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She felt a traitor for even thinking it. 

This wasn’t Sister Lynretta Lon’s first squad. Nor her second squad. The first she’d left shortly after joining. A reshuffling of personal as the Adeptus Ministorum was so wont to do. She wasn’t there long enough to form any bonds. 

Not so with her second squad, The Iron Thorns. They, under the steady hand of Sister Superior Korbilee, had been a family. United, strong, resolute. Scourging countless battlefields of the xenos, the heretic, until…

Lynretta swallowed hard, adjusted her bolter sling.

The until didn’t matter. Not anymore. The Iron Thorns were gone. Sister Superior Korbilee was gone. And now she was here, with an unlikely field promotion, working under a woman who was… she didn’t want to think it but she did: her commanding officer, Palatine Honna Zhen, was mad. 

Zhen approached her. “Acting Sister Superior Lon, that is our next target.” She pointed a gauntleted finger towards the horizon. The retreating Orks had fallen back to a hill, now bristling with makeshift gun emplacement. “Ready your troops.”

What troops? Lynretta thought. The squad, ten strong at the days outset was down to three, not including herself or the Palatine. Lynretta had only been made acting Sister Superior due to seniority. She hardly knew the names of her battle sisters, let alone the fire within their hearts. How could she lead them? 

“Is there a problem?” Zhen asked. 

“No sister.” Lynretta replied.

Zhen’s eyes, narrowed until they seemed to be a single dark line, blazing with infinite zeal. “We redeploy in one hour.” 

 When Zhen commanded them over this hill—which was nothing more than a mud drenched, shell pocked, corpse strewn zit on the surface of the planet—Lynretta had concerns. Concerns Zhen hadn’t given her time to voice. It was part of a pincer maneuver and, remarkably, the PDF forces forming the second prong of the attack had delivered. Lynretta wouldn’t have countenanced it if she weren’t there to see it. Her squad was over the ridge so fast, and the fighting so brutal, it seemed like a never ending stretch of firing, reloading, hacking and slashing in Lynretta’s memory. 

Now was the time to consolidate the ground gained. To wait for reinforcements, not to go charge a fortified position.

“Sister…” Lynretta began.

“One hour, acting Sister Superior. The Emperor’s work is to be done.” With that, Palatine Honna Zhen turned and walked away. 

The heretical thought rose to the front of Lynretta’s mind again. She tried to banish it away but could not:

Was it possible to be too devoted to the Emperor?