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Old 11 Aug 2008, 20:08   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 9,807
Default Entry B - For Duty Alone

For Duty Alone - A Commissar Cain Short

I will be short in prefacing this section of the “Cain Archive,” by this time having at least a preliminary knowledge of Cain’s experiences in the Commissariat through previously released sections of his archive. It is a rare individual who has not heard of Cain’s exploits along with the 597th Valhallan as well as the 12th Valhallan field artillery from word of mouth alone. Much to his chagrin, Cain would be the first to say. However, I have selected the following excerpt for study for a couple of reasons: First, I inspired it, as you will no doubt note. Secondly, and more importantly the alien Necrontyr’s advances into the Imperium are occurring at both an alarming rate and frequency. What little evidence we as Inquisitors have has come almost exclusively from the encounters of the soldiers that fight them. And last, but most certainly, not least, I am freed from having to rely on the meanderings of Jenit Sulla for source material. As always, I leave Cain to tell the story the way only he can.

Amberly Vail, Ordos Xenos

“A perfect machine is both a work of art and a blessing of the Omnissiah, praise be His name. There is no such thing as a perfect human.”
—Tech-Priest Alofhyh

That the request came from the Inquisition made refusal impossible; that it came from Amberly Vail herself, I felt obligated to escort Jurgen on the shuttle to the rendezvous aboard the Relentless Assault in orbit above Degove Prime.

“Sir, are you sure this is necessary?” It may have been the first time Jurgen questioned a request of mine. His normally uncomely appearance was made all the more apparent by the gray tinge of his queasiness, whether from the shuttle trip or being assigned to assist an Inquisitor I couldn’t tell. It was one of very few times Jurgen had been assigned to a duty apart from me. I held up the dataslate and read part of the classified request as an answer.

“Blah, blah, blah, ah here it is. Guardsmen Jurgen is hereby directed to report to Amberly Vail, Ordos Xenos for special assignment.” I will admit the idea of having Jurgen assigned away was disappointing. As an aide he was first rate. Yet the prospect of being without his odour was not without its own appeal.

“I have assurances from the Inquisition that the operation will be short. Hop onto the planet, execute the mission, hop off. You’ll be back before you know it,” I assured him. Actually, I knew it was crucial for him to join Vail and her team. As a blank, Jurgen was a perfect cover to sneak in and assassinate the target, who according to Vail, had been able to psychically sniff out the three previous attempts on his life.

“Of course, sir.” Ah, good old Jurgen.

“Don’t worry, Jurgen, I will survive without you.” But if I had known how difficult it would be without him I would have found away to refuse even the Emperor.

Our shuttle docked with the Relentless Assault and Jurgen and I were led to the operations room, the whole time receiving odd glances from the crew around us. Whether they had heard of my unsubstantiated reputation or were awed by the aroma of my aide, I am unsure.

The operations room was large, but that didn’t stop everyone from huddling over the tactical holo-table where Vail was speaking. She stopped, tried to look disappointed at the interruption, though I knew better.

“Glad you could make it Commissar Cain.” My name brought a gasp from someone in the room.

“I would never deny the request of the Inquisition; you would find me and burn me as heretic.” A few sycophantic chuckles from group told me my undeserved reputation had preceded me. I noted, however, Vail and her two armor-clad bodyguards did not laugh with them. Meanwhile, someone had sidled up next to me.

“Commissar Cain, a pleasure to finally meet you.” He extended a hand. I took the proffered hand, trying to gauge whether we had met before.

“The pleasure is mine, Colonel,” I said, noting the rank. I little needed the rank, though, his pristine blue fatigues, polished boots, gleaming power sword hanging at his hip and augmetic bionic eye all screamed officer.

“May I introduce you to Colonel Rassq, Degovian Third Rifles,” said Vail. I nodded again. We went through the other introductions of the group, including the Relentless’ captain, Fronk Tuel.

“Well, let me then get out of your way, to prepare for your mission Inquisitor,” I said starting to move to the back of the room. I always seem to get claustrophobic when both me and my overly inflated character are in the same room.

“Always humble, Caiphas,” Vail said knowing how the familiar use of my name in the presence of strangers irked me to no end. “The Inquisition mission is complete, I’ll brief Jurgen on our drop planetside.” I felt my aide cringe at the thought. “We are going over the mission to Degove Secundus. I believe Colonel Rassq would value your input.”

“Indeed I would,” he said. I nodded and moved over the table. “What’s the mission?” The colonel leaned over the holo-table, pointing to what looked like a manufacturing city. “When we were evac’ing the city of Hallumbt, we noticed they had already built this,” magnifying the image and pointing to a something that must have been 15 meters tall and looked vaguely like some kind of focusing array. “Its not operational, but it will be as soon as they can get it running. We need to destroy it.”

“Who’s they?” I asked innocently enough.

“Necrons.” I gulped and made the sign of the Aquila without even realizing it. Colonel Rassq nodded at my displeasure. I forced myself to lean back over. Pausing to get a better grasp of the situation, “I assume sending in a squadron of Marauders is just too easy.” The colonel chuckled, “We could, but destroying the focusing array is the second objective to this mission. The primary is rescuing a Tech-Priest that stayed behind and we are going to pull him out at the same time. Tech-Priest Alofhyh will have valuable information about the Necron technology that we will need.” The palms of my hands began to tingle telling me I was missing something about this, but my conscious mind hadn’t grasped it yet.

I leaned back and addressed the group, “Well, doesn’t seem like anything a company of Astartes couldn’t handle.”

He laughed outright. “You were right, Inquisitor Vail, I do like him.” My puzzled look must have begged for an explanation. Colonel Rassq turned to me, “Inquisitor Vail recommended you very highly for this mission. I had already cleared it with your Lord General as you were arriving.”

My throat must have closed, thank the Emperor, or the ceaseless screaming I was trying to let out would have had me locked up in St. Ulien’s Sanitarium for the rest of my life. There was no way of backing out of this after the comment I made when Jurgen and I arrived.

“Tanna, sir?” Jurgen offered next to me.

“Thank you, Jurgen,” I finally squeaked out, accepting the flask he somehow always managed to have on him, “I will miss you.” I fully anticipated never seeing my aide again. The group looked over the table again, making the final preparations for the mission. I looked over to Amberly, you set me up, I mouthed. She nodded and smiled an apparently genuinely warm smile.

Amberly, escorted by her bodyguards and Jurgen left the room followed by Captain Tuel. I was left in the operations room with Colonel Rassq and his aides.

“Ah, I know you are just the person we need to lead this team. During the evacuation of the city, we lost many good troopers and morale is ah, well, you can imagine how the soldiers are less than enthusiastic about the mission to retrieve a Tech-Priest. Especially, when the frakked cog-boy practically refused to leave.” He mused in thought for a moment. “Well then, Commissar, I believe it is time to introduce you to them.”

Still looking for some way out, I agreed and followed him out of the room. We walked down to the hanger bay were I would make the drop to Degove Secundus. My bootheels rang crisply in the corridor, but surely were drowned out by the rapid thumping of my heart still lodged tightly in my throat.

It was a long walk to the hanger bay so I started up some conversation to take my mind off of my imminent demise. “That is an impressive sword, Colonel.”

“Oh you like that?” He withdrew the weapon from its scabbard and handed it to me.

“Its based on the Mark IV, but the balance is better,” I said hefting and swinging the sword.

“You know your blades, Commissar. It is indeed. I had it custom made for my promotion. The pommel has a Degovian Fire Crystal seated in it. Rather rare and precious. The handle is covered in the skin of a Rock Lizard native to the far moon of Degove Prime. The finger guard is embedded with the Rock Lizard ‘pearls’ which are small stones the lizards swallow, for digestion, I am told. The process makes them perfectly smooth.”

“I pray it serves you well,” I said to him, handing back the power sword, reluctantly. I was more than happy with my battered old chainsword, but it is nice to hold nice things.

As we approached the hanger bay, I asked Rassq, “Colonel, you earlier referred to the ‘team.’ Surely you mean to send a couple of platoons for each objective.”

“Not to worry, Commissar, they are all specialists, if a little unregimented.” Easy for him to tell me not to worry, He was staying here while I was facing an unknown horde of metal monsters bent on annihilating me. Well, they may not be bent on my destruction yet, but they would as soon as they knew we were there. And the Necrons had an uncanny way of finding out when someone was around. Not to mention, worrying is what kept my skin firmly attached all these years, and having grown accustomed to having it there, I said my prayers to the Emperor—knowing full well He was too busy to answer them—and went back to worrying about the mission I was about to embark on.

“And they’re volunteers,” he said. Giving me more to worry about. Volunteers meant they had frakked up royally, and this mission was no doubt punishment for their infraction. Whatever it was, it must have been spectacular to get volunteered for this mission.

We entered the hanger bay, where the Aquila lander we would take was surrounded by Guardsmen idling lazily by. I quickly counted nine troopers around some crates and one off by himself bent over a sniper rifle, decked out in a chameoline cloak he was all but invisible. I was unable to get a good feel for them when one of the troopers spotted us and hollered out, “Attention on deck.” Well, it wasn’t the fastest or most precise movements, but they formed up in a line, the sniper taking his time to sling his rifle over his back and form up with the rest of the squad.

The Colonel ushered me in, apparently delighted at sending us off into the approaching maelstrom as quickly as possible. Ah well, better get this over with.

“Commissar may I present you with the kill team you will be leading.” They too wore the same blue fatigues as the Colonel, but theirs were covered in sand, grime, dirt, and in some cases, blood. The flak armour they wore was tan. The incongruity of the uniform colours led me to believe they disdained camouflage. Lucky for me.

I smiled weakly at the line of troopers, then leaned over to the Colonel, “Where’s the rest of them?” I asked. He chuckled as way of answer, and began walking over to the team. Dear Emperor, what was ten men going to possible accomplish on a Necron held world? Okay, eleven counting me, but I was already looking for the largest trooper to duck behind when the shooting started.

The Colonel asked each of the troopers to introduce themselves, starting with the sergeant.

“Sir,” he snapped a crisp salute, “Sergeant Cykus.” I had this poor sap pegged for a grisly death as soon as we hit the planet. Thank the Emperor, I was horribly mistaken. We proceeded down the line coming to a young scrawny kid.

“Torch, Sir,” he said.

“You must be the radio operator, trooper.” I joked. He looked legitimately hurt by my apparent disregard of his nickname. “I carry the flamer, sir.” He practically mewled it. I moved down the line with the remaining troopers, coming finally to the sniper.

“Pull down that hood, Araleng!” snapped out the Colonel. I didn’t think the disrespect was directly at me, but that was beside the point. Even more so to Rassq. The sniper pulled down his hood to reveal he was not a he, but a she.

The 597th is a mixed unit, one of the few. Actually, it wasn’t even a mixed unit until I combined two separate unmixed Guard units in an attempt to quell an all out massacre that would have taken place almost immediately after my assignment to the brigade command. Despite seeming like mixing oil and water, it worked well due in part to a roughly equal dispersal of male and female troopers and the threat of being turned into a penal legion. I wondered how well it would work here. She was the only female and a sniper to boot. I maintained eye contact with her but spoke to Rassq.

“I wasn’t aware the Degovian Third was a mixed unit.”

“I have made an exception in the case of Araleng and a few others. Araleng here is an exceptional sniper, and completely competent trooper,” he responded. I didn’t break eye contact with her. She didn’t either. Neither of us blinked for sometime before she popped a perfunctory salute. I smiled and returned it.

“At ease, troopers,” I said and stepped back to allow the Colonel to brief the team. I already missed Jurgen. He would have been able to take the mission particulars and give them to me so that I could disregard them at my own leisure. Now I had to at least pretend to care how I was going to get slaughtered.

Rassq went over the mission, drop point, objectives and extraction location with amiable thoroughness. It appeared so, at least, I was lost in thought thinking how I was ever going to survive this to make Amberly pay for suckering me into this. My mind drifted onto aged Amasec, buttered grox steaks and the type of dessert I preferred when with Amberly when I noticed Rassq and the team looking at me. Realizing I missed a question directed at me, I said, “Sorry, going over some tactics in my mind.”

“No problem, I merely asked if you had anything you wished to add.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. Frak the cog-boy, and bomb the whole planet from orbit, was what I was thinking. What came out was more likely what they expected. “Only, we had better get moving, the Tech-Priest won’t get off that planet by himself.” I doubted if he would get off with us there, but I didn’t say that either.

“Excellent,” Rassq said, “May the Emperor be with you all.”

The drop point on Degove Secundus was outside the city in what was supposedly lightly occupied territory. The main Nercron force had swept through the city and onto more heavily populated urban centers. The majority of the Degovian Imperial Guard stationed on Degove Secundus was there, holding back the onslaught and evacuating the major cities. It was a dangerous task and I was thankful I was not there, yet at least they knew where their enemy was. Our drop was uneventful, one even Jurgen’s weak stomach could have handled. It was just before dawn when we landed in the desert about 2 kloms outside of the city.

We disembarked the Aquila, and I was happy to see the Sergeant issuing commands to secure the area. The pilot voxed me as he lifted off. “Sir, I am going to fly over our last known location of Tech-Priest Alofhyh. He’ll need to know you are on your way. I can’t vox him from here, sir, the morning solar wind plays havoc with the long range broadcast.”

“Negative, I don’t want to give the Necrons any more of a chance to know we are here,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, sir,” Cykus broke in. “The steelies probably already know. The pilot has his orders, sir. As do we.” I was impressed. I took a bit spine to counter a Commissar’s order. I had to gauge whether he was doing it to undermine my authority or because it was a valid point. I decided to let the Sergeant have his way this time. After all he had fought them on his home planet before.

“Proceed, pilot, but carefully,” I finally voxed back. “See you at the extraction location and don’t be late.” I said that mostly so he wouldn’t have to wait around to figure out we’d been slaughtered shortly after entering the city. It didn’t matter, however, we never did see the pilot alive again.

“Affirmative. Good luck out there, Emperor be with you. Lander 1138 out.” The Aquila took off and headed into the city. If the Emperor was with us on that mission, I think he was dozing at a few critical moments. I went to find the sergeant. The kill team had dispersed in a wide circle. I would have completely missed Araleng if not for seeing her boots under the cameoline cloak, which helped her blend into the dark sand barely illuminated by the rising sun. For I first time I noticed the wind, coming off the desert, was down right cold. Not Valhallan cold, but it made me thankful for my great coat. Cykus rose up to a kneel as I approached him so I squatted next to him.

“How do you want to do this, Sir?” he asked. He was irked I was there, no doubt. I had never seen a squad of Guardsmen happy to have a Commissar along for a mission. But I had a feeling Cykus was peeved because he anticipated I would get in his way. However, I hoped that by deferring to his request to send the lander on he knew I would rely on his previous experience in the field against the metal T'auk'cka'era. I do my best at the Schola Progenium to tell my cadets that it is not unwise to rely on your troopers to make sound decisions when they can. Blatantly going against every order issued for the sake of maintaining control of a unit will guarantee a lasbolt in the back before long.

“Give me your ideas, Sergeant.”

“We march to the outside of the city, should take us no more than a hour. Form a defensive perimeter, then rest while we make contact with the cog-boy. Hopefully he will have some idea about that damned array. I’ve split the melta bombs between three troopers. The rest are armed with frag grenades. We wait for cover of darkness, assault the position the make like hell to the extraction point. Hopefully we’ll be out before the steelies wake up to us being there.”

“I agree,” I told him, and it was a good plan. Didn’t make me like it any more, but it was sound. “One more thing, radio silence from here out, until we assault the secondary objective.”

“Understood.” Sergeant Cykus chirped the vox twice. The squad turned to look at him while he made two hand signals. I was impressed again. Cykus knew what he was doing. He and his team did not come across as “unregimented” as Rassq earlier implied. Furthermore, his somber attitude seemed like he was truly penitent for whatever it was that got him assigned to this mission.

“So what was it that got you volunteered to rescue the cog-boy?” I asked.

“Guess I killed too many steelies, sir.” He looked away, signaled to the two troopers on either side of him to get ready to move out when a burst of static interspersed with the pilot’s voice came over the vox, “ander 113…taking…priest notif…down…do y…”

We all looked towards the city. “repeat…do…copy?” The explosion was visible to us even at that distance. A trooper cursed behind me. With our lander gone, our extraction was impossible. Evidently this thought had crossed the sergeant’s mind as well. By the look on his face, he apparently took the pilot’s death personally. Or maybe he thought I would execute him on the spot for countering my order, and issuing the pilot a death warrant.
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