It's structure and design was alien, one of the few remaining Tarrellian vessels that had brought that species refugees across thousands of light cycles before joining the Tau Empire. It had been carefully chosen by the High Architect of the Earth Caste to be outfitted with the cloaking device after the Tarrellians had displayed their cybernetic symbiosis with so much of their technology. With the reptilian humanoids minds, the cloaking fields could be regulated perfectly and adapt organically to situations no computer could.
It's purpose was known to only six individuals in the fleet and the paltry thirty that crewed it. All which answered directly to the Water Caste rather than the Shas'Ar'Tol.
Thirteen warriors held fast to it's matte hull, like parasites on the side of some great silent predator. They looked 'up' as the human vessel disgorged an unending hail of boarding vessels too and from the beleaguered Selim, it's juntas side burning.
An'yr read her HUD as it painted holographic details across her vision, finding reason to the madness that eclipsed space. The enemy vessel, at it's core, from the gue'la Imperial navy but had long been patched together with different craft and parts resembling a greenskin vessel. The heat signature alone, coupled with the radiation estimates, meant that even brief exposure on board the ship would be hazardous.
"Our armor will protect us but I've also issued iodi'm into the team's stimm packs." Team Leader Kass'm said in her ear over the comms. She glanced at him, briefly wondering if telepathy could be something the commando had forgotten to tell her about.
"You've thought of everything." She said, turning to look at him.
"We are prepared as much as we can be, Shas'Vre."Behind his featureless visor with it's camera pod on the left half of his face, An'yr would still know this warrior was the commando teams leader.
He was big, physically imposing, with personalized armor like all of unit but it was something more. It was the way the eleven other members reacted around him. As they drifted in near zero-g, they maintained a perimeter about Kass'm, their focus dedicated to executing any order he might issue. In turn, he obeyed her as though she were the voice of Aun'Va himself.
"Are you confidant in this plan?" Her own voice strained for a moment. Thirteen warriors against untold thousands of cannibalistic gue'la was a tall order.
Kass'm answered without doubt or hesitancy, "Statistics indicate this an impossible mission, Shas'Vre. But with the element of surprise, the counterattack aboard the Selim and our own abilities, there is no reason we will not be successful."
He turned, looking at her from across the hull of the corvette. "And impossible is what Unity Team does."
Their ascent was quick, gently pushed by bursts of air that barely made an energy marker. They drifted in pairs, save for Kass'm who lead the way, adjusting his trajectory as wreckage spun past and finding the best path to the surface of the cityship.
Ancient, black iron steeples met them like an ancient castle. Strange symbols, gue'la skulls and the flash frozen corpses of a dozen different species, hung from them. An'yr ignored this, choosing to invest in the data graphics that categorized what each piece of the cityship was.
There was a flash as a gue'la interceptor burned. It's murderer, a superiority fighter, flashed through the explosion only to collide with defensive turret fire, detonating in a blossom of fusion.
Her chronometer chimed, ten seconds to land. She gritted her teeth and pulled the carbine from her back and primed the ejection panel that would release the thruster additions to her armor.
"Remember, we will kill more of them the longer we go undetected." Kass'm murmured as the hull rushed toward them. "Fire order is 'request' pattern."
A string of acknowledgments responded even as the human vessel's localized gravity began to effect them. An'yr was no longer going 'up' but rushing down. She boosted her thrusters, slowing her descent but not by much.
They hit the deck as one, armor servos whining as they took the impact. An'yr bent a knee, wincing, but the commandos were already up, swarming the entryway. They released their thruster gear The hull was filthy, crenelated with centuries of micro-meteorite impacts. The graphic overlay helped An'yr spot the rust covered duct.
Two Unity members took vice looking devices out which quickly fastened to the lip of the duct. Unity took a careful step back, Kass'm rasing a hand and counting down.
Four... Three... Two... He closed his fist. The high intensity lasers in the devices ignited, spinning about the duct like a child's toy before coming to rest where their owner's had placed them.
An'yr watched the hull glow white hot then dull to a red. She looked to Kass'm who stared intently at the duct.
The explosives within the device burped, flinging the top of the duct high into space. There was the explosive 'puff' as the internal atmosphere rushed out, carrying with it strange, gue'la tools and anything not bolted down including one of the species cybernetic servant which riled like a snake as it froze in the vacuum.
The insides of the ship were bathed in blue as An'yr switched her blacksun filter on. Gravity had returned as Unity made it's way deeper into the maze. And what a maze, a darkness swathed madhouse filled with atrocities committed against their own. Humans of every kind, slave crews, milled about, their bodies tortured and augmented at random.
The Tau moved quickly, personal stealth fields allowing them to utilize the shadows. Despite their caution, they never encountered resistance. Clearly the masters of such a vessel could not fathom a direct insertion and, so, no security teams or checkpoints hindered Unity. Instead, the slaves continued their work, eyes hooded and barely sentient.
Kass'm posted a sentry every hundred paces, ensuring a supported escape when it would be necessary, until only he, An'yr and two Unity members 'Rake' and 'Jammer' remained.
"Not much further," An'yr said, breathing steadily as they marched through another junction. A pirate, his body naked to the air save for a thong of bristling copper wire, laughed as he whipped another human with a flail that had replaced his hand. His lips had been cut, revealing a row of broken yellow teeth. He roared in his feral tongue.
"Engage?" Kass'm asked as they moved around the oblivious pirate.
An'yr watched as the back skin of the afflicted slave was opened by the flail.
"Make it quick." An'yr said, looking back at her holo-map.
Kass'm made a gesture and Rake stepped forward out of his cloak. The pirate had the briefest of moments to look on the towering Tau commando before him. Rake's garrote wire, wound within his gauntlet, looped around the pirate's neck and sliced it to the spine.
Without a noise, Rake reactivated his cloak, leaving the mewling human to cower on the floor, having never seen him or know why his beating was ended.
"Where do we place the fusion core?" Kass'm asked.
"Not much further." An'yr said, concentrating. And then she saw it, the ever so feint signal of Kor'El Kel'shan Selim. She looked up, seeing a rust covered hatch, gold sigils painted onto it. "This way."
The four Tau entered a vast atrium, an internal cathedral, filled with beings. Species of every kind, Tau included, huddled in crowds as pirate slave drivers whipped them forward toward the apex of the room. A ziggurat of cut stone rose almost to the ceiling, splattered in the gore of aliens, a human priest like female screaming at it's highest level.
She bore a knife, a curved wicked thing, that disemboweled everything her servants brought her. An'yr magnified her visor so she could see the female, an ancient creature who's nose, ears and eyes had been sown shut. Only her mouth remained, shrieking in her own language. At the end of each vomit of words she would slice open a captured alien, pulling forth an organ and eating it.
Servants would then shove the victim off the ziggarat so that they splattered against the rock. At the bottom, some forty meters below, other pirates would collect the bodies and hack them into smaller morsels which they passed to one another or in great cauldrons.
Standing behind her was the beaten and mutilated body of Shipmaster Selim, supported by two other Air Caste crew, surrounded by pirates who pushed him forward.
She'd seen enough. "Kass'm. That is our target. Fix the fusion core to this location. We're deep enough in the vessel that once the signal from the counterattack is received it will split the cityship in half, but we must get to Shipmaster Selim first."
Kass'm nodded. "Jammer, take up position here with your rail rifle, strike when I give the order. Rake, you maintain security for the Shas'Vre and follow me."