Captain Sorin rested his aching back against the interior of Katya’s hull. His overcoat hung open, and his view out Katya’s open ramp was painted in shades of grey. The weak light of Quentin III’s sun struggled manfully to break the cloud cover, but it was wasted effort. Not even the mud on this sump hole has color. Sorin fumbled for his lho sticks, finding them stowed in his dry inner pocket. He began to pull them out, unthinking. Light discipline! I can’t smoke these. He shoved them back, disgusted.
“Pardon me saying so, Captain, but you’re better off quitting those things.” The voice was only a mild rebuke, but it startled the newly minted Captain just the same. He turned to face the company’s Commissar, who was rounding the bend, an easy smile on a face framed by a crisp salute.
A relieved smile lit up Sorin’s eyes, glad for the distraction. He stepped out of his chimera’s hull, his hand brushing the worn aquilla just inside Katya’s entrance.“Actually, Commissar Price, I was reaching for my pistol to shoot you myself. I thought it a mercy to relieve you from this tropical nightmare that we’ve landed ourselves in. It must be at least ten degrees above freezing. Walk with me, I’d like to hear your morale report.”
Price nodded, his smile still in place. “I’d hardly call ten degrees above freezing ‘tropical’, Captain.” Price fell in with Sorin, and they toured the company’s section of the line, noting the men’s dug-in defenses. “The men are ready for the Eldar’s next push. Casualties were light, mostly from sniper fire. They have been at prayer, and they seem in good spirits.”
“I wish I shared their optimism. These Eldar have been like ghosts. I keep feeling like we’ve got them, and then they melt away like salted snow. It’s been two months of hunting on this hell pit, and we’re still no closer to pinning them down. At least winter is coming. I might actually have to buckle my coat.”
Price could see the strain on Sorin’s face. “The men are up to the task, Captain. I begin to wonder if the Captain is ready for it.” Sorin turned as if he had been slapped. “What the ipac are you talking about, Commissar?”
“My lapels, Sorin. You’re wrinkling them.” Sorin looked down; his hands had grasped the Commissar’s own greatcoat unbidden. Sorin released the other man swiftly, as if he was a scalding pipe. The men who had turned to watch them found sudden interest in their prayers and cleansing rituals for their lasguns.
Price seemed unflustered despite his wrinkled clothing. “Let me repeat, Captain. If there is a problem with this regiment, it is you. The men respect you, General Zedowsky certainly had faith in you.” Price stepped in close, closer than was comfortable for Sorin. “You’re afraid of losing a single one of them, Captain. And for that, you might lose all of them. It’s the peril of raising one from inside the ranks. You’re too connected to the idea of the 42nd as they were under the General’s command. Losses will occur, Sorin. There’s nothing fair about it, and it will come to rest unquietly on your shoulders. But rest assured that High Command, and thus the Commissariat, is unconcerned with your mental health.”
“I can’t just send them into the meat grinder again and again. To do so is a waste of the Emperor’s resources”
“And yet you must. If it means victory, you must be ready to sacrifice them to the man. Not heedlessly, certainly, but blood shed in His Name is the ink that writes the accounts of our victory. But don’t worry, Sorin. I did secure something for the company that might help you overcome your problem.”
Only then did Sorin note the truck pulling up. Full of men in filthy orange jump fatigues, it could mean one thing.
“Yes, Captain. Think of them as training wheels…”
Sunday, November 29, 2009
My Valhallans are going through a change, as I noted before. A newer (cheaper) commander was promoted to Captain, with the Colonel moving up in the ranks through field promotions. Penal Legion are being added, as are a Psyker battle squad and a new commissar.