Being a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the absurdly "grimdark" Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Cain series is full of hilarious moments.
Amberley's footnotes. Most of the time, they're strictly informative, providing perspective, illuminating context, or explaining terms. When they're not...
Cain: "I've only got room for one lethally dangerous woman in my life."
Amberley: "Which I choose to take as a compliment..."
Cain mentions being impressed at how much Amberley was eating; Amberley responds that she had been fighting genestealers all day, and was both hungry and tired. And besides, she only ate two of the snacks. And for that matter, they weren't very big snacks...
Cain describes how Amberley's displacer field teleported her out of the way of a bullet just as she was diving for a gun, but he heard a crash and "some unladylike language" from where she ended up, meaning she'd collided with a nearby table. Amberley goes into detail about how the displacer field preserves momentum (in other words, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out) and concludes, "It was a stupid place to put a table anyway."
Cain: "Bribery and threats are popular methods for getting what you want, but the Inquisition is better at both and tend to resent other people using them."
Cain and Jurgen are saved from genestealers by a mysterious figure in golden Power Armor, and Cain admits he was stupefied to discover it was Amberley.
Cain: With all due modesty, I have to say I recovered remarkably fast under the circumstances.
Amberley: So he says. I recall a distinct resemblance to a stuffed fish for quite some time.
From The Greater Good:
Cain: I'm not easily spooked(...)
Not to mention, the footnotes are chilly enough to sprout icicles whenever Amberley comments on Cain's experience with women.
In The Greater Good Cain gives contradictory facts about Lord General Zyvan's flagship. First he identifies it as a battleship, and Amberley, using the records, concludes it's the Retribution-class battleship Throne Eternal, then Cain describes Furies and Starhawks in the hanger (which a Retribution-class wouldn't carry, leading Amberley to conclude it's a cruiser). Finally, a line by Cain indicates that there are no dedicated fighter hangers, and Amberley assumes that it is the Throne Eternal and stop there.
Amberley: I give up.
In The Emperor's Finest, there are references to Magos Yaffel's much unread book Soylens Viridians For The Machine-Spirit.
'Then the prophet spake: saying "Frak this, for my faith is a shield proof against your blandishments".' Just the fact that a splinter cult worships Cain as the living embodiment of the God-Emperor's will at all...
Oh no, it gets better. At no point does Amberly state that these are heretics. This is an officially sanctioned splinter cult, authorized by the official church as one of the variant religions of the worship of the Emperornote This actually does fit in with the philosophy of the church's Thorian sect; whether this makes it less funny or more is for you to decide.
Even in the grim darkness of the far future, people stepping on rakes is good for a laugh.
Medicae records for the district show no fatalities among the anchorites, although several were subsequently treated for minor injuries apparently related to treading on hastily-discarded gardening tools.
Also, even in the grim darkness of the far future, students still don't pay attention during class.
"Time to rendezvous with the troop transport?" I asked, turning in my seat to regard the double row of cadets, most of whom made a hurried attempt to look as though they'd been sitting upright and paying attention instead of playing regicide on their data-slates or swapping salacious holo-picts.
Anytime Jurgen gets behind the wheel. Duty Calls has some of the best moments, such as when Jurgen and Cain are idling outside of a landing shuttle, and Jurgen is ordered to "get aboard as fast as you can" and proceeds to drive the Salamander up the shuttle's ramp at full speed. Keep in mind, the Salamander is a forty ton tracked scout tank.
In The Traitor's Hand, Jurgen and Cain are running late and stuck in traffic, so Jurgen whips the Salamander around, drives it up a line of nearby stairs, past a horde of shocked Administratum drones, across a food court, and through a subway tram terminal, before slamming it into place in the parking space at their destination with a few inches to spare. As far as Jurgen is concerned, the Commissar can never be late.
Also in Duty Calls, Cain has to lay out the basics to a shocked civilian woman quickly and concisely:
Amberley gets one of these too in a footnote defending her psyker:
'Rakel isn't the easiest of people to get along with, and her conversation, not to mention her thought processes, do require some getting used to, but she's not completely insane. Besides her medication is generally very effective.
Caves of Ice has an excerpt from a children's book about promethium, with a footnote by Amberley saying she still finds the pictures of Pyrus the Flame immolating heretics to be amusing.
"The Wheels on the Bus" isn't quite grimdark enough to teach to Imperial children:
"The tracks on the Land Raider crush the heretics, crush the heretics, crush the heretics. The tracks on the Land Raider crush the heretics all day long..."
This little gem from a pre-chapter quote in For The Emperor, popular among commissarial cadets:
When in mortal danger,
When beset by doubt,
Run in little circles,
Wave your arms and shout.
In Caves of Ice, the notes taken of the meeting, which, Amberley observes, the functionary obviously thought would never be read.
Proceedings: Colonel Kasteen called the meeting to order. Then she called it to order again. Major Broklaw fired his bolt pistol into the ceiling, and the meeting quickly came to order.
Extra funy when Cain later saw the numerous holes in the ceiling and asked if the orcs had broken in.
His notes of the second meeting weren't at all helpful, since they were mostly concerned with how the light shone through Colonel Kasteen's hair.
Cain and his squad meet a witch, who uses her powers to appear as whoever they care about the most. He sees Amberley. Once he figures out it's a fake...
Probably the safest answer one can give. Unfortunately. note (If someone claimed or admitted to further knowledge, the authorities would wonder where they got that knowledge. So this hilarious response is, sadly, the best answer. And people wonder why the Imperium isn't doing so hot with the war.)
Dead In The Water:
"Who's been drinking all my bloody amasec... Cain's been here."
The Last Ditch: While Cain and Jurgen watch a horde of orks thundering towards them in the distance, Jurgen makes small talk about the weather. Cain tries to remember the last time he saw his aide look at all bothered by overwhelmingly poor odds, and comes up blank.
How Ciaphas Cain met Amberley Vail. It was most certainly notLove at First Sight, as he does not believe in such things, and can merely remember the exact moment he first saw her, with perfect clarity, even a century later. Cue his conversational attempts to not have a simple cabaret singer see through his every attempt at playing the "modest hero," Kasteen's silent mocking as they waltz, and a final attempt to impress the new lady friend... By voicing suspicions that the Obviously Evil Rogue Trader has to be an Inquisitor, which leaves poor Amberley visibly nervous and trembling—with what had to be a stubborn refusal not to burst out laughing.
After his near-death experience on Interitus Prime:
To my drug addled-mind, the voice sounded like that of the Emperor Himself, and I found myself wondering if I should have spent a bit more time in the temple and a bit less in bars, gambling dens and bordellos, but it seemed a little late to be worrying about that now. If I had indeed arrived at the Golden Throne, I'd just have to hope its occupant was in a good mood, and try to steer the conversation on to safer ground at the earliest opportunity.
He is, of course, joking here - or so I sincerely hope.
In The Traitor's Hand, there's a (relatively) minor Khornate invasion going on at the same time as the Guard is trying to ferret out a Slaaneshi cult. The Praetor of the local Arbites calls up Cain to deliver intelligence on the latter situation when he is very rudely interrupted by the former.
Vail confirming with varying degrees of subtlety that she and Cain have an intimate relationship.
Cain: Well, at least it seems Zemelda's in good hands.
Vail: I'm hoping she won't be the only one tonight.
Lazarus: I hope your interaction with the inquisitor has proven satisfactory?
Vail: It has.
By Cain's Last Stand, she's not even trying to hide it.
Cain: I've always been lucky.
Vail: Not always, but maybe tonight.
In A Mug of Recaff we get this glorious sentence that sums up all of the books (and is written from Jurgen's perspective):
As usual Commissar Cain had outwitted the heretics they were hunting with ease, leading the squad of Guardsmen assigned to escort him straight to the heart of the coven, while the bulk of the raiding force provided a diversion by attacking the heavily-fortified stronghold of the renegades.
The entire short story is a crowning moment of funny really.
The endings of Cave of Ice and The Last Ditch are hilarious. Both involve Amberley. The former being that Cain puts the moves on Amberley and that the night probably led to sex. She cut out the end of it for being a personal matter. The latter ends with Amberley giving Cain a new mission and she cuts out the swears that that draws from him.
Amberley (footnote from Caves of Ice): Cain's narrative continues for several more paragraphs, but since it only covers personal matters of no interest to anyone else, I've chosen to end this extract from the archive right here. Amberley (footnote from The Last Ditch): At which point the narrative abruptly concludes, with a few unflattering remarks I see no reason to repeat.
Amberley admitting that even she, writing with the benefit of hindsight and presumably having said person in her retinue for a fair amount of time by the time she's editing Cain's memoirs, that she has no clue what Zemelda's rather bizarre local slang actually means.