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Dead in the Water (Audio Drama)

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Dead in the Water
Author Sandy Mitchell
Performer Toby Longworth
Publisher Black Library
Series Ciaphas Cain
Released 2011
Collected in Heroes of the Astra Militarum

Dead in the Water is an original audio drama by Sandy Mitchell, produced by the Black Library, featuring Commissar Ciaphas Cain. It was first published on June 7, 2011. The production was performed by Toby Longworth and directed by Lisa Bowerman.

Cover Description[1]

When Commissar Ciaphas Cain is sent to a river-world, he must deal with a dangerous enemy, an enemy whose true identity remains unknown.


This page contains spoilers for: Dead in the Water (Audio Book)

Amberley Vail of the Ordo Xenos presents a brief extract from the Cain Archive, selected from the period of Cain's career as an independent commissar (before his posting to the Valhallan 597th).

Cain has accompanied General Lokris's task force to Archipelaga, a Feral Ocean World that is stubbornly refusing to rejoin the Imperium. Thanks to the planet's unique geography - loosely connected chains of islands scattered across the ocean - the pacification of the planet is taking a while, but Cain has no complaints: the natives' primitive technology tends to rule out anything really nasty happening, and the dispersal of the islands means that any fighting is likely to be over by the time Cain shows up.

Over a pleasant dinner, Lokris mentions something that has been worrying him: a squad from a Vostroyan regiment disappeared without a trace, and now stories have been circulating among the natives of "Ghost Warriors" marauding among the islands, wielding lasguns. Lokris would not be so bothered if the Ghosts weren't raiding loyalist settlements as well as enemy camps, and worries that the Vostroyans have gone rogue. Cain, suspecting a relatively easy chore, agrees to lead the search for them.

He and Jurgen are assigned a patrol boat, led by a Vostroyan Lieutenant and a squad of Troopers, together with a native scout named Calen.

Before beginning their search for the "Ghosts"' likely hideout, the Lieutenant decides to stop for the night at an Ecclesiarchy hospital set up on one of the outlying islands. But when they arrive, the place is deserted. Investigating, they find that the icons of the Emperor have been defaced, and the priests and native patients have been herded into the chapel and gunned down.

Calen finds a trail leading further into the island; though reluctant to follow it, Cain decides he has no choice - the trail will be gone by morning. Even more reluctantly, he sends the Vostroyans back to the boat to patrol the shore, since they are incapable of being stealthy in the island jungle.

Following the trail to an isolated beach, Cain, Jurgen and Calen find the bodies of two native fisherman. Since the Ghosts have left witnesses before, he reasons that the fisherman saw something the Ghosts couldn't risk others knowing. He realizes that the natives saw where the Ghosts were headed - a nearby islet thought to be unapproachable because of a surrounding reef.

Cain voxes the patrol boat, but they are out of range. Glumly, he reasons that they have no choice but to paddle to the island themselves in a native canoe - since, if the patrol boat comes cruising around the island now, they are likely to be ambushed and destroyed, leaving Cain with no way to get back home.

The three men paddle to the island and find ancient stone structures that are not mentioned in any of the Imperial records on Archipelaga. In a ritual circle, they find the Sergeant commanding the rogue Vostroyans, who solemnly declares that they are doing the work of the "real" Emperor. He is about to shoot Cain, when Jurgen opens fire from hiding with his lasgun. The wound, which would ordinarily be fatal, has no apparent effect, and Cain realizes that the rogues have been corrupted and empowered by Nurgle. It takes several dismembering blows with his chainsword to finally put the rogue Sergeant down.

Cain and his party flee back to the beach, pursued by the rest of the rogues' fire. Miraculously, his vox-bead picks up the patrol boat approaching, which apprises him of a squadron of incoming Vendetta gunships. Cain orders the patrol boat to support their escape with its heavy bolters while ordering the Vendettas to bomb the center of the islet with everything they've got. The three escape the islet, while the air strike vaporizes the Chaos temple along with the renegades.

Cain reports back to General Lokris, who realizes that Archipelaga turned to Chaos during the Horus Heresy, and the Imperial Guard will have to proceed with much more caution from then on, since there's no telling how many Chaos temples, heretic cults, or corrupted troopers they will discover before the campaign is over. Cain makes a mental note to move on to another theatre as soon as he can find a plausible excuse to do so, while helping himself to a generous glass of Lokris's amasec.

In the middle of the night, Lokris sleepily measures the contents of his amasec decanter, and irately yells for his subaltern to fetch another cask - "Cain's been here."


  • The story takes place during the period of Cain's career as an independent commissar; in her introduction, Vail makes reference to other episodes during this period, chronicled in Echoes of the Tomb (Short Story) and The Emperor's Finest (Novel).
  • Vail is voiced by an uncredited actress in the brief introduction (possibly director Lisa Bowerman).
  • The designation of the patrol boat assigned to Cain and Jurgen is "PB-109." PT-109 was the designation of the torpedo boat commanded by then-Lieutenant John F. Kennedy during the Second World War; Kennedy's heroic actions in saving his crew after a Japanese attack were much publicized after the war, which contributed to his popularity and his election as President of the United States.

See also