Sept Colour: Light Blue Common Armour Colouration: Red and White, sometimes Black.
The Ya'ven Sept was first colonized shortly after Commander Farsight was victorious on Arkunasha against the Orks, but before he was seemingly killed in battle some time later. Short on water, Ya'ven was a world of the red-hued mesas and deep, fast rivers in steep canyons feeding mostly salt lakes of great size. To the north, there are great meandering plateaus split by great and craggy mountain ranges. Several of his second-wave subordinates from the Arkunasha Campaign, Commanders Blacksun & Sternspear, and Shas'el Dal'yth Gev'ran foremost among them, were assigned to head up the initial garrison. They and their cadres were to protect the vast number of Earth Caste extraction, refinement and production facilities dotted throughout the bleak landscape. Ya'ven was mineral rich, but water-poor, and thus was not a prime colony assignment. It's location was perfect, however, for the deployment of commanders and cadres that had not yet proven their steadfast loyalty to the Tau'va. They would be placed far from core Septs and well-apart from the influence of Farsight sympathizers.
Ya'ven has one major spaceport, and three super-major cities in each other hemisphere, each some distance away from the port itself. It also has three moons, each very small, but the closest is stable enough to house what is becoming a major Air Caste base of operation and Earth Caste zero-g production. Earth Caste engineers are currently constructing a space elevator to and from that site, hoping to further improve the facility's production capacity.
There is little native life on the planet, though some time ago, gue'la colonists made a go of it here and failed. Only the foundations of a fledgling hive, a spaceport and an enormous, crashed and ruined battle barge remain dotted along the equator. They all datie back nearly ten thousand years ago, and there is some archaeological evidence that several large-scale battles and a siege took place here. While the Earth Caste investigates, they also work on re-domesticating the various livestock and staple crops that the gue'la brought with them and have been scratching out a hardy life over these past ten millennia.
Demographics Total Population: ~5,490,650,000 - Earth Caste: 43% - Fire Caste: 23% - Water Caste: 21% - Air Caste: 13% - Ethereal Caste: 72 initially, 11 remain.
Initial Governance Despite the desire of the Ethereal Council to place these Fire Caste cadres far away from a place where they could mount a threat to the Tau'va, Ya'ven still needed Ethereal oversight. In consultation with the famed Aun'shi of Vior'la, who had met with and worked with both Commanders Blacksun and Sternspear, the Council decided to send thirty-seven Ethereals of varying rank in the first century of the colony. It grew to seventy-two in total: two Aun'el, twenty Aun'vre, thirty-eight Aun'ui and ten Aun'la. Then, a series of disasters occurred that wittled this number down steadily over five generations.
Attrition and Disaster The Ya'ven Sept continued to grow strong in each other caste and its doings, but the Ethereal caste found itself dogged by fate itself. Over one hundred and forty tau'cyr, the Ethereal population was subject to death in service to the Tau'va. A contagion and incursion of feral gue'ron'sha, an invasion of be'gel, and even an pinpoint attack by forces of the drukhari found the etheral caste reduced greatly reduced. Despite constant pleas from the ruling council, the Empire was not able to replenish the number of Aun due to fleet and other military activity of empire.
The Seeker Cadre and the Rift in Space Of all the senior Ethereals to reply to the urgent requests, only Aun'Shi answered the call, but only just. Generations on, he had been subject to life-extending rejuvenation, but also subject to strategic hyper-sleep. He was now a Seeker, an ethereal who stood outside the standard organization of Tau leadership, and the head of his own "Seeker Cadre" and support fleet. While his mission was of the utmost secrecy, Aun'shi dutifully checked in with the colony he helped establish and found it in a troubling position.
In addition to a double-strength fleet and hunter cadre, Aun'shi had with him his protege, Aun'ui N'dras N'varre, as well as his old friend, the T'au gunship ace, Longstrike. They stopped in the far-flung sept of Ya'ven to help shore up morale, but also to take a strategic inventory of the sept and its surrounding territory. Aun'shi found its population and economic structure fundamentally stable, especially for such a young colony world, but also that it was constantly placed on a precipice due to its unforgiving climate and subsequent low food production. The question was not whether they would survive and thrive in the first rounds of the bout, but rather whether they could recover quickly enough to last until the end of the match.
By the time the great rift in space occurred and threw Ya'ven across the galaxy, the number of ethereals on the planet had been reduced to a mere eleven, not counting Aun'shi or Aun'varre. These two were getting ready to depart Ya'ven after spending the equivalent of three tau'cyr on this smallest of the fourth sphere expansion colonies, but the warpstorms were obvious to the naked eye and travel was postponed indefinitely.
When it settled out, Earth Caste astronomers and Air Caste fleet officers had realized that the stars were different in the skies. They were no longer in the lower southeast of the Tau Empire, but rather somewhere completely strange to them and their databases. After almost a tau'cyr of study, they had discovered that a whole section of space -- the star system of Ya'ven and dozens of its surrounding neighbours, had been transported somewhere else within the galaxy.
Where, no one could be certain without exploration.
To be continued...
— “Just one game,” they said and started to play. That was yesterday...
The early decades of Ya'ven colony were not exciting by any measure of the word. The Earth Caste continued their work building the infrastructure necessary to continue the economic exploitation of the vast mineral wealth of the planet. In addition, they successfully domesticated several of the animal species left behind by the gue'la colonists and expanded the source of nutrients available to the Tau. The Air Caste took full advantage of the completed space elevator and the growing production capacity of the newly-minted zero-g production facility to field an entirely new fleet of Protector-class Cruisers and Emissary-class Light Cruisers to supplement the transport ships, Wardens and Castellans sent to establish the initial colony. The Water Caste began their work establishing not only the diplomatic corps, but also set about creating the essence of Ya'ven in thought, writing and other media. By the centennial celebration of the colony's founding, the Water Caste creators and propagandists had already established the emotional, narrative hooks upon which future tales would be tied upon. The Fire Caste continued their training, adding new capabilities to their cadres as more resources were turned to military production and the building of a military academy in the vast, snow-covered plateaus of the far northwestern hemisphere.
Feral Geu'run'sha Earth Caste archaeologists had been turning over the remains of the spaceport, hive city and the wreckage of the geu'run'sha battlebarge for decades. It had been such onerous, ponderous work that the ethereals-in-council had assented to the reduction of fire caste protection down to a rotating, mechanized patrol from each of the five cadres with regular fly-by support of air caste drones, fighters or bombers. Enough time had passed that the Earth Caste saw fit to build a maglev transport to and from the nearest city which cut travel time and the cost of resupply by over one-third and significantly increased the rate upon which the archaeological dig was progressing.
It was another several decades before they made a monumental discovery. The warp drive was not only intact, it was still running on a very low-power setting. It turned out that partial power had been diverted to a cargo space not listed on the gue'ron'sha database. Further, more active inquiry then resulted in catastrophe. Earth Caste engineers had somehow reactivated the drive, and unleashed a maelstrom of immeasurable energies and phenomena in and around the enormous battle barge. The Fire Caste patrol on duty was duly notified and the patrol was rerouted from the ancient spaceport. By the time the mechanized cadre of Shas'el Dal'yth sep Ya'ven Ge'vran arrived, the Earth Caste engineers, archaeologists and archivists had nearly all been killed. The remainder had been stricken with a toxic effect that sapped their strength and focus much like radiation, but scans did not indicate any such phenomena reading on their equipment or affecting the surrounding environment.
Fiction to Follow....
— “Just one game,” they said and started to play. That was yesterday...
Contagion and Incursion: The Coming of the Feral Gue'run'sha - Part One
"Load them into the transport, gently, shas'vre," subcommander Ge'vran called out over the network.
The leader of his stealth team did not reply, only signalling curt acknowledgment with a gold-status ping through the CadreNet. His XV15 stealth battlesuit motioned to the infantry strike teams to continue to load the stricken scholars and scientists into the transport without delay.
The subcommander, Shas’el Dal’yth sep Ya’ven Ge’vran, shook his head as he turned to survey the ancient and fractured gue'run'sha vessel before them. It had crashed violently on windswept salt flats that stretched out far over the horizon. So much time had passed that without the tell-tale and inefficiently-designed architectural angles of the imperial vessel, it might have been considered a part of the landscape. Ge’vran’el sighed, and pulled his helmet off. He attached it to his belt and pulled out a canteen.
Without the speed and efficiency of the magnetic line transport, it would have taken the subcommander and his mechanized cadre three rotaa to reach the old gue'la spaceport, and another six rotaa to get back to the city. Whatever it was that the Earth Caste scientists had gotten themselves into here, it was not mere science.
Ge’vran’el drank long from his canteen and surveyed his patrol cadre, which was stopped along the magnetic line transport system. In total, he had four loaded devilfish transports and a skyray gunship under his command. Though it lacked the flexibility of a cadre equipped with XV8 Crisis teams or the pure punch of one sporting XV88 Broadsides, his cadre was as mobile as it was self-contained: perfect for the rigours of patrolling such a long stretch of mostly-barren territory.
The first devilfish carried his pathfinders. The second and third transports each carried a full complement of rifle teams led by relatively young shas’ui. His personal devilfish also carried four extra gun drones, and a pair of specialized teams that added functionality to his patrol. The first was that of his good friend, Shas’vre Dal’yth sep Ya’ven Kao’ra, a Firesight Marksman and his four long-ranged Sniper Drones; and the second was Shas’vre T’au sep Ya’ven Kais, second-in-command and leader of a small team of old-model XV15 stealth battlesuits.
“You must remember that we are not Earth Caste medics, Ge’vran’el,” his friend Kao’ra chided over their private network connection. “The young shas’vre only wishes to find out the cause of this most untimely death.”
“And to win glory, Kao’ra,” the subcommander stated a flatly as he could. “He is impatient.”
The veteran marksman and drone controller remained quiet. Ge’vran’el figured the statement gave his friend much pause, as he and the warrior in question shared equal rank. After a moment, he flashed a gold symbol of acknowledgment signalling agreement to his friend and commanding officer through the CadreNet.
To give his friend space, Ge’vran’el paced away from the loading ramps of the magnetic line and toward his devilfish. He checked over the drones stored in racks above the parallel benches on either side of the main compartment.
“We are nearly finished our diagnostics, shas’el,” a soft, female voice called from the cockpit.
“Thank you, shas’ui,” the subcommander replied. “Please ensure the other devilfish have completed the same diagnostics, pay particular focus on the networked targeting systems.”
The pilot of the devilfish nodded and fell silent, returning to her work.
Ge’vran’el exited the transport and replaced his helmet. Surveying his command overlay, he noted a glyph trilling and pulsing a blue-silver hue. He eye-flicked twice and brought up a real-time map of the area, noting that the glyph belonged to the shas’ui of the pathfinders. They were nearly a tor’kan away from his current position, near the ridge overlooking the ancient imperial vessel. The subcommander flashed acknowledgment and a follow-up status inquiry.
“Sha’ui Ya’ven Tal’in reporting,” the leader of the pathfinders spoke over the network. “We are set up along the ridge, shas’el. It is well within range of our markerlights, but we are not likely to lend effective fire support in the event you require it upon exiting.”
“Understood, shas’ui,” the subcommander nodded, “please ensure that the gunship is hidden behind the ridge.”
“Reserve one’s strength until the single perfect moment,” the young pathfinder replied.
“And victory will be assured,” Ge’vran’el replied. “You have read the Analects of Farsight?”
“Yes, shas’el,” he explained with some anxiety in his voice, “shortly after it was released, but most certainly before it was taken off of the official academy reading list.”
“Duly noted, shas’ui,” the subcommander frowned. “Do not concern yourself, we must focus on the tasks at hand.”
Almost immediately after the death of Commander Farsight, the Analects had been removed from the database all across the empire. It had confused him until he heard a rumour that O’Shovah had been officially accused of vash’ya, the high-crime of moving between castes and their spheres of focus.
Perhaps it was fortunate for everyone involved, Ge’vran’el surmised, that O’Shovah met his end on campaign before he could be tried most publicly.
Another strobing glyph, this time from his second-in-command, it blinked in a hurried sky-blue. The subcommander eye-flicked for context, and the shas’vre replied with a request for direct and private communication. After a moment of hesitation, Ge’vran’el assented with a gold ping.
“Much appreciated, shas’el,” the stealth team leader stated. Shas’vre T’au sep Ya’ven Kais was standing closely behind the subcommander, his helmet tucked under the fusion blaster attached to the right arm of his XV15. Kais’vre was a handsome example of the fire caste. He was a serious, reticent and skilled soldier. Hailing from the Tau homeworld originally, it seemed as though his presence on this world and in this cadre done him some dishonour, and he carried that burden everywhere he went.
Somewhat startled, the subcommander exhaled in exasperation. He gave the sign of informal contrition as he regained his composure. Signalling for the shas’vre to follow him into the command devilfish, he pulled off his helmet and asked, “What has you so concerned, shas’vre?”
“The Earth Caste,” he replied while staring through the front displays of the devilfish toward the imperial vessel. “They have been loaded onto the line transport as requested.”
Ge’vran’el tilted his head quizzically.
“Some of them are delirious, shas’el,” he stated as if he were describing the weather, “but they are speaking in fever dreams.” The stealth leader paused, and looked directly at Ge’vran’el. “They speak in the tongue of the gue’la...”
The subcommander stared at his second-in-command, “What do they say in the imperial tongue?”
“We are awake.”
After an uncomfortable pause, he began to put his helmet back on, “Make your preparations, shas’vre. You will be leading your team and both strike teams into the vessel to investigate.”
The shas’vre turned quickly and strode away. Some time later, the subcommander received a gold ping from him across the CadreNet.
Contagion and Incursion: The Coming of the Feral Gue'ron'sha - Part Two
Shas’ui Ya’ven Su’ri coughed reflexively. The air coming out of the ancient gue'ron'sha vessel was not just stale, it was the smell of decay. She wrinkled her face as she replaced her helmet and pulled up her tactical display. Her strike team was twelve tor’lek away from the strike team of her friendly rival, Jha’lai. All in all, there twenty-four pulse rifles at the ready in the service of the greater good.
“Does it smell as bad as the readings say?” Shas’ui Ya’ven Jha’lai called out over the broader network.
“Worse,” she replied, “If you could believe it.”
Shas’ui Su’ri heard the tang and clunk of pulse rifle synthetics against the crude metal piping of the ancient imperial vessel. She winced.
“We could have used some carbines in here, Shas’ui,” one of her la’rua squadmates said quietly not long afterward.
“There weren’t any requisitioned for patrol duty in these salt flats,” she replied absently, “and the pathfinders wouldn’t give theirs up despite the distance to the ridge.”
An orange warning ping came through the CadreNet from Shas’vre Kais from his stealth battlesuit somewhere ahead. He was in command of this sweep and clear action, though the Cadre Fireblade, Ge’vran’el, retained overall control from his vantage point atop the ridge outside.
Su’ri fell silent, as did the other strike team and her own as well. Kais’vre was as arrogant as he was handsome, but he was a skilled warrior with very good survival instincts. The cadre respected his methods.
According to the environmental sensors integrated into her armour, the air inside the gue'ron'sha battlebarge was hot and humid. It would have been stifling to anyone who did not benefit from the self-contained environment of the Empire’s standard issue infantry armour. Fortunately for her squad and the rest of the fire caste warriors inside this labyrinth of a vessel, the greater good provides for its faithful protectors.
The plascrete and ceramite walls were slick with a thick layer of a viscous, semi-translucent amber liquid. It pooled in depressions along the dimly-lit corridors of the ancient vessel. The slippery floors made advancing deeper into the vessel that much slower but no less strenuous.
“Curious,” her counterpart Shas’ui Jha’lai whispered over the network. “I had to remove my helmet and now that I look around, I find that this amber fluid gives off a faint light to the naked eye but not to our helmet sensors.”
“Don’t touch it, Shas’ui,” their action leader stated firmly. “Many of the Earth Caste researchers had weeping sores that expressed a similar substance when put under even the lightest pressure. This fluid here looks to be linked to that affliction.”
Su’ri wrinkled her face in disgust. The imperial vessel was crawling in filth and pestilence when it should have been a dusty, dry mausoleum in this vast salted flatland. Nothing added up here, and it had her and her strike team on a ragged edge.
A flashing red ping signalled a quick, tactical pause. “Possible contact, Kais’vre,” her counterpart Shas’ui, Jha’lai, called out.
“Seek cover and hold. Do not move to investigate. I am en route to your position. Estimated time of arrival, thirty dec’taa.”
Su’ri took a knee and checked her rifle settings. Her plasma pulse magazine was fully charged, and her bandolier was stocked with another seven in addition to a set of four photon grenades. She tapped the trigger guard of her rifle as her strike team checked and rechecked their own equipment.
The ship went silent. She could not hear any activity save her own tapping. Her team peered around anxiously from behind the cover they could find.
“Ten dec’taa. Confirm your positions on the tactical network.”
Su’ri long-blinked twice, moving through her infantry interface from the standard tactical overlay to an automated map display. The overlay wasn’t perfect, but it showed the areas explored by the strike team, her action commander’s stealth team, and their accompanying marker drones. She tapped a haptic pad hidden behind a sliding panel on the stock of her pulse rifle beneath the barrel, confirming her position and readiness through the immediate tactical network.
She double-blinked back to the tactical overlay, now she was able to see the relative positions of the other rifle team, her action-commander’s position. The pair of marker drones were holding position along the way back to their point of entry, a maintaining a network link with the rest of the larger cadre network. Noting this, she sent her scans back to the cadre commander through the CadreNet.
Suddenly, the icon of Shas’ui Jha’lai flashed urgent orange. But just as Su’ri began to send a message to her counterpart, the icons of his entire la’rua began to flash yellow-orange.
A great commotion, the thumping of heavy boots and shouting war-cries of the bass gue’la tongue, erupted from down the corridor. It was quickly followed by the sounds of clashing metal on armour, the din of pulse rifles and imperial boltguns, and the screams of death from her comrades. Within five dec’taa, over half of the icons representing the other strike team went the dark grey of inactivity, and in this instance, the colour of death.
Su’ri froze. The sounds were horrific. She sent a hold and await orders command to her own la’rua. Several sent glyphs of relief and thanks. Others flashed orange in fear, one even went so far to message a request for a tactical retreat. If she was being honest with herself, Su’ri was of the same mind.
Explosions. The whining cool down of burst cannons. The telltale report of a fusion blaster and the subsequent howl of burning air, armour and flesh. Then, after a moment of anxious silence, a single ping from Kais’vre: full retreat.
Su’ri and her la’rua squadmates were moving before the acknowledgment glyphs even appeared on their infantry interfaces. A quick, quiet pace moved into a hurried jog, and after enough physical and emotional distance distance, it became a full-blown sprint for their point of ingress.
They quickly passed one of the marker drones, which regarded them with the faint trilling of its sensor suite and the bass hum of its repulsor jets. Upon the death of Kais’vre, control of the drones would fall to the highest ranking survivor. The drones were still linked to Kais’vre on the tactical network, though an override did exist for those who were so designated by either the action or cadre commander.
Barely any time to think, Su’ri moved her infantry interface through the prompts and took control of the drones that linked them to the overall CadreNet. She sent the entire data recordings of all the infantry, battlesuits and drones that had made ingress into the imperial vessel and appended it with the sounding of full retreat. She and her la’rua were a full fifty tor’lek passed the marker drone before she gave the order for the drones to accompany them in the full retreat.
The moment she eye-flicked the command to the drone, it’s glyph when from pleasant, helpful blue-silver to orange and then, again, to charcoal grey. The other marker drone, however, quavered to life and waited for the last of the strike team to pass before matching their pace, but flying backwards so as to keep watch in their rear.
Then Su’ri heard it: the dry screeching, guttural moaning and viscous laughter of things she had never heard before. Not just the physical sounds, the ones emitted by her helmet’s sensory input hardware, but terrible sounds and emotions that were forcibly inserted into her head. Suddenly the last marker drone fell away into the grey world of death on her interface display with the clash of metal on composite and the crack and bang of telltale bolter fire.
Su’ri heard and saw several of her slower-moving squadmates start to take fire and fall to the ground. She quickly found cover and sent a command for her remaining la’rua to consolidate themselves and return fire. Her helmet’s hardware began to compensate for the lighting conditions, she saw them.
Monsters. Not just gue’ron’sha, but twisted versions of them. Bloated, mutated and malformed. Though they appeared nearly-dead, they moved with great vigour toward her squadmates. They were brandishing sickening and enormous cleavers and axes of the ridiculous proportions the Imperials seemed to favour, but some were also swinging around what appeared to be spiked balls on the ends of long chains.
Behind them, still others were more-standard examples of “space marines” though their armour was far less well kept than would be expected of the gue’ron’sha. They carried bolters with curved box magazines and had large knives attached upside-down on the upper left chest-plates of their heavy armour. Their armour bore no artwork, but rather a basic striped black and yellow pattern around large, round rivets on their pauldrons.
To her knowledge, there were no current cadres of such gue’ron’sha in current imperial service. Could these twisted creatures have been sleeping in this vessel all that time?
“Shas’ui!” someone called out desperately. “Shas’ui, will we fire?!”
Su’ri shook her head slightly to regain clarity. She nodded and sent out the “fire at will” command to her la’rua.
Pulse rifles are based on plasma technology, not unlike that used by the imperial gue’la and gue’ron’sha. It differs, however, in the precision and safety upon which its wielders can rely upon in combat. Unlike the battlefields of the imperial troops, no firewarrior will find herself maimed or killed by her own weaponry.
Su’ri allowed herself a smirk until she saw the limited effect their fire had upon their intended targets. One of the near-twenty hulking warriors fell in the volleying fire of their pulse rifles. She almost choked in fear, but issued an order to concentrate fire on the closer, more-menacing mutated unit of space marines.
It was done, and four more fell before they were upon their position.
One of the gue’ron’sha opened up attack from his weapon on a cluster of three of the rifle strike team. It came out like a stream of pus, as if it were a boil being expressed through the barrel of a pulse blaster, and it struck all three. Initially, nothing, but then after a few heartbeats, they began to convulse, shake and fall over as if in spasms.
If it was anything, it was the sounds they made over the tactical network: retching and vomiting, almost as if they were drowning in it by the time Su’ri gave the order to disengage and run for their point of entrance.
Of the entire cadre, Su’ri was perhaps the fastest pure sprinter. She trained as an athlete to represent her training cadre at the academy and had won great honours for her class and her mentors. This was perhaps the reason why she made it outside the ancient imperial vessel, but it was behind her that proved the reasons why she was the only one to even make it out.
— “Just one game,” they said and started to play. That was yesterday...
Contagion and Incursion: Coming of the Feral Gue'ron'sha - Part Three
“As I call out the target, Tal’in’ui,” the older Tau called out reassuringly over the CadreNet, “you mark them for death.”
Shas’ui Ya’ven Tal’in sent a gold ping acknowledgment through the tactical network. In times of peace, he had very much appreciated the guidance of the aged shas’vre marksman; but now in war, Tal’in’ui found his soft and calm voice absolutely blessed.
“Shas’ui Del’in, move all of the devilfish between our line and the vessel,” Subcommander Gev’ran directed and indicated positions with quick pins dropped on the CadreNet’s tactical overlay. “Burst cannons and gun drones at full fire pattern configuration.”
Suddenly, four gun drones crested the ridge and made a quick arching path toward his friend and colleague Shas’ui Ya’ven Su’ri -- seemingly the sole survivor of the ill-fated sweep and clear action. They were painted slightly differently than the ones deployed with the other devilfish troop transports: a lighter red on the central dome and antennae surrounded by a crisp grey rim, much darker than the off-white of standard Ya’ven cadres.
Tal’in’ui tilted his head for a quick moment when he realized it. Not only were they Ge’vran’el’s own reserve gun drones, they bore the glyphs of Commander Farsight’s Personal Bodyguard Cadre.
The rumors were true!
Ge’vran’el had served on Arkunasha, one of Farsight's first major campaigns. This was for certain, as everyone at the academy talked about it when the instructors were not around, but the Subcommander had been close to the famed O’Shovah and not just one of the tens of thousands to fight and defeat the be’gel monsters. These gun drones proved as much with their special paint and markings.
Why such an illustrious career ended up here, in the salt and dust of a nameless patrol, rather than in the command cocoon of an XV85 Enforcer or an XV86 Coldstar battlesuit at the head of a grand mont’ka cadre confused the young leader of the pathfinders.
“Focus, Shas’ui!” the familiar voice of Shas’vre Kao’ra exclaimed. “Target the giants! The gue’ron’sha with armaments for arms! They threaten the positioning of the devilfish screen!”
One of the transports exploded in a salvo of deafening fire. And of course, it was the Pathfinders’ own transport
“Jump pack infantry! Markers on the jump packs, now!”
This time, Tal’in’ui and his la’rua had them. Markerlights found their targets and aided in the networked targeting systems of not only the devilfishes’ burst cannons, but also all of their drones, their remaining infantry, and the skyray gunship.
A hail of pulse fire rose up like a dozen fountains, felling three of the five assault infantry of the gue’ron’sha. Another exploded when a seeker missile impacted at the giant warriors center of mass, igniting the crude-but-potent fuel of the jump pack.
The last one came to a landing at a full run. He was a mere tor’lek or two away from the fleeing fire warrior. Perfectly between strides, the hulking space marine raised his bolt pistol and let off one shot.
It struck Shas’ui Ya’ven Su’ri square in the backpack that housed and powered her armour’s sensors, environmental hardware and communications gear. The blow knocked her tumbling into the hard-packed salt. Just as she righted herself, the marine was upon her. With a single sweeping arc, he not only cut the rifle away but he took her hands off as well. With an unnatural and practiced grace, he then disposed of all three through the air and tor’leks away.
Tal’in could see the blood as it covered Su’ri’s armour. It began to be soaked up by the salt and dust of the ground beneath her. By this time, the sole strike team survivor had fallen into catatonia. She was upright on her knees, just staring through her helmet at her handless wrists and the spurts of blood. No sound, just a single, solitary orange-white ping over the CadreNet -- the call for aid.
The gue’ron’sha suddenly fell sideways into the salt and dust with a crashing thud that Tal’in could hear audibly. The marine attempted to stand and was struck again by Longshot pulse fire putting him down for good.
“I have him,” the marksman Kao’ra stated calmly.
“Del’in’ui, move up and have your co-pilot evacuate the injured shas’ui,” Ge’vran’el ordered as a bolt exploded on his shoulder armour.
Tal’in looked out over the space between their ridge and the openings in the gue’la vessel. Dozens more were pouring out of the initial point of entry. Most were not nearly as swift as the first two squads of gue’ron’sha, these ones were different. They were afflicted with cursed mutations and sickening disease. Regardless, they advanced with precision and determination.
One such marine was different, he wore a hood of leather or some flesh loosely cured to look it. He carried a staff and little else. With a smile he spoke not the imperial tongue, but rather a resounding language that resonated in the minds and bowels of all that heard him. He raised the staff with both hands holding it vertically, and at the end of his invocation, he touched it to the ground.
Bloated, sickening creatures tore through rippling rifts in the ground and brought with them a cloud of insects and a flash flood of vitreous goo. They brandished jagged implements of close combat and made their path directly for the devilfish that had rescued Su’ri. More staccato fire from the living artillery struck the devilfish.
“Targeting the gun-giants,” Tal’in announced.
“Shas'ui Ya'ven Wi’jal, please send these guests a full complement of our finest welcoming gifts,” the Subcommander said in a most informal manner.
The whipping buzz of cruising seeker missiles elicited golden pings of approval from all in the cadre, the resulting explosions and subsequent erasure of the twisted devastators brought about full cheers. Wi'jal'ui was a practiced veteran pilot and the performance of the patrol's Skyray was evidence of that expertise.
Su’ri and her saviors should have been heading back up toward the ridge in relative safety by now. But the diseased creatures had somehow halted the retreat of the devilfish.
Temporarily, it seemed. The transport kicked straight up into the air and blasted one of their articulated repulsor engines at full to make a swift arcing turn in place. Just as it pushed away from the creatures, the Gun Drones arrived to add their firepower to the effort.
What struck Tal’in once more was that the Farsight drones Ge’vran’el deployed did not shoot pulse carbines, but rather pulse blasters. It seemed as though the O’Shovah’s way of the short blade made a lasting impression on the Subcommander. Needless to say, with the aid of acute sniper drone fire and the constant badgering of the transports’ burst cannons, the creatures were all but annihilated by the blaster drones.
“We are outnumbered and outgunned, Ge'vran'el.”
“Yes, Kao’ra’vre. I shall sound the retreat.”
“I shall stay and hold their attention,” the old marksman said.
“As will I, old friend,” the Subcommander added warmly.
“With respect, Shas’el,” the pilot of the Skyray gunship interrupted, “you will need firepower to divert them. These are still gue’ron’sha, and they will not be fooled by two elderly warriors with pulse rifles.”
“Shas’ui Ya’ven Wi’jal,” the Marksman said dourly, “You are incorrigible.”
A pause. Silence.
Ge’vran’el interrupted, “But you are correct. Do you know what you commit you and your crew to?”
“Not but the Greater Good, honoured Shas’el.”
“So be it then, Shas’vre Ya’ven Wi’jal.”
Gold pings, congratulating the battlefield promotion. Several real-time recordings were uploading their records to sit redundant on one-anothers’ interface storage throughout the Cadre Network. This was the stuff of Ya’ven dedication and camaraderie.
“All devilfish, deploy gun drones. Mount up and leave for the city. Tal’in’ui, you will be in command of the retreat.”
He pinged gold.
— “Just one game,” they said and started to play. That was yesterday...