I have never liked general staff meetings; it seemed like every one of them inevitably degenerates into a thinly veiled excuse to send me on some sort of insanely suicidal mission for the glory of the Emperor. That is the one thing about being a Hero of the Imperium which I have never enjoyed; just because you are capable of stopping a charging knarloc dead in its tracks with a bag full of marbles and the season 4 holodisks of Dropship Troopers, people not only assume that you enjoy such dangerous activities, but that they would be remiss in their duties if they did not put their best efforts into providing you opportunities to do so.

Of course, it was as much my fault this time as anyone else's. I was the one who had put the idea of performing proper reconnaissance into General Melchett's head instead of wastefully sacrificing guardsmen, a tactic that far too many generals seem to adopt when faced with a problem more challenging than opening a baked potato.

Despite my reluctance to participate in the bowl-shattering experience of being caught between Ork axes on one side and Tau guns on the other, years of experience dealing with being volunteered for unpleasant missions automatically kicked in and I reflexively adopted my best regicide face. I accepted the mission with a trite platitude concerning my eagerness to destroy the enemies of Man.

After a bit of discussion, it was decided that I would join a light infantry unit, which struck me as one of the more favorable outcomes; unlike scouting vehicles, experienced soldiers could be deadly quiet and almost impossible to spot. General Melchett's aid quickly introduced me to a Guard colonel, who to my surprise turned out to be the same fellow I had met aboard the transport ship. His face displayed a curious mixture of emotions, while his eyes glared daggers into Captain Darling. No doubt there was a back story of rivalry and hatred between the two; it is a sad fact that such tensions often exist between the command structure of the Guard.

"Well, I'm glad to see you made it out alive," I said in my best sympathetic voice, in an attempt to smooth things out. This succeeded in shifting the Colonel's attention from the captain to me, though he still seemed to be struggling to contain himself. While most people are impressed beyond measure when they hear my name, the reaction cannot be said to be an universal one. The fact that I am a Commissar means that fear of the strict discipline of the Commissariat follows in my wake. And while fame and glory does bring me many advantages, there are those have become jealous of my success.

"I heard you helped save a shuttle on the way down," I continued. "Colonel Kasteen spoke quite highly of your quick thinking. The Valhallan 567th is in your debt."

There is nothing like a bit of flattery for improving a man's opinions of you, though in this case it also happened to be true. The regiment would have suffered greatly without Kasteen's leadership, but even an outstanding officer like Kasteen was ultimately expendable. A blank like Jurgen, on the other hand, is so rare that he is simply irreplaceable. And aside from the loss to the Imperium he would have represented, I would have missed him terribly. Powers as a blank and utter lack of personal hygiene aside, he is a good friend, loyal soldier, and the only person I have ever truly trusted in my life.

"Well, you know what they say. All in a day's work, for Emperor and Imperium." The colonel shrugged in an attempt at indifference, though I could tell that he was positively glowing with pride deep inside. Captain Darling must have picked up on it too, for his face turned the most amazing shade of magenta upon hearing my compliment and his left eye began to twitch.

"So what was your name?" I asked him, gesturing for us to take the conversation elsewhere, and conveniently leaving Captain Darling behind us. "I'm afraid I never caught it in all the excitement."

"Colonel Edmund Blackadder," he replied, extending his hand. I shook it and then suggested that we leave the meeting.

"Why don't you introduce me to the scouting party while they plan a mission for us," I asked, eager to depart before the general staff could imperil my existence any further. Colonel Blackadder nodded and shot a very smug look at Captain Darling before we walked out of the planning room. Once outside, he quickly waved his hand and summoned a motorcar for us. The driver turned out to be a rather attractive young blonde, who gave us a crisp salute the moment she had parked the vehicle.

"Driver Bob Parkhurst reporting for duty, sir!" She said to Blackadder, who rolled his eyes and returned the salute without much enthusiasm.

"Take us to the regiment, driver," he ordered as he climbed into the car.

"Bob, eh?" I asked as I followed suit. "Odd name for a girl."

"Oh, well it would be, Commisssar, but I'm a guy," she laughed nervously. "I field strip my lasgun for fun, get into arm wrestling contests, and make rude noises in the lavatory and everything!"

I looked over to see how the colonel was responding to the odd soldier, and found him massaging his temples in exasperation.

"Bob, we are a mixed gender regiment," Blackadder said, with great irritation in his voice. "No one cares if you're a woman, so will you please stop pretending to be otherwise?"

Bob began to tear up and fixed her eyes on the road in front of us as she started up the car. "I just want to be a man," she whispered softly.

Blackadder buried his face in his hands as the motorcar sped off towards his regiment's barracks. I was rendered momentarily speechless myself, but quickly recovered and sought to repair the mood in the car.

"So tell me about your regiment," I asked as casually as possible given our driver's revelation. If there is one thing all Guardsmen share in this wide Imperium of ours, it is a pride in their homes. Inviting one to talk about his personal history is an excellent ice-breaker. Not only does it create the impression that you care about them, but it also allows you to learn details that might not have made it into the mission briefings.[1]

"Not much to say, really," Blackadder shrugged. "We were tithed from an agri-world in the Percia system and have been shipped around the sector for the past decade or so. Most of us specialized in scouting because the majority of our population spend more time chasing rabbits than heretics. It seems to have worked out for everyone so far, though."

The news did not do much to bolster my mood. Guardsmen recruited from agri-worlds tended to be just above PDF regiments in terms of quality, unlike troops from places like Valhalla or Cadia, whose cultures tended to take war much more seriously and, therefore, produced higher grade soldiers. Still, Blackadder's men had managed to survive thus far as scouts, so a dedicated reconnaissance mission was at least playing to their strengths.

Of course, if I had known where our mission would have taken us, I'd have ordered the driver to take us to the landing pad and boarded a transport back to Segmentum Command.

[1] Which Cain never bothered to read anyways.