is made up by non-initiate members. These "lay brothers" are known simply as Judicatorial servicemen - scientists, engineers, doctors, ship crews, marines, workers and other ordinary Sidhae conscripted into Judicatorial service under oath of secrecy. It is the daily work of these people that keeps the Order running, and while their service may place severe restrictions on their personal freedom at times because of it's clandestine nature, never being credited on their official record and being forbidden under pain of death to even be mentioned to an outsider, it is in the very least generously rewarded. A Judicatorial serviceman with a good service record can also expect to be fast-tracked for promotion when his service time with the Order expires, provided he does not desire to continue his career within the Order's ranks. Exceptionally talented servicemen who attract notice of their superiors may also be recruited as Judicatorial disciples.
Unlike most other Imperial organizations with a strictly-defined hierarchy, the Order is a much more "horizontally-oriented", decentralized organization, each Judicatorial cell operating independently and only rarely coming in direct contact with other cells. This is obviously for security reasons, to avoid a compromised agent exposing the entire organization. A Judicator will typically only meet four or five other Judicators on any regular basis throughout his career, and will most probably not even know who his superiors are other than that he has ones. Important research projects are similarly decentralized, various research teams around the Imperium pursuing the same goal independently and forwarding the results up the chain for compilation and use without ever knowing who receives them.
Beliefs and practices
The Order has a very strong quasi-religious component to it, as is attested by it's choice of name and the use of various ecclesiastic terms. It would, however, be entirely wrong to describe it as an organization of religious fanatics. In fact, Judicators strongly prefer more moderate, level-headed Sidhae over zealots in their ranks, since the very nature of a Judicator's job requires one to be adaptible, open-minded and flexible in both mental and moral terms. A downright Word-pounding zealot would find himself hard-pressed to resist his impulses when exposed to cultures, views and ideas that profoundly disgust him - which can easily result in compromising his mission. In short, the Order favors "faith tempered with reason".
Because deception and falsehood are inherent aspects of spycraft, a Judicatorial acolyte must learn to accept that he will inevitably have to commit various un-Sidh acts in the line of duty, and learn to distance himself from them. To do that, aspiring Judicators are taught various forms of meditation and instilled with the idea that their impure and sinful actions are a sacrifice to be made so that other Sidhae don't have to. Many Judicators who have ended up in the Order as an alternative to facing punishment for their crimes regard their service itself as a penance and a chance to atone for their past transgressions. The often un-Sidh aspects of their work are reflected in the initiation ritual that disciples undertake before their ordination. The disciples are required to undertake various symbolic acts of blasphemy and un-Sidhness, such as kissing with other initiates of the same sex, spitting at the image of the Emperor and shouting blasphemies as they proceed through a variety of humiliating and degrading tasks in order to retrieve the golden aquila pauldrons that will mark their status as full Judicators. These symbolic acts are meant to remind them of the degrading hardships that they will have to endure in service for a greater cause.
All Judicators are required to memorize the Word of the Emperor as part of their training, so that they never lose sight of the ideals they fight to defend. In this respect, they are similar to the Word Bearers, the fanatical preachers of the Word who serve to whip up patriotic fervor in the military and the general populace. Unlike the Word Bearers, who follow the Word's doctrines to the letter, Judicators generally avoid overly-stringent adherence to the tenets of their faith for reasons described before.
Fully-ordained Judicators generally refer to each other as "Brother/Sister", while disciples are expected to refer to their superiors as "sir/ma'am" or "master" in case of their own tutor. Given their high status in Sidh society, non-Judicators usually adress them with the honorific of "Lord/Lady".
A Judicator is expected to fully renounce all of his former affiliations, such as those of his clan, and become an impartial instrument of the Emperor's will. For this reason, many Judicators renounce all their personal names besides their given name, though this is not strictly always the case.
Judicator uniforms consist of light white powered armor with a white surcoat emblazoned with the Order's sword-and-tome emblem, symbolizing the purity of their cause and their strife to uphold and defend the Word and the Sidh way of life. This attire is a rather deliberate immitation of historical crusader knights. Disciples wear a single golden aquila shoulder pauldron on their right shoulder, signifying their incomplete training. This is referred to as "half-eagle". Upon completion of their training, they receive the other pauldron, going "full-eagle", i.e., becoming fully-ordained. Judicatorial servicemen wear similar white armor or uniforms with or without surcoats depending on their specialty, but without the eagle pauldrons. Despite the stereotypical association with such attire, it is in fact rare to see a Judicator in full dress (or indeed rare to see one at all). Given the clandestine nature of their job, Judicators actually will spend most of the time wearing civilian clothes with inconspicuous badges of office, or more often with no identifying marks at all, so the white-surcoated Judicator will generally only be seen on official business in situations where hiding one's identity is unnecessary (or where a sufficient impression must be left on the host).
The Order of Judicators is inspired mainly by the Warhammer 40k Inquisition and the Judges of the Judge Dredd universe, as well as the religious knightly orders of Medieval Europe.
The most oft-featured Judicator character in Frencoverse is Serena Romana, initially appearing as a secondary antagonist and later becoming one of the leading protagonists. Her former disciple Alain features as the early Altcanon's main villain.