In some of the less desperate times following the reforging of the Imperium, Commissars would lose their influential role as an unofficial second commander within military units, and become militarily subordinate to the unit commander. Such downgrading of the Commissariat's status and powers were often the result both of military resentment against innumerable ineffective countermands of orders, and of intrigue among the High Lords of Terra. Within such periods of Commissar demotion, political officers would be deprived of any direct command in the field, and relegated to teaching, ideological instruction and other morale-related functions. Yet those times would inevitably come to an end, and grow ever more rare as the Imperium aged, and aged badly. Increasingly, the beleaguered Imperium found no space for such luxuries, and a stern and unforgiving agent of the Officio Prefectus with wide-ranging authority to cow the military would ever be wished for by the callous and paranoid masters of the Imperium. Historical occasions when full Commissariat powers have been reinstated to the Officio Prefectus have usually been accompanied by great purges, often led by vengeful Imperial Commissars themselves.

And so the steely gaze of Commissars is inescapable for members of the Imperial Guard and Navy. These venerated heroes of Imperial propaganda are likewise primary targets of fragging and of mutineers and traitors, ever the first officers to be placed against the wall in case of military rebellion. To desecrate the corpse, garb and insignia of an Imperial Commissar constitute a potent trophy of rebellious foes of the Imperium. Commissars have proven to be lynchpins of Imperial military morale and loyalty, just as they are crucial instruments of Imperial terror. The depraved methods and suspicious eyes of distrustful Commissars make them feared and loathed in equal measure throughough the Astra Militarum and Navis Imperialis. The Imperial Commissariat constitute one reason among others as to why so many human languages and dialects in the far future have single words describing a feeling of the lurking of inevitable doom: Valhallans, for instance, call it pizdets.

Outside the Officio Prefectus, there also exist a bewildering array of local Commissariats, overseeing Planetary Defence Forces, Voidholm Militias and System Defence Fleets. Local Commissariats may be found with authority over only a single continent or voidholm section, and they may likewise be found all across a sub-sector or even an entire sector, often doubling as yet another security police force. These local Commissariats are as a rule subordinate to the Imperial Commissariat, yet plenty of friction and inter-service rivalry exist between the two due to overlapping and conflicting jurisdictions, since Imperial Commissars down on their luck or in bad health are occasionally charged with overseeing the PDF and other local units for entire planets or even sub-sectors as an ambulating political officer. It is far from unheard of for Imperial Commissars to execute their local counterparts for stepping over the line, and it is likewise not a rare occurence for gangs of local Commissars or cadets in training to secretly make an Imperial Commissar disappear in an act of revenge for previous slights. Insults to a Commissariat's honour cannot be allowed to stand.

And so the political supervision of the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy has been effected by the Imperial Commissar, who has been introduced to most units and formations, ideally from company- to army group-level for the Astra Militarum, and ideally for everything from single escort vessels up to flotilla- and fleet-levels for the Navis Imperialis. Commissars overseeing the higher levels of Imperial command will often consist of a triumvirate or troika, with a Lord Commissar or some other rank of senior Commissar being assisted by two lower-ranking members of the Imperial Commissariat. Not even the highest generals or admirals are safe from the baleful glare of these extraordinarily brutal individuals.

One recent inspiring example of the deeds of an agent of the Officio Prefectus can be seen in the case of Junior Commissar Anemas Viriathus. Upon graduating from the Schola Progenium, the youthful Anemas was assigned in 987.M41 to oversee Teal Platoon of the Third Company of the 23789th Cilician Fusiliers, then deployed on the third moon of Chandax Primus. During his very first frontline tour, Anemas' assigned regiment was subject to a surprise assault from secessionist crater raiders, striking with such sudden rapidity and overwhelming fire support that several platoons turned and fled on the spot. Teal Platoon was no exception, yet the young Commissar reared it in by pulling his laspistol, calmly aiming and gunning down eight Guardsmen from behind while shouting admonishments and litanies of moral purity in order to shame the retreating soldiers to return to the fight. His bloodstained orations bore fruit, and soon the devotion of the men, women and juves under arms was rekindled, ready for Anemas Viriathus to lead Teal Platoon in a zealous bayonet charge into the teeth of the foe's crater raiders.

Against all reason and expectation, this suicidal attack by the Fusiliers hit home and bulldozed through the raiders' frontline command squads, in spite of a flurry of frag grenades and rapid autogun fire. The surprising counter attack of the Cilicians in Teal Company broke the fury of the crater raiders, who soon retreated in order to minimize casualties. Through the whole ordeal, Junior Commissar Anemas Viriathus had stood straight as a pinetree, bending neither knee nor back for the sake of cover, even as slugs and energy beams whizzed all around him. As Teal Company virtually wiped itself out in its blazing last charge, Viriathus led them, sword drawn, striding miraculously unscathed through the violent mayhem even as his underlings destroyed themselves against the most potent weapons of the enemy. The survivors of Third Company hailed the Commissar as a hero chosen to save the hour by the divine Imperator Himself, and soon the frontline was all abuzz as word of mouth spread the news with electrifying vigour and religious exaltation.

The first action of the Junior Commissar, however, was to stride back over the smoking battlefield, seeking out each and every Guardsman he had shot in the back during the panicked flight. He denied the still living ones medical assistance and made sure that they would not be accidentally saved by their comrades in arms, yet he also cut short their traumatic suffering by mouthing off quick mantras of redemption before beheading them on the spot. Their heads where subsequently bathed in acid, and the skulls were engraved with the High Gothic word for 'coward' on their foreheads, before being stacked like beads on a pole outside the bunker barracks of Third Company, morbidly resplendent and ready to greet new recruits as a warning example. Camp gossip that day claimed that Commissar Anemas Viriathus has seethed with indignant hatred and righteous fury against the poltroons, and verily had he steeled himself for the task of dismembering and disembowelling both wounded survivors and corpses of the cravens he had shot, when an inner voice like gold, majesty and angelic harps had wished him to extend the Emperor's Peace unto the undeserving wretches. And so the pious man had complied, and let justified vengeance rest for once.

Weep, children of old Terra, that this cruel, hateful figure is in fact among the noblest of your scattered sons and daughters.

And so the politico-military officers known as Imperial Commissars will labour to ensure the loyalty of military units to the Imperium. They will work to suppress fractious infighting and hinder Imperial military units from becoming associated with special interest groups with different and conflicting goals to that of the wider Imperium. They will endeavour to uphold morale and the purity of Imperial indoctrination. They will never cease to stamp out malcontents, spreaders of defaitism, rebel infiltrators, heretical elements and thought of self from the ranks. They will never hesitate to summarily execute shirkers and cowards, and they will never blanch at making a diabolical example out of poltroons. These men and women of abominable deeds will always be first in line to zealously undertake purges within Imperial military organizations, and woe betide anyone whom they find lacking. They are both feared, hated and admired, and the Imperial Commissars stand as true expressions of Imperial will made flesh.

For what is happiness but the feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome?

Thus abominable acts are committed by crude organizations within a rotting starfaring empire, the mass graves long forgotten, the victims eternally damned as rightfully purged. Where once ancient man strived to unlock the secrets of the universe and reshape human nature itself to a sublime condition, nowadays his degenerate descendants wallow in the dirt and embrace the evil that men do with shameless enthusiasm, and name it devotion. Where once all was a realm of shining wonder betwixt the stars, all is now a morass of misery and carnage, in horror unending.

We must ask, are these merely the motions of a doomed breed? The lowly spasms of a slowly dying empire facing an abysmal end? Is this a humanity stupid beyond redemption?

Yet it is not given for the part to criticize the whole.

In this universe, anything you do can get you killed. Including doing nothing. A great man during the misty Age of Terra once said, shortly before his spectacular death, that it is better to die suddenly, then to always be expecting death. Perhaps the best one can do, is to live life fearlessly, and to die in like manner. The brave man, after all, only die once. The coward dies a thousand deaths.

Know the horror that awaits us all. Mankind in the darkest of futures finds itself doomed to forever tread water in order to just avoid drowning, barely keeping its head above the whipping surface as it gulps for air with aching lungs and wild panic in its bloodshot eyes.

That is the best which the future of our species can offer.

All else is oblivion.

Vigilant be.