Task Force Victrix, Short Fiction, Pt 2
Staring out over the parade field at Victrix Tertius, the old Commissar felt a smirk attempt to tug its way across his dry grey face. A lifetime of discipline barely maintained the rigid impassiveness expected of his estate.
Hundreds of young men and women, and some not so young, drilled on the practice fields. The simple martial spectacle warmed him as a platoon of troops ran by in formation to a classic running hymn, reworded for the current age…
Line a hundred blueys up against a wall, bet a hundred credits he could whup’em all
Ah, the preparation of the Emperor’s Finest…
No, he corrected himself, these troops aren’t destined for a Guard Regiment. What a woeful thing. These trainees were not even being prepared for a PDF, for which they would be over-equipped. They were for something altogether different.
Beat ninety-eight until his fists bled true.
The small office in the prefab bunker was pragmatically austere. Considering many of the field fortifications Commissar Wymark had entered over his career, this one was comparatively luxurious. Clean lighting, good air recirc, genuine naga skin cushions on the chairs that flanked a sturdy perma-plas desk. His appointment was to begin twelve minutes ago… sloppy. Still, the view…
Jumped back, back flipped and kicked the other two.
The door behind him cracked open.
“Commissar Wymark,” started a thin little man in flat olive drab uniform, “sorry to keep you waiting. The Chief is on his way up. My name is Oliver, can I get you a recaf while you’re waiting?”
“That’d be acceptable…” Wymark glanced over the ‘soldier’ before him, trying to pick out some kind of rank identification on his uniform, then finally settled on, “Trooper.”
A few more minutes passed and Wymark worked his mind to coalesce his arguments clearly, preparing to use them whenever ‘The Chief’ makes his way to the appointed meeting.
No, stop that, he thought, this is not the way to go about this. It was imperative to stay away from his expectations as a Commissar. After all, he was not there to 'boost their morale', he was there for the hope they provided him. Tough after these last dozen years.
“My apologies for the delay, Commissar Wymark,” a broad man with a genial smile and two cups of recaf greeted him from the door. “I was conducting an inventory of our stocks and someone forgot to carry a four. Free Captain Rolan Poitier, of the House of Beringer.”
He passed the coffee and offered a seat.
“Commissar Erasmus Wymark. Thank you.”
“Commissar,” Poitier began, “I can understand the interest of the Munitorium in our little operation, but, this is a … private … concern. I am unsure why you have been dispatched.”
Wymark sipped at the steaming beverage. “Well, I was not dispatched by the Commissariat, per se. But I did hear of this undertaking and felt it was in my duty to investigate. An army this size, being raised privately certainly would raise some eyebrows.”
“One would suspect.”
“One suspects.” Wymark let that settle with his dull blue eyed gaze.
“Commissar, please take no disrespect, and offer some if you please, I am a Free Captain, among the company of Free Captains with our kin and cousins about. While we’ve accepted induction into our household guard a sizable retinue, we are still acting fully within the bounds of our collective and individual Charters.”
“I see. And to what end?”
Most if not all of the geniality left Poitier’s handsome features, and the cold look of a lifetime negotiator took hold.
“Commissar, that is our business. In this case, it is specifically our business to redress that which the Munitorium and the High Lords have left unresolved. And again, that is Private Business.”
Wymark sat as rigid as he’d done since placing the cup of recaf on the desk. “I think you misunderstand my purpose here, and my questions. Perhaps I should have been less circumspect with my inquiry. I mean to suss out the goals of this army you are training. Why have you and your fellow rogue traders suddenly decided to band together and take in all these fine troops who could far better serve the Emperor in proper regiments?”
Poitiers leaned back slowly.
“These men and women come of their own volition. They could as easily see their local recruiter and join any regular regiment. Perhaps they see something they might do here that they would not do elsewhere. Some in our cadre actually are veterans who have mustered out and joined the family. We are simply improving the security with which we can carry out our mercantile endeavors in this dangerous part of the Segmentum. If that is all Commissar, I bid you a good day.”
Rolan Poitiers glowered for a few moments, expecting any time now the creaky old man draped in a black coat would get up and leave. Contrary to expectations, he sat, sipping his recaf. A full minute crept by.
“I recommend you accept my offer to join your… private security detachment as an Imperial Overseer of the troops.”
Poitiers eyes widened and he nearly choked on his own tongue. “I beg your pardon?”
“Captain, I may be old and appear enfeebled by my rigid ways, but I have ears, and more than a few friends. One does not survive in His Imperial Majesty’s Commissariat for seventy years on luck alone.”
“Is that supposed to be some sort of threat, then?”
“No, no, you misunderstand. I am volunteering my services to your enterprise. Without assignment from the Munitorium, I am volunteering. I’m a pensioner. I’ve been retired from the Commissariat for five years, I wish to continue my role in your private army, bringing all the years of campaigning to your mission.”
“You mean to attack the Tau conquered worlds in the Damocles Gulf.”
Poitier furrowed his brow, tugging at his lower lip. His wife would call this his fake-thinking face, good for negotiating a hard deal.
“Commissar Wymark, we cannot accept. Frankly, I can’t do with having an old Commissar ‘disciplining’ my household troops during a firefight. I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time coming all the way to Victrix.” Poitier then stood. Hoping that finally he’d get rid of this irritating old fool who thought the Commissariat had jurisdiction over the household troops of a Free Captain.
Wymark sighed heavily and stood.
“I know you mean to raid recently captured worlds in the Damocles Gulf. And not as a part of business negotiations. Many people in the local group are rackled by that damnable armistice. You are not selling yourselves specifically as mercenaries, but you have secured some creative trade deals with a number of local planets to provide arms, armor and rations. You’ve even managed to gain the approval to act by no less than three, typically conflicting, Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos.” He softened then continued, “Please, you must allow me to join this unit.”
The Commissar suddenly looked very, very old as the moment stretched. “I’ll take off my cap and sash, trade my coat for a flak tunic and take up a lasrifle in the line, but you must have me.”
“Captain, my grandson was with the Brimlock 19th.”
Realization smacked into Poitier’s mind, almost undercutting the exchange of just a moment before. This Commissar knew far more than anyone outside his immediate circle should. That the household regiments being mustered were intended to raid particular systems in Tau Space was a secret that was only vaguely hinted during recruitment drives. Not more than a dozen heads of Trader Fleets and a rarer few related Planetary Governors knew the true plan as yet. But, this old Commissar seemed to have just a good a reason as he for gallivanting through the Gulf.
“So you know what this really is, then?” Wymark nodded. “Alright Commissar, you’re in. Though I am certain we can find you something better than line-grunt duties.” The old Commissar smiled, eyes shining.
Poitier continued, “I’ll need to figure out how I’m going to sell to my crew that we’re taking an Imperial Commissar with us on a POW Rescue, but we can burn that bridge when we come to it.”
Last edited by V.Valorum; 01-27-10 at 03:30 PM.