The Spinward Arm Crusade

Priorities

Commissar Lund was a realist.

He walked among the tents of the 10th Dokkalgard Dragoons as they prepared for their mission, visiting each squad and giving words of encouragement to each. Lund was continually impressed by the skill and professionalism of these men. In his time since the Schola Progenium, Lund had served with several regiments, and seen combat many times, and he knew he was lucky to have been assigned to the Dragoons for the last three years.

And, he thought, they were lucky to have him. Lund knew of many commissars who took a much harsher stance, handing out punishment for very minor, or even imagined infractions, to keep the soldiers of their regiments in line. As a junior commissar, Lund had served under one such commissar, a great bear of a man named Crane, and on more than one occasion Crane had ordered Lund to lash guardsmen. After the first lashing, as he worked with the men of that regiment, it hadn’t been obedience or fear that he saw in their faces. It had been hatred. After being reassigned, Lund had heard that Crane had been killed in battle, but he always had his suspicions.

With the Dokkalgard, Lund took a much different approach. As common to their death-world upbringing, the men were cold and unfriendly to Lund, an outsider. While always short of insubordinate, Lund had always been aware of the gulf between he and the men, and had often fretted about what to do.

It was just after a major victory when he caught Draven and Miles selling their homemade brew. The men were in good spirits, celebrating the surrendering of the enemy after the Dragoons had captured several key locations behind the lines, and the pair of troublemakers were making a killing peddling their rotgut. Lund had dropped with the Dragoons and made a good account of himself, killing an enemy officer in hand-to-hand combat, and so was feeling pretty good himself.

Instead of disciplining the men, he made a deal. In exchange for Lund looking the other way, Draven and Miles wouldn’t supply alcohol during operations, and wouldn’t bring obscura or other dangerous drugs into the regiment. The two stillers had readily agreed, knowing that the deal was far better than a trip to the stockade (or worse), and had even thrown in a bottle for the commissar’s own use.

After that, word had gotten around that Lund was an alright guy. He still had to dole out punishment, of course. The Dragoons had nearly 3000 men, and no group that size was without sin, but with each transgression, Lund maintained a balance between the good of the regiment and the pursuit of justice. For for the most part, the infractions were minor- assault, drunk and disorderly, or drug abuse, and Lund believed the men of the regiment agreed that the punishments he assigned for these transgressions were quite fair, especially compared to those outlined in the Uplifting Primer. In fact, in his three years with the regiment, Lund had only had to make a single execution- a loader from G company who everyone had agreed was a little ‘off’ had taken liberties with a local woman.

Lund had performed the act himself instead of arranging a firing line- it was ultimately his duty, and unlike Crane, Lund would never ask anyone else to do it for him. He had worried that the act of killing one of their kinsmen could set back the progress he had made with the regiment, but it quickly became clear that, if anything, they respected him more.

Now, as he walked the camp, he was greeted warmly, the men saluting or even shaking his hand, and he traded banter with some of the men as they prepared their gear for the afternoon’s drop. Stopping for a moment outside one of the tents, Lund again reflected on how proud he was to serve with such sharp, professional soldiers.

Pushing the tent flap aside, Lund stepped inside and stopped, bewildered.

The five guardsmen of 2nd Platoon, 4th Squad, were in various states of dress, an empty supply box with the markings scratched out in the middle of the room. One trooper, his back to Lund, was wearing a bulky, non-regulation void suit and was struggling to get out of it with the help of the others. Why anyone would need a void suit while on planet was something of a mystery, as was where the thing had come from (although Lund had an inkling). The guardsmen all froze when they saw the commissar- most of the squad had recently joined the regiment and he hadn’t had a chance to interact with them much- Lund suspected they thought they were looking at their doom Holding in his laughter with all his might, Lund quickly mumbled something about luck and the Emperor’s protection, and quickly left the squad to whatever they were doing.

Chuckling as he moved on to the next tent, Lund resolved to spend a bit more time with squad B-2/4, partially because he was curious about the void suit, but mostly because he hadn’t had a good laugh in quite some time.

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