Seeds of Life Series

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TauMan
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Seeds of Life Series

Post#1 » Mar 03 2017 10:31

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Seeds of Life Series


This is the beginning of the new Seeds of Life Series. Click on title for introduction and explanation. Please enjoy these stories from your fellow members of the A.T.T. community, and be sure to give them your feed back. Nothing is more disheartening to writer, as when no one says anything. A high number in the 'views' box is great, but hearing from your readers is even better.

Nuni'qy -Thank you
TauMan
Last edited by TauMan on Mar 09 2017 08:12, edited 2 times in total.
Viro’los gu brath!
N.Y.A.B.X.T.T.

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TauMan
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#2 » Mar 03 2017 10:47

Unity and Progress
Riodan O'Oduffy a.k.a. TauMan


03.5 dec – MORNING
The two naked firewarrriors lay intertwined on the bed. The male Shas'la'Fo'en, lay behind his partner, the female Shas'la D'shi. Fo'en had his right arm around her shoulder and his face buried in her neck. At exactly 03.5 dec the lights came on as they did every morning in all of the cadre's sleeping bays. Shas'la'D'Shi removed her partner's arm and sat up in bed, 'It's time Fo'en. Did you sleep well?'

'I always sleep better when I sleep next to you,' he replied still lying in bed. Fo'en then placed his hand on her hip, but she did not remove it. So he ran the palm of his hand up the side of her taut muscular back and then down other side to the opposite hip. D'shi looked over her shoulder and ran her fingers through the loose strands of his long brown hair.

'Remember to remove your bed slippers Fo'en,' she said now tossing her own slippers one-by-one into their square footwear receptacle. Laughing softly she said, 'You’re always forgetting to do that!'

To Fo'en her laughter sounded like a joyful bubbling stream, and he never tired of it.

He now sat up on the opposite side of the bed, and removed each of his own bed slippers, tossing them into their own square footwear receptacle. Standing up he pulled on his physical training jumper, however D'shi was already dressed.

The first order of business was squaring away their shared bay, and then it was off to meditation and physical training. Meditation was held in the interior training hall next to the billet area. With the entire cadre standing parade, the command was given and the whole cadre took to the floor, sitting in the traditional manner. This morning's meditation was from the Yie’rla’rettan, and would be led by the cadre Shas'nel. Directly in front of them there appeared a wall length hologram of a sunrise over a desert landscape. The holographic sunrise occurring in real time as they recited their morning's sutra.

After meditation it was time for physical training. First came stretching and then callisthenics, to be followed by regime of individual running exercises. Fo'en helped his partner D'shi stretch, holding her leg up as she held on to his shoulders. Fo'en held her leg with both hands, and the tightness of her muscles and the smoothness of her blue skin pleased him. He enjoyed most of all looking at her face, accentuated by her soft golden-brown queue falling to one side; while her straight nasal slit made a perfect compliment to her amber gold eyes.

Fo'en looked into those golden eyes, but they did not look back at him.

After exercise came personal cares, dressing, and then to the dining facility for the morning meal. While dressing Fo'en helped D'shi with her environmental fio'tak regs, helping her pull them up over her thighs and then over her wide blue shoulders. Fo'en imagined her blue body beneath the suit as he ran his hands over the seals and junctions. Once he inspected her uniform he said, 'All is in order.'

D'shi turned around to check the fit of his environmental fio'tak regs. She ran her hands over the seals and junctions of the regs in the same manner as he had just done. Then standing up she ran her hands around his face to ensure the suit's seal. Her gloved hands lingered around his face, before she finally gave her assessment, 'Yes all is in order.'

'And mine?' she asked pointing at her face seal.

He ran his hands around her face to check the seal, but she didn't look at him when he said, 'Yes, all is in order.'

'We're ready then,' she said turning her back to him. D'shi would not look at him again for the rest of the rotaa.


***


Now the of them two joined the rest of their squad at the dining facility. Each of them took their preferred food and drink from a previously selected menu of nutritious offerings. D'shi had her usual kootai egg over nim'ko'nai with a cup of hot white tisan; while Fo'en had his usual, a small cutlet of textured bean protein with ge'ta bread and a cup of hot red tisan. D'shi and Fo'en joined together in the 'First Bread' ritual, and then began eating their morning meal.

Fo'en looked up and noticed another firewarrior from their squad, Shas'La'Vu'an coming away from the serving line with her tray. Vu'an had a darker more robust skin tone, like that of the night sky just after the sun has set. Her face was a perfect oval shaped face so beloved by traditional fio artists. Her glossy hair was the colour of midnight and fell in a long queue down the left side of her face; but her nasal slit was an exotic 'Y' shape, much like that of the famous Shas'O'Shas'erra. Her eyes however were of a deep amethyst colour. This morning Vu'an moved gracefully by their table, when she stopped just opposite of Fo'ean.

'May I join you?' she asked.

Stunned, Fo'en could only shake his head 'yes'.

Vu'an sat down and began her 'First Bread' ritual, before beginning to eat her breakfast of sliced vegetable and kootai egg roll with a cup of hot blue tisan. Fo’en was too distracted by her to continue eating, and so he watched Vu'an as she ate her meal. She paused, and lifting her head from her plate, looked at him.

'I hoped you would be sitting here,' she said looking at him.

'Xhmm...' he murmured, but his heart made a louder sound.

Vu'an scrutinized him closely and he felt his face grow warm. But then she picked up a slice of her vegetable kootai roll with her quick sticks, and gently placed it on his plate.

Fo'en stared down at the slice of vegetable roll, taking a little while to recover his composure. Then swallowing hard, he cut off a small piece of his bean protein cutlet, and then placed it delicately on her plate with his quick sticks.

'Do you like protein cutlet?' he asked glancing up at her.

'Yes,' she replied looking at him. Now Vu'an glanced over at D'shi, who sat to the left of Fo'en; but she was too busy eating her meal, and listening to the gossip of another female firewarrior. So Vu'an returned her gaze to Fo'en.

He looked at her.

She looked back at him.

And the two of them would look at each other for the rest of the meal.


05.0 dec – LATER THAT MORINING
The training schedule had the cadre in the p'gri'saal or training dome; for a high intensity battlefield simulation. The exercise called for a simulated insertion via TY-7 troop transports from a large AX-83 drop ship, against a Be'gel held planet. The mission was to secure a landing zone for a second larger force. On the holographic 'planet' the terrain was tork'ans and tork'ans of white-gold sand dunes, broken up by large formations of black rock; which were interspersed with patches of grey-green ground plants. Upon landing the cadre deployed in an open perimeter, each squad taking cover behind it's own rock formation. The TY-7s were then pulled back to provide covering fire or extraction as the need required.

The last words of the cadre Shas'nan had been, 'As always with the Be'gel, expect the unexpected.'

Fo'en was the anchor man of his squad's far left flank. On his right was D'shi and further down the right side was Vu'an next to their squad leader Shas'Ui'Ty're. The gap between their squad and the next was a mere four tor'leks wide, but was covered by the transport's two detached gun drones. Behind them, in a second defensive perimeter
along with the TY-7 transports, was the XV-88 missile team, two TX-77 missile tanks, and the cadre's XV-104. And somewhere in the sky above them, waited the cadre commander and all of the remaining XV-08 crisis suit teams.

Fo'en scanned the white-gold sand dunes with its horizon of pale pink sky. The black rocks behind which they were deployed seemed to pop up everywhere. Fo'en thought that all the rocks must have been just one interconnected mass. As if the landscape was made up of a massive block of black rocks, hidden just beneath the sand. He looked up making sure to scan the sky above for any unusual objects. Then he took the time to scan behind their position. He could see at a distance of fourteen or fifteen tor'leks, a solitary XV-88 along with its two missile-shield drones. The suit's sensor array, or 'head', scanning the horizon from left to right.

<<Nervous?>> asked Shas'la D'shi across his intercom link.

<<No, watchful,>> he replied link shifting his weight away from her.

Fo'en looked left and noticed that one gun drone was more than a tor'lek off the ground, keeping its pulse carbines aimed at the horizon. The other was only a few tor'lis off the ground, and seemed to be slowly scanning the ground closer in. He watched as the drone slowly rotated to face the rear and then moved forward half-a-tor'lek, only to then stop. Fo'en took the cue and turned to look behind him again.

<<Do you see something Shas'la Fo'en?>> asked Shas'Ui'Ty're.

<<Just following the drone's lead Shas'ui,>> he answered.

Less than ten tor'leks behind them was a line of low grey-green shrubs, some barely rising above the level of the sand. Occasionally there was a taller plant stem rising above the rest of the shrubbery. It dawned on Fo'en that these taller stalks rose up at too regular of an interval. The second drone suddenly shot up into the air, at the same time Fo'en thought he saw a pair of eyes staring back at him from a stalk of grey-green shrub.

The detonation of the photon grenades roused the hidden Be'gel out of the sand.

'WAAAGH!' screamed the Be'gel as they heaved their green bodies out of the sand and rushed the squad. A large 'Nob' headed directly for Fo'en.

<<Enemy to the rear! Enemy to the rear! Enemy infantry within the perimeter!>> shouted Fo'en commencing rapid fire.


***


The main engagement went on and off for the better part of two decs. The Be'gel hidden in the sand were only a diversion, as the bulk of the green aliens were hidden in the sand far out beyond the perimeter. They had everything hidden: Boyz, Buggies, Bikes, Trukks, War trakks, and of course more Boyz. The only thing that saved the cadre was that the Be'gel came at them so haphazardly. The cadre was therefore able to recover slightly before each new attack. Still it took the insertion of the Shas'el and her crisis suit teams to prevent a total rout.

The Be'gel 'Tank-Bustas' team however had still managed to reach the XV-104 and detonate the its Nova reactor. The explosion and concussion were incredible; and the carnage visited on the cadre was horrific. Much, much too real thought Fo'en for any training simulation. In the chaos of the engagement a Be'gel earth caste engineer, or 'Big Mek,' and his team of 'Spanna Boyz', got so close enough to take out both of the TX-77 missile tanks. But they were gunned down as they tried to strip the two tanks of everything that was useful, and not so useful. The cadre also lost two of its three XV-88s to 'Burna Boyz', who then took out an entire squad of firewarriors in a single tsunami of flame. Again, much too real for Fo'en.

At present the remnants of the cadre sat waiting to be evacuated, as another cadre had arrived to take their place. The location was just inside the perimeter and adjacent to the destroyed missile tanks. Half of Fo'en's squad were casualties: four killed and two wounded. Those killed included Shas'Ui'Ty're and Shas'La'D'shi, and the wounded included both he and Shas'La'Vu'an. Fo'en had his left arm in a sling, after sustaining a 'broken shoulder blade' when a Nob sliced his arm shield in half. Vu'an however was not so lucky, and she suffered an 'injured right leg' due to being shot at close range with a Grot 'six-shoota'. To add insult to injury the same Be'gel who had wielded the primitive firearm also injured the same leg by 'biting' it.

Presently Fo'en and Vu'an found themselves guarding their 'dead' comrades, who had all been replaced by holographic bodies. The actual deceased squad members having been sent to H'kek'an, or the Land of the Dead, i.e. the training dome briefing room. In all likelihood, they were just sitting around and having refreshments, as they waited for the exercise to be over. Meanwhile Fo'en and Vu'an had to sit patiently with their pretend wounds surrounded by various holographic tank and missile parts.

<<Any word Shas'La'Vu'an?>> asked Fo'en keeping his eye on a dangling seeker missile that was swaying much too close to his head.

<<No word Shas'La'Fo'en,>> she replied. Then removing her helmet, she motioned for Fo'en to do the same. 'I've set my comlink to "receive only",' she said speaking out loud.

Fo'en removed his helmet saying, 'I also have set my comlink to "receive only".'

Vu’an put her helmet in her lap and looked at him saying, ‘I wrote you a poem Fo'en.'

‘A poem? For me?’

‘Yes.’

Then with her dark amethyst eyes looking into his own steel-grey eyes she recited in her melodious voice:
The huntress sought
the sapphire crane,
who stands alone
among the dark
brown heather.


Fo'en turned away his cheeks flushing a deep blue.

'Have I offended you Fo'en? Please, if I am too forward you must tell me!'

'No, your poem touches me deeply,' he said still avoiding her gaze. Then turning to look her in the eyes he said, 'It's just that I never knew you felt that way towards me before?'

‘I have felt that way towards you for a long time Fo’en.'

The signal that the exercise was over came across their comlink antennas, and the holographic simulations immediately disappeared. The remaining members of the cadre then got up and moved towards the exits.


***


8.3 dec – EVENING
After the after action review was complete, the cadre returned to the barracks to store weapons and equipment. Vu'an stood in line immediately behind D'shi, and as she handed in her weapon, helmet, and power pack, Vu'an asked her, 'Please Shas'La'D'shi, would you walk with me a little while?'

'Yes sister I will.'

The two firewarriors made their way down the hall towards the dining facility. Vu'an turned towards her sister firewarrior and asked, 'You share a sleep bay with Shas'La'Fo'en do you not?'

'Yes, but of course you knew that already. Why do you ask?' D'shi's amber eyes flashed with a golden light and she leaned in close to whisper, 'Did you want to know if he is taken?'

'T'ah, I did...,' replied Vu'an, who then said in a more serious tone,'...But the two of you also share a bed as well?'

'Yes, that's because Shas’La Fo'en sleeps better when he's next to...well next to someone. However, it is Shas’La'R'nan from third squad who meets my needs, rather than Shas'La'Fo'en,' replied D’shi looking down with a slight curl to her upper lip and a blue blush on her cheeks.

Vu'an saw her little smile and blushing, and so paused before speaking again.

'As for Shas'La Fo'en then, is there no female firewarrior who attends to his needs?' asked Vu'an looking sideways at D'shi.

'None that I know of?' replied D'shi now without her smile, but still blushing.

'Then may I ask, would you be adverse to his being reassigned to my sleeping bay?' inquired Vu'an using the informal inflection.

'T'eh?' replied D'shi opened mouthed.

'You say he does not meet your needs, and therefore you do not meet his needs correct? So would his reassignment then be acceptable to you?' asked Vu'an switching to the formal inflection and looking D'shi in the eye.

'Yes, if he meets...all of your needs,' answered D'shi her amber eyes darting from side-to-side. 'All is done in the service to the Tau'Va after all and...'

D'shi stopped for a moment to touch her right hand to her forehead, her face was now completely flushed, blazing forth with a deep indigo colour. 'T'oh, why not? Certainly then...well alright...whatever you want Vu'an...I do...do not...object.'

'Nuni sister D'shi,' said Vu'an stopping to bow formally.

'Nunco sister Vu'an,' answered D'shi bowing awkwardly in return.

D'shi looked up from her bow only to catch a glimpse of Shas'La'Vu'an, as she moved quickly down the hall towards the dining facility.


***


The spacious dinning facility glittered in the opulence of the fio'sorral artwork, as the firewarriors of the cadre waited patiently for their turn to be served. The dinner queue was long and ran straight back down the hallway, and Fo'en was almost to the serving line when he heard a voice behind him.

'Shas'la'Fo'en! Shas'la'Fo'en! Wait I must speak to you?' shouted Vu'an walking up to him briskly.

'Yes Shas'la'Vu'an?'

'Please come with me I need to talk to you.'

'T'ah, alright,' he answered stepping out of the line and following her.

'Do you like kweegee kabbobs? I'll pay for dinner at Kos'tas' Kabbobs?' asked Vu'an on the fly, her amethyst coloured eyes flashing pink with excitement.

Fo'en was unsure of what he should do next, but he relaxed when Vu'an touched his arm. The warmth of her hand melting away his anxiety. And he answered with, ‘Of course I like kabbobs.'


***


At Kos'tas they stood at the outdoor counter eating their kweegee and vegetable kabbobs. Vu'an, ever the disciplined firewarrior, held her news until they were finished eating. Fo'en, the ever disciplined firewarrior, refrained from asking her about it, until they were finished eating. Vu'an put down her empty kabbob stick and turning to him said, 'Fo'en, I spoke to Shas'La'D'shi and asked her about reassigning you...'

'Honee'mu! Honee'mu! said a diminutive but energetic earth caste woman as she dropped a large platter of fried red tubers in front of Vu'an and Fo'en. 'I brought you and your friend some fried tubers, sprinkled with our special Kos'tas seasoning salt, so you enjoy them alright?!'

'Nuni yiyi, nuni!' said Vu'an.

'And don't worry about paying for it Honee'mu, it's on the house!

‘Fio'Vre El’ee is everybody’s yiyi when you come to Kos'tas.’ Then with a laugh she added, ‘And she and her husband Vre’Kos’tas might as well be my grandparents, the way they're so good to me!'

Vu’an laughed as she dug into the red tuber slices; which Fo'en found infectious, and in spite of the fact that they were out in public, Fo’en joined in with laughter of his own. Eventually he forced himself to stop laughing long enough to ask, ‘You wanted to tell me something Vu’an?’

Vu'an stopped laughing and put down her fried red tubers and said, 'I asked Shas'La D'shi if she would object to you being reassigned to my sleeping bay. She agreed that if you met my needs, and that if I met yours, then she would not object.'

Fo'en looked down at the counter and toyed with his non-alcoholic beverage, 'I see.'

'Am I rushing you? I'm moving too fast aren't I?'

'No, no...I fine with moving in...with you.'

'So D'shi doesn't meet your needs does she? Yet you have no...'

'Yes. No one.'

Vu’an swirled a slice of red tuber in her cup of blue sauce unsure of what to say next. Then looking up into his grey eyes she asked, 'So you have no one because...you want D'shi to meet your needs?'

‘Hiya-te! No it's because I wanted to meet her needs.'

Fo’en turned away and dropped his head. He clinched his fists trying to control his feelings; but against his will, his eyes began to water up any ways.

Vu’an pulled him close, and letting him cry, laid his head on her shoulder.

‘My given name is Kinjuu'val,’ she whispered.

‘Mine is Su’kirsa,’ he replied through the tears.

When he was able to speak again, he lifted his head and took her face in his hands saying, 'Kinjuu'val? Why the Amethyst Maiden is an appropriate name for one whose eyes are of such a deep pink colour.'

'My mother named me Kinjuu'val,' replied Vu'an looking away as her cheeks darkened. Then putting her hands on his, she asked, 'Grey Fox is that to match the colour of your grey eyes?'

'Yes, but is was also my Great-granduncle's given name.'

Vu'an now brought her body as close to his as propriety allowed for a tau couple in public. She placed the fingertips of one hand on Fo'en's hip, and looked at him with her large pink eyes. Fo'en looked down at the hand on his hip, and put his hand on top of hers. Suddenly overcome with emotion, he swayed back and forth on his hooves. Vu'an then touched foreheads with him, and they stood like that for a few raik'ors. Vu'an eventually pulled back to look once more into his grey eyes and say, 'I will to meet your needs Su'kirsa, and I know you will meet mine'

'T'ah, don't the two of them look good together?' said El’ee to her husband Kos’tas.

'O'pa!' shouted Kos'tas from behind the kabbob grill.

Vu'an and Fo'en together both blushed.


***



9.6 dec - LATE EVENING
D'shi finished her meal at the dining facility, before she realized that Fo'en hadn't been there at all. When she asked her squad mates about him, she was told that he had gone out to eat with Shas'La'Vu'an. This made her mildly irritated, but why? She was happy that her brother firewarrior was finally taken by a female. And a female from their cadre no less! But then still D'shi wasn't happy? Why was that? After all Vu'an was their squad mate? And didn't she ask D'shi's permission to have Fo'en reassigned to her sleeping bay? This troubled D'shi somewhat, but putting her confused feelings aside, she went out and found Shas'La'R'nan.

The two of them joined up with another young couple to enjoy several rounds of tabletop air ve'lu. After losing twice and winning thrice, the couples then went to the Orbital's observation deck for some 'private time', before they retired for the evening. 'Private time' on the observation deck was a rare opportunity for a tau couple to have some intimacy in a public space. If kissing were a tau custom, then one might say D’shi and R’nan were going to spend their time 'snogging'. Nothing so dramatic though, mostly they spent their time in another tau custom analogous to what the gue’vesa might call ‘cuddling’. After awhile R'nan said that he wanted to get to bed as it had been a very long rotaa. So they decided to postpone having their needs met for another evening. D'shi was fine with this, as she was quite tired too, and so they parted company for the night.


***



Making her way back to the billet area D’shi saw her squad leader Shas’Ui’Ty’re with three other squad leaders from their cadre. She stopped D’shi just before she was about to turn down the hall towards her sleeping bay.

‘Shas’La'D’shi may I have moment of your time please?’

‘Yes, Shas’ui,’answered D’shi bowing to her squad leader.

‘I’ve been approached by Shas’La'Vu’an with a request to change Shas’La'Fo’en’s sleeping assignment. Are you aware of this? And if you are aware, do you agree with his reassignment?’ asked the squad leader using a formal inflection; but at the same time speaking in a soft friendly tone.

‘Yes Shas’ui I am aware of the request. And I have given…my consent,’ she replied in both an informal inflection and friendly tone.

‘Xhmm, do I detect some hesitancy La’D’shi?’

‘No. I am happy that Shas’La Fo’en has finally been taken by a female. He’s been too long without a someone don’t you think Shas’ui?’ she replied open eyed, but with a little blush on her cheeks.

The squad leader Ty’re studied her firewarrior before speaking again.

‘Yes, he has too long been without someone.’

The squad leader now stepped closer to D’shi, and speaking both in a formal inflection and serious tone said, ‘Why didn’t you take La’Fo’en for yourself? He is…quite fond of you?’

‘T’oh and I of him…but after all it would be selfish for me to have two males. Especially when…’ D’shi stopped in mid-sentence.

‘Especially when...what? Again there is hesitancy Shas’la.’

‘Nothing Shas’ui,’ said D'shi changing her speech to both a formal inflection and a serious tone.

‘Understand La’D'shi that once the decision has been made it will be final. No chance for reversal.’

‘I understand Shas’ui.’

‘Xhmm is that so? Then I am giving my authorization for the move. Unless you do have an objection?’

‘No objection Shas’ui.’

‘Know you this La’D’shi, that from here on out there will be no aloofness when you are in the presence of either Shas’La’Vu’an or Shas’La’Fo’en. No uncomfortable silences when either one of them speaks to you. And there will be no sudden and unexplainable requests for a transfer to another squad. Do you understand?’

‘Yes Shas’ui,’ answered D’shi setting her jaw.

And with that the squad leader allowed D’shi to continue on her way.


***


D'shi walked so forcefully down the hall that her hooves slammed the deck with a loud, khup-khup-khup-khup sound. Arriving at her sleeping bay she stopped in front of the door, and in much too loud a voice said, 'ENTER!'

When the door slid open D'shi was shocked to find that the bay's sleeping arrangements had already been changed. The beds were split up and moved back to their original positions, just as they had been prior to Fo'en's assignment to the bay. His bed was now back on the juntas side of the bay, and hers was now back on the toroq side. D'shi stood in the centre of the room too confused to even think. Finally she contacted the Housekeeping Drone who informed her that, 'The bed arrangement had been changed at the request of Shas'La'Fo'en.'

And that was that.

It took longer than usual for D'shi to get ready for bed, as she spent considerable time going around in circles. It was as if the beds being moved, had somehow made her forget where everything was. Eventually she sorted it all out; but before going to sleep, she went over and stood next to Fo'en's bed. Pulling back the coverlet, she stared down at the impression his body had left on the mattress. It was not a deep impression, but there was just enough of a one, for her to trace it with her fingers. She sat down on the bed and picked up his head rest cushion. D’shi held the cushion up to her face and inhaled deeply, trying to catch a whiff of Fo'en's scent. At this point she decided that she would stay up and wait for him to return.

But the evening dragged on and she finally went to bed.

Once in bed however D'shi found she couldn't sleep, although she was still very tired. Her mind was troubled enough to prevent her from drifting off to sleep. But why? D'shi thought maybe it was because Fo'en had yet to returned, but that made no sense? He of course might be spending the whole night with Vu'an, just as she often did with R'nan. So what was the matter? But still she couldn't fall asleep. D'shi tried reciting a meditation from the D'havre: "Drift with the current. Be not concerned with that which you cannot control."

But it didn't work.

Sometime after the middle dec, the Night Horse finally came and took her off to the nether world of sleep.


***


Fo'en came in very late, but as the following rotaa was a recuperation day, he didn't have to be up early. He entered the sleeping bay and sat down quietly on his bed. Fo'en called out softly to the bay's A.I. unit, 'Bed illumination juntas side.' The infrared light came on, giving him plenty of light to get undressed and put away his duty regs.

Fo'en looked at the head of the bed and saw that his head rest cushion was missing. Getting up he went over to D'shi's bed. There he found her fast asleep with her arms around his cushion. Gently lifting her arm, he slid the cushion out of her grasp, and then went back to his bed. He got under the coverlet; but before he could give the command, 'End illumination,' D'shi was sitting up in her bed.

'Y-y-you're...back late Fo'en? Why did you move the beds?' asked D'shi sounding like she had a cold.

'Tomorrow I move into Vu'an's sleeping bay. The beds have to be reset to their original configuration per cadre protocols. If you want you can change them back after I'm gone,' he answered wearily.

'Su'kirsa, but you could have done that anytime tomorrow. Why do it tonight? I mean...Well I thought that you always slept better with...someone next to you?' asked D'shi using his given name.

'Yan'tan, I've always slept better when I slept next to you,' he replied using her given name. Fo'en then turned around and faced the bulkhead saying, 'End illumination!' The infrared light above his bed went out; but before he lay back on the bed, D'shi was across the room and under the coverlets with him. Fo'en called out, 'Bed illumination juntas side!' He stared at her with his face a mask, 'I did not give you permission to get in bed with me La'D'shi?'

'Sorry Su'kirsa, but don't you need….me…to sleep next to you?' she said quietly.

He did not answer her question but continued to stare.

'I'll get out if you wish La'Fo'en?' said D'shi avoiding his gaze.

'No, you can stay. You're use to sleeping next to me after all,' and with that he turned around to face the bulkhead again. 'End illumination!' he said again.

They lay together in the darkness, D'shi's body snuggled up tight against his. For a short time it was quiet in the sleeping bay, but then Fo'en could feel D'shi running her fingers gently over his body.

'Before the light went out I saw some marks on your neck and shoulders. Some looked quite deep. And now I can feel they're the indentations of teethplates. Did she...I mean...did La’Vu'an do this to you?' she whispered in his ear.

'She is passionate,' he replied sighing heavily.

'She is passionate.'

'Yes.'

'Good-night Su'kirsa.'

'Good-night Yan'tan.'

And once again there was quiet in the sleeping bay.


FINI




AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was accused by my fellow writers from the Into Silence Series of not being 'subtle' enough in my writing. The previous story was my way of answering them, "Can't do subtle? I'll show you subtle!" Let me know if I got it right - TM
Last edited by TauMan on Jun 18 2017 02:36, edited 2 times in total.
Viro’los gu brath!
N.Y.A.B.X.T.T.

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El ZorDacK
Shas'Saal
Posts: 92

Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#3 » Mar 04 2017 05:55

Nice reading. Thanks. Kind of subttle indeed. You are a romantic one! :P

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TauMan
Shas'Ui
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#4 » Mar 05 2017 05:35

The Best and The Worst
by Kakapo42

Por’saal’Dal’yth’Al looked out in awe through the armoured porthole of the Magic Carp at the bottomless omnipresent expanse of space that stretched outwards endlessly in every part of her vision. For as long as she could remember she had found the cosmos to be a source of wonder, and this new stretch of the Eastern Fringe did not disappoint. ‘Al beheld inexhaustible hordes of pure white stars, blinking pulsars, distantly burning quasars and spectacular nebulae all suspended in deep, dark abyss. She picked out the constellations she had been taught as a child, and distant star systems she had visited in her travels aboard the Magic Carp. The scene was spectacular, but when she looked into the dead centre of the void between the stars a shiver ran up ‘Al’s back, and she could not help but feel nervous, as if somewhere out there something truly horrifying was contemplating her…

As the ship moved closer and closer to its final destination, the stars outside slowly began to be swallowed up by something ‘Al had never seen before, a vast ocean of royal blue rippled with brilliant incandescent marble-like swirls of azure and ochre clouds from which tiny pinpricks of starlight glinted out at her. This was the dense star cluster that she had been told held the Tau Empire, the homeland of her people, and it was here that she was going to stay. ‘Al found it strange to think of this place as her new home. She had spent almost her entire life outside it, traveling the galactic east aboard the Magic Carp with the ship’s owner and her adoptive father, the Free Captain Martin Christabel Aurelius. Martin had worked with ‘Al’s father, Por’vre’Dal’yth’Shi’Caor for many years before ‘Al was born, running a secret trading operation to exchange goods and technologies between the Tau Empire and the Imperium of Mankind until he was killed in a raid by Imperial authorities – Martin had said they were from a branch of the Imperial government called the Inquisition, which was tasked with eliminating dissidents and internal enemies of humanity.

‘Al barley knew her real father. she was only a couple of years old when he had died, so she found herself unable to recall his voice or his touch, and although she knew his features from pictures Martin had shown her, the wily-eyed blue-grey skinned figure with a shoulder-length scalp lock of jet black hair that she saw was a stranger to her, some mythical figure from history or fiction, not the biological parent that he was. But Martin had told her plenty of stories about him. He had told her how Shi’Caor could find a way to sell anything to anyone, and about how no matter how difficult the circumstances were, he would always keep a calm demeanour while he worked out a plan. He could be utterly charming and deviously cunning and Martin had always had the utmost respect for him.

After Shi’Caor’s death, Martin had taken the young ‘Al under his wing and fled to the very edge of the galaxy’s Eastern Fringe to evade the Imperium’s agents. From there ‘Al had spent her life traveling the stars with Martin’s crew as they traded with humans and alien species alike or performed errands. These voyages proved fertile ground for excitement and the young Tau had seen countless adventures on the galaxy’s edge, playing in tall grasslands, camping in mountainous rainforests, climbing alien trees and building cities and fortresses in the ruby and sapphire earth of oxide deserts.

What she would miss most of all, ‘Al decided, was the people she had known. Throughout her life growing up the crew of the Magic Carp had been some of the best teachers and supportive family members she could have asked for. There was Marcus Dussant, the dusky powerful giant of a Ship’s doctor and a former Corpsman in the 937th Mistralian Cavaliers, who would always stop in and tend to any injuries or blemishes ‘Al might have suffered while playing, and who taught her about bones and growth and the microscopic wars that were fought when she got sick. There was his wife, the lively and athletic olive-skinned Kiera with hair of glossy darkness like the star-crossed space beyond the starship, who showed ‘Al the inner secrets of plants and the transforming lives of insects and explained why their blood was different from ‘Al’s, who along with her husband never tired of ‘Al exploring and testing the ship’s medical equipment. There was the captain’s bodyguard, Corben, another veteran of the Imperial military who had taken to protecting ‘Al herself as much as Martin. He had flown ‘Al around the air with his arms when she was younger, and taught her to stand up for herself against tormentors and villains, especially humans that persecuted her for her alien heritage. ‘Al remembered the adventures they had shared on hikes and camping trips exploring the worlds visited by the Magic Carp on trading missions. ‘Al thought of Narqeth-Chal and Sylar-Ol, the Cephalopodan Isolarii pair that had always encouraged her creative and artistic side, and whose shifting colours fired her imagination, especially when she thought of the swirling colours to be found in space and what secrets might be found amongst them, waiting for someone to discover. And ‘Al thought’s turned to Madeline, the vibrant and kindly Ship’s Archivist with hair like sunlight who had told ‘Al about myths, legends, literature, music and the stories of humanity, many of which transcended aeons, and Madeline’s sweetheart the eternally dauntless Kristen who told ‘Al the history of the human race as she piloted the Magic Carp through space, and who never tired of ‘Al drawing and painting on the bionic arm that she had borne since the same fateful attack that had claimed ‘Al’s father.

A shape materialising in the eye of the porthole drew ‘Al’s gaze to the reflection of Martin climbing the stairs to the observation deck she was on. The captain did not at all resemble what one might typically think when conjuring the image of a Rogue Trader or Free Captain, he was a thin unassuming man with humble features and a set of large circular metal-rimmed spectacles placed before his wide virtuous brown eyes beneath a crew-cut roof of honey-blond hair, a far cry from the typically rugged or portly figures that were often his trading competitors. Even so, he managed to radiate a calm sense of quiet honesty, dependability and decency, though many times he often seemed saddened by some distant matter.


****


“We’ll be arriving at the station in about 45 minutes Por’saal,” Martin said, “Do you have all your belongings packed?”

“I think I have,” replied ‘Al, “Is the Tau Empire all this blue?”

“No, some parts are brown!” Martin chuckled “But it’s just like any other nebula or dust cloud. Once you’re close enough you can’t see the colour anymore, and it just looks like any other part of space.”

The Free Captain crouched down to her level. “Here,” he said pointing out towards an ovular mass of space that writhed and shifted with dark ripples and distant flashes “You see that area that’s sort of swirling? That’s called the Peridus Rift. It’s very dangerous, and people don’t usually go into it, but all around it, like those stars there, there and there, are the worlds the Kroot come from.”

Martin doubted that the name would mean anything significant to ‘Al at this stage. Almost all of the dealings he and his crew had had with the fierce, wild allies of the Tau were long before her time, and while she had heard plenty of tales about the Kroot and their uncanny talents for survival and field-craft she had never encountered one in person. He wondered how she might react the first time one approached her, given that it was almost inevitable she would interact with them at least once where she was going.

“What about the Tau worlds?”

“Well let’s see, we’re still too far out for a lot of the major ones, but if you look very hard right… there… you can just make out the stars of Au’taal coming into view. They’re supposed to be warm and sunny places, and Tau are quite fond of living there I’m told, though I’ve never been myself.”

“Perhaps we could take a holiday there when I’m a famous Por’el?”

“I’d like that Por’saal. You know the Dal’yth sept is right in front of us now, that’s where your parents were from. You’ll get a good view of it if you come up to the bridge, you can even say goodbye to the crew there. I’m sure Kristen would love to say a few last words before you go.”

In truth it was not just Kristen who wanted to spend some last extra moments with the little Tau. Virtually everyone Martin encountered on his rounds through the ship had expressed sorrow that ‘Al would shortly be leaving them to be with her own people, and even now as he took the time to show her places of interest in what was to be her new home he was trying to recapture some of the fond moments they had shared when he would stargaze with her at one of the ship’s viewing portals, teaching her about space and showing her constellations and how to navigate by them.

“Do you think the Tau there will be like my parents?” the Por’saal asked.

Martin still remembered the first time had met Por’vre’Dal’yth’Shi’Caor, ‘Al’s father, to discuss trading ventures. The Tau had been briefed that he was to be dealing with human contacts, and was initially expecting to end up negotiating armament sales and delivery for pulse weapons, as they were easily the most sought-after product the Tau offered for commerce, which made them exceptionally profitable and so most trading clients, especially human ones, naturally tried to secure a Distribution And Shipment Licence for them. When Martin had stopped him mid-spiel to say that he had no interest at all in selling pulse weaponry, it came as such a surprise to Shi’Caor that he was noticeably speechless for a brief moment. Upon being asked why he didn’t, when it was such a logical choice given how lucrative it was, Martin had explained that he did not usually trade in any kind of weaponry, and had instead come to secure a Distribution And Shipment Licence for advanced Tau medical technologies and supplies, because he believed that it was the responsibility of all sentient spacefaring species, especially the most dominant ones, to make the universe as much of a better place as they could, and that doing so was part of what defined them as civilised. After nodding in consideration for several seconds, he had laughed and said something Martin would hear him say countless times: “I think, we can do some pretty good business together.” They became fast friends after that, and Martin had always admired the way Shi’Caor managed to stay calm and positive no matter how dire the circumstances – even when the two had been pinned down behind a pile of shipping crates by an unceasing barrage of gunfire from pirates, the Tau would casually light up an Il’ho stick or sip on T’roi nectar and smile, sometimes even chuckle to himself, while he thought of an escape plan or waited for them to be rescued.

“Well,” said Martin, “Tau septs are big places, and they all span several systems each, so there are a lot of Tau in one, and the Tau are just as varied as any other people when you get down to it. So I’d say there’d probably be plenty like your parents.”

“I wish I could bring you all with me.”

In truth so did Martin. Since Shi’Caor had died in the Inquisitorial raid that had forced him and his crew to flee the region of space around the Tau Empire, Martin had grown deeply fond of the young Tau as he had watched her grow and taken care of her as best he could. He taught her right from wrong, to be honest where possible and why it was important to care for others, and he had helped nurture her dream of leading great expeditions to explore the universe however possible, from sourcing books and data-slates on space vehicles and exploration to playing strategy games with her and showing her how to lead and manage a crew, as well as how to make hard decisions when need be. As time went on the Por’saal had become the child that he had always wanted with his wife Julia, whose hazel eyes, shapely curves, radiant smile and hair like chocolate ( though she often decorated it with streaks of violet) he still adored to this day. Shi’Caor had always said he was very fortunate to be with her, and even when she had started to suffer the insomnia, mood swings and violent headaches they later found to be caused by nascent psychic manifestation, he had continued to love her even past her death in the same fateful raid that had cost him the life of his friend. There was a strange twisted sense of symmetry to it, Martin thought; he had lost his partner at the same time that ‘Al had lost her father.

“Me too,” he said, deciding to answer truthfully, “But the terms of the envoys were clear. At least now you’ll get the best chance of following that dream of yours, and we’ll be sure to visit whenever we’re in the area.”
Martin wished that he had done both Julia and Shi’Caor proud with raising ‘Al.

At once the moment was broken with a series of violent rumbling shudders, abruptly followed by the ship’s warning klaxons. Martin sprang up and prepared to move ‘Al to safety before hearing Kristen’s voice over his com-link.

“Captain, hostile vessel in close proximity, starboard side, looks like a Dauntless. They’ve opened fire and are moving into boarding position. We think they used a psyker to hide from our sensors. Markings are Inquisition captain. Repeat, markings are Inquisition.”


****


Horror.

Blood.

Fire.

Death.

A long time ago, late into the ship’s internal time cycle, ‘Al had once seen one of the countless human ratings aboard the ship screaming in his sleep. When she had asked Martin why it happened, Martin explained to her that the unfortunate rating was having a nightmare, a series of vivid and frightening hallucinations that humans sometimes saw when they slumbered. The Tau had been puzzled by this for some time, finding the idea of seeing anything during sleep as strange, but eventually decided that she was fortunate to never worry about suffering like that while she rested. From time to time she had sometimes wondered what monstrous terror the rating must have seen in his sleep to make him cry out like that.

Now she thought she finally understood what it was like to be in a nightmare.

The Imperial ship had come across them, Martin had hurriedly explained, racking the Magic Carp with fire on the opposite side from where Martin and ‘Al were and then arcing overhead and turning to run parallel with them before conveying its passengers through an array of short-range transport pods and docking gantries. He mentioned something about a theory that they were trying to trap the ship’s crew between them and the burning sections, but much of it was lost as he quickly hurried her away from the main routes around the Magic Carp – his new mission was to get both of them hidden, and find a way to either the relative safety of the bridge, or a saviour pod. As they went the Por’saal found herself descending further and further into a hellish unending gallery of atrocities, bathed in a malevolent red glow from the ship’s emergency lighting, scored with a cacophony of metallic screaming from the warning klaxons. Wherever they crept in the arcing shadows of secondary passageways and maintenance alleys ‘Al witnessed crazed, shrieking maniacs clad in robes and hoods coloured like bone and gore accompanying twisted hideous abominations that looked as though they were once men and women, but had since been torn apart and remade into mockeries of the human form entwined with monstrous machinery and dirty metal. They stampeded through the ship’s main causeways in terrible hordes, setting about the old familiar walls that had been not just ‘Al’s home, but her world for as long as she could remember, and bringing them crashing down in avalanches of metal and fire as they furiously struck at them with massive cutting tools and burning braziers and flamers. She beheld burly men clad in black and red body armour, their faces hidden behind dark masks with gaping lenses for eyes, butchering the crew she saw every day of her life with bullets, lasers and blades.

Worse was to come when they reached the Ship’s Archives. There legions of shambling wretches and singing lunatics heaped piles of books, documents and records, many of them irreplaceable, along with the drawings and pictures ‘Al had spent hours lovingly making for her adoptive family, onto vast roaring bonfires while dire men in baroquely decorated garments bellowed about the sin of Xenos-tainted filth and shouted praise for those casting down false idols and throwing them into the fire. Amidst the blind destruction, the unthinking brutality, the grotesque centrepiece of this display lay for a few repugnant moments directly before ‘Al’s eyes. Framed amidst the inferno was the tortured, screaming, tear-scarred visage of Madeline, her attire in tatters, pined to the floor while a bare chested brute wrestled against her to the cheers of a leering crowd that spawned cries of “Teach her!” and “It’s for your own good!” and “It’s only natural!” while they jostled and argued about some kind of numerical order. The full scope of the horror she was witnessing was lost on a soul so young, though she was nonetheless disturbed to her very core and mercifully Martin shielded her eyes and guided her away from the atrocity.

Their departure was short lived. No sooner had they pressed forward to the next chamber a sudden clanging heralded two black-clad figures. The first, the one closest to them, was a grim worn-looking man with skin of tarnished alabaster laced with crimson scratches and scars, slick oil-like hair and dark, dirty stubble. His companion was a moonlight-skinned, wild-eyed woman with tresses of a winter’s night and a manic grin that was more predatory than friendly. He held a grimy auto-pistol low by his hip, she brandished a laspistol. Both had murderously serrated knives stippled in blood, each with an obsidian pommel in the likeness of a skull.

“Well well, what do we have here Absynth?” asked the male aggressor.

“A couple of vermin crawling in the walls. Dirty, dirty little vermin,” his companion replied in a voice like poisoned honey, “They’ll make good additions to the tally. How many are we on now Alastair? I had 49 last I checked.”

“51, which makes an even hundred,” Alastair said, “Emperor’s throne Absynth can you believe it? 100 souls on this outing! Oh Terra above I can still hear them squealing, remember how they squealed baby?”

“Oh yes honey they’re wailing in my ears, it just makes me want to do more of ‘em.”

“The only reason you haven’t is that you keep watching me.”

“That’s because I like to watch. You know how much I like seeing you love.”

“And I love hurting them for you baby, all of them I hurt for you baby.”

“Please,” Martin said, “I don’t know what you want with our ship but be reasonable. We’re a licenced free trading vessel with a verified charter permitting us to operate in this region. I can show you if you’ll accompany me to the Captain’s office.” As he spoke he quietly nudged ‘Al towards the side. The message was clear, and the Tau prepared to run.

“Ahp-ahp-ahp-ahp-ahup,” Alastair warned, “Careful not to let your little pet stray too far. Little Abby here can take an arm off or puncture a liver before you can even blink. Isn’t that right Absynth?”

“Mmmm yes,” said Absynth, whose laspistol was now unerringly trained on ‘Al, “I love watching them squirm afterwards.”

“So,” Continued Alastair, “Suppose that makes you the captain eh? Oh boy, the big man’s been looking for you. Emperor’s mercy you’re going to pay for your sins. And I suppose that’s your little Xenos grub over there then.”

“Why are you doing this?” Martin asked, “How can you possibly sleep with the blood of over a hundred people on your soul?”

“Xenos aren’t people!” Alastair spat, “And neither are the wretches that cavort with them. Oh no, haven’t you read your Ministorum doctrine? For the alien is the serpent and the enemy of man, and he who would strike down the enemies of man and cast them unto the abyss is the most righteous of champions. It’s a virtue to kill your kind it is. And when we bring His judgement down on you and your little worm there, when we do that, we’ll get to sit at the side of The Emperor for all eternity. You hear that Absynth? For doing this, we’re going to heaven!”

“Oh Throne yes take me to heaven baby, take me to heaven!” Absynth exclaimed.

“Every day with you is heaven already honey,” Alastair said before thrusting his knife at the captives, “Now, how are we going to do you? How do you want us to do this Absynth?”

“Do ‘em slowly baby,” said Absynth, “Cut them nice and slow, make them scream for me baby, make them beg as you cut them, make them bleed for me, oh Emperor make them bleed!”

“Oh they’ll bleed all right baby, It’ll take days to wash it all off.”

“No leave it on!”

“Then I’ll bathe you in it honey!”

“Oh yes do ‘em baby, do them now! Do them-“

A harsh crack cut her short. Two trails of gleaming colour stitched across Alastair’s back, sending him sprawling to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. Absynth whirled around and fired wildly at the source before a third beam silenced her. From the gloom behind them crept the blissfully familiar figures of Marcus and Corben, who prowled forwards to check for any other adversaries that might be hiding.

“Looks like we reached you just in time captain,” Marcus said as he picked his way over the two bodies on the ground, “Corben spotted those two about 25 minutes ago, and we’ve been shadowing them ever since. Are either of you injured?”

“We’re fine thank you,” said Martin, “Although a few moments sooner and it would have been a different story. Do you know anything about your wife?”

“Nothing,” Corben interjected as he inspected the laspistol he held, “We were searching for her when I noticed our two friends here. No-one’s been able to contact anyone else, the links are dead, but we’re pretty sure the bridge is still intact. Last we heard they had called out to the Tau for help, but when or if they’ll make a move is anyone’s guess. Damn, I’m out, and that was my last cell.”

“Your knife broken?” Marcus asked before tossing his own laspistol to Corben, “Here, take mine, it should have at least half a charge left. We both know you’re the better shot anyway.”

Once satisfied it was safe, the party pressed on, Corben leading the way. ‘Al studied him, this pale, bald soul whose skin was covered in intricate monochromatic tattoos of litanies, eagle iconography and symbols of death, and encased in the same granite-coloured carapace armour that had served him since his days in the Imperial military. All her life he had looked out for her, made sure she was safe and guided her from danger. It only made sense that he would lead her out of this ordeal.

But the cavalcade of terrors continued. More and more madmen and biomechanical wretches swarmed in the hallways. At times they were led by a colossus in gleaming cuirassed armour, their face hidden behind a flat featureless helmet visor, bellowing about the Emperor’s love and the infinite joy to be found in communion with Him while they cut down any crewmember they could find with a power sword. At other times the passageways would be empty, save for one or two skeletal maidens who moved more like spiders than humans and made no sound except a sickening metallic note from the blades they carried. At one point ‘Al saw her Isolarii friends suspended from meat hooks, still living as their roe was spilled out of them and their organs and appendages torn off and placed into specimen jars while a bizarre multi-limbed construct draped in crimson robes made drawings and notes. It upset ‘Al to leave them along with Madeline, and it hurt Martin even more, but they were sorely outgunned and so were forced to press forward.

At last they came upon a deserted observation room that presented a wide vista of the cosmos over the artificial landscape of the ship’s many spires and terraces. It was quieter here, and so while Corben went to secure the room Marcus and Martin gathered around a large conference table in the centre of the room to consider their next move.

“So what’s the play captain?” Marcus asked, “Do we risk the bridge or are we abandoning ship?”

“This ship was in my family for over 9 centuries,” said Martin, “But I don’t think it’s going to see tomorrow. We’ll need to get off it one way or another, but right now I’m worried about Kristen and the others on the bridge. If they’re still alive, we can at least save them, and we can get a better view of the situation while we’re at it. I say we go for the bridge, and maybe give the armoury a check on the way just in case. If the worst comes, we can always use the bridge saviour pods.”

“Makes sense. What do you think Corben?”

“I think it’s strange,” sounded Corben’s voice from behind them, “How familiar this all is. And I think it’s even stranger how for someone who supposedly loved Julia so much…”

‘Al heard a small whirr and click from behind her, and turned round to see the barrel of a laspistol in Corben’s hands.

“… You never did think much on why she died.” He said.


****


‘Al had stepped into a dream world, a ghastly twisted fantasy that could not possibly be real. Before her, by the door it had just locked, stood some kind of fiendish creature wearing the shape of someone she trusted. The Tau tried to identify the nature of the stranger she now saw. When had he arrived on the ship? Had it hidden the real Corben away somewhere before taking his appearance? Was it some kind of other mind inside his brain? How long had it been there, and what unleashed it now?

“Something I was taught a long time ago,” Corben said to Marcus, “Never just give away your weapon freely.”

“Made sense at the time,” replied Marcus, “You were on the same team, and your one had been depleted.”

“I lied. I just needed to get your gun off your hands, didn’t want you getting any wild flights of fancy about shooting back. You might have got lucky.”

Corben now turned his attentions to Martin. “Look familiar cap?” He said with a vein of mockery, “Now see a real captain, a real leader, a real man, from the moment the first raid happened he’d have wondered just how they managed to find us with all that deep space to hide in, especially when it happened twice. He’d have gone through all the souls on the ship, making sure they’re loyal, testing their purity. But you, you’re so weak that you didn’t even think about the idea of someone on the inside, did you you soft little golden boy.”

“You always said you respected that about me, that I always saw the best in people,” replied Martin, without a single note of panic or anger in his voice, “It’s what convinced you to join the crew in the first place.”

“I did, at first,” Corben said, “But the truth is that just isn’t the way the universe works. I thought you might learn that eventually, but then you just kept getting handed all these nice things by everyone. Things you shouldn’t have. Things your kind don’t deserve. Like that glorious jewel in your life.”

“Julia?”

“Of course I mean Julia. It was always going to be her. A woman that beautiful should never have looked at someone like you that way. They like a firm hand, a strong man to protect them, to provide for them, to take care of their needs. A real man, a man like me. I should have been cherishing her and making her as happy as she made me. All my life I’ve done good, I served The Emperor, I fought for humanity, I protected the innocent, I did everything I was asked to. Where was my jewel, where was my Julia? She was lying down to sleep next to you. I’m strong, I’m dutiful, I’m faithful, I’m honest, I work hard, I’m handsome. Dozens of women have seen that over our travels, but she never did. And why? Because of you.”

“But we were together before you-"

“Shut up! You lied to her, lied like those blue weasels that have you wrapped around their non-existent little finger do, you bewitched her, you stole her heart and brought her down to your level, where you turned her into something obscene.”

“What are you talking about Corben? She was always the same-“

“SHE WAS A FREAK!” Corben hissed, now speaking more to himself than anyone, “She was a wretched, sickening, mutant freak, and you made her that way! You infected her with your weakness, you made her like you, you let her brain twist and fester, you let her mind grow soft and vulnerable. You tricked her and you failed her! I couldn’t let her be eaten away like that, so I got the ship’s Astropath to transmit a little something, in the dead of the night. Good girl that one, smart. Never told a soul, bless her heart. Truly faithful. Guess that’s what happens when you’re touched by The Emperor.”

“But they killed-“

“YOU KILLED HER!” Corben spat, “You and those worthless xenos. She should have been safe, she was supposed to survive, but that filthy alien coward had to send his little minions to watch over her. The Inquisitor’s agents found her with them and got overzealous. Your failures led to her death, and then the deaths of everyone else on this thrice-damned hulk.”

Corben began to approach them, laspistol still raised. “And I’m going to make sure you get what’s coming,” he said, “I’m going to make sure you pay for all of it. Her blood is on your hands you witchspawn, and I will see you burn for your sins. You and that alien maggot with you.”

Yet before he could strike a thunderous quake rolled through the room and for a precarious instant Corben’s footing was dashed. And in that instant everything shifted. Martin rushed to move ‘Al under the conference table. As he regained his balance Corben spotted the movement and opened fire. With a hard snap a line of colour struck the captain in the chest. Three more flew wide and scored the table with a blizzard of sparks. From under the dark grey roof of the table ‘Al heard the clash of giants, and after a tremendous series of thuds and cracks the words “Stay down!” in Marcus’s voice, followed by a further series of pulping thumps, a final crack from the laspistol and the voice of Marcus saying “I said stay down.”

She emerged into a world in tatters. Before her in the failing light lay Martin, thin wisps of smoke rising from the epicentre of the red mess that blossomed across his chest while he gasped and panted. ‘Al had practised some first aid with Marcus and Kiera in the ship’s infirmary before, but with each trembling step she took towards the fallen captain she began with sickening horror to doubt that anything she had learnt would save this, the closest thing she had ever known to a father, a man who had guided her on every step and shown her all the wonder the universe had to offer.

“I’m… sorry…” he said when she reached him, “It… it looks like… I won’t be… seeing Au’taal with you now.”

“You will,” ‘Al said, “Marcus and the Tau can-“

Martin silenced her with a feebly raised hand. “Listen ‘Al… I can’t say much. Just… just don’t give up on that dream of yours ‘Al. What… what did I always tell you?”

“It is the responsibility of all civilisations to make the universe as much of a better place as they can, that’s what makes them civilised.”

“Good… girl… don’t ever forget that. Remember everything I taught you ‘Al… that’s… that’s how I’ll stay with you… always. The universe… it always needs more good in it. I’ll… be seeing someone now…”

“Julia?”

“That’s right. I’ve waited a long time to see her again, and now I’ll be with her forever. We’ll be looking down on you ‘Al… both of us… it’ll be up to you now, to put more good in the universe. I… I believe in you ‘Al. I never… thought I’d get a daughter of my own, but… I’m glad… I’m glad… it was you.”

And with that, the captain grew still, and silent, and the room suddenly became much emptier.

And the galaxy suddenly became much, much darker.

As ‘Al sat, motionless, a cascade of burning rain, a thousand myriad trails of debris and fire, began to drift across the void beyond the observation room’s windows, as if the heavens themselves cried for what had just been taken from her. In amongst the raging orange deluge there began to appear iridescent trails from glittering alien shapes that weaved through the fire and past the windows’ view.

“Those are Mantas,” Marcus said as he joined her, “They’re Tau. They must have just hit the other ship.”

He looked down at his friend. “It never should have been like this, it never should,” he said before giving ‘Al a silver dog-tag that he had worn around his neck since his days in the army, “Here, take this and put it around the control panel for the door outside when we leave. The Tau are coming, and when they do that will show them where he is. We have to leave now, but we’ll be back for him, I promise.”


****


Por’saal’Dal’yth’Al watched from the pristine ivory of the Ta’shiro station as Tau craft swarmed around the scarred shell of the Magic Carp and the broken wreck of the vessel that had attacked it. The ship had once been her home, but now it seemed dark and empty, like a condemned building. Behind its hull Tau soldiers continued to scour the interior for survivors, bodies and valuables, but she had no idea how close they were to the quiet, empty observation room. Behind her on one side, the once intrepid Kristen now stood trembling and weeping. At the other end Marcus sat on a bench against the wall, his head buried in the arms of Kiera, who gazed on into the abyss.

A tall female Tau walked up to ‘Al and placed a hand on her shoulder. “They’ve found him Por’saal, and I will ensure he is laid to rest on Au’taal as you asked. For all that he’s done he deserves at least that much, as do you.”

‘Al just stood and watched the lights continue to swirl and dance in the cosmos. She thought with all her might about every moment she had shared with Martin, every word he had told her, desperate to keep him there. She thought about the marvels she had seen in her life, and the haunting nightmare she had just witnessed. She wondered how the same species could bring both to her life.

And she was not sure if she would ever stop wondering…

The End
Last edited by TauMan on Mar 12 2017 09:29, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#5 » Mar 09 2017 03:00

Excellent stories both, and very refreshing in this galaxy of endless war... wonderful! :smile:

Tau Man, very interesting background you've crafted there... white, red and blue tisan? :D My goodness! And I've no doubt there will be no more slurs on your subtlety!

Kakapo42, that was a touching story with an unusual viewpoint! The Inquisitorial attack reminded me pretty strongly of why I shied from playing IoM armies. Makes me want to see a second chapter when she tries to integrate back to Tau society... :)
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#6 » Mar 09 2017 08:11

CmdrCASh - Thank you for your feed back. Appreciate all of your comments. :)

TauMan
Seeds of Life Series
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#7 » Jun 18 2017 03:03

A Midsummer’s Eve
By Riodan O’Duffy


On this mid-summer’s eve the stars of the T’koreth galaxy blazed in a great white arc across the sky of Vior’la; while the three moons called Káu'yr'ejii, Tsip, and Kiik, shone their pale golden light down upon the resort village of Seri’basiin. The resort was situated high on a plateau of Mount Otgon’ten’ger; where the temperatures were cooler, and the rainfall more plentiful. The village consisted of clusters of housing pods, spas, small eateries, little shops, and tiny government buildings. Seri’basiin was nestled in a wooded vale between a coldwater creek on one side, and the primordial forest on the other. The resort’s entire layout, having been arranged in accordance with the fio’siorral principle of harmony with the natural environment.

Banners hung on every door in the village to celebrate the coming of the Young Children’s Festival, or the Eaji’ma T’onutsek; which happened each midsummer. In the moonlight, the banners looked like faerie streamers; while the round clusters of housing pods shone a silvery gold. The glittering clusters were made up of four inter-connected family housing pods; each with its own small garden, hedge, and patio.

The three moons’ golden light shone through the windows of housing unit #36-47. The pod’s energy curtains pulsed back and forth; allowing nothing to enter the house, save the cool evening breeze. Inside the unit slept two fire caste families. The first family was composed of an adult male and an adult female, along with their young son and infant daughter. The other family was composed of an adult female, along with her young daughter and infant daughter. In one bedroom slept the male and one female; while in the next bedroom slept the other female with the two infants. Finally, in the last bedroom slept the two small children. The boy and girl slept cuddled together, safe and warm under their traditional quilt. The boy’s full head of dark hair lay tossed about his head cushion; while the girl’s full head of red hair lay in heaps over the blanket. Outside on the south-west corner of unit #36-47, safe and warm in their own little animal pod, slept a mother yowla and her kittens.

Across the housing pod’s hedge was a wide field of tulko grass. Here is where the children spent their summer days hunting for dragon wing insects, and pretending to be legendary heroes from the pre-mont’au Romance of the Seven Warring Kingdoms. And beyond the field lay the forest of ancient chu’maq trees, their gnarled and knotty trunks rising high into the sky. Their expansive branches and thick leaves, created a virtual living roof high above the forest floor. This summer’s night the tiny iridescent anuk’pia birds flittered about hunting for the glowing esho beetles. The insects’ bioluminescence making a second sky of stars beneath the leafy canopy. On the forest floor, beneath this second sky, the nocturnal zaraas rooted through the decayed leaves for worms, insects, and new fungus. The night air was filled with the sounds of the chirping mon’tsox beetles, the trilling calls of the anuk’pia birds, and the ever rustling of leaves, as the wind moved through the branches of the trees.

Then silence.

The animal sounds had ceased, and except for the rustling of leaves, all was quiet in the forest. Now deep among the thickest stand of trees, and far from the field of tulko grass, appeared a tiny speck of blue light. At first it was no brighter than the glow of an esho beetle; but it began to grow quickly in size and intensity. Growing ever larger and larger, until it became a shimmering blue disc, twice the height of an average Tau. The gossamer blue disc hovered in the darkness for only a moment; then exploded in a silent flash, and was gone.


Something had stepped through the disc.


In the forest there arose an uncanny darkness; which extinguished the light of the esho beetles, the stars, and the moons alike. It was a weird fog that came from everywhere and nowhere; but yet it wasn’t a fog at all. This darkness, or mist, now began to drift towards the resort. And if one had been so unlucky, as to have been standing there that night, then you would have seen nothing of this dark mist. You would have noticed the sky becoming darker, and the light of the stars and moons becoming dimmer; but only when the mist was gone, would the vaguest notion occur to you that something, or someone, had just passed. Then, just as the darkness reached the treeline, it paused. The mist's invisible edges becoming almost visible, almost perceptible; but still without definition or form.

As the wind passing over the field of wild tolku grass, made ripples like on the surface of a lake. The glowing lights of the esho beetles, seeming to dance on their tall strands. The tiny blue-green lights, being but a faint reflection of the stars above. But as the imperceptible mist drifted across the field, the light of the beetles went out. As it drifted across the field towards the village, shapes tall and vague, seemed to move within it.

Along the west side of the village ran a narrow rivulet; which joined the creek that ran along the east side, just to the south of the village. As the mist rolled over the rivulet, the chirping songs of night mon’hui’la birds, and the trilling calls of the little baxa amphibians stopped. The dark mist then slid silently across the small foot bridge, and then slowly up the bank to the tall hedge. The kyrn’yedi hedge was the pride of the village, and had surrounded the resort since it’s founding some one hundred tau’cyr ago. The mist now crept slowly along the hedge, finally stopping at housing pod #36-47. The mist lingered there for a moment, before slowly seeping through the hedge. It moved along the ground, then rose up to the windows, and up over the doors; finally it enveloped the entire housing pod. Like a some ephemeral, but deadly sea creature; the mist swallowed the housing unit whole. Then all at once the mist was gone, and everything was back to normal. Except for the mother yowla, who snapped her head up, and turned her ruby coloured eyes toward the hedge.

At 02:60:03 motion detectors activated the infrared sensors on the west side of housing unit #36-47. Surveillance holocams made a series of scans to cover the entire grounds. The system recorded a gap in the west hedge line; but no other movement was detected. A notification was sent, to the Public Safety Office and to the Animal Control Services, of a possible intrusion by animals scavenging for food from the rubbish bins. At 02:62:00 the infrared sensors for housing unit #36-47 were deactivated.


***



At exactly 02:62:00, Y’suke found himself wide awake and staring into the darkness. He listened but there was no sound. Nothing. No sound of movement, no talking, no doors opening, and no yowla moving about inside or outside the pod. Nothing. He heard no sound except that of his own heart beat. Y’suke realized that he was sitting up in bed. ‘What woke me up? Why am I instantly conscious?’ Thoughts raced through his head, ‘What triggered my combat reflexes?’


Y’suke felt a cold churning in both of his stomachs, and the cir’etz scales along his spine stung. Then as beads of sweat began to form on his forehead, he realized that he was afraid. ‘But why? What am I afraid of?’ Then the thought came to him, ‘Is this another anxiety attack? Is my iur’tae’mont – combat neurosis acting up again?’

Then it hit him, ‘No, no wait this is different! There’s no sounds coming from outside? There aren’t any baxa singing in the creek? And why can’t I hear the anuk’pias trilling?’ A cold jolt ran up his body, blood started to pound in his head; and sweat now began to roll off his body. ‘Something was indeed wrong!’

Still sitting in the dark, he struggled with what to do next; but then his training kicked in, ‘First task, secure the perimeter…’

Y’suke logged on to the housing pod #36-47’s security network. His cybernetically enhanced brain linking up to the network via the housing pod’s wireless connection. Y’suke then began searching the feeds from the exterior holocams; checking each one of them as they were projected onto the inside lenses of his augmented eyes. Eleven exterior feeds showed nothing was amiss; except for that gap in the west side hedge timestamped at 02:56:17. A notation read: ‘Possible intrusion by animals scavenging for food…’ Y’suke saw that it was almost the same time he woke up; but there weren’t any animals on the grounds. Then on the twelfth and last holocam feed, the one from the animal pod; he saw the mother yowla staring with her spine ridge of cir’etz quills quivering.

‘Hiya’te! Something’s sure scared her, so I’m not the only one?’ Reassured that it wasn’t just him, he moved to the second task, ‘Ensure the safety of all mission personnel…’

Y’suke minimized the views of the exterior holocams, and expanded those of the interior holocams, his hands making the motions in the air in front of him. Now viewing each interior feed, he found every room in the housing pod to be secure. In the living quarters there was nothing out of place, or amiss. The same went for the kitchen and the dining room. In the next bedroom he could see that Nersuu and the two infants were asleep; while in the children’s bedroom, Temu'jin and Li’xiu were both fast asleep. Y’suke wiped the sweat from his face, and closed the interior holocam feeds. He looked down at J’hal’yi, who lay in the bed next to him snoring and thought, ‘What is wrong with me, everything is fine?’

But the fear and anxiety didn’t abate, and so not knowing what else to do, Y’suke now logged onto the unit’s Health Monitoring System. He began checking everyone’s vital signs: breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG brain patterns. But everyone’s vitals where within the normal range; his own vital signs being the only ones off kilter, with both elevated breathing and heart rates. And of course, those of the mother yowla, who had an elevated adrenaline levels and heart rate.

‘So now what?’ thought Y’suke lying back in bed. The entire viewing process had taken less than a raik’or; but the panic and fear were still there, only worse. His entire body was now damp with sweat, and his cir’etz scales tingled so badly, they hurt. He watched as his heart rate and breathing continued to increase and thought,‘I’ve got to do something!’

So slipping out from under the blanket, Y’suke stood in the middle of the room. Inside his head he could hear himself talking, ‘There is nothing wrong Shas’El’Vior’la Yr’Volgan, get the snae’ta back in bed!’

Y’suke’s Tau eyes had no trouble seeing in the near total darkness, as the dim gold light from the moons filled the room. And except for J’hal’yi snoring in the bed, everything was quiet. But Y’suke found himself now standing at his closet door, and deactivating the lock for the built in dresser. ‘In the name of the Tau’Va, what the kisun’shas are you doing shas’el?’

Opening the top drawer, he removed his armoured weapon case; while the voice inside his head yelled, ‘Stop Y’suke, what the snae’ta are you doing?!’

Setting the case on the floor, he sent a wireless message with his identity code and password, and the case silently opened. Then the voice yelled, ‘Stop, you’re having a panic attack…a flash back from combat. Do-not-do-this-shas’el!’

Y’suke pressed the release on the magnetic clasp, and easily extracted his pulse pistol from the case. Y’suke’s fingers found the two energy cells, and removing one, popped it into the weapon. The pulse pistol was always loaded; and now all he needed to do to arm the weapon, was to touch his right thumb to the biometric activation pad. The voice inside his head screamed, ‘If you activate this weapon, the Public Safety Office will know it immediately!’

Y’suke quietly slid the case out of the way, and crouched down besides the bedroom door. His heart rate was now dangerously high, and his head was pounding, giving him an intense headache. A bright orange health alert message scrolled across the bottom of his vision: ‘Danger an elevated heart rate and blood pressure can be the warning signs of an impending heart attack or stroke, please seek medical attention…’

The voice in his head screamed, ‘You are endangering the lives of your family, and that of your ta’lissera sister…STOP THIS NOW!’ With his heart beating hard, and his cir’etz scales on fire, Y’suke swallowed hard and put his hand on the door; but looking back, he saw the moonlight shining into the room. Immediately he ordered the room’s energy curtain to maximum opacity. ‘Keep operational security. No reason to give the enemy a target by silhouetting myself against the light from the window…’

‘STOP THIS NOW SHAS’EL!’ the voice in his head was now screaming so loud, that Y’suke thought for sure the enemy could hear it.

‘Wait a raik’an, what haven’t you done yet? Think Y’suke! You might have missed something? Think, think…Wait I didn’t check the housing pod’s physical security. What a snae’tas fra’k you are!’ Y’suke cybernetically opened the Grounds Security program, and scanned over the floor plan of housing unit #36-47. There at the bottom was a table labelled, Access Points: Windows and Doors. Y’suke ran his eyes down the list until he came to #4 West Bedroom Window; and there was a flashing purple icon that read, ‘Energy Curtain: OFF LINE.’


Y’suke stared at the icon.


‘OFF LINE…OFF LINE…OFF LINE…OFF LINE…,’ it flashed. Then coming to his senses, Y’suke quickly brought up the holocam feed for the children’s bedroom. But the feed showed the room was filled with what a mist? Or was it smoke? ‘No, that’s not smoke, the holocam is obscured somehow?’

Y’suke stood up, and with his back flat against the wall, slowly cracked open the door. Then peering through the single tor’il wide gap, saw light coming out from underneath the children’s bedroom door.


He froze.


The light wasn’t the blue-white of the room’s illumination panel, and it wasn’t the pale gold moonlight from outside; but instead it was an ever changing dance of colours. First there was green, then magenta, followed by yellow, blue, red, and violet. Then a shadow fell across the dancing lights and Y’suke realized, ‘Someone is in the room!’

Y’suke slid the door back just enough to slip through, and silently glided across the living room floor in his bed slippers. He paused at the door, and putting his forefinger on the trigger, raised his pulse pistol. But yet Y’suke kept his thumb off the biometric pad. He checked the bedroom feed, but it still showed nothing; however, the health monitor showed the children were still asleep. Just then, his son Temu’jin’s vital signs showed him waking up; and Y’suke decided he had to act. But as he reached for the door handle, he heard someone speak.


His fingers froze on the handle.


Y’suke couldn’t tell whether the voice was male or a female; but whoever it was, they weren’t speaking in Tau’sia. Rather the voice spoke in some strange and unknown language; which was both melodious and wonderful to hear. Now another smaller voice answered the first voice; but this one was definitely speaking Tau’sia. ‘That’s Temu’jin talking!’ thought Y’suke, and flinging open the door, levelled his pulse pistol at the shadowy figures standing in his son’s bedroom.


***


Y’suke sat blinking his eyes at the morning light streaming through the bedroom window. From the floor he could see the small Young Children’s Festival banner make soft tapping sounds against the wall, as it swung back and forth in the morning breeze. Then looking over at the bed, he saw Temu'jin and Li’xiu sleeping together and thought, ‘What am I doing in the children’s room?’

There was a scratching sound at the window, and Y’suke saw the family yowla scramble on to the sill, holding a kitten in her mouth. He watched as she leapt across to the bed, and then deposited her kitten between the two sleeping children. Y’suke saw she already had a large pile of kittens laying there. ‘The energy curtain is offline? How strange?’

Y’suke felt something heavy in his right hand, and looking down saw that he was holding his pulse pistol. He saw that his index finger was on the trigger, but the thumb was clear of the biometric pad. Then a vague notion of the night before came back to him and he panicked, ‘What time is it?’ He checked his ocular display and the time read 04:03:67. ‘Almost two decs? What the snae’ta have I been doing sitting here all night?’

Y’suke sprung up to check on Temu'jin and Li’xiu, and could see they were both still asleep. Gently he examined them, but by all appearances they were fine.

‘What happened last night? Was there really someone here…or was it a flashback.’

Then he felt the yowla gently rub her body under his chin, giving him a small chirping, ‘Yaow.’ She then rubbed up against him a few more times, before settling down with her kittens between the two sleeping children. Curled around her babies she now gave off a low, ‘Muur-murr-murr-murr.’

Y’suke looked down at her and asked quietly, ‘Do we have all our babies now Little Mummy? Well, I count eight, so it seems so.’

Y’suke went online and activated the energy curtain for the bedroom window. And then he darkened the opacity of the energy curtain; but before he did though, he paused to take a long look at the sleeping children. After which he silently slipped out of the room. ‘I’m so lucky, I didn’t harm either of them!’

Y’suke quietly entering his darkened bedroom and found J’hal’yi still asleep. So he squatted down to find his weapon case, but then paused. Sitting alone in the dark, a queasy feeling came over him; and a nagging thought kept running through his mind, ‘Why did I go to the children’s room armed? What made me do that? Something must of happened last night?’

But his memories were all jumbled, and he could recall nothing; but a vague sense of danger. He was certain that something had woken him up, and because of that, he gone to the children’s room. But that was all he could remember. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something dangerous, had come their way last night. Was it an unconscious expression of his combat neurosis? Or was it a real threat? It was something he would definitely need to see his physician about.

Y’suke now removed the pistol’s energy cell, and returned it, and the pistol, to their slots in the case. Then he reset the pistol’s magnetic lock; then closed and re-locked the case. Finally Y’suke stood up and returned the case to the top closet drawer. He was about to lock the closet, when the gnawing sense of passing danger came over him again. Looking westward, the feeling became even stronger. ‘Was this real? Was there something here last night?’

Unable to resist these feelings, Y’suke removed his bed slippers, and pulling out an undersuit from a drawer, put it on. He threw on a pair of pants, grabbed a jacket from the closet, and left the room. He was still pulling the loose strands of his hair through a plasticine loop, when he stepped out the front door. Turning right, he exited the common courtyard of the four conjoined housing pods, and walked quickly around to the west side of the surrounding kyrn’yedi hedge. He walked between the hedge and little rivulet, all the while looking westwards towards the forest.

Vior’la’s twin stars were already above the tops of the trees and the air was already getting warm. The tulko grass was gleaming a metallic golden-green in the morning light; as small insects buzzed, and in the rivulet the baxa chirped. The forest treeline stood out against the morning light, and to Y’suke, it seemed ominous. His heart beat faster and his breathing increased just looking at the forest. It called to him, beckoning him to enter; but Y’suke felt nothing but dread. This was the very same forest where he took the children on hikes. The very same forest under whose boughs he had walked, slept, and dreamed since childhood. Now it only gave him a sense of deep foreboding.

There was the sound of footsteps behind him, and looking around he saw Shas’Vre Fyra stepping off his hover disk. The middle aged Fyra presented a sharp appearance in his crisp terracotta uniform. He smiled at Y’suke and said, ‘Tau’va’ea, Commander.’

‘Tau’va’ea Constable,’ replied Y’suke.

Chief Constable Fyra stood next to Y’suke and the two of them looked west towards the forest.

‘Having a morning meditation are we sir?’

‘No, wish I were.’

‘Sleep well last night?’

‘No, I didn’t sleep well.’

‘I ask this because at 02:71:47 this morning, you activated your pulse pistol, then deactivated it a half raik’an later at 02:72:07. Where you aware of that?’

‘I did?’ replied Y’suke’s his face turning grey. ‘No, I wasn’t aware of that…’

‘If don’t mind me asking sir; are you feeling alright?’

‘No, no, I’m not.’

‘Well, sir you’re activation and deactivating of the pulse pistol, seemed like a glitch in our system; so we put it on the bottom of the actionable list. For which I’m going to catch kisun h’kek’an mind you. Anyway Commander, can you tell me what happened last night that you

‘No, not really. I don’t remember much of last night. I didn’t even know I had the pistol until this morning, when I found it in my hand…’

‘Was that when you woke up in the children’s bedroom?’

‘T’ah, yes.’

‘Well sir, can you tell me what do you remember?’

Feeling both exhausted and confused Y’suke said, ‘There’s a lot I don’t remember, but I woke up and found myself sitting up in bed. Then, I heard someone talking…or maybe moving around…in the housing unit. Then I was outside the children’s room…Wait that’s it! That’s when I heard the voices! But the one voice spoke in a different language…and when I opened the door…I saw them.’

‘Saw who?’

‘I don’t know? I can’t remember exactly…I saw shadows of someone…more than one person I think. Can’t remember much more of it.’

‘Commander El’Yr’Volgan this what we know at the Public Safety Office. At 02:56:17 the security system for housing unit #36-47 picks up a possible intrusion by a scavengers through a gap in the hedge. No animals are detected. Then at 02:62:00 you sit up in bed and wake up. You check the holocam feeds at 02:64:16, and then check everyone’s vitals signs at 02:65:71. Your vitals are elevated, but were rapidly getting worse. Then at 02:67:14 you get out of bed and retrieve your pulse pistol from the closet drawer. At 02:68:77 you approach the west side bedroom, carrying a fully loaded, but not yet activated pulse pistol. At 02:70:07 you pause at the door for a raik’or-and-a-half, activating your weapon at 02:71:47 and enter the bedroom. Here we loose track of you, as the west side bedroom is obscured on the holocam. You deactivate you weapon at 02:72:07.

Strangely, the children’s west side bedroom became obscured the raik’an, when you first switched away from the holocam feeds. You are in the west room for a full two raik’ors, but at 02:73:52 the holocam feed is suddenly free of interference; and you are seen sitting on the floor with the pistol in your lap. Both the children are shown to be in bed and asleep. And almost two decs later at 03:71:22 the family yowla is seen on the holocam bringing in her first kitten through the open window. You know the rest from there.’

‘I am sorry Shas’Vre Fyra, but I can hardly remember any of that. You do know sir, that I suffer from iur’tae’mont? I…I have flashbacks sometimes, and sometimes I have periods of disassociation; where I don’t know where I am, or what I’m doing.’

‘The Public Safety Office is well aware of your condition sir, it's in your medical records after all.’

‘Vre’Fyra I will be seeing my medical provider for a follow up as soon as possible.’

‘Xmm, well that was to be expected, but thanks for letting us know.’ Fyra looked at the ground and then back to Y’suke. Then in a grandfatherly way said, ‘Well, for what it’s worth shas’el, I believe you, when you say there was someone in your housing unit last night.’

Y’suke blanched and teetered on his hooves.

‘Are you alright sir?’ asked Fyra catching him by the arm.

‘No, I’m not alright. The thought that it might in fact be real, was all too much for me.’ Y’suke pointed westwards and said, ‘In the forest…out there in the forest. That’s where you’ll find them.’

‘Out there? Find who?’ asked the Chief Constable looking at the forest and then at Y’suke.

‘Whoever it was, that was here last night.’

‘Sir, might I ask that you go home now? Go and get some rest before the day really starts. The bairn will be wanting to go to the festival and all. But before you go, do I have permission to change the password to your pistol case?’ asked the Chief Constable turning Y’suke around, and walking him back towards the housing unit.

‘Yes, you have my permission.’

‘In the mean time Constable Dau and I will have a wee look-see around the grounds, and see what we can find? T’oh, here she is now.’

Y’suke looked up and saw Constable Dau land her hover disk next to the Chief Constable’s.

‘Ui’Dau, please escort the shas’el back to his housing unit, and then rejoin me here.’

‘Yes, Vre’Fyra…You come along with me sir,’ said Constable Dau to Y’suke.


The weight of his emotions, and the fatigue from the night’s events exhausted Y’suke, and he staggered into the house. Still, he stopped just inside the foyer to dip each hoof into the traditional foot bath, and wash them in the bubbling water. He scrubbed them against the brush mounted next to the foot bath; and then stamped each foot on the drying mat. Making his way towards his bedroom, he entered as quietly as he could. He pulled off his clothes and threw them on a bed stool, and then climbed into bed without even putting on his bed slippers.

Y’suke?…were you up already? I wanted to get in the saddle with you…one more time. You know…while the children were still sleeping…,’ mumbled J’hal’yi snuggling up to him.

J’hal’yi’s naked body felt warm and wonderful, and wrapping his arms around her, Y’suke fell asleep.


***



‘Eji! – Mummy! Ava’Y’suke – Uncle Y’suke!’ shouted Li’xiu jumping on the bed. ‘Get up, get up it’s Midsummer’s day, the Young Children’s Festival!’

‘Aji – Da! Get up, get up!’ shouted Temu'jin even louder, as he bounded onto the bed.

Y’suke felt like he was made from some dense metal, and could barely open his eyes. Turning his head, he saw two sets of small eyes staring him in the face, one set was fiery orange and the other set was sapphire blue. He could hear J’hal’yi say, ‘Let your father sleep some more Temu'jin. Let’s go and make breakfast first. Li’xiu let’s go and help your Aunty Nersuu make breakfast.’

‘Happy Young Children’s Festival to you too my wee ones!’ he replied, but then to Temu'jin said, ‘Go with your Aunty now Xumxa.’

Temu'jin smiled when his father used his “special name,” and he leapt off the bed with a bang, and ran out of the room.

‘Aye, I love you too my bonnie lad,’ said Y’suke drifting back off to sleep.


***



Y’suke woke up to the smell of warm food, and the sounds of people talking. Getting up from the bed; he did his personal cares and got dressed. Entering the living room, he saw the two toddlers sitting at the table having a breakfast of hot b’nim porridge and a cup of warm tai’tisan. Y’suke smiled as they shovelled the hot food into their little mouths. Meanwhile the two babies nursed at their mother’s breasts; while their mothers, Nersuu and J’hal’yi, each had a breakfast of traditional flat ge’ta bread, kootai eggs, and byas. Y’suke turned and saw the family yowla was in the pet bed nursing her kittens.

‘Hoi, looks like everyone’s eating already! Even the wee kittens are eating,’ said Y’suke.

‘We couldn’t wait for you, the barins were all hungry!’ complained Nersuu to her husband.

‘No, no that’s how it should be, everyone happy and eating,’ he said touching his forehead to his wife’s; but then he nibbled his nursing daughter’s little hooves. He turned and touched his forehead to J’hal’yi’s forehead; and then gave her daughter’s little hand an oon’selt or love bite.

‘The b’nim is good?’ he asked the children sinking into a chair.

‘Aye, Aji!’ replied Temu'jin.

‘Yes, Ava!’ answered Li’xiu.

‘Good.’

‘Did you let in the yowla last night? I found her and the kittens on their bed this morning,’ asked Nersuu giving him The Look.

‘T’ahh, yes. A long tailed elbenx got through the hedge last night, and was digging around the rubbish bins. Didn’t want her to loose a kitten.’

‘Being a good Da then were you?’ smiled J’hal’yi.

‘Aye, I suppose so…’

The door alarm chimed and Nersuu ordered the security unit to, ‘Open the front door.’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ came the reply.

Chief Constable Fyra and Constable Dau then entered the living room.

‘Happy Young Children’s Festival!’ shouted Li’xiu and Temu'jin at the two constables.

‘Happy Young Children’s Festival to you too kids!’ answered Fyra and Dau.

‘Would you like some hot vi’tisan, sorry there are no drones to pour your bowls?’

‘Thank you very much, but no worries, we can pour our own,’ replied Dau as she took the pot from the heating unit, and filled a bowl for herself and the Chief Constable.

‘How may we help you Chief Constable?’ asked Nersuu shifting her infant daughter to the other breast.

‘Heard you had problems with a family of elbenx in the rubbish bins last night? Found a gap in the hedge where we think they came through,’ answered Fyra dropping a tetrahedron of sucrose into his bowl of hot tisan.

‘See, I told you!’ said Y’suke taking a bite of his kootai eggs.

‘Did I say I didn’t believe you?’ replied his wife.

‘Excuse me ma’am, but I also came to speak to your husband on another matter,’ said Fyra motioning to Y’suke with a jerk of the head.

Y’Suke and the Chief Constable stepped outside and stood under the festival banner at the front door. Fyra took a drink from his bowl, and giving Y’suke a firm look said, ‘Well, you were right, there was someone here last night.’

Y’suke let out a sigh and leaned back against the door.

‘Dau and I found the gap in the hedge, and it was far too big to be made by a family of elbenxs. The gap is taller than a person, and wide enough to scoot sideways through. The problem is the gap goes through the hedge at a diagonal, and there was no way for the holocam to pick up how wide it was. But here’s the thing, it was just like you said, they came from the forest! Dau and I found a faint trail that led over the rivulet and straight across the open field to the treeline. It appears they came and went by the same route on foot. We found definite foot tracks, but non-Tau foot tracks mind you!

In any case, whoever these intruders were, they made it back to the forest, only to be ambushed by someone else. This second group attacked almost immediately upon them entering the treeline. Quite a firefight by the looks of it, with lots of kinetic rounds fired, and some energy weapons as well. No bodies though. We notified the Prefecture Public Safety Office and they’re sending a Special Investigation Team. They’ll be here by this afternoon.

Shas’el, if it makes you feel any better, we can now safely say you were justified in activating your pulse pistol.’

‘I don’t feel any better Chief Constable, in fact I feel worse!’ said Y’suke taking a long drink of tisan before speaking again, ‘They were in my house, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them!’

‘Aye, well we don’t know what they were after. Maybe you interrupted them?’

‘Who knows?’ answered Y’suke rolling his shoulders, but then leaning in close to the Chief Constable he added, ‘But if weren’t for my condition, maybe I’d have stopped them.’

‘Shas’el, maybe it was because of your condition that you woke up. Just think what might of happened if you’d instead slept through the night? We might never have known what happened here?’

‘Chief Constable, do we know what happened here?’

‘Well, no, not really.’

Fyra motioned that it was time for them to get back, but as they re-entered the house he asked, ‘Did the children say anything? Have you asked them at all?’

‘Haven’t had the chance yet.’

‘Let me ask them will you?’

‘Alright.’

Y’suke sat back down at the table, and Fyra sat next to him. The Chief Constable took a slice of ge’ta and spread some byas on it. Smiling at the children he asked, ‘Li’xiu had an exciting night did we? See anybody come by your room last night. Besides your mum, or your aunty and uncle I mean?’

‘No,’ answered Li’xiu nodding her head.

The two fire caste women looked at the Chief Constable and then at Y’suke, but he just touched a finger to his chin.

‘How about you Temu'jin? See anyone in your room besides you mum and dad, or your aunty?’

Temu'jin was digging into his b’nim with vigour, his face was pink from the koki fruit syrup in his porridge.

‘Aye, there were,’he answered shaking his head.

‘Really?’ the Chief Constable glanced over at Y’suke, and then at his mother and aunt. The two women seemed shocked at this news.

‘You mean your pet yowla? Was it her that came into your room last night?’ asked the Chief Constable leaning over the table.

‘No, it weren’t her.’

‘Xmm, so who was it then that came into your room?’

‘The faeries,’ answered Temu’jin looking up from his porridge.

‘Faeries?’

‘Aye, faeries.’


***



Y’suke and the Chief Constable sat back in astonishment, but the two mothers were indignant and there faces showed it. Fyra looked at them and also put a finger to his chin; but then gestured for Constable Dau to come over to the table.

‘Which faeries were they Temu'jin?’

‘The Empress of the White Faeries, and she were tall!’ he said tilting his head back and pointing at the ceiling with his spoon. ‘And she were beautiful!’

Temu'jin then went back to eating, which left everyone flustered.

‘Go ahead and tell us what happened Temu'jin,’ asked Y’suke gently.

‘Tell you what?’ he asked looking up from his porridge.

‘Well, what did the Empress of the White Faeries want?’

‘T’oh, she wanted a wee bit of Shas’onei’s hair,’ he said pointing his spoon at Li’xiu.

‘Who’s Shas’onei – Flame Eyes?’ asked the Chief Constable.

‘It’s just my son’s love name for Li’xiu,’ smiled his mother blushing.

‘Starting a wee bit early there, don’t you think son?’ laughed the Chief Constable, while directing Constable Dau to the girl.

‘I luv him!’ squealed Li’xiu leaning over and grabbing Temu'jin.

‘Let the Constable have a look at your hair now Li’xiu!’ said J’hal’yi pulling her daughter away from the boy.

‘Hoi, there’s a strand of hair as thick as my thumb that’s been lopped off in front,’ said Dau holding up a short piece near the scalp.’

‘Weren’t trying to hide it were they,’ said the Chief Constable to Y’suke.

‘Who wasn’t trying to hide it?’ asked Li’xiu’s mother J’hal’yi.

‘The faeries?’ replied Y’suke straight faced.

‘Aye, the faeries they took it last night they did!’ shouted Temu'jin.

‘The Empress had long golden hair, and things like this on her head,’ he held both hands up on either the side of his head. ‘And she had a thing on her face, like this!’ he said putting his hand in the middle of his face.

Temu'jin suddenly became expressionless, and he stared straight ahead as if in a trance. ‘The Empress’s eyes were sky coloured. And little lights danced around her fingers, and she were beautiful. She had firewarriors with her, all in green with jaggedy swords, and eyes like bugs...’

‘Temu’jin…Xumxa, were you afraid of the Empress?’ asked Y’suke.

‘No.’

‘Did she tell you why she wanted Li’xiu’s hair?’

‘She wanted to make her something special…for later.’

‘Was that all she wanted?’

‘Aye.’

‘Did she say anything else?’

‘Aye, she asked me if I loved Shas’onei, and I told her I loved her very much. She said that if I loved her always, that we would both grow up to be great firewarriors. And that someday, we’d be married.’

‘That sounds good Xumxa, I think your mother and your aunty would like that very much. Did she say anything else?’

‘Yes, she told me that when I grow up, that I’m going to go far, far away. But that Shas’onei would come looking for me…’ Temu'jin then turned and looking his father in the eyes and said, ‘…And when she found me, she would kill me.’

‘Aaagh!’ cried Y’suke, and staggering to his feet, stumbled out the door.

‘Both of you mothers stay with your children! Constable Dau you check on the boy! I’ll go after the shas’el!’ shouted Fyras chasing Y’suke out the door.

Outside Fyra found Y’suke bent over with his hands on both knees and breathing hard.

‘Are you alright sha’el?’

Y’suke turned and looked at the Chief Constable, his face a ghastly grey, ‘I…saw…them…I…saw…her… I…remember…it…all.’

Fyra shooed away some concerned neighbours, and putting his arm around Y’suke, let him put his full weight on the Chief Constable.

‘What do you remember shas’el?’

‘All…of…it. I remember…all of…last…night. It all came…back to me all…at once. Waking up…checking the holocam feeds…checking the vital signs...getting my pistol and going…to the children’s room…arming my pistol and opening the door…I remember it all.’

‘How did you manage to remember?’

‘When my son spoke those last words…it hit me all at once. Like a damn breaking, it hit me all at once.’ Y’suke’s breathing was easier now, and Fyra now allowed him to support himself. He looked over at the Chief Constable and whispered. ‘I saw them Fyra!’

‘What are you talking about Y’suke?’

‘I saw them when I opened the door…I can remember it now. She was in a gown of green and white…Skin like snow, hair the colour of pure gold, and eyes the colour of the sky…and glowing runes dancing around her fingers…Her ancient warriors, were clad head to foot in pale green armour…eye lens shinning like amber…chain swords like the gue’la’s, but finer…’

‘Who is she?’

‘…But what’s more, I heard her talking to Temu'jin. He’s not lying Chief Constable, because I heard it all.’

‘But you said you couldn’t understand their language? How do you know what she said?’

‘I couldn’t…but I understood her words nonetheless. They were inside my head, not like a transmission, but…like she was standing there inside my head. I heard her tell him, “When you and Li’xiu are grown up, you’ll both be great firewarriors; but then you will leave her, and go far, far away. But Li’xiu will come looking for you, and when she finds you, she will kill you.”

Fyra nodded his head in disbelief and said, ‘Who are they? Who is she?’

‘They are…they are the Ar’cea, an ancient race that wanders between the stars.’

‘The Ar’cea, an ancient race that wanders between the stars,’ said the Chief Constable staring off into the distance. ‘But why did they want a piece of a little girl’s hair?’

‘I don’t know?’ replied Y’suke rolling his shoulders and standing up. ‘We’d better get inside, those two women are experienced firewarriors; and they won’t wait long for an answer. I’ll need your help explaining all of this.’

‘Best of luck with that shas’el.’

‘We have the Tau’va for that Chief Constable; we have the Tau’va.’

The two fire caste men turned, and slowly entered housing pod #36-47, knowing they would face a barrage of unanswerable questions.


***



At this time of year Vior’la celebrates its Midsummer’s Young Children’s Festival, or the Festival of Eaji’ma T’onutsek. The festival itself is a traditional celebration, and goes back over a millennia to ancient T’au. The name of the festival, however, is a reference to Vior’la’s three moons: Káu'yr'ejii, Tsip, and Kiik. And is a shortened form of Eaji’ma t’onutsek’sti toglok, or Mother-watching-her-offspring-at-play. At this time of mid-summer on Viro’la, the two smaller moons of Tsip – Bite, and Kiik – Nip, rise and set with the larger moon of Káu'yr'ejii or Experienced Hunt Mother. The close proximity of the three moons at this time of year, reminded the early Vior’lan settlers of the story of Káu'yr'ejii and Her Children. In the Tau folk story, the fal’kinot Káu'yr'ejii can be seen at night watching over her pups as they played. The symbol of Káu'yr'ejii and her playful pups, was therefore chosen as the symbol of Vior’la’s Festival of Eaji’ma T’onutsek. At this time of the tau’cyr, many colourful banners and streamers carry this symbol; and can be seen hanging from the homes, businesses, and official buildings alike. – Excerpt from the pamphlet: The Festival of Eaji’ma T’onutsek. Reproduced here with the permission of the Vior’lan Board of Tourism.

FINI




Author's Note:
I apologize for the abrupt ending, which is why you have an excerpt from the Vior'lan Tourist Board. :) This is a one off story, but will reappear in the future as part of larger series. All I can right now is that the series may have something to do with the Fourth Sphere of Expansion. TM
Viro’los gu brath!
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#8 » Jun 21 2017 06:34

A Shadow Over the Good
by Prophet224


Shas'Vre K'lik Vi'orla R'mun huddled in a dark corner, back to a wall, ducked down behind a cabinet; while he held onto the dagger with his left hand. He shivered, fear flowing through his body like dark immobilizing fluid. “What to do?” To remain still was to invite slaughter, to move, death. The pulse pistol in his right hand felt cold.

K'lik stood, forcing himself upright. He was a warrior, a leader of fire warriors, and if he died so be it; but it would not be as a cornered animal. The thing was out there somewhere, and it had to be stopped, the research preserved.

The room was dim, the emergency lighting not extending fully, to his little storage closet. Absent too, were alert lights, though he could hear the alarm ringing from outside. It smelled clean, but for a faint whiff of metallic death that he'd brought with him. He wiped his hand, smeared with red and blue blood, across the side of his uniform top.

As he stepped to the door, he slipped a blade from the sheath at his left hip; and wished again that he'd brought up his concerns about the project more forcefully.



***Eight Cycles Ago***

"The delivery has arrived Fio’El Taran", said K'lik as he walked into the man's primary lab. He gestured behind him, where a set of fire warriors, slid the floating ceramite container through the doors. It moved quietly on its repulsors, a faint hum from the container louder, than the sound of its moving. A research drone immediately moved close to adjust it into position.

The Earth caste scientist jumped, glee and excitement readily apparent, as he hustled over to the floating cylinder. He waved off the fire warriors who looked to K'lik. A quick nod, and short jerk of the head, and they slid out the door. Deeper within the laboratory area, researchers glanced up and stared through the glass walls towards El'Taran's lab.

"Do I get to find out what the excitement is about, finally?" It wasn't that he couldn't have found out, as the security commander for the research base, but all the documents he'd seen only referred to 'the package', and El'Taran had refused to talk until it arrived.

"Yes, of course," said the scientist over his shoulder, while he worked at controls on the side of the cylinder. He waved with his left hand. "Come see!"

K'lik stepped closer. It was good to see the scientist so excited. He'd grown more and more despondent as the project wore on, “providing,” as El'Taran had put it, "fruit but not success".

With a click and hiss the protective transport cylinder split through the center, and the two sides slid away, retracting into either end. Inside was the polished metal equipment endcaps, and clear glass canopy, of a stasis tube. Within which was preserved, for as long as the tube ran; and with Tau technology would be exactly as long as they decided, a bloodied, damaged; but unmistakable horrifying visage.

K'lik looked at El'Taran then stared back at the thing in the tube. "That is one of the hu'man a'ssass'ins. Where did you get this?"

The scientist didn't even glance up; but rather his hands were pressed to the tube's clear surface. "I don't know. I had heard that these existed, and I put in a request – that if we could acquire one, it might provide invaluable insight to our research."

K'lik backed away, more horrified by the raik’an. He pointed at the thing and yelled, "This is what tried to kill Aun'va, may his light ever shine. It is an abomination!"

Now El'Taran did turn to him, and spoke quietly, "You sound like a gue'la, shas'vre. Those…" his mouth worked the unfamiliar word. "…hu'mans don't understand the Greater Good. It is not an abomination. It is an answer."



***Six Cycles Ago***

K'lik strode down the hall behind his second-in-command Shas'Ui T'farn, and the head of the human detachment, Gue'vesa'Ui M'ark, who went by the human title Cap'tain. The gue'vesa – human volunteers – had insisted that there be hu'mans attached to the project, in security, research, and in care taking. They may not fully comprehend the Greater Good yet; but they had volunteered, and so arrangements were made.

The inspection wouldn't take long; but as much as he wanted to see the containment, he wanted to see the thing as well.

They came to a large doorway marked as the Research Center, and T'farn entered his clearance. The building's A.I. scanned each of them in turn, and the door slid open. T'farn gestured them through, "Researcher B'taran will meet us in the chamber."

T'farn seemed calm. On the other hand, K'lik thought his ability to read humans had grown immeasurably under their close association; and M'ark appeared furtive at least. Not that the human could be blamed. Immediately to the right was the empty primary lab. The entire corridor was walled with a transparent composite, stronger than most metals; allowing easy visibility into the various labs, and safety at the same time. Scientists and research drones moved about the lab.

Halfway down the hall they made a left turn, and quickly came to another wide doorway. This one was more like a vault, and opaque. The chamber had been fabricated off-site and then dropped in, and linked to the rest of the facility.

K'lik this time entered his own authorizations, and the door soon opened; its edges spiraling away in layers. They moved into a small airlock, let the door behind them close, and the system cycled. When the inner doors opened, a sense of unease filled K'lik, as they quickly moved inside. Within, a pair of technicians stood at consoles on opposite sides of the chamber. Taran was in the center at another console, up against the room's dominant feature – a floor to ceiling tube of light and liquid. A dark shape floated in the center of the tube.

El'Taran looked up beaming, as they entered, "Welcome! So much success!" He gestured at the thing in the tank, "I wouldn't have thought it would work out this quickly, but – here we are!"

K'lik held up a hand, "Security first please El'B'taran."

He wouldn't normally dismiss the technical head of the facility, especially since it was actually he who reported up to El'Taran. But he'd learned that the scientist's research came before any other concerns, and those around the man, had to reign him in. He turned to T'farn and M'ark.

"Tell me," he said and stepped in.

The unease he felt when the door had opened only grew stronger when they moved closer. He schooled his face and body to show nothing, as the odd sense strengthened.

T'farn spoke while M'ark stood silent."The experiment is continually monitored by technicians on opposite sides of the room from one another; helping to reduce the likelihood of interference, or of both being caught off guard at once. The inner chamber is a transparent crystalline metal tank reinforced with a set of force fields. The outer chamber, which we are now in, is accessible only by the four of us and El'B'taran's assistant. Even the technicians require one of us to open the chamber for shift change. This entire module – walls, floors, ceiling, door – is composed of nano-crystalline alloy; it is effectively a heavily reinforced battlesuit armor."

T'farn looked to M'ark and nodded. The human picked up T'farn's explanation, "Additionally, two pairs of guards are on duty at all times, as you saw outside. Each team consists of one Tau fire warrior and one human, both well-armed and prepared to handle threats from inside or out."

K'lik signaled approval, then look back and forth between T'Farn and El'Taran. "And what of the search for some kind of shielding, some defense against this…," he paused, looking for a better word; but his disgust finally won out, “…thing?”

El'Taran stepped closer, his hands moving; which indicated nothing, but anxiousness. "Ah, nothing yet, no, but, ah…I think this project may lead there, yes, eventually…with time."

K'lik signed acknowledgment this time; and looked back at the thing in the tank, drawn to it's horrifying nature. Perhaps the predator in his fire warrior's blood sensed the danger.

"And the ru'gel itself?" he asked with a subtle head nod towards the tank. That was the right word for it – a creature, a monstrosity, crafted by the fio’fann.

Here El'Taran looked delighted, "Better and better! The subject was unstable for the first few rotexi, requiring constant monitoring and adjustment. It took time, but now its growth has stabilized. We believe that the combination of tau and gue'vesa physiologies, have reached a critical mass. And all the little tweaks we've made along the way, have the subject in line, to grow properly within the matrix."

K'lik stepped closer to the tank, and felt the wrongness grow as he did. The thing truly was an abomination, even if he couldn't accurately describe what he felt. He knew of course the general plans for the facility; but hadn't seen the facility head's actual project plan. "How much more growth before you halt its development?"

El'Taran looked confused and K'lik felt sick with the scientist's next words. "Halt it? Oh no, we will bring it to term! I mean to ensure that the being is fully viable."


***


Later that day K'lik sat in his quarters, working on an early weekly report. He would flag it and send it today, in hopes that someone would listen.

“Scientist El'Taran, while working wonders, seeks to progress beyond the bounds which we can safely ensure. Already the entity gives off an aura that clouds the mind. The hu’mans will not go near it, and even we Tau, feel where the being twists the world around it.”

How to ensure they would read and act on the message; rather than pretend it is unwarranted fear that caused him to write it? For a fire warrior that could be the end, and it would not get them to heed his warning.

“The project provides a perfect opportunity to investigate the being's abilities. As we learn more, we can properly account for a more mature creature in the future; as well as develop tactics for countering the creatures in the field. I ask that the entity be held at the current state of development; rather than rush further growth and risk the project.”

He stared at it considering, then marked it with his identification, and hit send. His conscience could be clear; his superiors would make the right decision.



***2 Cycles Ago***

K'lik approached the chamber and the uncomfortable flurry of activity around it. Still down the hall, still shielded, he could feel it already. There was the twisting in the back of his head, and the pressure; like there was something watching him, about to pounce. The vault door slid open ,and a set of workers rushed out; a grav cart between them overloaded near to toppling, with whatever materials they needed from within the chamber.

El'Taran stood at a distance, nervously scratching one hoof on the metal plating beneath him. "That should be all we need. Take it to the room over there," he said gesturing with one hand, almost dismissively; but the furtive scratching gave up his fear.

Cap'tain M'ark called from behind, and K'lik paused in the corridor. He turned and waved him closer. The gue'vesa'ui approached, lips pursed together, and eyes concentrating.

"Speak."

M'ark saluted in a proper Tau fashion and began, "Sir, I have been standing watch myself. The men – " He stopped and took a deep breath. "The men are fighters, sir; but this is different. We've seen that humans are more sensitive to it. And I wanted to thank you for moving the perimeter back. They can't get around this, they're making up stories..."

"What stories?" asked K'lik stepping closer.

"They're saying it will teleport to anyplace you can feel it. They say it's a demon, or a god. The feeling – it taps into something difficult to describe. Well it makes you feel like your worst nightmares could be true, and are about to happen; or are happening right now, and you haven't realized yet. Even the fire warriors feel it," he laughed, a forced sound.

"We weren't sure Tau had a sixth sense, but it seems you do." M'ark now made an odd expression – his eyebrows drew together, and he cocked his head to the side. "Everyone but you that is? Anyway, sir, I've been standing post near the chamber. My men are ready to fight; but it works on the mind when it’s too close and, well, we have a saying, 'Never give an order you know won't be obeyed.' I'm not sure the men would get any closer unless there's an actual threat."

"I don't know how you do it," said M'ark shaking his head, a signal K'lik had learned was negation.

K'lik “nodded” for the gue'vesa, "I do it because someone must. Your service is honorable. The men should stand ready, and know their limitations. Be vigilant."

K'lik turned and strode toward the chamber again. He passed Taran without a glance’ while the technicians moved down the corridor to find their new stations, Taran following slowly behind. He stood before the doorway, a tall vault-like construct, and keyed entry. A wash of energy, almost palpable, flooded from the room; filling the space around him, and then seemed to squeeze. K'lik stepped into the room and let the door slide closed. He glanced at the empty stations where technicians had stood until today. They'd lost three to madness before B'tan relented, and moved them out.

A lone chair rested near the growth chamber, and K'lik settled into it; before looking into the giant test tube, where the entity floated. Hoofs and a human-like nose were evident on a blue body, the size of a young adult. A force in his mind tried to push his gaze away, first one direction, and then the another. It was like balancing on a marble – always a moment from falling. But he had been here too many times, for far too long; and he held his gaze on the thing, the ru'gel, until he decided to look away.

He pulled a data slate from his pocket. "Where were we?" K'lik said to himself as he powered it up and found the material. "The Collected Writings of Puretide, volume three, section seven." He began reading aloud, as he always did, not to the creature; but to himself, the words and the act of speaking them, a defense against the onslaught in his mind.



***Today***

K'lik gripped the dagger and pistol, popped the door's auxiliary panel with the back of his left hand; and carefully pulled the release with a few fingers, letting up from the dagger momentarily. Of course it moved freely. He crouched low, dug into a small notch in the door, and slid it partway open. Beyond was dim light, flashes coming from somewhere in the distance, and a hallway. Faint screams and moans filtered through the air.

He pushed through the door slowly, silently, careful to avoid looking into the few lights that were working. He glanced behind at the closet and felt shame. His memory of how he'd got there was a fog; but it couldn't have been anything good.

When the alarms had gone off he'd known what it had to be. Reports had come in from around the station of attacks, equipment destroyed, people killed; but everyone he'd spoken to was dazed at least. The unlucky ones were in pieces, or huddled on the ground chanting gibberish. As he had almost been. A rush of shame swept over him, and he'd felt the ru'gel sensing him; and then push power through the connection. When he next opened his eyes, he was in the storeroom huddled like a Vior’lan teg rat, prey for whatever came by.

In the hallway metallic scents of torn metal and blood mixed with ozone, fear-filled shouts coming from several directions. He oriented on the most vigorous screams and set off at a run towards them.

The screams had stopped amid a barrage of pulse rifle fire, and the odd cracking sound of the gue'vesa lasers. K'lik pushed himself faster, hopping the occasional body. Had they killed it then? He had just entered the administrative section, an area of offices and cubbies for filling out forms and drawing plans.

He'd taken a moment to check the feed from when the creature got loose. A technician, one of El'taran's people, had entered the chamber; and the thing simply broke the suspension tube it had been in. Then it killed the technician, and darted through the chamber doors. It had simply waited for its moment.

The weapons fire had died down but it was still close. He approached a turn and saw more bodies. More blood. More broken drones. A few warriors, human and Tau alike, staring off into the distance, lost inside their minds. His precious fire warriors. But three, were by the door at the end of the hall, with gue'vesa'ui M'ark. They were stained and shaken; but reloading their weapons when K'lik rounded the corner. He slipped in a patch of blood or oil, the lighting made it difficult to tell which, and held up his hands.

M'ark called out, "Don't shoot. It's Shas'Vre K'lik! Sir, the ru'gel is here, trapped. There's only one other exit and it’s covered."

K'lik took in the horrified but waiting faces of his command; and then looked to M'ark asking, "Shas'Ui Farn?"

M'ark shook his head in the odd human negation. "Dead earlier, down the hall somewhere." He waved back in the direction of the previous carnage. "We've been fighting since it escaped, but it’s hard to hit. When you try to aim it's like you just…slide away from it somehow. Sir, it's killed so many already, that I'm tempted to seal the doors on either side, and detonate this whole area."

K'lik started to agree, he'd already seen the damage the thing had done. The next room, the main administrative computer center, was a warren of stations and equipment. They'd been wholly unprepared for an actual breakout.

“Wait…the computer center? Shisun'shas!" he cursed.

K'lik quickly used the data pad on his arm to give Cap'tain M'ark access to his vital signs; but then stabbed the human with a hard look. "You will weld the other exit shut and transfer the remainder of the fire warriors here. You now have access to my life signs."

The human slid a data pad from a pocket and nodded.

"If you don't hear from me in eight turns of the clock, or if my life signs cease, you will weld this door as well. Then evacuate and destroy the administration wing."

M'ark nodded but wavered, "Sir, you can't go in there!"

"I have to. I don't know what it’s doing; but I know we can't leave it with access to the computer systems."

"Sir, it’s mature physically, but it's only been alive a few months. It can't –."

K'lik burst out a response, "I don't know what knowledge El'Taran fed into that thing!" He softened his voice and continued, "Our researcher friend could have fed it knowledge of the language and computer systems – It could be wiping all our data, or setting up an escape route. Follow your orders."

M'ark nodded again and stepped back, "Yes, sir." He drew up into an odd human salute, then waving the other warriors away shouted, "Fall back to cover the entrance. Fall back!"

K'lik slid the door aside, bright light flooding the hall, and stepped into the creature's lair.

His sixth sense, as the humans had called it, tickled in the back of his head. It was a pressure he was accustomed to, from his ongoing sessions with the creature. What was once disorienting had become familiar, and he could use it to find the thing. The door behind him slid closed. K'lik crouched, legs bent and torso forward; and then brought his knife hand up to brace the pulse pistol. He moved forward leading with the pistol, and waiting for his eyes to adjust.

The room was sizable, a good forty by thirty, and bright with normal lighting. The computer systems and rooms were considered essential, since they governed everything else; and so they had their own backup generators. Screens and workstations dotted the room, cabinets, and tables breaking up the space. Unfortunately it was neither large enough, nor loud enough, to have hidden his entrance. K'lik turned slowly, staying low and inching forward; all the while poking at the mental sense, feeling for any change in strength or kind.

There towards a small but reinforced interior doorway that, if he remembered correctly; led to a direct-access terminal and computer. If it wasn't in there already, and he couldn't see how it could have gotten in, it was certainly nearby. He stepped forward, quiet as he could be, with his hooves on metal flooring. K'lik moved low and with the pistol trained in the direction of the strongest mental unease. Bloody prints of mingled red and blue marked the floor. He wound through the desks and bumped a chair, paused, his pulse pounding through his body.

Halfway there he stopped. The feeling was moving back and forth, side to side. If the feeling really was coming from the creature, and not his imagination. K'lik eased closer and caught movement through the desks. He could just make out the ru'gel, – a naked blue hybrid of tau and human, wet with the blood of both ancestries. It sat on the ground shivering, four-fingered hands grasping at the ground, in what looked like an absent gesture. Outside of the tank its skin was the faint blue of the Pau't'san sept world. Its face was a disfigured mess, with an open hole where a human would have a nose. Its expression, and the faint keening noise coming from it, where unmistakable in any language – tormented pain.

It looked up and even through the obstructions somehow caught his eyes. It jerked back, and then in a smooth motion, rose to its feet. K'lik's sense of unease turning to fear and dizziness as it stood up. Whatever power it had naturally, under its gaze – its attention, K'lik realized – it had abilities they never realized.

K'lik steeled himself against the onslaught, now able to resist the monster's power with the preparation he hadn't had earlier in the day; and rose to stand as well. They stared at each other across the short distance. It held his eyes as it put a hand to its head and winced.

K'lik opened a channel to M'ark and whispered, "When this is over, everyone must be interviewed, everything recorded. Take down whatever anyone felt from being near this…," he paused, the term ru'gel suddenly not feeling right, "…Whatever anyone felt from him, and ensure that information is sent to command."

"Yes, sir," came the whispered reply.

K'lik shifted closer still and it twitched, pulled the hand from its head; its body still caught in what appeared to be pain. Its mouth worked silently. K'lik could see the bloody fingers, nails torn away from their ends.

The hybrid creature worked his mouth again and croaked out, "I. Should Not. Be. Here."

“What had Taran done? Grown him in a vat and given him knowledge?”

"Erase," the voice rasped again.

K'lik couldn't tell what it was trying to communicate. “Erase records? Erase itself? Or maybe it was a threat?”

It didn't matter, and so K'lik firmed his grip on the pistol, and steeled his aim. His vision, and his body worked against him; trying to slide off center. His sights wavered around, balancing on a marble again; but he was used to the being's impact on his mind. In a smooth motion he exhaled and pulled the trigger.

The pulse round tore into the left side of the hybrid man's chest. His eyes widened as a wailing screech poured from his mouth; and ducked faster than a palex cat. The next round hit the wall behind him, and then it was up and over the last intervening desk, springing through the air.

Another pulse round punched through the being's right side and blue blood flowed from the wound before he landed on K'lik. The shas'vre went down, and the breath was crushed from his lungs; while the pulse pistol skittered across the floor. A thought flashed through his mind - “He's heavier than I expected, ah, human density maybe.” They were in a tangle of limbs, and he could feel the hybrid's strong muscles working to find purchase.

K'lik got a hoof under himself and stood up; but the being got a hand on his shoulder ,and rode him to a standing position. A jab with the knife could end this. K'lik stabbed in and down under the arm on his shoulder but was deflected, the knife biting into the forearm; but not the vitals of his enemy's torso.

“He's so fast,” thought K'lik.

It felt like fighting with lightning. The same arm he'd nicked slipped around to grab his knife wrist in a vise-like grip. The other hand struck at K'lik's torso, once, twice, each time pushing them closer to the wall behind. Then K'lik felt the bone crack. He struggled to move the knife hand closer; but it was so strong. He stepped back to keep the knife from being pushed near his own head; but felt the wall hit his hoof. No more room. When the hybrid moved closer, K'lik lashed out with his free hand, grasping for eyeballs to puncture; but the hybrid lashed his head around and shifted, just out of reach. He took another punch to the ribs, and another, feeling a tear, then blocked the next with his forearm and a quick turn of the wrist to grab his enemy's wrist.

K'lik couldn't take much more of that. Already it was hard to move, and his breath wasn't coming in right. Time seemed to slow and K'lik could feel every motion, every point of contact. He couldn't defeat it without a weapon, and it controlled his knife hand. He had its other arm; but it was too strong, too slippery to hold for long. Back to the wall it would pummel him to death.

So he let go.

Right hand released the wrist he held and whipped up to the other side, even as the hybrid went to strike. He gripped the back of his own knife hand, twisted his body and pulled down, bringing the blade in front of him even as his shoulders and torso were planted firmly against the wall. The extra force of arm and body pulled the hybrid off balance, just for a moment, and it drew back.

As it did, he pushed, the combined force of its strength and his own, driving the blade into its throat, just as its own strike landed on his trapped torso. With nowhere for the force to go, the already cracked bone snapped. The pain spiked, his eyes widened involuntarily, and he lost his breath. Blue blood splashed across his face; and for a confused moment, he thought it was his own.

Then the hybrid Tau thrashed about, his hands going to his throat. He stepped away, stumbled, and fell back; K'lik's dagger deep in his neck. The combatants mirrored each other, the hybrid sliding down the side of a desk; while K'lik slid down the wall, and coughed up a small spray of blood.

Blue poured from the hybrid's wound and they stared at one another. Black crowded in from the sides of K'lik's vision. He pulled his arms together to reach for the comm on his dataslate; gritting as the pain shot through his body. More by feel, than by now hazy sight, he activated the comm.

"He is down!" the shas'vre gasped out, "The records are saved. May it serve the Holies!" As the dark closed in, shame filled him again. His thoughts came loose and jumbled; but he couldn't help but wonder. He'd followed his orders, doing the will of his leaders. He only hoped his sacrifice, and not destroying the records, would really serve the Greater Good.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Author's Note:
Big thanks to Tauman for all the help, vocab, and starting this off.
Also - I'm pretty new, like 6 months new, to Warhammer in general much less Tau specifically so please be patient with any oddities.
I'd love to hear feedback and criticism.
Thanks!
-Prophet224
Last edited by TauMan on Aug 27 2017 07:02, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#9 » Jun 25 2017 02:06

Oh, that really was depressing. But I suppose it should be, grimdark and all. Brings the Alien series and all the hybrid horror to mind (in a good way). Thanks for the heads-up!

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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#10 » Aug 27 2017 07:09

Cracked Jade
By Kakapo42



A sudden shift in gravity sent Shas’la’Vior’la Co’Shi’s insides lurching as his team’s Devilfish APC changed course, corkscrewing downwards and to the left for a few chaotic moments before resuming level movement forwards. Co’Shi wondered what had made the pilot perform the manoeuvre, whether it was to avoid some kind of incoming projectile or from a new change in orders from the commanding Shas’El, but all he could see through the armoured vision-blocks in the Devilfish’s passenger compartment was darkness as the transport soared through the night. Occasionally there would be a flash of light outside or more often a series of white bursts that rippled like lightning, but they were the only sign of the battle raging around the Devilfish that the Tau could see from where he was seated. Around him, bathed in the crimson ambience of the Devilfish’s combat lighting, were the 11 other Fire Warriors that made up Co’shi’s team, scattered throughout the transports interior. Most of them were clustered together in twos and threes, conversing with each other while they double-checked equipment. Their chatter provided a relief from the constant ringing song of the Devilfish’s engines. The team’s Shas’Ui leader stood in the centre, discussing mission specifics and orders with the transport liaison perched in the small round observation cupola, a pale grey flowerpot that clung to the ceiling of the passenger compartment and seemed to float on the illumination that shone from the lights embedded on its bottom.

Co’Shi thought about what was going to come next. This was the first time he would face real combat, facing down the enemies of the Tau Empire in a live warzone and not just theoretical exercises or mock engagements in the academy Battle Domes. The young Fire Warrior was eager to prove himself. In the Tau’cyr before this night he had spent countless hours hearing and reading tales of courageous Fire Caste warriors and thrilling victories, and he was excited for the adventure ahead. Nonetheless, Co’Shi could not shake a creeping sense of unease. He had seen scarred veterans at the academy, and witnessed warrior funerals before. The Tau was under no illusions about what war was like. Things got broken. People died.

One of his teammates, Shas’la’Vior’la B’kak, made her way over to Co’Shi and settled down next to him. The two of them had always worked well together when they were training, and Co’Shi was glad to know that she would have his back when they disembarked into their first battle together. “The Shas’Ui says we’ll be touching down shortly,” she said to him, “Are you ready?”

“I think so,” Co’Shi replied, “I wish I knew what was going on outside. It’s doing nothing good to my nerves not being able to see past the hull.”

“We’ll be out soon enough,” said B’kak, “Apparently we’re fighting an enemy that’s the very epitome of the Mont’au. They’ve been rampaging all across the planet’s surface doing nothing but slaughtering innocents. They don’t seem to care about territory or material gain; they just kill anything in sight and move on. Sounds like the O’res’la, except they’re not. Some kind of Gue’la pirates apparently.”

Co’Shi had heard the stories. They apparently had some of the same equipment as the Gue’ron’sha elite forces of the human Imperium, but at the same time used bizarrely primitive tactics and weaponry. Some suspected they might be a rouge element of the Gue’la military – such uncontrolled forces were not unheard of – while others thought they might be pirates that had somehow managed to access supplies of top-level Gue’la equipment at some point in the past. Whatever the truth, their attacks had proven terrifyingly effective, with the sheer brutal savagery of their assaults counterbalancing the crude techniques they employed.

“I suppose we’ll have to fight extra-hard then,” Co’Shi said, “And it will be an especially important victory when we triumph. Have you checked over your gear?”

“Three times now,” B’kak said, “Once before we left base and twice while we’ve been mobile. Want to go through another? It can’t hurt to be sure.”

Co’Shi never got the chance to answer. Before he could speak the roof of the Devilfish was ripped apart in an avalanche of fire, sparks and flying spall. The Shas’Ui was flung back by the force of the impact and slammed into the transport’s rear door intact. The transport liaison was far less fortunate, being crushed in a spray of cyan gore as the observation cupola collapsed around him. At the epicentre of the carnage was the massive object that had just been rammed into the now-stricken transport – a monstrous wickedly curved blade. Co’Shi recognised the design as the head of a primitive axe, not unlike those used in the ancient days of Tau civilisation or even in this era by particularly unsophisticated human populations which the Tau encountered from time to time. That, however, was where the similarities ended. The weapon was enormous, almost enough to cleave the Devilfish in half laterally. It was fashioned out of material that Co’Shi did not recognise, some kind of composite that seemed to blend the properties of metal, stone and crystal. It shined with a dark lustre, and seemed to shift in colour between charred chrome and obsidian black with a faint deep red that radiated from it. Where it struck something solid, it burned white-hot, and towards the centre it was adorned with brass detailing in the fashion of human skulls around a central, angular motif. In the few moments that Co’Shi glimpsed the weapon its sight made his skin prickle and his eyes sore. He felt a wave of heat and his heart quicken.

At once he was out of the stricken transport, rushing across the dark ground in the cold wind. As he turned he saw the creature that had descended on them, a colossal winged dog-headed abomination with a mane of shaggy black hair and hellish red skin whose image caused something to stir deep inside Co’Shi, something dark and ancient, a distant primal heat driving him to strike, to hit, to fight. Co’Shi’s teammates, his friends and comrades, lay strewn across the carnage while the survivors backed away from the scene, searing electric flashes streaking across the night as they fired wildly at the monstrosity. The azure plasma pulses from their weapons struck the creature with all the force of a butterfly against concrete, barely tarnishing the primal brass plating that covered it in a dark mockery of the combat armour Co’Shi was wearing. It raised its arms in defiance, one holding the colossal axe that it had shattered the Devilfish with, the other brandishing a wickedly-barbed whip, and unleashed a triumphant hurricane of a roar that deafened Co’Shi and drove out any thoughts he might have had beyond base fight or flight…

An age later, Shas’Ui’Vior’la Co’Shi awoke suddenly to face the cold golden lights of dawn sallying into his dormitory room.


****


A harsh pallid glare radiated from the twin suns looming above Co’Shi as he strode through the brisk morning air, the hard unforgiving bone-white sand crackling and crunching under his hooves as he marched across the northern Vior’la training centre. It was early enough that the desert had still not quite abandoned its night-time chill, yet the compound was already a hive of activity. All around Co’Shi Tau scurried to and fro in small teams or individually while drones darted overhead, weaving around the several dozen geodesic buildings and the large courtyards between them which together comprised the training centre that had been home to Co’Shi since being withdrawn from front-line duty. The Shas’Ui had ostensibly been placed in the role of training instructor because of the wide range of experience he had earned, but Co’Shi had always had his reservations about the secret true reason behind this placement – he wasn’t ignorant to his individual name, nor was he lacking in self-awareness or memory. He knew the reputation he had gained in his Hunter Cadre. Tau died around him in battles.

Still, Co’Shi saw no use in dwelling on the negative. He was here now and he had a job to do, one that he had been doing well for numerous Tau’cyr now. The compound he was in was one of several centres on Vior’la dedicated to training Pathfinders for the Fire Caste, feeding the Tau Empire’s seemingly inexhaustible need for the light scouts. As an instructor, Co’Shi was responsible for teaching the Fire Caste warriors sent here and drilling them with all the additional skills and knowledge they would require for this role, as well as instilling the right mindset and thinking patterns they would need to survive it. Thanks to him, Shas’la walked in, and Pathfinders walked out.

It was early in the Tau’cyr, and the start of a fresh training cycle. Thus it was that Co’Shi was approaching his latest batch of recruits. While Shas’la displaying a natural aptitude for field-craft and reconnaissance work from an early age were trained as Pathfinders from the moment they began at the Fire Caste academies as ‘saal, this training centre was one of a number given over to developing supplementary Pathfinder troops, and so the 24 Tau standing neatly before him were all Firewarriors who had volunteered for Pathfinder service. This meant that they had at least complete training at the academy and good familiarity with most of the equipment they would be using, but Co’Shi knew that they would still have a long wat to go before being even close to ready. Ideally, the best ones would have a good bit of combat experience under their belt, a natural talent for inference and/or lateral thinking, and a deep understanding of the Tau’va, the Greater Good, and what it means to sacrifice for it – but even then they would still be thinking too much like line infantry, and he’d need to develop their survival and observational skills to make good scouts. At worst, they would be zealous young cadets volunteering straight out of the academy purely to prove their dedication to the Tau Empire and filled with dreams of getting a pat on the head from the Aun after winning glory. These ones would need the most work, and Co’Shi knew to give them no respite lest they compromise the rest of their team.

It was time to begin.

“Greetings Shas’la,” Co’Shi said as he began walking up and down the length of his latest audience, “I am Shas’Ui’Vior’la Co’Shi, and I will be in charge of your training here. I hear tell there are some here who wish to be Pathfinders. In truth, I can’t say I’m surprised, after all who doesn’t want to be able to spend their free time in some glamorous establishment wowing others with exciting war stories about daring raids and cunning stealth and lighting up the enemies of the Empire to blow them sky-high with seeker missiles? Think of the fame and adulation that would come from that, eh?”

A sense of regret echoed through Co’Shi as he spied a couple of the recruits’ eyes light up at his description. These ones would likely not be making it, and he would make sure they knew no mercy.

“GLAMOUR!” shouted Co’Shi, verbally pouncing with the ferocity to match any apex predator, “FAME? ADULATION? Is that why you have come here!? If the answer forming in your head is even remotely close to positive then you should go straight back to the academy and think long and hard about the Tau’va.

If you wish to be here, know this. In the Great War of Confederation, only two out of every ten Pathfinders emerged from the fighting unscathed. The rest were either wounded or killed, and if you are thinking that you would be one of those two, remember that so are the other two Shas standing next to you, and chances are none of you are right.

You were all Firewarriors before yes? If the introductory staff has done their job, you would have been asked to turn in your suits of combat armour. Forget them, they are gone and you will never see them again. They will be rendered down and recycled into the target drones you will practice gunnery on. Instead, if you are very lucky, you will get a helmet and a full chest-plate as part of your recon armour package. If not, you will get a lightweight chest-plate with thinner plating.”

Co’Shi stopped and fished into a leather pouch attached to his belt, bringing out a round silver-tipped copper object, larger than his fist and with a tapered point at one end. “Here,” he said before throwing the object at the recruit in front of him, who dutifully shot out a hand and caught it. “Good catch!” said Co’Shi, “Now can you tell me what it is, recruit?”

“It’s some kind of munition,” the recruit said, “Gue’la manufacture if I’m not mistaken.”

“Good eye,” said Co’Shi, “It’s a Gue’la bolt shell, medium calibre. Pass it around.”

The Shas’Ui watched as the bolt round began to migrate from recruit to recruit. “Feel the weight of it,” he said, “It’s rocket-assisted, with an explosive core and a solid diamantine tip. A standard-issue Gue’la rifle or pistol bolt-weapon will fire one out at supersonic speeds before the rockets kick in. This means that you will not actually hear one until it has already hit. If it hits you and you’re lucky, it will bounce off your armour and detonate next to you, covering you in a spray of hot fast-moving shrapnel, and by the end of it there might be something left for the medics to try putting back together. If you’re not lucky, the round will punch straight through your armour, and your last moments will be brutish and short.

But hey, that’s just the worst case scenario right? Bolt weapons are only used by elite troops like the Gue’ron’sha, and maybe the odd Gue’la commander, chances are you’re only ever going to face weaker stuff like lasers and Ores’la slugs. They’re the most common projectiles used by our adversaries.”

Co’Shi fished out another two objects from the leather pouch. “Then you’ll want to examine these,” he said before tossing each to another nearby recruit, “It looks like we’ve got some good reflexes in this group,” he said as both objects were caught with ease, “That’s good, you’ll need them if you want to be a Pathfinder. Now study those well and pass them around.”

One of the objects was a mostly flat disc of pale Fio’tak composites, hard but light, with a hole slightly wider than a thumb running straight through it just up from the centre surrounded by a ring of bitter-black scorch marks. The other was a long curved rectangle of the same material and colour, but with a ragged coarse chunk missing from the bottom, as if some tiny voracious animal had bitten it straight off, leaving a shattered semi-circle that reached the centre.

“One of those is the centre piece for a recon armour chest-plate just like the one you’ll be issued with if you’re a Pathfinder,” continued Co’Shi, “It was hit by a beam from a standard-issue Gue’la laser weapon, which burned clean through it and into the chest of its wearer. It struck his lungs, one of which was ripped to pieces while the other filled with blood from the ruptured vessels, and the Shas’la died in agony over a few rai’kor. The other one is a piece of plating from a Pathfinder helmet. A slug from an Ores’la firearm slammed straight into it, punched through, smashed the electronics on the other side, then tore through the wearer’s skull and pulverised their brain. They were killed instantly.

Make no mistake Shas’la, if you are a Pathfinder the only two things standing between you and a gruesome death are your wits and the other warriors in your team. If you are a Pathfinder then chances are your end will be in an unmarked grave on some Aun-forsaken world so far away from home you can’t see it when you look up at night, and if you don’t end up that way then chances are one or both of the warriors standing next to you will. There is no glamour in being a Pathfinder, there is no glory and no fame from it. So think long and hard Shas’la, about why you really want to be here, if indeed you really do.”

Co’Shi now walked up to one of the recruits in front of him and faced the young Tau. “You, Shas’la,” he said, “Why do you want to be a Pathfinder?”

“To serve the Greater Good to the utmost of my capacity!” the recruit enthusiastically replied, “And light the way for future expansions of our glorious empire!”

“Like the Mont’au you do Shas’la!” Co’Shi growled, “I said I want to know why you want to be a Pathfinder, not why the Por in the military propaganda department want to be one!”

The Shas’Ui strode further along the row of Tau, then stopped on a whim and faced the recruit in front of him. “You,” he said, “Why do you want to be here?”

The Shas’la paused, striving to craft a worthy answer as carefully as he could. Co’Shi starred at him with seething disappointment. “If it takes you that long to come up with an answer you don’t have one worth either of our time,” Co’Shi said, “You have until the end of the Rotaa to find one. If you don’t have one by then, you’re out. End of discussion. Work on it.”

Co’Shi continued on, but got no further than a few paces before he was stopped in his tracks – though he made sure to appear intentional. His attention had been caught by the Shas’la before him, a petite bright looking young warrior nonchalantly ignoring the strands of her auburn hair blowing in the morning breeze. There was little truly exceptional about her, save for her composure. She stood utterly defiant against the environment around here, and looked straight at the Shas’Ui with utter fearlessness. But it was more than that, she was… bright. There was some shining spark in her eyes that lightened her features, an ancient light that radiated out and couldn’t help but stir excitement and wonder. She was misplaced in this increasingly savage day and age, a First Sphere spirit in the age of the Third Sphere. And no matter how hard he fought it, it all seemed familiar to Co’Shi.

“Shas’la,” he said to her, “What say you? Why do you want to be here eh? You want to make Aun’va proud and show the way along the path of enlightenment?”

“No Shas’Ui,” she replied.

“No Shas’Ui?” Co’Shi parroted, “Is that so? Very well, do you want to light things up and blow them sky high with rocket attacks? Do you have an appetite for destruction pulse weapons just can’t satisfy?”

“No Shas’Ui.”

“Indeed? Does that mean you do want to end up in an unmarked grave on some forgotten world on the edge of space? There’s a Por psych over by the infirmary to go to in that case.”

“No Shas’Ui, I am not suicidal Shas’Ui.”

“Then why are you here Shas’la?”

There was that spark again. It was dangerously disarming. “I want to help my cadre,” she said, “I want to make sure none of them ever have to die because they didn’t know where the enemy was.”

The answer struck Co’Shi’s core like a bolt of lightning. Something dark and terrible stirred deep inside him, reeling in pain and confusion over a significance it never knew it had. He would need to keep a close eye on this one.

“Interesting,” the Shas’Ui said, “We shall see just how much you’ll do for that Shas’la…”
Co’Shi loomed over the Shas’la, this bastion of forlorn warmth that had dared to venture into his world, and starred at her with the poised wrath of a summer storm. “…We. Shall. See.” He said.


****


Insects hummed in the parched midday heat of the meadow that Co’Shi and his new team lurked in. The long wild stalks of this planet’s grasslands came up to almost head height, providing excellent concealment – though it had been found their seeds and pollen were allergenic to Tau so care had to be made with exposed skin – and so the 12 Fire Warriors now stood almost invisible from ground height, the only thing piercing the raised grass line being the tall willowy stems of the large elliptical flowers which were liberally scattered throughout the grass. In the distance birds the colour of sunset danced and weaved around far-off trees.

It had now been almost two Tau’cyr since that fateful night on Co’Shi’s first battle. He had been the only survivor of the monstrous fiend’s attack, all of the other team members and the Devilfish’s crew had been slaughtered in a horrific display of wanton savagery. Since then Co’Shi had been placed into two different Fire Warrior teams. His second one had been picked off one by one while fighting Ar’cea raiders, leading to this latest posting. Co’Shi had begun to feel a creeping sense of stigma amongst his new team-mates. It certainly did not help that many of them had remained together since their training at the academy, but more than that Co’Shi couldn’t help but suspect they might not trust him fully. Even now he had been positioned on a flank of the team, closest to the trees.

Personally Co’Shi didn’t blame them. In truth he had begun to grow suspicious of himself. Twice now an entire team had been wiped out while he was with them. The hideous gurgling noises they had made in their last moments and the piercing screams they had made before the end were carved into his memory like words into a stone memorial. He had watched his friends be dashed on the ground like sickening overripe fruit, he had witnessed his Fire Caste brothers and sisters struck down and collapsed like puppets with their strings cut. And at the end of the horror, he had remained – alone. No team, no friends, no family, no connection with fellow Tau, no sense of belonging in the Greater Good, just a single horrified Shas’la left to tend to gruesome remains. Co’Shi wondered if that might be his ultimate fate, to be cursed forever to witness the deaths of others and be left alone in silence.

The thought made his innermost core crawl with dread.

Co’Shi shunted such feelings aside. There was no time to entertain such notions, battle was imminent and he had a job to do. Besides, he was part of the Tau Empire, an agent of the Greater Good. He was equipped with an arsenal of technological marvels and supported by the greatest firepower in the Galaxy. It was inevitable that he would encounter periods of great death in war, but by the laws of probability so too must he encounter periods of great triumph. The Kau’yon planned by the cadre’s Shas’el was sound. The Ores’la they were hunting suspected nothing. There was no reason why this day would not end in a victory.

Over time a tremor had begun to swell in the earth beneath the Co’Shi’s hooves. It was minute to begin with, a soft quiver in the ground so faint it was unnoticeable to a suitably large creature on the surface, but over time it had grown and grown to a deep bass thrum that rolled up into the Tau’s legs and sent the distant birds scattering into the air in a whirlwind of warm-coloured specks. As the rumbling increased, there was an accompaniment rising in the air, a distant drone of angry buzzing and whining, like some great and terrible swarm of wasps. With each passing moment it grew louder and sharper, transitioning to the unmistakable growl of primitive internal combustion engines and recklessly overtaxed thrusters, all pushed to the extreme limits of their capacity.

“Ores’la column inbound,” stated the voice of the team’s Shas’Ui leader over the team network, “XV-88s are on standby, get ready to target the bailouts and supporting infantry. This is it Shas’la.”

On a rocky dust-strewn road ahead of the meadow they came, pouring across the landscape in a tsunami of cobbled-together metal, oily charcoal smoke and grinding wheels that washed away all before it at insane speed. Co’Shi counted at least ten dozen vehicles of various sizes and composition, all a riot of haphazard vivid colour and bedecked with weaponry. The largest congregated in the centre, covered in swarms of hulking green alien warriors bellowing and hollering at the top of their overdeveloped lungs. The smaller ones prowled along the sides of the motorcade, dashing and weaving in between the transports and jostling with each other in mad races and contests to see which could perform the most death-defying stunts.

Almost as soon as the column had entered Co’Shi’s field of view the lead trucks exploded into a whirlwind of metal shards and fire, trails of corkscrewing dust springing up from where the hypersonic projectiles of the Broadside Battlesuits’ heavy rail-rifles had flown over. The stricken transports lurched to the side of the road and tumbled over their own misshapen weight in a spectacular crash. Travelling much too quickly to react in time, several of the following transports slammed into the wreckage and were dashed into a tangled mess of machinery by the impact, smoke and flames billowing from their roughly hewn metal corpses.

Weaving amongst the carnage, the smaller buggies peeled off and tore into the surrounding meadow, letting loose chaotic bursts of automatic gunfire and wildly twisting rockets. In response trios of Crisis Battlesuits rocketed overhead to intercept them, hacking apart the flimsy vehicles with missile salvoes. Amongst the pileups in the centre the surviving greenskins had begun to regroup and now boiled out of the wreckage in great mobs intent on murder, abandoning their comrades still trapped in the stricken transports in their desperate thirst for bloodshed. Now it was time for Co’Shi and the other Tau infantry. From their concealed positions in the tall grass the Fire Warriors poured fire into the dismounted Ores’la, pelting them with luminous blue plasma pulses that reduced them to sprays of sizzling moss-coloured gore.

For a moment Co’Shi allowed himself to think they might all get out of this in one piece. Such a weakness had no place in the galaxy.

As the team displaced to a new position to avoid any counter-attacks, Co’Shi saw it in the distance – a monstrous parody of a humanoid head formed from motely plates of metal looming over the treetops. “Ores’la heavy walker!” he shouted over the comm-net, “On our right flank coming through the trees!”

“Acknowledged Shas’la,” came the collected response from the team Shas’Ui, “Take cover and keep out of sight.”

The walker burst through the treeline, a towering heap of scraps and ill-fitting hydraulics, lashed together in the vague shape of a hideously pot-bellied giant. Plumes of noxious choking fumes funnelled out of an array of ragged exhaust pipes to its rear, while unkempt machinery turned the head-piece to and fro. One arm ended in a massive three-pronged articulated claw, while the other was tipped with a deranged collection of gun barrels arranged into some kind of composite rotary weapon, guns within guns. As Co’Shi looked he saw the Shas’Ui turn and level her weapon at the war engine and lase it with the attached markerlight. On a prowling Hammerhead gunship behind Co’Shi a seeker missile suddenly flared into life and snaked into the air, soaring over the Firewarrior and striking the walker squarely in the head.

The detonation tore away a sizeable chunk from the head, leaving a sparking tangled mess of cabling and smoke where one of the eyes had been, but the monstrosity came on. In response the arm-mounted gun began to spin up, its collection of contra-rotating sub-assemblies whirling furiously with a howling whine before unleashing a plague of bullets with a deafening belch. The cascade of projectiles swept over the meadow, ripping the plant life to minced tatters and shredding any unfortunate victim caught in the naked brutality. Co’Shi felt a hammer blow to his skull as a stray shell ricocheted off his helmet, and the ground rushed to meet him before dissolving into darkness.

On the other side of the impassable chasm of time, Co’Shi still felt the pain and horror of that day as if only decs had passed. As he gazed out across the desert in the evening, that corpse-strewn wasteland of churned earth and tattered plants utterly eclipsed the burning mirror sunsets on the horizon.


****


The desert quivered in the parching midday fury of Vior’la’s binary suns, glaring down from overhead as the recruits dashed and ducked through one of the training compound’s obstacle courses. Already six prospective Shas’la had dropped out, and Co’Shi would give no quarter in his quest to craft the most competent and skilled Pathfinders he could. This was the groups fifth run through the obstacle course this Kai’rotaa, with many more to be done before its end. This time around Co’Shi had decided to add a new element in, one he always made sure to bring out at only random intervals to keep recruits on their hooves. As the Shas’la approached the terminal point of the course, a massive sprawling heap of overgrown debris they were required to navigate, Co’Shi noticed they were just under the average completion time – a good result for this point, but Co’Shi would need to try and get them better than that before he was done with them.

Co’Shi waited until just as they were beginning to clamber through the debris before hailing them on the comm-net. “GET DOWN!” he bellowed, “The enemy has just called in an artillery strike on your position. Get into cover, NOW! NOW! NOW!”

The group had learned to take Co’Shi’s instructions with utmost gravity, and so they immediately responded, piling down into the debris and frantically attempting to shield or conceal themselves as best they could. As they did, he raised his GX-13 grenade launcher high in the air and fired a photon grenade over the debris heap. Already non-lethal, at the altitude it would activate the photon grenade would cause no physical harm but Co’Shi had found that its multi-spectral light pulse and powerful sonic discharge were an excellent way of simulating an artillery projectile. At the apex of its trajectory the grenade released a thunderous boom and radiant flash, and Co’Shi made careful note of any recruits he could see were illuminated by the momentary brilliance.

“Elan, Doran, Es’Tau,” said Co’Shi, addressing the Firewarriors he had spied, “You didn’t cover yourselves properly. You are now dead. Remember to shield your back and face as well as your body. Even the slightest amount of exposure can be lethal as a Pathfinder. Never forget, you cannot rely on your armour anymore. The world is your new protection, use it.”

Co’Shi continued to make such spontaneous tests throughout the training process. He based all of them from situations he himself had encountered during his time in frontline service, and the ostensible reason why he had been made a drill instructor in the first place was to make use of his extensive experience in difficult situations and instil the necessary skills and preparation that would make successful recruits ready for anything in combat. But more than that, he wanted to get these Shas’la to think like a Pathfinder should, and to expect the unexpected.

He watched one team of recruits going through transport operations drills, riding in a modified Pathfinder issue Devilfish around the compound’s vehicle course. As the powerfully built skimmer banked around one of the turns in the course before vaulting over an obstacle, Co’Shi began to approach it. He contacted the pilot and ordered him to cut all power immediately. The floating behemoth hung silently in the air momentarily before striking the ground with a loud metallic thud. Walking alongside the grounded machine Co’Shi remotely activated the emergency release bolts for the nearest side hatch, waited for the circular door panel to fall away and then sprang into the open entry-way.

“AHA!” Co’Shi shouted to the confused Shas’la then turned to the nearest recruit, “Your transport’s down! What do you do!?”

The startled recruit hesitated momentarily. It was already too long to get a reply. Co’Shi grabbed the recruit by the chest plate and threw them to the floor.

“Alright, you’re now dead!” Co’Shi yelled at the fallen recruit before turning to the next closest Shas’la, “What do you do!?”

“Pop the release bolts and get out of the transport!” came the Shas’la’s hasty reply.

“Mont’au yes Shas’la, do it! GO, GO, GO!”

And with that the team sprang into a frenzy of action, jettisoning the remaining doors and piling out of the Devilfish. Co’Shi checked the time it had taken them to disembark. It was slower than he would have liked, but they were improving.

The Shas’Ui was quick to enforce discipline when needed. From time to time a Shas’la would refuse to comply with instructions, argue excessively with Co’Shi or act outside of the best interests of their team. In any event, Co’Shi’s favoured punishment was always the same – the transgressing Shas’la would have to take up a perfect firing pose, then be made to hold it, perfectly still for an extended period of time, sometimes Decs on end. Under the merciless heat of Vior’la’s binary suns, it could be relentlessly arduous, but as well as a fittingly harsh penalty Co’Shi felt it helped build a useful skill – after all, in combat a Pathfinder might be required to stay motionless in such a stance for some time, possibly under even worse conditions. When closely monitoring enemy forces, even the slightest out-of-place movement could be a death warrant.

For all the meticulous planning and forethought that went into the Tau military, Co’Shi had long-ago learnt the hard way that one could never foresee every development, and so he strived to make sure his recruits would be prepared for a worst-case scenario. So it was that when the group was engaged in a simulated patrol he would lie in wait with a few other veteran drill instructors, lurking in some kind of concealed position until they passed. When they did, Co’Shi and his compatriots sprung from their hiding places.

“EAAAAAAHH!!” Co’Shi bellowed, “An assault force has just charged you! Defend yourselves!”

And with that the instructors tore into the startled group, grabbing Shas’la and hurling them to the ground with a shout of “You’re now dead!” As their mock assault laid about the recruits, the quicker ones began to fight back, evading their grasping blows and attempting to get a few of their own in. Many were thrown down and ‘killed’ for their troubles before the remaining Shas’la wised up and instead focused entirely on keeping their adversary at arm’s length until they could disengage.

As their training advanced, Co’Shi instructed his charges further on the art of concealment and camouflage. He went over with them at great length the various means and ways that the enemies he had faced could use to locate a Tau at any distance, and how to effectively counter them. He split the group up into two teams, who would then take turns practicing what they learnt – one would take position as best they could on a section of the training course, and the other would try to spot them. Over time fewer and fewer managed to be found by the other party, until eventually neither team could successfully pick out the other. This was progress.

Throughout it all Co’Shi remained relentlessly uncompromising with that one Shas’la he had questioned in their introduction primer. He had since learned that Ol was her individual name (of course it would be), and ever since learning of her reasoning for volunteering he took every opportunity to push her to the limits. During morning exercises around the compound perimeter he would be at her side, chiding her over how she could possibly watch out for her cadre-mates from anywhere other than the front of the group. At the gunnery range he would inform her on no uncertain terms that each shot not dead on-target was a fellow Tau she had failed to look out for. During training on Tetras he was sure to remind her that her cadre would not know where the enemy was if she failed to get anything other than the best time through the course possible.

He pushed and he pushed, driving her onward as much as he could. Because if she really meant what she said, then by the Aun, Co’Shi would make sure she could do it, and he knew she could.


****


Cold evening air gusted through the snow-strewn ruins with an eerie hushed wail over Shas’Ui’Vior’la Co’Shi’s head. It was a grim place that his team found themselves in, a foreboding collection of jagged pillars and broken walls shaped from dark stone. Around them stood towering statues of human maidens in dire robes brandishing swords or instruments of torture and execution. Some featured sculpted blindfolds, looking down on the scene with morbid impartiality, while others stood with their decorative eyes uncovered and a mourning expression on their faces, forever looking out in anguish at this world’s three moons peeping out over the kaleidoscope of reds and oranges that emanated from the setting sun. Shadows fell in irregular teeth of darkness across the landscape, while long-necked bats with conical faces clustered in the gloom of a partially-standing dome, some clinging to its faded underside, others perched by the broken skull icon at its apex. Why the Gue’la would possibly be committing so many resources to this area was unfathomable to the Pathfinders that now lurked among the ruins.

Co’Shi was tired. He had passed his Trial by Fire, if only by the skin of his teeth, after serving the required four Tau’cyr on the line, but he still felt like he did not entirely deserve it. Again and again he had found himself the last Tau standing, the only survivor of a team even when the overall battle had been a victory for the Tau Empire or he accomplished his mission. He went to sleep with the corpses of his friends burned into his memory and woke up wondering what death would come for them the next day. He felt unworthy of continued existence, rueing the universe for refusing to let him join his comrades forever. If there was some overruling force behind existence, then it was a truly evil-hearted thing.

But Co’Shi knew he had a job to do. He was a team-leader now, responsible for making decisions and ensuring that the Tau under him worked effectively and for the Greater Good. He had volunteered for Pathfinder service, and had spent the last Tau’Cyr leading his new team of scouts over a dozen different warzones without incident. Some even whispered that his curse might have finally been broken. And Co’Shi knew that he had the strength of the Empire behind him, not just its advanced technology and logistics, but the support of his fellow Tau, utterly united in their cause. He knew that unspoken covenant, the connection so aptly described by Shas’O’Vior’la Kais, and that if he ever fell, his comrades, his family, would lift him back up again. And it was for them that he had decided to become a Pathfinder, always remembering the reason he gave to his drill instructor, which he swore to never forget.

To make sure that none of them would ever have to die from an unknown enemy. Because while he might be made to suffer as a lone survivor, he would make certain that no-one else would ever have to be.

This time Co’Shi also had a new trick up his sleeve. His team had been supplied with a number of a new type of weapon, a kind of infantry-portable ion cannon. The power source had apparently yet to be perfected, but it could provide as much firepower as a medium-class missile salvo at considerable range. The technology had only just recently been cleared for production, but Co’Shi had put considerable time and effort into making sure his team had received some of the newest models so that they’d be better able to counter any threat – besides, if field-testing the weaponry further would prevent other Tau warriors from going through what Co’Shi had experienced, then he was glad to do so.

A low growling rumble in the distance heralded the arrival of their quarry, which Co’Shi could now glimpse as a collection of small blurs moving across the rocky snow-scape. The Shas’Ui set his helmet optics to maximum magnification and held up his smart-binoculars, the optical device wirelessly linking to his helmet to provide a further-enhanced vision. Now the shapes stood out in sharp clarity, a herd of dark boxy vehicles crawling along the snow on metal treads. There was little variation in their appearance, though the lead vehicle was considerably larger than the rest. Co’Shi could not help but think back with unease to that fateful ambush of the Ores’la three Tau’cyr ago as he watched the convoy steadily advancing, flanked by armoured figures seated upon roaring motorcycles.

“Shas’el,” said Co’Shi as he patched through to his commander, “This is Co’Shi. Enemy mechanized force sighted, moving towards our position at speed. Estimated time until contact: four rai’kor.”

“Confirmed Shas’Ui,” came the reply over the comm-net, “Gunships are moving to intercept, prepare to mark targets for them. Do not fire directly unless fired upon.”

“Understood Shas’el,” Co’Shi said before addressing his team. “Alright Shas’la, here they come. We’ve got gunships coming around wanting targets, and we’re going to give them some. Set markerlights to target designation and get ready to target the lead tank. M’yen, Tsua’M, Vral, stand by with those ion rifles, no shooting until my command.”

The Shas’la signalled their acknowledgement. Co’Shi put down the smart-binoculars and levelled his pulse carbine. Soon it would be time to put the new armament to the test.

The time came far sooner than any of them would have liked. No sooner had he looked back at the advancing force than a ghastly wail descended upon the scene, and all hell broke loose. A short distance away from the Pathfinders’ position several monstrous figures crashed into the snow in a blaze of fire and smoke. They shared the same shape as the Gue’la – bipedal, four limbs and a head – but that was where the similarities ended. Surging forward in the pre-dusk glow the attackers seemed apocalyptic, towering avatars of death clad in massive black plating. On one shoulder was a kind of white cross, the other was adorned with a white bird motif. Dark helmets twisted their faces into a perpetual visage of loathing and dead, crowned with a pair of burning red cinders where eyes should be.

A flurry of explosions erupted in blue-white blossoms of snow around the ruins as the newcomers opened up with a barrage of gunfire from their clumsy oversized pistols. Co’Shi ducked as a projectile rushed a finger’s breadth from his head. “Change of plans Shas’la!” he said to his team, “Return fire! Tsua’M, Vral, M’yen, light them up!”

A deluge of radiant sapphire plasma pulses and round flat photon grenades sallied from the ruins and pelted the advancing attackers. Swarms of sparks swirled and danced like fireflies in the gloom around them before their world was lit in thunderous white from the photon grenades’ flash, but no lasting damage was left. The three ion gunners in Co’Shi’s team opened up next, sending glittering lightning-sheathed pillars of light lancing into the enemy ranks. This time two adversaries were stopped, crashing into the ground with smouldering holes where the ion beams had burnt through the vulnerable torso cables of their armour.

But the rest were almost upon them.

“Keep firing Shas’la!” Co’Shi bellowed, “Ion gunners, emergency protocol! Overcharge! Overcharge! Overcharge!”

With a soft click and hiss the ion gunners simultaneously popped open the fuel chambers of their ion rifles. The fuel slabs contained within glittered and crackled in the cold dusk air. A moment later the gunners fired and the world was consumed in bursts of iridescent white.
When the shooting stopped and silence fell, all that could be seen in front of the ruins was a heap of black armoured plates and sparking machinery.

This would be the last battle Co’Shi would have with that team, as it raged on they had ended up being whittled down until once again he was on his own, but he would always remember that moment, when they faced death and stopped it in its tracks, if only for a while.

Co’Shi even collected a spare round from a fallen enemy that night, so he would always have a
reminder of it.

****



“Es’Tau, you’re letting the heat haze get the better of you. You need to focus on the dead centre of the target. Come on now, I’ve taught you better than this!”

The electric whirring of pulse weapon fire punctuated the morning ambience on the compound’s gunnery range. Co’Shi stood with a pulse carbine in his hands watching over the remaining Shas’la recruits as they practiced shooting on wildly manoeuvring target drones. By now the total number of drop-outs had been a full twelve, many of them glory-hounds and overeager zealots fed a steady diet of tales of heroism and daring from the Third Sphere and Great War of Confederation. Co’Shi could not help but be disturbed at the number of such radicals sent to him, which seemed to grow every Tau’cyr. But then that seemed to be the way the sands drifted at the moment. The Third Sphere Expansion was still going strong, it was wartime. It was only natural to get an influx of enthusiastic souls.

Co’Shi began to walk along the row of Shas’la, firing a burst into the air from his pulse carbine every so often – he wanted to get them used to shooting while under fire. Towards the end of the group were the weapon specialists in training, attacking the whizzing target drones with ear-splitting rail rifles and crackling ion rifles. Ol was here, having discovered an affinity for the specialist weapons and the ion rifle in particular, boasting an uncanny ability to place its littering particle streams precisely where they would have the biggest impact, to the extent that the Fio had been forced to permanently write off several target drones.

The Shas’Ui stood at the end of the group, observing as Ol tracked the erratically moving target drone in the distance, carefully leading it with the ion rifle’s barrel before unleashing a searing beam into the hapless machine in mid-loop, sending it tumbling to the ground in flame and smoke.

“Hmmm, impressive,” Co’Shi said, “looks like you’ve mastered the basics of aiming. Now we’re going to try shooting with it at the real power level. With the next drone that comes up, I want you to overcharge it.”

“Excuse me Shas’Ui?” said Ol as she looked up at the instructor.

“There will be another target drone coming up. When it does, overcharge your weapon when you shoot at it. Is that clear enough for you Shas’la?”

“Shas’Ui, I feel obliged to advise that action is unsafe. Operating the IX-18 ion rifle at any higher power levels can result in critical systems failure, serious injury and possible death.”

“Noted, but my instructions stand. Overcharge your weapon Shas’la, that’s an order.”

“Shas’Ui, what is the purpose of this exercise?”

“Come again Shas’la?”

“Shas’Ui, I’ve noticed a pattern to your extra orders. There’s usually some kind of reasoning behind them. I’m asking why this one Shas’Ui. Why?”

Co’Shi’s gaze zeroed in on Ol with all the cold steely animus of an attack drone. “Gunnery drill suspended,” he said over the comm-net, “Everyone may take a short break for refreshment, except Ol. I want to run some extra operations protocols with her, alone.”

The other Shas’la departed without question, scurrying away as quickly as they could. They knew that being around for whatever was to transpire was not in their best interest.

“Why, Shas’la?” Co’Shi said with a verbal sneer, “You want to know why? Because I ordered you to, that’s why. Because when you’re given an order, you carry it out! You may not know exactly why you have the order, but you need to do it anyway! This is because it may not be apparent to you but there will be a very good reason behind it!

To’Tau’Va Shas’la, here I was thinking you were one of the best, and you ask why? Do you think your cadre-mates would ask why? If you as why they’ll be dead, Shas’la! You want to help them, you want to make sure none of them die? Then you do not question an order! You do not hesitate! If you hesitate, you fail! And that will be the end of them. Do you understand Shas’la!”

Co’Shi’s mind was flooded with images. His friends, his teammates, the ones he cared about, grew up with – now strewn across a dark windswept plain, around the broken husk of a Devilfish.

“Have you ever seen combat Shas’la?” Co’Shi continued, “Have you ever been outside the Empire? Have you seen anything of the Galaxy? I have Shas’la! I have been out there, fought in it! I know what the Galaxy is really like! The Galaxy is not a nice place, it is not safe, it is not an adventure! The Galaxy is a vast empty pit of blackness and blood and brutality, where evil is law and where hope and decency go to die! It is a deep dark maw of horror that swallows up everything that goes into it! The Galaxy will chew you up and spit you back out if you hesitate for even a Mor’tek Raik'an!”

No matter which way it turned, Co’Shi’s mind could not escape the faces, dozens, hundreds, all staring at him in perpetual silent judgement, before exploding one by one like grotesque balloons of cyan gore, until he found himself alone, standing in a corpse-strewn meadow washed royal marine with blood.

“The Universe will never hesitate, Shas’la!” continued Co’Shi, “It will rain unrelenting pain and torment and suffering and death upon you, and when you finally think you are safe, that it cannot possibly get any worse, that things have nowhere to go but up, it will redouble its efforts to break you! There is only one way you can survive out there Shas’la, and that is to fight back with everything you have! There are things out there that will laugh off gunfire, I’ve seen it! Plasma pulses, missiles, they all just pitter-patter off them like insect wings against glass!

How are you going to save your cadre from those things Shas’la? How are you going to fight a giant 80 times your size, whose very presence makes your blood boil and your skin crawl? How are you going to stop a war machine the size of a tower from massacring your Ta’lissera? How are you going to stop hellish furies clad top to bottom in a wearable fortress? You think normal fire will stop something like those? Standard power is insufficient for out there Shas’la, and only by using every means at your disposal can you begin to last, let alone help others!”

Inside Co’Shi was far away, back on a forsaken world of snow and rock, watched by stone maidens as he saw his comrades face death and push it back, one brief moment of brilliant light given a brief moment in the universe before being snuffed out in overwhelming, smothering darkness.

“If you are given a chance to hit back with more power,” he said, “You take it! You do not hesitate, you do not question it, you do not wonder what is right! You think the Galaxy cares about what is right? It doesn’t! It’s only driving whim is to drown you in blood-soaked agony and grind you down into dust! Questioning is a mistake it will never make! So when you’re given a chance to deal real damage, you take it immediately! When you’re given the ability to hurt those things, you use it! When you’re given an order to overcharge, you overcharge! DO YOU HEAR ME SHAS’LA!”

Co’Shi looked down and wavered, spent, a creaking tower on the verge of crumbling into ruin. “Just overcharge the gun Shas’la,” he finished, “Just… overcharge… the gun.”

And it was then that Ol managed to finally peer through the crack in this indomitable paragon who had seen hell and lived to tell of it, to whom no ill fortune was new.
And in that moment she thought she understood the true reason why he had given that command.

The End
Viro’los gu brath!
N.Y.A.B.X.T.T.

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n1md4
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#11 » Sep 05 2017 07:09

Any chance on publishing these as short epub books so I can read them on an e-reader?
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Re: Seeds of Life Series

Post#12 » Sep 05 2017 10:03

n1md4

I just checked and if I make a pdf file, then I can view on my Adobe Digital Editions. However, I don't know if all e-readers can read a pdf files? Tomorrow I will make pdfs of all the stories here and add them to the first post of the thread.

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