Last Son of Caliban: Tempering the Blade
Cain looked at his gathered Sergeants. Sergeant Uriah, leader of the Inceptor squad had half his armor off, his face grey as his massively enhanced body fought to recover from the wounds that peppered his shoulder and upper torso. The other Primaris sergeants stood tense, unsure even after the battle, while the older sergeants of the astartes stood relaxed, glancing around at the wreckage they had created, or watched the guardsmen collecting prisoners, or executing those too wounded to be worth interrogating.
Cain finished reviewing the battle on his display and looked at two of his sergeants. “Micah, Shamgar, your troops were excessively slow deploying from their transport, and re-embarking to displace. They selected adequate targets but took far too long shifting between targets once they had acquired one. Their accuracy was good, but speed is everything brothers.” Micah and Shamgar clenched fist to breastplate in acknowledgement of the rebukes. He turned to the next sergeants on his list “Obed, your men deployed too far from their Rhino to re-embark swiftly, they also kept firing too long after the order to re-embark was given.” Obed nodded sharply.
“Jonah, your men are equipped to take on vehicles, yet more than 40% of their fire was spent on soft targets while there were still tanks and bunkers to be destroyed. Rectify this. We can’t have Sgt Maacah punching out tanks all the time for us.” Jonah grimaced at the rebuke, clenching his fist to his chest. “Uriah, your men performed well, have them work on their reloading drill to better maintain their fire. In fact every Primaris squad spent too much time reloading, and frequently had two, three, or even four of their brothers reloading at once. Fire must be maintained brothers. We cannot be outnumbered and not firing.” He paused, eyes leveled at the assembled leaders. “Lieutenant Bors, set up a series of exercises for the vehicle crews. They need to be able to pick a route efficiently and there was far, far too much hesitation in their movements. Especially the Repulsors. They are hover tanks for the Emperor’s sake, how are Rhinos outmaneuvering them?”
He turned on the Guard officer who had tried to slink up behind him “And you Colonel. The plan was for you to wait until ordered in. My force cannot leave this planet unless there are adequate loyalists here to ensure security behind us. You endangered that with your early charge.” Colonel Peak looked at him a moment, face paling.
“Master Cain, you left my men none of the glory. Your plan would have had them sitting and watching while he only good fight in the campaign was fought. You would have us sit out the greatest battle and then spend a decade policing the hinterlands?”
“Yes Colonel, that is exactly what I would have you do, for if not your guardsmen, then my company would have to wait for another force to arrive, and that could takes years. You would have a company of the Dark Angels sit idle for years, just for your men to claim some imagined glory executing traitors?”
Zadok pinged Cain, no verbal message, just a chime for his attention. Cain looked closer at Peak, remembered he was dealing with mortals.
“But your men fought bravely and well. We would be honored to fight with them again. Your vehicle crews especially fought with determination, and your Ogryns were a hammer in the Emperor’s hand.” He said, struggling to find the words to mollify the Colonel.
“Thank you Master Cain” she said simply, straightening to attention and offering a flowery salute. Cain returned it with a simple gauntlet to his chest, turning to dismiss his sergeants.
Lieutenant Bors and Colonel Peak remained behind. Bors looked back and forth between the two officers and gestured for Colonel Peak to step aside a moment. She glared at him, before stepping a few feet away and passing on some orders over her vox bead.
“Master Cain. The new folks need… They need some balance. We all know they aren’t performing as well as the rest of the company. You’ve got squads whose youngest trooper has 50 years fighting the Emperor’s wars. Your oldest Primaris Sergeant has less than 20. Half of them are on their first campaign with a battle company.” The tough old veteran just topped over the Company Master’s shoulders, but his presence, and the weight of centuries of experience pressed down on Cain.
“Lieutenant, I’m not going to lie to these men about their performance.”
Bors held up a hand “I’m not saying to do that Master, but you should couch your criticism a bit more carefully. Your words could be a mace or a scalpel. You don’t need to crush them down, you need to cut out the weakness.” He paused a moment. “A leader can guide, or he can push. The Unforgiven need guidance, not shoving.”
Cain paused a moment. The spoke carefully “Guilliman brought back the rank of Lieutenant to fill in the gaps in leadership. He wanted line officers to lead strike forces, and he wanted leaders to watch the back of Captains who couldn’t see everything at once. The Unforgiven have not wholeheartedly embraced the rank, but I think, today, that you have proven his wisdom Bors. Thank you.” He finished haltingly. He looked down. “Tonight we’ll have a feast. You are right about one thing, this was the first battle for many of our Primaris in the Fifth. We will feast the start of the campaign. Celebrate their success; and afterwards I’ll have a word with the Sergeants.”
Lieutenant Bors snapped to attention; crashed his fist hard to his breastplate and spun away, already dictating orders to their accompanying serfs to ready the feast. Cain looked over his shoulder, catching Peak turning away “And you and your company commanders can join us Colonel. I am not skilled at the diplomacy and the art of dealing with our mortal allies. We are leaving you to a hard, long, difficult task, with no glory, you are correct. You deserve your moment of honor, and I regret my harsh words.”
Colonel Peak looked at him a moment “Thank you Master Cain. We look forward to your hospitality. With your permission, some of my men distinguished themselves today. I beg the honor to present them to you at this feast.” She paused, planning her words with care. “It would remind them of their glory during the long years ahead, remembering being presented to a Master of the Dark Angels chapter.”
Cain nodded. He didn’t fully understand the need but Bors had convinced him that he should listen to those under him.