Feldwebel Ekontto of the Necromundan 1st was quite used to not asking questions. The remnants of his regiment were assigned to be the security unit for 17 Korps HQ. He had become used to being roused from his bunk for odd tasks by various members of the top brass. Now he and his three riflemen were stood in light drizzle guarding, preventing entry to, a field laundry in the wee small hours . His fire team were loosing sleep they would not recover whilst one of the scarier commissars, presumably, did his laundry in peace. Regardless of the oddness, the four men were alert and tactically aware; they were not men to be found wanting, no matter how strange the assignment.
“Commandant Colonel Welbahn wanted to know why we are here, in terms a little more precise than those described by General Zhukov. “ The slightly overweight Cadian in the unmarked uniform stopped talking.
Commissar Nissarawa peered over the top of his reading glasses. The innocuous looking Cadian didn’t blink in the Commissarial headlights as most would. But Token Nissarawa was undeterred, perhaps even a little pleased. After all, Sergeant Major Arra is an experienced interior guard operative. In some ways their unconventional relationship was flagrant breach of trust. Neither Lord Commissar Harris, Nor Colonel Polpodnik Michov, Sgt Major Arra’s Commander, knew of their liaisons. But they had met twice before, working for other men in other warzones. Theirs was an old alliance; it had made wars shorter and uncovered treachery.
The Commissar knew better than to ask the violet eyed man who he had been speaking with. Most people saw a slightly overweight unimportant looking man, possibly passed over for his commission. Crom Arra was almost always overlooked and underestimated.
Without his poker face cracking, a slight twinkle came to Arra’s eyes. The Cadian finished loading the damp uniforms into the large drier and somewhat ostentatiously set it spinning, the noise making it even more unlikely that anyone would overhear them.
“Two hundred years ago, the Prelate on Devos IV was a liberalistic, intellectual man called Simplatta. He was coming under pressure from redemptionist factions to do something about intellectual liberals. Nothing serious at first, just energetic debating.
Simplatta tried to manage the situation by increasing the knowledge of interdicted things lower down the Ecclesiastic food chain. He was counting on his Bishops and Gurus, the senior priesthood figures to recognise the potential danger and come down on their own congregations.”
Watching Arra sort though the damp clothing, Nissararwa realised that the Cadian’s eyes took in the details on all of the labels, not just garment care, but manufacturer, material and place of origin. Not much got past him, thought the Commissar to himself as Arra continued:
“They did what they always did, and pushed what Simplatta gave them out across their diocese. Simplatta still tried to manage by consent and loosened up existing restrictions on the various media, trusting that the effect would be to scare everyone who mattered into locking away any potentially dangerous knowledge.”
The Cadian paused, allowing the Commissar to draw forth the inferences.
“Over the next few decades, the office of Prelate yo-yo’d from liberal to reactionary, with each side encouraging the increasingly deregulated media. With each new Prelate, more and more freedoms were granted. By the time of the Quintelle/Vicorum incident, the media in Benq were all for pinning the blame on the Inquisition and so on. If not for the Praetorian garrison on the third moon, it would just another planetary civil war.”
A familiar enough story, thought the Commissar to himself. “Any idea why Colonel Commandant Welbahn is so interested ?”
“He was on the same initial commissioning course with General Horpan, the PDF’s C in C. And they shared time in staff appointments on Agrippina twelve years ago. I think our man is trying to get inside Danny Bloodcoat’s head.”
“Danny Bloodcoat ?”
“Colonel Daniel Horpan was the Commanding Officer of the 99th Regiment of the PDF, the ‘Bloodcoats’ before he was picked as a star by Maj Gen Firth, then the Planetary Governor and sent to Staff College, where he ran into Welbahn again.”
“Are they friends ? Enemies ?”
“From what I can gather, there is perhaps mutual respect between them; each knows the others background, training and career. I would not say there is any emotion one way or the other, more like well rated regicide players who have never faced each other before.”
“Nonetheless, you should make sure I know if the situation changes.”
Arra nodded his assent and stepped subtly back into the shadows. Their clandestine meeting was over. Commissar Nissarawa picked up his laundry and left with no further word.