It is after a rather long deliberation that I have taken to release the following excerpt from the Cain archives, mainly as a means to address certain rumors, ranging from genestealer infiltration of a number of Imperial facilities in the Solar System to the supposed appearance of the so-called halo devices on Holy Terra itself, that have cropped up amongst fellow Inquisitors.
Unlike the previously released volumes, the events described within are relatively poorly known outside of the Ordo Xenos and the Orders Pronatus of the Adepta Sororitas themselves, as the presence of Cain on (and later under) Venus was entirely of my own volition.
For colleagues wishing to corroborate, an independent and rather more erudite account of the incident is located within the archives of the Order of the Eternal Gate, filed under Artefacta Obscura Segmentum Solar, volumes 23-196; however, especially due to the isolated nature of the incident, Cain's account, which I have taken the liberty to annotate, should provide a picture sufficiently comprehensive to all but those with an academic interest in the topic, or those plagued by insomnia.
Amberley Vail, Ordo Xenos
Looking back at the thankfully brief time spent with the Sisters of Eternal Gate, I have to say that unlike a number of assignments which, similar to a Catachan face-eater, appeared as harmless as possible until the sucker was too close, this one had all the markings of trouble right from the start.
It was shortly after the 597th Valhallan has played its role defending the world of Adumbria from the Ravagers fleet, an assignment which has left me facing a Slaaneshi daemon, a raging Khornate Traitor Marine, and a rather considerably less gifted colleague of mine, that I was contacted by Amberley while I was busy dealing with the more tiresome aspects of high squad morale, as exemplified by a number of disciplinary infraction reports that made their way past Jurgen.
However tiresome, I was not going to leave it to the local Arbites - dealing with such issues in person further reinforced my reputation as the commissar who cares for his troopers, besides, insisting on having a look at the crime scene occasionally led one to find a new, pleasant establishment.
My comm-bead came to life as I was flipping through the record of a rather violent bar fight supposedly caused by a certain Aria Lanford, (whom I vaguely remembered as one of our Sentinel pilots) and I couldn't help but notice the match between the surname of one of the injured and the Arbites1 filling the report.
"Hello again, Commissar."
Amberley's voice was characteristically cheery, and I'd be willing to listen to it all day, if not for the pesky detail that being the voice of an Ordo Xenos inquisitor, it more often than not bore orders threatening to decrease my life expectancy even below that of a regular regimental commissar.
"Hello again, Amberley. Did you get time off on grounds of a sudden lack of xeno taint this side of Segmentum?" I attempted a lame joke, trying to overcome the sinking feeling in my chest. What she let slip of her schedule last time we met, about a month ago by now, suggested she should not have been in this Segmentum, much less on this planet.
"As a matter of fact, yes. So, what would the Hero of the Imperium say to a holiday in the Segmentum Solar, accompanying a couple of fiery young women on a sightseeing tour?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"As usual, Commissar. Laspistol or one with bolts. Meet me in an hour at the starport. Oh, and don't forget Jurgen."
The mention of my aide, a man whose long list of qualities excluded hygiene or sociability and, as I have recently discovered, included being a psychic blank, made it abundantly clear that wherever we are going to end up will be a place best avoided. After a moment's thought, I played my last card.
"What about the 597th? I can not abandon my…"
"I have arranged the formalities with Lord General Zyvan already, and he was of the mind that the 597th should be able to sustain your absence for a few weeks outside of deployment without coming apart at the seams, though I think he'll defer to your expertise, and appoint a replacement."
"That wouldn't be strictly…"
The transmission cut off with a brief tingle of static, and no sooner than I got out a few choice curses, was I interrupted again, first by the aroma ,and moments later, the voice of my erstwhile aide.
"Do you need anything, Commissar?" One of Jurgen's more welcome traits was his eagerness to take care of everything that he considered unbecoming of a commissar to handle, which ranged from boiling tanna2 to acting as a barrier to the tide of paperwork associated with my position.
"Pack us up, we're leaving in half an hour. Amberley invited us to a trip and something tells me that taking your melta along wouldn't be out of place."
Jurgen shrugged, and set off to pack my suitcase with a brief murmur of "As the Emperor wills", almost a verbal complement to the gesture.
Leaving him to the task at hand, I tuned the comm-bead to the command frequency.
"Colonel Kasteen? Major Broklaw?"
"Commissar?" The two responded almost in unison, giving rise to some interesting sounding interference in the vox channel.
"I suggest we meet in my office, and reasonably quickly at that. There's been some… developments " For a moment, both officers fell silent, which was unsurprising - after all, the last time I called for an impromptu meeting, it was because I stumbled upon a Necron tomb on what was supposed to be a fairly simple recon mission with some added ambull.3
Broklaw was the first one to break the silence with a laconic "Alright.", followed in a moment by Kasteen's "I'll be there in about five minutes."
Cutting off the comm, I cleared out a part of my table, and grabbed a bottle of amasec from one of the lockers, thinking that breaking the bad news and parting with with the officers I at this point placed among friends deserved something better than recaf. Just how bad I had little idea, which is just as well, or I'd have downed the bottle myself, and legged it in the direction of the nearest warp-capable craft that was to leave the planet in the opposite direction to what Amberley has planned.
Instead, I followed by finding three reasonably clean glasses, and setting them on the table, at which point there was a knock on the door.
"Come in." I got up from the chair, and made it to the door to greet what turned out to be both of them. Colonel Kasteen, a trim, athletic woman with fiery hair and even fiercer temperament, and Major Broklaw, her executive officer walked into the room in tow. I gestured them towards the table.
"What's the matter, Cain?" Kasteen said, frowning as she took seat. "Something big between our troops on R&R and the Tallarn?"
With Beije screwing himself over and out of my way, and the surviving Tallarn sergeant's overblown account of my heroism on board of the mineral dredger, their top brass almost began to acknowledge the 597th as a proper regiment. On a troop level hovewer, the animosity was still running high, and the only thing keeping trouble at bay was the lack of opportunities - something I hoped would last until either regiment has moved out.
"Not that, unless the drunk hitting on one of our Sentinel pilots was Colonel Asmar in disguise." Kasteen laughed and I could see a grin spread through Broklaw's face as well. "No, it's just, serve yourself." I gestured towards the bottle, and poured myself a glass.
"Amberley has asked for me to accompany her to somewhere in Segmentum Solar, which means I'll be gone for a few months at the very least. Which means that the Commissariat will likely bless you with a replacement, and, while I don't think there are that many commissars of my former colleague's callibre, I figured you should still get a heads-up. I'll have to meet her in about three quarters of an hour from now."
I did my best to appear concerned, and I suppose that in a way, I was - a trigger-happy by-the-book idiot could quickly thin the ranks of troops I took time to build a good rapport with, and I suppose that if it can't be otherwise, I prefer deaths to accomplish a goal, usually the one of keeping me alive. Regardless, both officers have bought it in full. "Fair enough. I'll break the news to the troops, and I suppose we should get any disciplinary proceedings sorted so that the newcomer finds himself with a clean desk." Broklaw said, already eyeing the pile of data slates.
"Sounds like a plan," Kasteen agreed with a subtle nod. "We better keep an eye on the known troublemakers, too, stuff them somewhere for the time being. And perhaps we should have Sulla organize the welcome." "That should do the trick.", I nodded in turn - aside from equine features, the lieutenant had an attitude pretty much clipped from Tactica Imperialis and she used to be the quartermaster of the 296th, both of which useful in making the regiment appear in best possible light. Before I could add in anything more substantial, I was cut off by an intense wave of fragrance barely better than the contents of an ogryn waste bucket. "Ready to go, Commissar."
I turned around to see that my aide was holding a substantial suitcase, and looking around his melta and lasgun, I noticed that the volume of the pouches and webbing he wore over his uniform had approximately tripled.
"Alright." I took the decanter, topped up all three glasses, and raised mine. "To the 597th, may it do without me better than with me." It never hurt to play up the modest hero persona, besides, the amasec, though nothing like what the cabinet of the Lord General had to offer, was a reward in itself.
"To the 597th, and to your safe journey." Broklaw raised his glass with a smile, followed by Kasteen.
"To the 597th."
After they left, I topped up my hip flask with the remainder of the decanter, and since there still was some left over, gestured Jurgen to do the same. After all, even if I managed to return in one piece, if my replacement was anything like me, my office would be as drained as a power cell from a fung4's lasgun after first assault. Of course, the difference being that you can't recharge an empty bottle by throwing it in a fire.
A while later, we set off, Jurgen's robust driving style striking fear of the Emperor as represented by our scout-pattern Salamander, in the hearts of the civillian population, and nausea into the stomach of a particularly bored mechanic I pulled along to drive the Salamander back afterwards. We managed to arrive a few minutes before the shuttle from Externus Exterminatus could even be seen, something which left my aide beaming with pride and joy unmarred even by the prospect of impending flight.
"And there she goes." my malodorous aide pointed at a fleck on the sky which quickly grew in size and colour to resemble an Aquila-class shuttle. By the time we disembarked, and approached the pad, the shuttle has landed, the ramp slowly descending on the rockrete, and soon enough, I had found myself on board of the sleek vessel.
"Five minutes early. I see you're both eager for the trip." Amberley said with a grin. I suppose there was a grain of truth there in my case, though the cause of it was most certainly her dress - a dark blue robe interacting with a black, skin-tight Arbites-style body glove in enticing ways as she moved.
"Eagerly I heed the call of duty for she is the mother of Emperor's children."5 I replied with a blank expression, a performance rewarded by a bout of laughter from both Amberley and Pontius.
"Allright, ready for takeoff!"