T’Shanna was having a blast. This was just the sort of situation her suit was designed for. Surrounded by ravenous hordes, deep sea surrounding her on all sides, running from roof to roof where each step might be the last one. She was loving every minute.
Another larger beast charged up at her from a hatchway. She shoved her flame projector in its mouth and pulled the trigger before it had a chance to strike. The creature ballooned up, the white hot burning fuel incinerating the beast from the inside out before it could do more than deeply scratch her armor. She was running out of fuel for her projector though so reluctantly she bounded away towards the hovering Manta a half a kilometer away.
Accelerating to a bouncing run using her thrusters for unnecessary but fun higher speeds, she got to the last rooftop and leapt off extending her directional fins and engaging her primary thrusters. The heavy ungainly suit rocketed across the divide the blue water below filled with dark shapes with sharp teeth and claws waiting for her to fall to them.
To their disappointment she smoothly soared into the bay, withdrew her wings and acrobatically rolled on her side and back to her feet slamming her suits head on the roof of the bay. The crew chief just shook his head at the dent.
“Whiskey Actual here, I am secure.”
The three Mantas swooped back up into the cavernous bays of the Sun Flare. Medical staff was waiting for the wounded although there were not very many. One of the suit pilots had a claw go through his cockpit and impale him in the leg before he killed it. Miraculously the suit remained functional. Several of the fire warrior dismounts had various injuries, from punctures to one, who was going to need a new arm.
The casualty list was much higher. Fully half of his Crisis team members were dead and one Hazard suit was gone. Of his dismounted teams he had only 14 out of the 40 he started with. Thankfully he lost none of his vehicle crews. His drone squads were all gone having stayed behind for that final and most vulnerable point when his suits made a run for the extraction.
Kael sat at a table with the Aun’la and Kor’el Veringi’Kos drinking a nutria-water and discussed options. “The log says there was a landing over by these mountains.” Kael said manipulating the holo-tank depicting the planet.
The holographic image zoomed in on a small archipelago of mountains poking above the planetwide ocean. Supposedly there was lush plant life there along with a remote observatory. None of this was visible at the moment however. In its place was a dark brownish cloud.
“What is that?” The ship captain asked, “A volcano?”
“Spore silos.” Said the ethereal quickly. “They said it crashed there, and there we will find what we are looking for. I recommend a fly by recon flight to fully establish the nature of what’s going on there. Also, all the firewarriors and the wounded Crisis pilot, plus everyone's equipment and aircraft need to be thoroughly deconned in case they picked up spores.”
“I’ll make sure it is done immediately. We were not issued our complement of Barracudas or Razorsharks before leaving port, any recon we do will have to be done by the Mantas. You might make that suggestion in the AAR for them to give us our appropriate equipment before we leave port next time.”
“Point taken.” Kos said.
“It’s amazing the Tyranids managed to overwhelm the planet so fast.” Tal’osi said. “We knew they were very adaptable, but this is astounding. The only thing I can think of was that was part of one of their brood ships and happened to have a Norn Queen on board who survived landing and enough underlings to gather bio matter for her to produce with.”
“The biology of it all is well and good, but it’s a discussion for the Earth Caste at a later date. What we need to do now is figure out what to do about it.” Kor’el Kos said.
“For once I concur,” Kael agreed with the ship commander. ”I do not have the man power for even a recon strike. How effective are the new bombardment cannon on this thing?”
“We have only gotten to test fire, but there definitely isn’t enough firepower in the entire fleet to cleanse the entire ocean.”
“We don’t need to cleanse the ocean. I am just thinking destroy all the facilities on the planet and do a heavy bombardment on the mountain range. We are in no hurry. Take them out one at a time. Let’s scrounge together enough drones and drop them from a Manta to check the remaining few facilities from the air. Have the Mantas call out over the loud speakers to see if there are any survivors. If not, we recover the drones and commence bombardment.”
“Agreed.” Tal’osi said snapping out of his contemplation. ”Make it happen.”
Camera views the drones returned were dismal. Not only were there no responses from survivors, at one facility several drones were lost to genestealers leaping out of the dark at them as they entered the quiet buildings searching for some sign.
The recon on the Cooper Islands confirmed their suspicions. A large spore silo was indeed pumping out dangerous spores into the air. The facility itself was gone and the island was scoured to the bare rock, not an organic molecule was left that wasn’t Tyranid. Here the Manta itself was taken under fire by several large xeno-forms.
Within an hour of the recon’s return the bombardment commenced. The research facility and its surrounding satellite facilities were destroyed by the heavy artillery on board the ship and turned into fiery balls of smoke and dust before sinking into the deep waters of the ocean. The bombardment of the mountain range took several hours of nonstop pounding and the ship exhausted its supply of heavy rail shell. Each one of the dense metal shells was the size of a Piranha and was filled with unstable explosives. The repeated heavy impact of the shells onto the volcanically active range of mountains caused many of them to go suddenly hot as the crust was cracked. Scanners picked up multiple geothermal vents and thermals recorded what appeared to be lava flowing down to the warter.
When the ship left orbit it left behind a message buoy broadcasting in every language known to the Tau to stay away from the planet, detailing the menace beneath the waves. The Sun Flare set course for home with prisoner and a request for more troops. The mission was a draw. They found the enemy and destroyed plenty of them and determined the cause of the silent colony. Kael wondered if the prisoner would be of any help.
"Dae'con, I have something for you." Said the former scientist from inside the small cell. The helmetless firewarrior stood outside the cell.
"How the frell do you have anything? You were searched."
"It was a gift from the another warrior to make the food more palatable. A jelly from the facility." He yellow skinned humanoid held an unlabeled bottle of a brownish yellow jelly through the silver bars of the cell. "We called it royal jelly. Try some."
A voice deep in his head screamed at him, but it was distant and he was hungry after all. He scooped a finger in and tasted a little. "Yeah man, this is good. You guys produced good stuff down there."
"I can obtain more..." It said quietly to him...
To be continued.............