A heavy silence hung in the air, pregnant with distant crashes and the far-off rumbles of ordinance. A long inhale as the Commissar turned away, hands on hips, served only to make the silence seem louder to the nervous Sergeant. A sheen of sweat glistened on her brow and she licked her lips nervously, not daring to speak. It was true that her unit was… high spirited. But their fighting prowess! They were the best in the field. And now more than ever, now with the uprising raging like a wildfire all around them, surely the most important thing was their ability to kill. Surely with cultists screaming over the walls, surely killing mattered more than uniform and the occasional rowdy release of tension.
Worse than silence! How could she explain this!? She stared straight ahead, not daring to meet the cold blue eyes of her superior. Death in battle held less fear for her than this dark figure, straight and unflinching with the eagle’s gilded wings spread behind her.
“Commissar, I thought…” Instant regret. How could she be so stupid to…
“Thought?” The snap was instant, her dark coat swirled as the Commissar turned from her pacing and bent until her face was inches away from the sweating Sergeant.
“So, you believe you can lead my troops without thinking?”
“Yes, Commissar. I mean no, Commissar, I meant…”
“You are not here to think!” She looked down her nose with disgust “You are here to follow orders.”
“Yes, Commissar.” The right answer, a sweet wave of relief.
The pacing resumed, metal heels cracking against the hard floor. To their regular rhythm, the Commissar began to speak. “You are a blunt instrument, nothing but a tool of our holy Emperor.” Her voice rose until the room rang loud with her cold indignation. “We are all nothing but his tools. We serve him through utmost obedience.” She glared sharply at the Sergeant “Utmost. Obedience.” Staring dead ahead, the Sergeant waited, then realised she was expected to speak.
“Have you served with the utmost obedience?” A cruel question, with the evidence scattered on the floor around them. She swallowed and forced open her dry lips.
“Commissar, I have tried to lead my troops as…”
“YOUR troops?” This time the response was spat more than spoken. A momentary grimace flickered across the Sergeant’s face. Words jumbled as panic crept icily up her spine.
“No Commissar, sorry Commissar, your troops Commissar. I only wanted to sa…”
“Do you deny the accusations of disorderly conduct levelled against you?”
“Commissar, I can expl…”
“Do you deny?” The breath tightened in her chest, a mustard cloud of stress. How could she deny? Every laughing shot of whiskey shared with her troops, every uniform infraction she had ‘overlooked’, all witnessed by the jealous stares of grumbling troops from other units, groaning under the boots of their more traditional sergeants. She led from the front. She was one of them, one of the soldiers. They followed her into the jaws of death, and in return she gave them their freedom. Freedom in exchange for the blood of the enemy. Surely at a time when the guns were audible even in this sound-proofed bunker, when the citizens raged and frothed and cut each other apart in the frenzy of rebellion, surely that was a time where nothing mattered but blood.
“Commissar, I have done nothing wrong. I have tr…”
“How dare you lie to me!” A black gloved hand snapped out and closed hard around the Sergeant’s throat. Shock froze across her face as the cold mask of her superior officer slipped for a split second, revealing pure rage and a dark blood-lust. Quickly as it came, the fire passed, icy calm settling back across her sculpted features. Only the gloved hand remained, grip tight as ever. It rose imperceptibly higher, lifting the Sergeant’s head until she was forced to stare straight into the chill blue voids of the Commissar’s eyes. When her superior officer finally spoke, her voice was low and cold.
“It is clear to me now that you have willingly allowed these infractions to occur”. She paused, looking the wheezing Sergeant dead in the eye. “Encouraged them, even.” Slowly, she ran a finger across the Sergeant’s blueing lips. “Emperor forgive me that I did not see it until now.” With that her hand released and the Sergeant dropped unceremoniously back onto the hard chair, head spinning, struggling to sit to attention. The eagle glared disapprovingly down. “It is time to confess your crimes”.
To be continued...