by Chris Cook

"Colonel, an Imperial transport has arrived in orbit, they request permission to set down here." The Lieutenant held out a dataclip showing the transport's authorisation codes.

"Thank you Lieutenant, permission granted." With a nod the officer returned to the low shelter that contained the base camp's communications equipment, set off to one side of the area that had been blasted flat to form a landing pad. From beyond the row of tents on the other side of the pad a column of dust was approaching, resolving itself into a jeep as it neared. The vehicle swerved to avoid a parked Chimera, straightened out to cross the landing pad, then turned and braked, coming to a sideways stop a few metres from the Colonel.

Ignoring the dust kicked up by the jeep, Colonel Andrea de Rosa - known as Demure to everyone but the Administratum - approached as her adjutant thumped the driver's shoulder and jumped to the ground.

"Hey Jade," she said, "if you trash that jeep you pay for the replacement, you know that?"

"His fault," answered the adjutant, who wore captain's stripes over her improvised uniform. The driver, who had a data port implant in place of his right eye, shrugged without comment, prompting Jade to explain: "He saw a ship coming into low orbit. Is it?"

"It is," confirmed Demure with a grimace.

"Aw Terra," swore Jade, "why couldn't it just be an Ork fleet?"

"If we dust-off real quick," said the driver, whose faded uniform bore the insignia of the regiment's engineering officer, "we could probably make the jump halo before they could follow us."

"Tempting. But I'm afraid," continued Demure, looking up at the dim glare in the sky that showed a descending ship, "despite our best efforts we are to be graced with another regimental Commissar."

"Can't be as bad as Corinus," offered Jade, "I swear we might have lost the Allis perimeter if he hadn't caught a sniper round. Eh, Site?"

"He wasn't so bad," replied the driver, "what about Gravis? Dragging out some razormoth-eaten regulation about non-standard cybernetics. Just plug this eye into a targeter, I said, and I'll shoot the horns off a Nob's helmet, but no, if it wasn't in the book it wasn't good enough..."

"What happened to him?" asked Jade.

"Someone shot him during the battle over Dela Flats," said Demure, "got him right through the viewport of his Chimera." Site made a poor effort to suppress a grin.

"Tolvar was alright," said Jade as the transport ship burst through the low clouds and levelled out, "he never actually countermanded any of my orders."

"He was trying to, though," argued Site.

"His plasma pistol overheated before he could finish," Jade said defensively.

"Your pistol, wasn't it?" asked Demure.

"Well, I got rid of it. It was overheating."

"Standard procedure for an overheat is to yell 'cover'," said Demure as the transport thudded into the ground, "not 'catch.' This one's getting assigned to your section."

"Aw, why can't he go to the engineering corps," Jade complained, ignoring Site's exclamation of protest, "they're the ones who need watching!"

"A Commissar's place is with the troops," retorted Site hotly.

"Fine, just not with my troops!"

"Shut up you two," hissed Demure as the ship's hatch depressurised in a burst of air, "try to look like respectable officers. For once."

The hatch swung open to reveal the regiment's new Commissar. Demure took a glance and did a double-take, her skingraphs briefly fading into view in tones of electric blue - her equivalent of a raised eyebrow of surprise. Site quickly plugged a bio-eye into his data port, its lens extending slightly as he zoomed in.

"On the other hand," began Jade.

"Executive decision," interrupted Demure in a whisper, "the Commissar goes with the command group."


"I saw her first."

The Commissar stepped down from the transport's hatch, her long coat blowing around her legs in the wash from the engines. She strode quickly to the group of officers and saluted smartly.

"Commissar Natasha Steele," she said, in a clipped, precise accent, "you must be Colonel de Rosa. But you prefer 'Demure', correct?"

"Yes," recovered Demure, returning the salute, "welcome to the 101st."

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