Into Silence: Latchkey

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Calmsword
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Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#1 » Jul 13 2013 06:04

After about a year, I'm coming back to the Into Silence writing project. In an effort to get myself on the same page as my fellow writers, I've edited the entirety of the previous chapters and combined them into longer posts. If this is your first time reading, this is merely one branch of a collective story, mine is called 'Latchkey'. It follows the Empire's attempt, at the dawn of the Third Sphere, to return to those worlds ravaged by the Tyranids almost a century ago.

I hope you enjoy.

Introduction

T'au, the beating heart of the Empire glows in the void, defying the darkness. Home to billions of our people, it was from these boundless plains and turquoise seas that our ancestors came together under the mantle of the Greater Good and spread across the cosmos from this, our homeworld.

Por'La T'au Sol'n rubbed the sio't prayer beads between his thumb and index finger in a hopeless attempt to calm himself. His mother had pressed the an'do wood carved bracelet into his hands just before his first Trial when he was nothing more than a crecheling. As the instructors had begun the exhaustive testing, the prayer beads had helped.

Their powers were useless now as he looked out onto Faan'tor, Unity City, known as Empire Center, from the meditation garden of the In'o'wat Arcology, within sight of the Council Tower where the Highest convened and determined the path of the Empire. Thick arteries of air traffic flowed effortlessly between the spires of super structures, sky scrapers, and the mountain like ranges of other Arcologies. When he had first seen the sprawling city from the viewport of the shuttle that had taken him from his home, he could not help but shudder in awe at it's magnitude.

It wasn't just the size of the Faan'tor, it's population at a staggering two billion divided perfectly between the Five Castes, but it's history as the first city built with the cooperation of the original tribes and the Ethereal priests who had saved them from the ravages of the Mont'au. To be granted a travel permit to Faan'tor was difficult, even as a citizen of T'au Sept. There were security concerns ever since the Gue'la terrorist attack eight cycles ago, there was the social impact your visit would make on Faan'tor and if it was beneficial to the city, to the planet, to the Sept and finally the Empire; the numbers on that waiting list outnumbered the city's population two to one. Finally, there was the simple environmental impact, for each meal and apartment was carefully scheduled and maintained to ensure every Tau in the city was never without nor strained in the pursuit of their goals.

Sol'n had never conceived a time he would be able to physically enter Faan'tor and had been content to experience virtual reality tours in his home town's entertainment theater. Yet here he was, as close to the epicenter of the Empire, waiting for the highest ranking member of his Caste to see him for an informal meeting.

Sol'n had achieved top marks in Sept Affairs, Member Species Affairs and Applicatory History during his training. While still a 'Saal he had become the Education Director's personal assistant, catapulting his career beyond his colleagues. Despite his elevation to 'La after his first Trial by Water he was hand picked to assist the Por'Nel at the Academy of Bestowed Reason in the city of Koa'wom, Koa'tesh Prefecture.

Koa'wom was far from Empire Center, located on the other side of the planet, regarded by many as mundane. It sported no Battle Domes or Fire Academies nor did it's infrastructure sport any notable creations by the Earth Caste. Only the Academy made Koa'wom notable, and then only to historical enthusiasts as it housed no less than three of priceless originals of the Kil'to Histories in glittering stasis fields. Sol'n had been enthralled to the Academies data matrix, spending every waking moment at study and every sleeping period downloading files into his didactic nodes.

Sol'n was well on his way to becoming one of Koa'wom's chief academics and it was an accepted certainty that he would one day become the Por'El of the Academy. His latest report A Return to Discovery, an opinion piece, detailed the unusual similarities between the Third Sphere and the First Sphere Colonial ages as the Empire expanded into the greater galaxy. His conclusion had been cautionary, explaining that the Third Sphere was unique in that many of the systems in the path of the exploration fleets had already been visited, even colonized, in the previous Second Sphere. Those worlds that had been lost needed to act as lessons for the new leaders of the Third Sphere. How they were lost, and consider if they can be returned. It was an old argument, "don't forget the lessons of the past," merely another opinion piece that Sol'n had written, knowing only his colleagues would read it, maybe an enthusiast or two.

Shortly after it's posting on the local Por'Hui network, he had received a summons from the office of Por'Ar'O T'au Ol'wa Ul'naam Ar'cea. The message read; Prime Councilor Ul'naam of the Water Caste, Prime Minister to Aun'O Kath'lan and Speaker to the Council of the Highest, has reviewed your works and requests your person to his offices for discussion and exchange. Even as he sat perplexed, positive the message was the latest prank the Por'Ui had concocted, a shuttle had landed on the roof of the Academy.

The door to the study chamber had opened and one Shas'Ui T'au Nars, a giant cast in white armor, entered, ignoring the concerned looks from the other Por'La and marched to Sol'n's table. He had patiently waited for the supervising Por'Vre to verify the summons, the cyclopean visor glaring down at Sol'n and never wavering. Sol'n himself had protested, insisting he be allowed to go home and get a change of clothes. Nars had rumbled in a deep, resounding voice, that Sol'n would need nothing save what he was wearing, the simple beige smock of a researcher.

A small crowd had followed him to the roof including the Por'Nel who embraced Sol'n as he boarded.

"You make your family, Koa'wom city and this Academy proud, young Sol'n." The Por'Nel smiled, his lined face beaming with approval as he embraced him.

Those words echoed in Sol'n's mind, banishing his attempts at finding calm. He pulled the meditation beads over his head and approached the window. Shas'Ui Nars had all but dumped him in the meditation garden and disappeared after their arrival on a landing pad a dozen levels down.

Sol'n looked out, judging he stood almost a kilometer up, yet, in the distance, the Council Tower stretched even further into T'au's clear sky. Sol'n had read that at the birth of the First Sphere of colonization the Earth Caste had discovered the secrets of gravimetric manipulation, still in use in today's starships and transportation vehicles. It had been a particularly intrepid Fio'O that had proposed installing these generators into the Council Tower, allowing construction to reach previously impossible heights.

"Would you care for refreshment, Por'La?" A female voice interrupted his musing causing him to flinch back.

A holographic female Tau had appeared, smiling politely, projected from an invisible source. She was designed to appear in more traditional, pre-Empire, attire, her 'hair' flowing about her in slow motion. Data lines criss-crossed the strands of hair in delightful blues, pulsing back and forth so that she glowed.

"Is something wrong, Por'La?" He blinked, blushing and shaking his head, suddenly feeling very much the backward fringe settler. Even the most basic drone was able to project a holographic image of it's internal operating systems, but to see one so complex meant that this was a hololith; a fully sentient being.

"I have never met a visual representation of a constructed intelligence."

The holographic female nodded sagely with a smile. The data flow dimmed so that her appearance seemed slightly more realistic, "I have met many beings lacking such an experience, Por'La Sol'n."

"You know my name?"

"Yes. I am the In'o'wat Arcology Network, you may refer to me as In'o'hui." Sol'n's brow raised in surprise. The local drones of his prefecture were networked to boost their cognitive abilities otherwise their duties at maintaining the agricultural fields would be impossible. He had learned that a hundred such intelligences, when networked, were the equivalent of a crecheling with the barest hints of a personality. If every intelligence in the Arcology were linked, surely numbering in the millions, then In'o'hui was an impressive being indeed.

"Do you know why I am here, In'o'hui?" Sol'n asked, taking a step from the window and back into the garden. In'o'hui 'walked' with him, her hooves a finger length above the cultivated grass that made the floor.

The garden itself was a collection of flora native to T'au. An artificial brook curved it's way through the room, dividing the field that made up the room rather than the white fio'tak the Earth Caste normally built with. Rainbow colored P'mu fish frolicked in the water that gradually formed a small pond at the rooms center where an an'do tree grew from, it's branches perfectly groomed so that it fit in the wide chamber.

"The Por'Ar'O requested your presence." In'o'hui answered easily. "While this may seem vague, I say so only because the Prime Minister has so many reasons as to why he does anything."

"Oh." Sol'n stopped by the pond, watching the fish chase one another.

The hololith tilted her head apologetically, hovering over the water. One of the fish leapt upward, through her hoof, as if to nibble at her. "Needless to say it is, as with all things, in service to the Greater Good that he has spent the sizable effort in getting a person of your stature here."

"Sizable effort?"

In'o'wa smiled, raising her hand and forming a string of data for Sol'n to see. "The shuttle that was diverted from it's regular duties to collect you, the rearrangement of several hundred schedules to offer you this meeting and to procure a warrior like Shas'Ui Nars itself took a concerted effort to his convince his Commander he was necessary. Quite an extensive effort for a single Por'La."

Sol'n realized his mouth was open as he read the data before him, seeing names and figures mount all for him to stand where he was, admiring fish. The garden's only entrance opened, revealing Shas'Ui Nars, still in full armor. He marched forward three steps then stopped, regarding the hololith.

"Shas'Ui Nars. Would you care for a refreshment?" In'o'wa questioned.

"I do not." His voice was thunder. Sol'n had met Shas in the prefecture, of course, but they rarely wore their full armor. It was unnerving to look to where Nars' mouth should be, behind the helmet, yet hear him speak out of his armor's projectors on either side of his head. "The Prime Minister approaches." The giant took a step back apprehensively, hand resting on the pulse pistol on his belt.

In'o'wa turned back to Sol'n, "May fortune be with you, Por'La," the hololith whispered as she slowly faded into thin air. Sol'n looked at the open portal, realizing he didn't know what to do with his hands, finally holding them behind his back uncomfortably. Sol'n heard them before they entered, a pack of high ranking Water Caste members, automat drones and real life aliens, all talking at the same time as an imperious Por'O moved quickly through the garden and toward the pond.

"... Shuttle arrivals of the Kel'shan delegation are on time..."

"... His excellency insists that our time tables must be reconsidered..."

"... Comet J-2-0802 has been successfully intercepted by Fio mining teams..."

Sol'n knew that it was Por'O T'au Ul'naam from a lifetime of watching High Council reports on the Por'hui. His topknot swayed in perfect rhythm as he walked, decorated with bands of sculpted bone and wood, interwoven with wires of gold and platinum. As they neared the pond, the Por'O suddenly stopped and locked eyes with Sol'n.

"Por'La Sol'n!" said Ul'naam, his cadence a perfect traditional T'au accent, cutting through the chatter of his entourage. All eyes turned to Sol'n. "You have arrived."

Sol'n had never seen the other species that stood behind the crowd, not in real life at least. But he was sure he was looking at an avian Kroot a full head and shoulders taller than even Shas'Ui Nars, it's quills rattled as it moved it's body. There was also a strange looking pair of Gue'vesa, one with skin a dark brown and the other marble white, they wore a strange style of armor that made them seem like lesser Firewarriors. Finally, a bronze sphere floated above everyone, twittering with beeps and clicks. Maybe it was a Bentu'sin?

It didn't matter, Ul'naam was looking directly at him, appraising him with eyes as black as night flecked with orange. He was dressed in a brilliant array of different shades of white, heavier cloth wrapped around his body while lighter, almost gossamer, seemed to float about his arms. Sol'n realized they were all waiting for him to say something.

"I... I am! Por'O!" He bowed, clumsily, a stylist falling from his pocket.

The pen's fall seemed to take an especially long time to stop echoing. Those behind the Por'O put hands over their mouths as they snickered at Sol'n's expense.

The Por'O's eyes didn't break from Sol'n as he raised a hand, delicately manicured and adorned with bracelets, "Schedule?" A Por'Ui stepped forward.

"You're presence is requested at the Tertiary Tower for a broadcast regarding this cycles crop and then you hold council with the advanced drone assembly representative at Onos Industries. Repast occurs at that meeting's conclusion."

Ul'naam nodded, "Apologize to the Division of Agricultural and have Por'El Brri'na take my place. Have the Fio'Vre Project Overseer send a technical report in lieu of council, he'll appreciate that since he won't have to stammer his way through an explanation as to why we should be building his new toys. I will dine with the Por'La now."

Every being in the room seemed to catch it's breath, in total shock that such a low ranking Tau could garner so much attention from one so high ranking. Sol'n's mouth went very dry but Ul'naam only smiled.
Last edited by Calmsword on Oct 22 2014 05:34, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#2 » Jul 13 2013 06:06

Ul'naam lead Sol'n to his personal quarters, a modest one bedroom suite at the apex of the Arcology, a second floor dining area sitting just above. Shaped like a pyramid and made entirely from glass, it offered a panoramic view of the sky, Council Tower in the distance, the setting sun setting the horizon on fire. Ul'naam said little save to invite Sol'n to sit on one of the cushions at a carved, wood, table .

Ul'naam scanned through a dataslate, making deft movements with his fingers as he ran through whatever it was the highest ranking Por'O in space did to do his job. Sol'n waited patiently, nervously glancing out the window. Every now and again a starship rose from the surface and blasted into space or vice versa. The exchange was beautiful, utterly silent behind the glass of the pyramid.

Eventually a Por'La entered the room and bowed politely to Ul'naam then to Sol'n. Without a word he took a wide selection of plates, each with a small morsel of food, finishing with a clay jug with some kind of steaming liquid. It smelled wonderful, but Sol'n didn't touch it even after the the Por'La had left.

"You're patient, I'll give you that, 'La Soln." Ul'naam said, closing his dataslate.

"Yes, well, um-"

"Historian, yes, I would imagine your patience is boundless."

"We need to wait for things to happen, otherwise we don't have a purpose."

Ul'naam stopped, a wry smile tugging at his face, "So, they still encourage humor on the fringe."

Sol'n gave a quick smile then lowered his eyes in respect. Ul'naam shook his head with a laugh, picking up a piece of the dark firstbread that was eaten at the start of each meal and broke it in half, offering a piece to Sol'n.

"Sustenance. Comestibles." Sol'n took it and they each took a bite. It was the best food he'd ever eaten, with each chew it seemed to explode with flavor. They were, symbolically, equals until the end of dinner. "I miss the days when I could just call it 'food'." Something shifted in Ul'naam's voice, as if a muscle had been released after years of tensing. The veneer of the high T'au accent dissolved, replaced by something older, rustic.

Sol'n's expression must have betrayed him because Ul'naam gave him a wink, "Please, have some of the food, La Sol'n."

Was he mocking him? Sol'n swallowed the bread. Ul'naam's accent continued to deepen, harden, becoming less exact and more rolling. His words colliding and meshing together rather than the exact tones of Tau living closer to Empire Center.

"Good, eh?" Ul'naam said as he plucked a pink dumpling and popping it into his mouth. Sol'n nodded, impossible to disagree. Ul'naam continued. "I remember the first time I ate food in Empire Center. There's a place where the First Three cities converge, Faan'tor, Fio'taan and Ed'om, a kind of bazaar that's existed since... Since-"

"The Sixth Plain War, when the Ak'imkata Clan made peace with the builders of Fio'taan creating the Great Bazaar." Sol'n chortled the information happily as he used tongs to take a piece of jif't, succulent stuffed with clear noodles. He paused, realizing he'd just cut off the Por'Ar'O.

Yet, again, Ul'naam shrugged off the potential slight, "Yes! Exactly, wait until you go there. They don't raise the food in tanks there, it's all right out of the dirt, right out of the sea."

And then Sol'n got it, "You're from Koa'wom!"

"Koa'Et, actually, it's a smaller town on one of the islands near Koa'wom. You're probably more 'civilized' then me." The Por'O chuckled, pouring Sol'n and himself a cup of a sweet smelling tea.

"Koa'Et!" If the world thought Koa'wom was backward, those of Koa'wom believed Koa'Et little more than the plains dwellers the Tau had evolved from.

"They used to laugh at me, like they will laugh at you. We are all meant to be equal, but sometimes equality is unbalanced." Ul'naam sipped his tea. "It will make you stronger, if you can weather it, hone your focus to the task at hand. It took me three cycles and a failed Trial before I understood that."

"With respect, Por'Ar'O-"

Ul'naam raised a hand in protest, "Please, please, my name is Ul'naam, we're eating."

Sol'n smiled for the first time, relaxing. He was not a wordsmith, nor a master of etiquette, unable to properly convey complex multi-layered concepts in his sentences, "With respect, Ul'naam, I don't hardly notice it."

"Then you're the smartest Por'La in the Empire." Ul'naam laughed so genuinely and robustly that Sol'n couldn't help but join in.

Sol'n took a bite into the succulant that was so good it made him think about the heaven his ancestor's had foolishly believed in before the Tau'va, as he tasted the noodles, he wasn't so sure the concept was foolish. Ul'naam cut a piece off a tentacle from a raw gor'dis, a plant that still moved as though it were a squid, and ate it, speaking with his mouth full.

"I speak seventeen languages, every dialect in the Empire, and still nothing feels better than simple, sweet, Koa'wom'sia."

Sol'n finished his tea, his eyes going wide as Ul'naam filled his cup with piping ky'husa alcohol, "I only speak Koa'wom'sia, if you ever want to practice, you can fly me here anytime." Soon the two Por were drinking and eating, like long lost friends. Soon, the food dwindled and the stars blossomed in the night.

"You must be wondering why your here." Ul'naam asked.

"The third glass of ky'husa helped me forget." Sol'n admitted, feeling the effects of the alcohol.

"Yes. Thank you for letting me drag you from the academy like that, it was rude of me."

"You are the Speaker for the Council of the Highest!" Sol'n was incredulous.

"Yes. But you could have refused the summons. You have your own tasks to accomplish... But there is not much time and I need you, as does the Empire and our people." The remaining dishes quickly collected by a service drone unit that swiftly arrived from the ceiling then departed. The glass polarized and became large, two dimensional screens.

In'o'hui appeared, briefly just a burst of random photons that coalesced into the same petite, Tau female. She smiled at Sol'n who, despite himself, nodded in greeting at the hololith. He cleared his throat, "Of course, Por'O." The meal was over, formality had been restored.

"The Empire has just taken it's first few steps into the future, the Third Sphere." A region, toward the galactic 'north', glowed yellow. "And our best and brightest spearhead the efforts."

Sol'n watched as vid-captures from an embattled front opened, showing backlit Firewarriors overwhelm a Be'gel positions, a massive, loping battlesuit covering them with a weapon the size of an air car in it's arms. Another scene of a diplomatic envoy greeting other humans, strangely dressed, embracing. Still more images of Firewarriors marching prisoner Gue'la from a burning city, the personal throne of Aun'Va joined by the unmistakable profile of Shadowsun, the Fire Caste's leader.

Sol'n had seen them before, indeed, every being of the Empire had as news of victory spread from beyond the Gulf. The Third Sphere had already claimed those worlds lost during the Lithesh War, when humanity had first invaded the Empire and been cast back. Victory was in the air, the manifest destiny of the Tau'va never more evident.

"But there are old wounds, from before our time, that go unhealed." The images changed, the stars suddenly swirling to form the Sept Prime of Kel'shan. "And we cannot truly go forward, until we can look upon every world of our people and know they are whole. Do you know of the Zone of Silence?"

"I- yes, of course, Por'O." Recent history was slippery, Sol'n had learned, one was always discovering new facts and newer revelations that rewrote the history books he studied and taught from.

"The Zone of Silence, called 'the Silence' by the Kel'shani and Autaalin Tau that inhabit the Eastern Septs. A hundred cycles ago it was believed this territory would be the fourth Sept, named after it's most successful colony; Sha'draig."

"And what killed it? What killed Sha'draig?" Ul'naam said, his voice distant as he gazed at the interactive map, a swath of stars labeled in dark brown against the pulsing beacons of inhabited worlds.

"The Gue'la. A contingent of them somehow exited translation deep within our borders. They, and elements within the Empire, attacked the Sha'draig colonies weekend after the first encounter with the Y'he superorganism."

"No. The Gue'la drove our fleets back, forced out citizens to be relocated. What killed Sha'draig and it's worlds were infections the Y'he brought with them." The screen dissolved to an image of the a world, bereft of life, dark storms raging across the dust surface.

"In'o'hui," Ul'naam regarded the hololith, "Show a projected time lapse of the Empire in the next hundred cycles, accepting success at a rate of two thirds." In'o'hui's hair flared with activity as she replaced each screen with a diagram of the Empire, expanding rapidly into dozens of sectors into the galaxy, growing by over a hundred systems. Yet, the same darkened systems in the Silence remained stagnant.

"These worlds were stolen from us, and even as we make progress, they remain out of our reach. Dead, in every sense of the word. The true loss is that these habitable, thriving planets are gone. Just as your report implies, we must understand the past, maybe reclaim it."

Sol'n agreed, of course, but what did it mean for him?

"It's not so far from us, Kel'shan, that is, and yet we are divided by a cultural gulf few can understand. Our brothers and sisters there sacrificed more than we can comprehend, and barely survived, to save the Eastern Septs. It perceivers," In'o'hui expanded the image of the Prime world, "Prosperous, strengthened by it's resolve, they have redoubled their efforts against the depredations of the Perdus and Solai Rift. Their fleets have returned, stronger, their cadres as able as Sa'cea or Vior'la, yet it's people are forever scarred for the crimes committed by the Gue'la and the pestilence unleashed by the Y'he. In the span of only two generations they now hold alienation and prejudice as the higher virtues, mistrusting even those member species of the Epire."

Sol'n scratched his chin, considering the Por'O's words. He had never met an alien but, as per the edicts of the Ethereal and the reenforcement of logic, all life was sacred and all sentient life had it's place in the Tau'va. Rejection of this truth was a conceivable heresy and it was a strange thing to hear that an entire Sept could harbor such damaging opinions. "I have never met a citizen of Kel'shan." He said, yet, he had never met anyone from anywhere beyond his prefecture.

"A good people, but, a damaged people..." Ul'naam closed his eyes then passed his hand over a controller on his bracelet. The image changed into a macro image of a starfield, a single vessel drifting into the center frame. "But they will have a chance to change all that. Today, Aun'O Kath'lan advised the Council of the Highest that now was the time to repair what was broken one hundred cycles ago. He quoted your report at my recommendation." The image 'zoomed' in on a vessel that made Sol'n's eyes widen as he comprehended it's size. Capital vessels of every type, ships he had read about housing thousands, were dwarfed to a point of insignificance by this ship as it hung in space.

"The Air Cast Colonial Authority has permitted the Earth Caste Communion to retrofit one of the fortress stations with the intent to recolonize the Silence. We shall do this with the help of nine other member species, including the descendants of those Gue'la who attempted to destroy Ke'lshan. The rebirth of Sha'draig will represent the physical manifestation of what the Third Sphere should represent; Unity. It will be you who will help shepherd us into this future. "

Sol'n suddenly felt very out of place, panic sweeping across his body so much so that he almost stood, "This... I... This is, I don't understand, Por'O."

"One must remember the mistakes our ancestors made lest we fall to the same shortcomings." Sol'n recognized the words from his own essay as Ul'naam repeated them. "The Third Sphere has, in it's conception, been one of only war. We are not colonizing vacant worlds but invading and displacing untold billions. Aun'O Kath'lan and the Council believe we are on the cusp of losing our way. Returning to the Silence will refocus our Empire, turning a defeat the Shas'Ar'O and the Aun'Ar'O have seemingly chosen to quarantine and forget. You have reminded me and my colleagues that before we can go forward, we must go back."
Last edited by Calmsword on Oct 24 2014 12:40, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#3 » Jul 16 2013 05:30

CHAPTER 1:
Among the Stars


Sol'n held onto his luggage as other passengers and non-Tau crowded the observation dome. He wore a new set of travel clothes that Ul'naam's Por'La had gifted him for his journey. Ivory white, in the color of T'au, it set him apart from the majority of the passengers who wore the Au'taalian green. He had learned that the cloth was self cleaning after he had spilled tea all over his front in the transport ship's first faster than light translation. In addition it regulated his internal temperature and, if need be, would secrete anti-biotics should he become hurt.

He had found this last part unnerving, but Ul'naam had been blunt; He was being sent on a mission to a region that had not been visited by anyone in the Empire for a hundred cycles. Who knew the dangers that faced the mission.

"When are we going to see something?" A Por'La whined to his companion. "We've been standing here forever." The Air Cast crew had warned everyone that coming out of a translations could be jarring to those not accustomed to it. As such, they had polarized the thick transparalloy that made up the ceiling until the ship entered real-space again.

"The Empire waits for no one," the old adage went, Sol'n mused, thinking back at his fateful meeting with the Por'Ar'O a month ago. No sooner had the screens darkened in Ul'naam's suite then Shas'Ui Nars had appeared again.

"You will be assisting Por'El T'au Noh'luun in his operations as he, in turn, assists the most honored Ethereals of the fleet."

"Why me?" Sol'n had been able ask that single question.

The Por'O had smiled, "The last time someone got out of Koa'wom Prefecture they ended up one of five highest ranking Tau in the Empire. I'm gambling that Koa'wom's luck holds with you." The smile fell. "And you are a historian, Por'La T'au Sol'n, you understand where we came from and who we are at our core. We have made mistakes, failed. You may not realize this but many believe that the Third Sphere threatens to sever our connection to the past. Never in our history has the Aun'Ar'O lead a campaign... The loss of life is astounding, Por'La, too great to truly grasp." Ul'naam's brow furrowed in a sadness that Sol'n didn't want to know. Then, the moment passed and he placed a hand on Sol'n's shoulder.

"I hope that by sending you with 'El Noh'luun you can remind him of those things that make us, well, us."

And here he was, hurtling between dimensions with Shas'Ui Nars standing behind him, his life protector for the journey. Fully enclosed in a suit of tactical armor, he was an imposing sight on the civilian craft. He rarely spoke, never impolite, merely stoic to a degree that threatened boredom as they shared a cabin during transit. The other Tau on the vessel were friendly enough, but were enthralled in their own projects and work teams which left Sol'n usually by himself. If it hadn't been for the bracelet of white plastiflex on his left wrist, he would have surely gone insane with loneliness.

In'o'hui had fragmented 'her' vast intelligence and imparted a version of her, In'o'la, into one of Ul'naam's bracelets which he had then given to Sol'n. He did so with a cautionary word, explaining the power that Sol'n would accompany as In'o'hui, even reduced, was a powerful hololith.

The In'o'la clone had retained it's parent personality if not the computing capabilities it took to run an Arcology. Ul'naam's bracelet, with it's universal access of a Por'Ar'O, allowed In'o'la to seamlessly access any computer terminal or even the ship's own networked AI. Ul'naam had explained that, should the fragment of In'o'la deem it necessary, could override any terminal or computer in the Empire for her needs.

For Sol'n, In'o'la was the perfect companion, as he walked the passageways of the transport, conversing with her on the history of the vessel. Named the 'T'au Yeme'ko Raun', it was big for her class and was hauling mostly equipment to the rendezvous point of the fleet on the edges of Sept space.

He lifted the bracelet to his mouth, "Have you ever left T'au?"

"I have transmitted my intelligence to all the world's within the T'au system, every computer and main frame." She responded, "But I know what you're asking, no, this is a first for me too." Sol'n thought he heard a measure of excitement in the AI's voice. Hololiths were remarkable in that, because of the Earth Caste's accomplishments, they were sentient beings in their own right and had been formally invited to join the Empire when the first of their kind had achieved self-awareness.

Sol'n chuckled turning to Nars behind him, his amusement dying in the face of the warrior. He chewed his lip and tried to engage Nars thousandth time, "And you, Shas'Ui Nars? Have you every been this far away from home?"

"One hundred two translations, thirty two missions beyond T'au Sept space." Nars voice filtered through his armor's helmet which gave it a monotone quality, but honestly, there wasn't much difference when he took it off Sol'n had discovered. Nars spent most of his time meditating, training in their shared living space, or assembling and disassembling his equipment with a blindfold over his eyes. Emotion seemed to be devoid in the warrior.

"But we're going past the boundaries of all Sept space." Sol'n pressed.

Nars tilted his visor a fraction to look down at Sol'n, "I have campaigned with Shas'O T'au Nupch'o in the Western Veil." Sol'n had no idea what that could mean. He'd heard of the Western Veil, the swath of nebula that bordered the anomalous Da'mo'kles Gulf, but realized he didn't know if that was technically apart of the Empire.

In'o'hui seemed to read his mind, and he supposed she could as she was networked with his didactic implants, "The Western Veil, until the Third Sphere, was as far as any sanctioned mission could operate beyond the Empire's borders. The Shas'Ui has, indeed, had combat experience outside of the Cluster."

"Thank you, In'o'hui." Sol'n looked back into the blank viewport. "You could have just said 'yes', Shas'Ui." But Nars didn't seem to mind Sol'n's annoyance. Sol'n wondered if the Firewarrior, after a life of so much combat, wasn't comfortable without someone shooting at him. Sol'n had never been interested in combat, even in the historical aspects of campaigns or notable missions. Combat was a representation of a failure in diplomacy and reason not always on behalf of the aliens that refused the Greater Good but, in many times, in the Commanders sworn to protect it.

Sol'n touched his prayer beads around his neck and scanned the room again. A group of humans had just entered, keeping together on the crowded deck. They were dressed similar to Tau cultural norms, in robes of a rougher spun cloth, appearing almost rustic.

They wore their hair braids in conservative styles and had detailed symbols of Tau'sia script directly into the skin of their faces. Sol'n found himself staring at them, trying to differentiate the males from the females and the age of each. Gue'vesa were becoming one of the more widespread of the aliens in the Empire, populating worlds in almost every major Sept, save the First Sphere. He could see that many of them were swaying, eyes glassy, as if they were sick, leaning on their fellows for support.

"What's wrong with them?" Sol'n asked In'o'la, whispering into the bracelet.

"It has been documented that Gue'vesa as a species suffer an acute sensitivity to trans-dimensional travel."

"Why don't they just hypersleep then?"

"This was attempted during their original assimilation. Upon reanimation the Gue'vesa would experience psychopathic episodes and attack themselves or the beings around them. On further examination it was revealed that Gue'vesa rarely experience a true sleep cycle, their subconscious often interrupted by images, emotions and ideas that occur involuntarily called; Dreams."

"Dra'eem's..." The word was unusual, wholly foreign. "That sounds horrible."

"Several other species experience the same in their rest states. I do not have an opinion as I do not sleep."

One Gue'vesa turned and looked at Sol'n. He was pretty confident it was a 'she', with alien blue eyes and rich brown skin. She smiled, in the human way with her teeth barred, and Sol'n smiled back.

"Do you like the Gue'vesa, Shas'Ui?" Might as well try for another conversation since this dive wasn't going any faster ignoring one another. "I've only ever read about them, they don't allow them outside of Empire Center when they visit T'au."

"The Gue'vesa serve the Empire." Nars stated flatly.

"As do we all, but what is your impression of them? I've never interacted with aliens."

"They serve."

Sol'n finally turned, rolling his eyes, "What kind of answer is that, Shas'Ui?"

"A truthful one."

"I already have one shadow, Shas'Ui Nars. How are we expected to operate together for sand's know how many cycles." Sol'n felt his heartbeat quicken as he argued with the Firewarrior, but he was tired of the constant formality.

In'o'la chirped, "The Shas'Ui is your bodyguard, Por'La Sol'n."

"Yes, and I don't want to feel like I'm tiphoofing around him all the time." Sol'n rolled his eyes, "If you want to look at it from a military perspective, that's acceptable, but I need to know more about the galaxy from someone first hand if I'm to navigate my own duties."

Nars took a moment to consider this. Then, "Two Gue'vesa kau'ri served in the Nupch'o Coalition operating against Be'gel raiders that had gotten through the security grid. They are dedicated, capable and exemplary in combat. Their devotion to the Tau'va is fervent and unique in their patronage to the Five Ideals."

Sol'n clapped his hands together, "That wasn't so hard, was it, Shas'Ui."

But Nars wasn't finished. "I would conclude, however, that as a species they have too many opinions. Each one has their own interpretation of military tactics, diplomacy, solutions, everything. They squabble amongst themselves and it weakens their resolve. This aspect makes them unreliable, when it counts most." Sol'n looked back at the human, the female had turned away and was bouncing from one flat footed limb to the other. He wondered what Nars meant.

There was a sudden vibration that rushed through the deck plating, running all the way up Sol'ns ts'tsl scales on his spine. It was the telltale sign of a complete translation. A chime rang through the ship, a youthful Kor'La's voice coming on the speakers.

"Complete translation in four... three... two... one." There was a burst of electricity throughout the ship, the lights dimming momentarily. For Sol'n, he had come to relate the sense of translation as breaching up from water. For just a moment everything seemed weightless, breathless, and then the transport ship was through.

Sol'n, and everyone on the deck, look up and saw the observation dome depolarize, revealing a universe of stars above them. Wisps of inter-dimensional contrails clung about the ship as the laws of physics righted themselves, making the transport look more like a submersible rising through a seaweed forest.

Another chime rang out, this time the shipmaster spoke, "Fellow Tau'sin, Gue'vesa and our most respected Bentu'sin guests, we Kor are happy to report the T'au Yeme'ko Raun has made full translation. I would like to call your attention to the viewscreens so as to witness our approach."

All eyes turned to the wall panel that suddenly flickered on, showing what the transports forward cameras units saw.

Sol'n knew that the Ta'shiro stations were vast, having spoken with In'o'hui about their purpose and the variety of classes throughout the Empire, but seeing one with his own eyes was a wonder. A three kilometer wide disk slowly spun on it's own gravity well, a lone spine mushrooming away from it's bulk to a massive thruster array that burned with the brightness of a blue sun.

As the transport banked, falling into an approach vector, two interceptors and a larger docking drone filled the screen as they rushed seemingly directly at the transport. There was a scream from one of the Gue'vesa who hid his face into the female's robes. When the trio harmlessly sailed over the nose of the transport, there were laughs from the humans and Tau alike. The male's pale skin turning a deep pink.

Sol'n turned back up to the dome, watching as one of the fighters came to float just above the observation dome. It waggled it's wings, as though in greeting. The beings on the deck all cheered.

The shipmaster spoke again, "Welcome to Ta'shiro Vel'on Ku'shan'Cha, the Path Resurgance."
-X-
Last edited by Calmsword on Oct 24 2014 03:50, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#4 » Jul 16 2013 06:34

I like the way this story is progressing - it's looking like we are in for a long story, full of detail and interesting characters. I will continue reading as more updates are posted. :D

A couple of minor niggles so far...

Sol'n had seen pictures, vids and virtual tours of the "city of cities" and yet nothing could prepare him when they arrived at a kilometer landing pad that, itself, was dwarfed by the Council Tower.

Do you mean a kilometer high landing pad?

And here he was with Nars standing behind him, his life protector for the journey. Fully bedecked in a suit of tactical armor, he was an imposing site on the civilian craft.

I think you mean sight

To his left was a similare group of humans that he had seen in the garden, Sol'n couldn't tell the difference between humans save for their skins which had too many hues to begin with.

Similar
I would use the term "skin colour" here or just "skin"

It was a 'she' he was pretty confidant

He was pretty confident it was a 'she'. This reads better

On the bed was a fresh set of robes, marked white for 'T'au', as well as a thumb sized copper badge which he picked up.


There may be more but I was enjoying the story too much ;)

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#5 » Jul 17 2013 12:14

-X-



Sol'n, with Nars close behind him, stepped out of the docking umbilical into a vast terminal that ringed around a quarter the circumference of the Path Resurgence. Teams of Kor'La traffic minders stood ready to assist the gaggles of passengers that were nearly stampeding to get out of the claustrophobic corridors that linked the transports to the station.

"Please have your travel permits ready to be scanned and we will assist you." A long legged Kor female called out. Beings fumbled, quickly lining up behind each Kor'La who patiently read each one.

"I have already checked in with the Path Resurgence AI and notified him of our intentions." In'o'la said.

"It's a 'he'?" Sol'n asked.

"Yes... hololiths and AI always choose their gender upon self awareness for the benefit of of biologicals. He is one of eight."

Nars stepped in front of Sol'n and pushed his way through the throngs that parted almost immediately before him. Sol'n followed, feeling momentarily guilty as Tau and Gue'vesa glared as he passed to the front of the line.

The female Kor'La took one look at Sol'n and Nars and waved them through, "Welcome, Por'La Sol'n. There is a personal tram waiting for you at Track 02." Sol'n nodded politely, trying to ignore a Por'Vre he had just skipped.

The transit station made up the wall section of the terminal with monorail trains racing up and down the station. Sol'n could see above him that the terminal was dedicated to the larger Firewarrior dropships three stories above the civilian zone he had just boarded from.

There were crowds at the station as well, but these were clearly crew for the station as they wore armbands each conveying the same symbol. On Sol'n's closer inspection he realized it was the ideogram for Sha'draig, a larger circle with a single sphere on it's left side with two bands dividing it.

Other Firewarriors, their armor grey and gold and the Ke'lshan symbol across their chest plates, stood at the station on duty. Nars stopped a few steps from two who regarded their fellow warrior with salutes over their hearts. Nars saluted back before turning to the Shas'La with team leader insignia painted on his large shoulder guard.

"I am Shas'Ui T'au Nars, code 3275. Behind me is my charge, Por'La T'au Sol'n."

The teamleader looked down on his dataslate. "We have been expecting you, 'Ui Nars. As has-"

"Por'La Sol'n! Por'La!" A Por'La pushed his way between a crowd of Tau boarding one of the train cars.

The teamleaders disdain seemed to emit through his armor, "As has the Por'La Vheme'es. He has orders to escort you to the bridge."

Por'La Vheme's was too small for his robes. They bunched up, collecting about his legs and falling past his hands. He wore a pol hat which didn't want to sit correctly on his head so that he held it up with a fumbling hand. Sol'n thought the Tau looked as out of place as he felt.

"Por'La Sol'n," Vheme'es repeated, a grin plastered over his face.

Nars stepped in front of Sol'n and, for the first time since he had met the Shas'Ui, his life protector put a protective hand over Sol'n's chest.

"Oh, really, Shas'Ui-" Sol'n began to protest when Nars' pulled him further behind his armored back.

"Por'La Sol'n! I'm here to welcome you!" The Por'La tripped over a Fio pulling a grav-cart and fell through the last of the crowd directly into Nars.

The Shas'Ui deftly turned his body and plucked the Por'La from his descent then forced him upright. The Shas'La laughed, an ugly sound through their armor.

"Oh my!" The Por'La looked about himself, not seeming to notice the gauntlet clutching him at the cuff of his robes, "Clumsy me, and I was so late, please, a thousand, no, a thousand thousand apologies Master Sol'n!"

Sol'n tapped Nars on the shoulder, "I think it's alright, Shas'Ui. Put him down?"

Nars slowly let the youth go who beamed up at him, not insulted in the slightest, "Thank you as well, Shas'Ui T'au Nars, a hero of the Empire, I am honored by your service."

"Who are you?"

All mirth evaporated as the Por'La's eyes widened in horror, "By the sands, by the moons! I've gone and forgotten myself, this is inexcusable." He straightened, eyes closing formally, "My name is Por'La Au'taal Vhem'es, and I am at your service for the remainder of your stay here aboard the Path Resurgence. I have been told to collect you upon your arrival and bring you to his eminence."

Sol'n looked at Nars, then shouldered his luggage, "Lead the way."

Vhem'es clapped his hands and put a finger on a button in his pol hat, opening a channel to the ship's computer.

"Authorize a transport, please." He looked conspiratorially at Sol'n, "We won't be taking the train, takes far too long, why do you think I was late?" Sure enough, a drone air car tilted and fell toward them.

Sol'n looked at Nars and whispered, "What was that about?"

"What was what?" The Firewarrior ruined any subtly Sol'n had tried to achieve. Vhem'es turned to look at them, worried, then realized he was eavesdropping and turned away.

Sol'n cleared his throat, "You could have hurt the Por'La, why did you push me out of the way?"

"I am your life ward, Por'La Sol'n. I am charged with defending you from all enemies and threats, even yourself. The Por'La Vhem'es could have brought you harm with his carelessness."

Sol'n scoffed, "That's quite an imagination."

"It is my duty to imagine such things, thus, keeping you safe. Danger is everywhere, 'La Sol'n, you must learn that."

The drone cab landed, it's pads extending even as it's doors folded open. Vhem'es grinned and waved for them to follow him.

-X-

The Path Resurgence's main corridors connected each of the three rings of the station. Air bridges lined the sides, allowing foot traffic while air cars and drones filled the ceilings. In the middle a rail car silently arrived and departed and different stations. It was less like being on board a space station than in a massive, subterranean kingdom.

Vhem'es acted as a tour guide, grandly waving his arms as they passed points of interest. "The outer ring is dedicated to the launch bays and docking areas you arrived in. It is also where the barracks of the Fire Caste are located, I understand that Shas'Ui Nars will be staying closer to your quarters."

Sol'n didn't answer until he realized Vhem'es was staring at him. "What? Oh, yes, Shas'Ui Nars is my life protector."

"Very interesting," Vhem'es mused, "For one of your incredible stature, it only makes sense that the Por'Ar'O, in his infinite wisdom, would assign such a venerable soldier of our people to ensure your safety."

"Um. Yes."

"This is the secondary ring, or, the Habitation Ring." Vhem'es continued as the car zoomed between two support pylons that curved into the ceiling. "All passengers and crew have access to shops, trade posts and entertainment centers, as you can see." He pointed to a string of outlets that, indeed, had a variety of races bustling about them. "The Path Resurgence is very much a veritable city." The youthful Tau laughed, Sol'n wasn't sure if it was genuine or as a display. He'd never gotten along with the Water Caste devoted to diplomacy and protocol.

"How many people are going with us?" Vhem'es stopped laughing, his eyes bulging as he obviously calculated.

"The station is the beating heart of this endeavor, but it's attending fleet is also vast. A quarter of the Eastern Sept's combined vessels constitute it's numbers. True population counts could be researched, but truly, none would have any idea save for-"

"Two million sixteen Tau, fifteen thousand forty four Kroot, twelve thousand Gue'vesa, two thousand Vespid, four hundred Tarrelians, ninety six Bentu'sin constructs, two hundred Bovul, four hololith entities and a single Bentu'sin Attendant." In'o'la said tonelessly from Sol'n's wrist. Vhem'es eyes widened at the the bracelet as he realized it's sentience.

"A hololith! My apologies for not making your acquaintance-"

"That's... They intend on colonizing an entire Sept." Sol'n concluded.

"We intend to." Nars said bluntly to everyone's surprise. The car sped along through the air, it's occupants silent.

They reached the end of the passageway. A single, massive, block of fio'tak with curved buttresses jutting out from it's smooth surface like a fortress wall. Sol'n saw Firewarriors moving about in between fixed cannons that were powered down. A single bridge stretched across the walls, forming a walkway that lead into the block.

The drone pilot turned and parked on the bridge. It was wide, enough for fifty to walk side by side. The hatch opened and Vhem'es expression became so crestfallen that it was almost comical if his preening didn't grate the nerves.

"This is the portal to the first ring, the Core. We are not allowed to continue via car, my apologies, these security measures are a hinderance but a necessary. Please, Por'La Sol'n, do not be upset, it will only-"

"Yes, thank you, Vhem'es." Sol'n picked up his luggage and got out of the car. Nars followed Sol'n, Vhem'es stammering and apologizing as they walked up a ramp into the portal.

"I am communicating with the Core's hololith... Our presence is being monitored and the Por'El knows our arrival is imminent." In'o'la's housing bracelet whirred. "I would caution that the Coalition's leaders are up there." Sol'n licked his lips and felt his hands feeling the beads around his neck.

"The Coalition's leadership has been in debate constantly since we left dry dock. They are agitated to make the first jump into the Silence. Por'El Noh'luun insisted they wait."

"For me?" Sol'n was horrified.

Vhem'es laughed, "Well, I suppose yes! There were some final items from Sho'Aun Enterprise."

They reached the mouth of the portal. A tall, fifteen meter tall opening shining with light. A turbolift hummed as it waited for occupants. Vhem'es hurried ahead of them, taking a thumb sized copper badge from his chest and passing it over a column that extended from the floor as he neared.

There was a warble of drone-speak, then it was as if something had been holding it's breath and exhaled it gratefully. A kind of rippling, like that of heat escaping a thermal vent on a cold day.

"Shields." Nars explained. "No need for doors. If you had walked into that and you would break every bone in your body."

"Security if of the utmost necessity." Vhem'es said, almost defensively, and straightened his robes. "Please." He beckoned. They stepped onto the turbolift and were raised into blinding white light.

The bridge was as beautiful as an Ethereal temple. In'o'la spoke directly into his cortex through his , feeling his thoughts and answering his questions as she calmed him. Sol'n found the sensation slightly violating, but became comfortable as they made there way into the heart of the station.

Sculpted from a single, enormous, Tox'o pearl, the bridge contained hundreds of Air Caste, each operating within beautifully sculpted chambers filled with computer terminals. It had been designed like a concert hall, the rings of the crew all pointing to the center of the room where, rising up, like an inverted teardrop, a raised dais looked over all. He slowed to appreciate it.

Vhem'es coughed politely, urging him, "I can assure you a downloaded walkthrough of the Apex will be available to you in your quarters this evening after you meet with his most esteemed Por'El, but, please, we must hurry!" Vhem'es whispered, gesturing forward.

Walking straight ahead they came to the edge of the floor. Just as Vhem'es stepped out into empty air a shining blue bridge made from light glowed on, connecting their level to the central dais fifty meters out. Vhem'es motioned for Sol'n to go forward.

"What?" Sol'n gasped.

"It is a lightbridge, a new technology, directed photons. Please, due to my unfocused decisions we are very tardy."

Nars took a tentative hoof and touched the nearly transparent white light. Where his hoof set down there was a ripple that spread outward, white and purple light dully forming as though he were walking on water. Then, with the inbred courage of his Caste, he marched forward.
Last edited by Calmsword on Oct 31 2014 01:43, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#6 » Jul 23 2013 08:18

The dais was populated by crew chambers helmed by Kor'Vre section leaders while the leadership of the station all conversed around a central holo generator. Sol'n could pick out Noh'luun instantly, recognizing the famed speaker for Au'taal Sept from vid captures on the Por'Hui back home.

Por'El Noh'luun was tall, almost as imposing as a Shas, but slender, his movements like a dancer as he articulated his speech with enunciating gesticulation. His robes were white, yet crisscrossed with Au'taal green, Ke'lshan yellow and Vash'ya lavender, as though he had adopted all three Septs as his own. He had stylized his hair in a beautiful series of braids that were interwoven with an archaic comb studded with diamonds.

He was in a heated debate with a Shas'El who, like Nars, remained in body armor save for his head which might as well be a second helmet with the amount of bionics grafted to his skull. The warrior had obviously sustained a mortal wound and was arrogant of his survival, leaving the bionics their pre-surgical color, a mustard sepia, that contrasted with his dark blue skin. Twin artificial eyes constantly dilated and focused as he listened to Noh'luun.

A third member of the leadership, a Kor'O in a skin tight body suit, remained silent. He wore a cage of fio'tak around his chest, some kind of gravity compensator, so that he hovered over the deck in a pocket of anti-gravity. The markings on his chest showed that he was a High Admiral yet there were no markings or command favors save a thin, platinum scepter, that he held with both hands against his chest.

Nars stepped out onto the dais and waited patiently. Sol'n took up position at his side, eager to hear any traces of conversation from the beings that were responsible for the Path Resurgence space station.

Noh'luun was speaking; "... The discovery of this operation must be avoided at any cost. Every moment we remain here we put the aspirations of our Septs and the progress of the Third Sphere at risk. Diverting even a single, precious, vessel from our position risks our immediate ascertainment by the enemies of the Tau'va. Sending the flotilla you demand raises that risk a thousandfold." Noh'luun finished, turning to the Firewarrior commander expectantly.

The Shas'El tilted his head, his lip twitching in what could only be annoyance. He did not bother with subtleties, "The colony of He'pha'n is one standard day's travel from our position on the Edge," He pointed at a pulsing gold point on the holomap that slowly drifted in the air between him and the Por'El. Sol'n read that the region of space that bordered Au'taal's Sept was titled; The Edge of Silence.

"They are still fighting against a anomalous force and are failing. Assistance from Au'taal will not make it in time, therefor, I will send any Shas not needed here to assist them as is my prerogative of rank. My brother and sister Kor have enough fighting ships here to protect in the mustering while the Path Resurgence itself could cripple an entire Imperial city-ship. This argument is pointless." He nodded toward the Kor'O who only shifted his weight, remaining neutral.

Noh'luun inhaled, his expression as though he were delivering a funeral rite, "A warrior of your experience understands the pacts of fraternity in times of war more so than a humble servant, such as myself, will ever fathom." He turned, adressing the room, his eyes suddenly locking with Sol'n who almost took a step back in surprise. "Yet, all Tau understand that they work, fight and sacrifice for the betterment of the Empire, of the Greater Good. Each is a delicate cog in the great machination that the Aun guide and each must understand their purpose in light of the greatest works." He turned his attention back on the Shas'El. "I must insist, Sub-Commander, on behalf of the delegation of their excellencies, that the He'pha'n colony face their threat alone."

The Shas'El and Por'El looked at the higher ranked Kor'O, waiting for his mediation. Sol'n watched as the older Tau closed his eyes, considering. When he opened them there was a palpable determination that burned in amber eyes. "Endangering this Coalition is a risk we cannot take."

Noh'luun cocked his head, as if physically accepting the victory over his counterpart. The Kor'O put up a hand and flexed his fingers towards the Firewarrior, "And yet, Shas'El Tae'en is not wrong, for every world, installation and being that serves the Greater Good is, in turn, served by their fellows. Our obligation is great in our protection to the Empire, and it is one that is deserving of risk." He inhaled, raising both hands to encompass the two Caste representatives.

"Our great fleet has massed enough resources and vessels to embark into the Silence. There are a few, notable, latecomers from blessed T'au and the carrier flottilla from Vash'ya... Their presence will be missed." He raised the scepter and pointed at the holo map. "We will install a listening post at our position for the benefit of the Vash'yan and then make our first translation. A fraction of our fleet will carry three cadres of Firewarriors-"

"We cannot spare so many!" Noh'luun gasped.

"We need at least five, Kor'O Yama'nan!" The Shas'El barked. Sol'n felt the breath stolen from him. As a historian, the name of Yama was as famous as any Sept system. Since the First Explorers, the Yama family had lead every major expedition into the stars.

Yama'nan's gaze buffeted the Shas'El's outburst like a forcefield. He continued, "Three cadres aboard the cruiser; Regulant Auspice and her attending escorts will journey to He'pha'n and attend our allies there. Once they succede, they will return to the listening post and join us into the Silence."

Yama'nan gave a curt nod which the 'El's returned with deep bows, and glided from the dais past Sol'n who bowed with as much respect as he could physically muster. When Sol'n straightened he saw that the Shas'El had disappeared as well, leaving Noh'luun alone, staring at the holo images and Noh'luun who seemed to have deflated. Worry lines crisscrossed the Por'El's face, like an actor who had finished a particularly convoluted scene and was now recovering off stage.

"Politics." Noh'luun said, not looking at Sol'n. "Always the most difficult of battlefields... One day I hope the war of words might be integrated into Fire Caste training regiments, lest the Air Caste become the deciding factor in all things." He sighed, turning slightly. "Por'La T'au Sol'n, you are very late and yet come highly recommended from High Speaker 'O Ol'wa Ul'naam Ar'cea."

Sol'n blushed, "I, well, I must apologize, we only just arrived-"

Noh'luun spun on the tip of a hoof, his robes spinning perfectly about him, the fatigue disappearing. "No wordsmith do I see here," His eyes flashed, reading Sol'n like a text slate. "Instead, I see an academic! Mother T'au sends me a historian! Why do you believe they have done this, Por'La?"

"Master Por'Ar'O Ul'naam believed I could assist you gain perspective-"

"Perspective?" Noh'luun closed with Sol'n so that he standing over him, appraising him. "Let us see then. My mission is to repopulate the Silence, a journey of reclamation for the billions who died there a century ago against the Y'he and the Gue'la. The Shas'El is taken a contingent of warriors and one of the finest Vash'yan warships in the Empire. Why does he do this and risk everything we have built here?" To look directly at the Por'El was almost frightening.

"The Admiral is right to send help to He'pha'n-"

"Really? Explain. Give me the moral argument the Shas'El has convinced the Admiral with. I do not make these decisions between life and death blindly." He pointed to the ceiling, "This is the future, sacrifice must be made to ensure that future. I do not relish in the harsh decisions, and the weak of will will cloud the necessity of such decisions."

Sol'n took a breath. "The goal of our mission is to reclaim the Zone of Silence. He'pha'n was a supportive colony to Sha'draig. After the Y'he infestation, Au'taal adopted the planet. To send assistance is fulfilling that mission." Staring at the floor, Sol'n realized the feint sorr'al artwork inlaid into pearl that was the surface of the dais.




When he looked up Noh'luun was smiling. The Por'El had looked up what Sol'n had said on the wrist projector clamped to his arm.

"You are... Correct." He shut the projector off. "A historian indeed. Thank you for joining me at this late hour, Por'La, surely you must be weary from your travels."

Sol'n smiled, confused, "It is still only midday, sir."

Noh'luun cocked his head, mirroring Sol'n's smile identically. "You have arrived here suddenly. It is currently the final night shift in the fleet. All vessels maintain the same chronology, for practicality. I recommend that as a member of my staff, you acclimate."

"Yes, but, I'm not tired." Sol'n said. He looked over Noh'luun's shoulder and saw two Kor'La look at one another and stifle laughter. Realizing he had just rejected his new master's first order, he bowed, apologetically.

"I mean-"

"Yes, the Por'O T'au did say you might be uncouth." He chuckled, not an entirely pleasant sound. "May I recommend you, and this yet another Firewarrior statue behind you, travel to the center decks. There is a cantina named Terminable Elipses. Exhaust yourself at my expense." He pressed a projected button on his wrist and Sol'n felt his badge vibrate as currency transferred.
The lower decks could be differentiated from the upper in three ways. First and foremost there were aliens everywhere of every kind. Strange Bentu'sin constructs stretched pneumatic armatures around nimble Galg. At one point Sol'n thought he saw a massive four legged Tardashan.

Next was that the walls narrowed, the open spaces becoming more condensed. A grid lattice of chambers and hallways crisscrossed in a wide ring that wrapped around the entire section of the station. These had been taken over by Water Caste vendors and Earth Caste repair sites open to the public.

Lastly, and Sol'n found the most remarkable, the gravity was greater here than in the Air Caste decks, closer to T'au norms. Sol'n noted that some species were wearing assisting repulsor packs that localized gravity to greater or lesser degrees depending on preference. A wonder.

Entering the three floored cantina, it's ovular structure hanging above a water reservoir designed to look like a lake. A long bridge extended from the bustling 'market district', wide enough so that a clear to and from path was allowed.

Sol'n marveled at the workmanship. They walked two meters above the water, a natural bridge curving from the main deck upward to the cantina structure so that it looked like a plant's seed pod. Nars shadowed him, shoulder set defensively as coming and going patrons flowed on either side.

"I'm sure the Fio'faan understood that we would be traveling for cycles and miss being planetside." Sol'n reflected, watching as a brightly colored filter organism darted just below the surface.

"Perhaps."

"Do you worry about how long we'll be gone? I read the brief, this is an exodus."

"Those of the Fire Caste go where needed."

"You may never get to see the Septs again."

"And so it may be."

Sol'n frowned. "If we're on board this thing for the rest of our lives you've got to get better at conversations."

Nars chuckled, "It may be I just don't like conversing with you, Por'La."

The portal leading into the ground floor was open, filling the immediate entrance with music being played by a live band of Formosians while lithe dancers of every species performed in front of them. The tune was upbeat, a blend of traditional music heightened by a modern influence.

Some of the patrons hooted and cheered the dancers but most were at private tables being served by a combination of drones and Por'La waiters. The bar was a single carved trunk of Au'taalian blue pine who's center had been cut to house a corps of bartenders.

Sol'n looked at Nars, "Think you can handle a drink since we won't be talking?"

Nars grunted and the two made there way to the bar.

A Por'La turned, smiling, as she cleaned her hands on her apron. "Greetings! What can we provide?"

Sol'n smiled, hopping onto a stool, he looked up at a projected menu above the Por'La while six windows played different Kas'chi'a ball games from the Au'taal Sept. "I have no idea, I've been traveling with my friend here for weeks, just got here this morning, could you recommend something?"

"We have over a thousand varieties, Por'La-"

She looked up, the smile plastered to her face as Nars leaned in, "A carafe of ky'husa."

"Hot or cold?"

"Very hot, please." He sat down.

"We have a vintage from Fy'nosh I can recommend-"

"If you have any strain of Sa'cean grain?"

She nodded, turning and putting the order into a computer terminal.

"I wasn't in the mood for ky'husa."

"It will help you acclimate to the new night cycles after the headache."

"Headache?" The bartender returned with the ky'husa, steaming hot. Nars deftly poured two cups full and put one in front of Sol'n. Sol'n feeling like this was the first ground he'd broken with his bodyguard, held his breath and downed it.

Nars smiled, approvingly, and sipped at his own, amused as Sol'ns eyes bulged and grasped his throat.

"Sands!" Was all he could gasp as the liquid burned his throat and landed in his stomach like a fire. Stepping back, he stumbled into what felt like a durasteel wall.

The wall flinched and Sol'n went tumbling onto the ground, still gasping. Nars stood, alarmed.

A Tarrellian, massive reptiles from worlds beyond the Empire, glared at Sol'n. Spines ran from it's tail to it's head where a mass of cybernetics took over, imbedded in it's mighty skull with a heavy cable. It's jaw readjusted, threateningly, revealing rows of fangs, capped in adamantium. It's scales were a blend of crimson edged with orange, eyes two yellow orbs with black slashes for pupils.

Two other Tarrellians were with it, one with blue scales the other purple with streaks of white. All three had augmented Firewarrior plate on them and were wrapped in white body gloves. All three did not look friendly to Sol'n who lay on the ground.

"Mind your way, liartongue." It hissed.

Nars stepped in, unafraid of the saurians even though he only came up to their chests. "He will." Nars said softly. Nearby patrons gave the growing confrontation a wide berth. Nars bent and picked Sol'n up.

'Orange' met Nars' eyes and saw that the Shas'Ui was not going to be intimidated.

Sol'n, experiencing a dangerous blend of pain and inebriation, cleared his throat. "Why did you call me Liartongue?" He looked at Orange.

Nars squeezed his arm, "Silence, Por'La."

"What else are you good for?" 'Purple' murmured.

"Were it not for the Firewarrior between us your kind might learn how the real galaxy works." Blue said, smiling a wicked grin. The reptiles chortled.

Sol'n straightened, pushing Nars away who remained exactly where he was. "If it weren't for my kind your people would still be running from the Gue'la! Who do you think negotiated your resettlement? You should be buying me a drink!" He grinned, the fire in his belly turning to courage.

The three giant Tarrellians looked at one another and then the diminutive Por'La, stunned. Even the band faltered as the entire cantina directed their attention.

Blue's hands balled into fists and Orange bared his teeth. Nars' hand released Sol'n as it hovered closer to the pistol on his belt. "Get ready to run..." He whispered.



A fragrance cube burned dully, filling the room with a sweet scent that Sol'n had never smelled before. Some of the anxiety he had felt in the transit bled from him. At least these living quarters would be enjoyable, they almost reminded him of the rec rooms at the academy.

On the bed was a fresh set of robes, marked white for 'T'au', as well as a thumb sized copper badge which he picked up.

"What's this?"

Nars glanced at it, "It's a comm badge, connects you to the station's internal network and drone assistant programs."

"Yes," Vhem'es nodded, "And in order to facilitate meaningful and beneficial transactions on board the station it also serves as your personal currency reservoir or, 'wallet'. Your credit allowance is," Vhem'es batted his eyes and smiled ruefully, "More substantial than your previous position allowed. There are many Member races on the lower decks dedicated for trade that I could recommend-"

"Are Member races allowed in this part of the ship?"

"An excellent question, La Sol'n. The short answer is 'no'. Save for the military decks the station is open to any species travelling through it as long as their identity card allows them through Junction points. However, living quarters are race-specific."

Sol'n frowned, "And that is normal?"

Vhem'es stopped, as though he must physically 'think' his way through answering. "An endeavor such as this has never been attempted and so I have no example of what 'normal' could mean. The Third Sphere is primarily a Tau effort with only four or five Member Species taking a direct role." He continued walking, turning a corner and taking a few steps down to a wing of apartments.

The path was interrupted by a meditation fountain which bubbled artificially with holographic projected water.

Vhem'es continued, "The journey into the Silence has no less than twelve Member Species while the Path Resurgence itself is the design of the Earth Caste and the Srr'tok Brotherhood. Maintenance is also achieved by a Brachyural colony situated on the Engineering decks below. I believe that it was Por'El Noh'luun and Admiral O'Yama'nan's intent that the vessel be representative of the ideals of the Tau'Va and allow travel between the ship. Where one rests and lives is a private and personal location and so entire decks of the vessel are dedicated to a single race. You may be invited, however, should you petition." He stopped suddenly as the drone above him whistled.

"Ah! Here we are," he waved his hand by the reader mounted in the doorframe.

The room was spartan and small enough that Sol'n could have laid down and touched all corners with his stretched out body. He had expected as much and quickly placed his few items inside. As he tripped the motion sensors, the lights gradually came on, a bed folded out from the left side of the wall and a 'fresher station reorganized itself on the right.

"Welcome, Por'La Sol'n." The room's custodial AI greeted Sol'n from hidden speakers in the room. "You have SIX messages, shall I play them for you?"

Sol'n turned, confused. Vhem'es' own confusion struck the Por'La like lightning and he pulled open his tablet. His eyes, somehow, continued to grow in horror, "La Sol'n, I am so sorry, but I must have been so engrossed in our conversation that I have quite forgotten the time. The Por'El wishes to see you immediately."

-X-
"Urksaa rasanas!!" The alien language came from behind the Tarrellians and they snapped around, long necks craning.

Nars fists tightened. He'd been in cantina altercations before with aliens, he had never been by himself with a drunk Por to take care of. The Tarrellians were a rough bunch the Empire over. Refugees from failed wars with the Gue'la, they were a bitter people that had been given settlement rights on the edges of the Western Veil. Proud, to a fault, and quicker to violence than a Vior'lan, the reptiles hated only one thing more than a Gue'la; being reminded of what they had lost to them.

The Tarrellians parted now as a wonderfully familiar Shas'Vre marched through the crowds of apprehensive onlookers. White, almost glowing, armor covered the Firewarriors body along with a Arachen silk cape that was pinned to her shoulder guard by a sigil of T'au. She was not tall or imposing, but there was an ease and grace that belonged more to a predatory felid.

Her blue black hair was tied into tightly woven rows which swept back into a top knot tied with ringlets of Bovul ivory and silver. She paid no mind to the Tarrellians who hissed to one another but then stepped aside, glancing upward to the ceiling in respect for the Tau officer.

"By the sands, you get transferred for on cycle and I'm saving you again." Shas'Vre Han'avrak An'yr, stepped out from the crowd with a smirk on her scarred, strangely beautiful face. Nars had not seen her since he had been assigned to a cadre in the Southern Corridor. Then she had been a 'Ui, like him, leading a team of Pathfinders against mercenaries and bounty hunters that haunted that part of the Empire.

"I guess I don't learn as quickly as you, Shas'Vre." He saluted her, slowly, a grin forcing it's way across his face. She stopped in front of him, reaching out with a hand which he grasped. She pulled him into an embrace, their armor slamming into one another and making a thud. When they separated the smile was gone from her face, splinters of steel in her eyes replacing the friendly familiarity.

"Now," She turned on the three auxiliaries. "What's the problem Ksano Kaar?"

The Orange Tarrellian snapped his jaws before answering, pointing at Por'La Sol'n, "This one disturbs our libation-"

"This non-combatant?" She pointed at Sol'n.

"Yesss-"

"A civilian trips over you in this cantina while he was," She glanced at Sol'n who's eyes were glazed over, "In his cups..." She grimaced, teeth flashing, "That almost sounds like a joke! And you thought threatening him and a member of the Fire Caste was a worthy reaction?"

Ksano looked to his compatriots who remained staring at the ceiling, "Perhaps a mistake-"

"Perhaps you return to your Clutch and we can discuss this event with Packmaster Saniksak." Orange glared at Sol'n, then Nars, then tilted his head exposing his neck to An'yr. Then he about-faced, snorted at the other two Tarrellians, and the three walked out of the cantina.

As they left, fresh life invigorated the room as the band started up again and the patrons forgot about the near confrontation. An'yr raised a hand to the Por'La bartender who immediately served her a blue tinged tumbler.

Nars put a hand on Sol'n and pulled him into a chair.

"I'm sorry, Nars." The Por'La muttered shaking his head.

"It's alright, Por'La, you're not used to Sa'cean ky'husa. It's not a drink you down all at once, the effects are as if you'd been drinking for the past dec. I'll get you some water."

Once Sol'n was on the mend, Nars stood next to An'yr. The band had been replaced and a Sand Sculptor had come out accompanied by pre-recorded Au'taalian classical horn music. The artist, a handsome Shas, held a fist sized drone which he released before him. The device spun, inner light strobing outward when the Shas tossed handfuls of different hued sand into the air.

The anti-gravitic field about the drone picked up on the particulates, forming a cloud of swirling yellows, whites and reds. Nars had seen Sand Sculpting before, a beautiful style of sculpture originating from Au'taal. An artist would travel about the Empire, collecting different sands from all the worlds and outposts, then tell a story without lyric but with images they formed by manipulating the floating sands with their hands. As the images formed the artist would dash them with swift gestures and create new images in the resulting chaos. It was a metaphor, like most Tau art forms, between the chaos of the Mont'au and the balance of the Tau'va.

Many of the aliens and Tau, by contrast, had never seen such a thing, drawing their attention and hushing the many conversations as hundreds of eyes turned to the artist.

"His name is Shas'La Fuu'r. He's attached to a Counterstrike team, I had no idea he was so good and I've served with him for three cycles. Turns out, in his home system, he's something like a celebrity, unbelievable, right?" An'yr said as she watched the first sculpture of spinning solar system took shape. Fuu'r scattered the star system and quickly created a savannah vista, a figure in the distance looking up at the stars.

"Are you an admirer?" The word caught only slightly in his throat but it was enough.

An'yr didn't look at Nars, watching as Fuu'r changed the savannah to the face of a crowd of pre-unity Tau pointing upward as comets fell from the sky. "Are you asking if I am an admirer his skill or his body?"

Nars didn't say anything so he sipped his drink. It had gone lukewarm and bitter, but he didn't care. An'yr had loved him and he her. They had been in the same generation of T'au's Shas'Ui, freshly tested from their Trials, each put in charge of a team. Their love had been simple, matter of fact, and had never clouded them in their service as they were deployed.

When he had failed in his Trials to become a 'Vre and she had succeeded, it had been an unexpected shift, with An'yr placed aboard a different vessel. It had been too much to adapt to. Too much for him. Things had been said that Nars had meant but could not take back, ending everything they had shared.

"I'm surprised the Shas'Ar'Tol assigned you to... whatever this is." She looked around the cantina as if they were at a viewport assessing the fleet in whole.

"You don't know?" Sol'n hiccuped as he asked. "We're going to reclaim the Silence." An'yr looked down at the seated Sol'n like a Fio would look at a particularly interesting new bug.

"Really. Well, they're certainly enough of us. On our way in I counted at least thirty capital ships, and then there's this monster." She beat the floor with her hoof. "Must be thousands up top and down below."

Fuu'r dashed the crowd and replaced it with the single head of an androgynous Ethereal, the shio'he facial slit replaced by the raised bone that set the Aun apart. Fuu'r gave a twist of his fingers and the Ethereal's mouth opened, waves of sand emanating from it in a cloud. Many in the now captivated audience gasped and applauded.

An'yr gave three polite claps and turned to Nars. "There was a running bet in the Cadre that we'd be going after some sector in the Perdus Rift. Spend the rest of our lives trying to hunt pirates or get the Kroot to stop eating each other." She shook her head, signaling for a fresh drink. "But the Silence? Glad the Shas'El kept everything hush-hush otherwise he'd have been swamped with transfer requests." The drink arrived and she took it.

"But with the added twist of the Shas'Ui Nars picking a fight with a pack of Tarrellians and he's in the know? It's going to make this all worth it." She smiled but Nars only finished his ky'husa. "What happened to you after your trial?"

Nars didn't waiver as An'yr looked into his eyes, "It's a long story, An'yr."

The lights suddenly dimmed in the Cantina. Everyone raised their heads as a klaxon gently hummed to life and was replaced by a female Tau voice.

"Gentle beings, Tau'faan, servants of the Empire, Fleetmaster Yama'nan would like to begin the countdown to our departure. Please return to your designated sector and notify your superiors. A fleet wide announcement will be made shortly once all are secure. Thank you."

"Well, maybe you'll have time to tell me. It was nice seeing you, Nars." She gave a curt nod then looked at Sol'n. "And you, Por'La, it's a rare thing to see a Por pick a fight with a Tarrellian as fresh faced as you." She smiled, then sauntered off as the crowds filed out of the cantina.
Last edited by Calmsword on Nov 03 2014 02:34, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#7 » Jul 25 2013 12:26

Excellent work so far. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but the bar sequence reminded me an awful lot of the Cantina scene from Episode IV of Star Wars.

I must however regrettably point out,

"It's alright, Por'La, you're not used to Sa'cean ky'husa. It's not a drink you down all at once, the affects are as if you'd been drinking for the past three decs. I'll get you some water."


Shouldn't be effects rather than affects? I get a touch picky about this particular one (in fact earlier this year I even stopped a professor mid-lecture to point out that they had made that mistake on the powerpoint they had made :P ).
A Shas and a Kor walk into a bar...
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#8 » Sep 01 2013 01:44

The Path Resurgence hung in empty space, gently spinning on it's own axis, too far from any planetoid or star to be influenced in it's gentle spin. It, and it's brood of Kor'vattra vessels, are the furthest any Tau has been since the Zone of Silence was established generations ago, and yet, this is not even the first of so many steps necessary to accomplish their mission.

An invisible signal pulses through the armada. Smaller vessels, drone ships and capital starships alike turn inward, their thrusters flaring a fusion white. One by one they dock in orderly perfection with the Path Resurgence either by nestling amongst the yawning docking bays or tethering themselves to the gravitic hooks rising like spines from it's elongated midsection.

On board, hundreds and thousands of beings hurried down interconnected hallways or traveled on silently running commuter trains, reaching their destinations timely and without confusion. All know their place in the Empire, and this vessel is no different.

At the center of the fleet, his hand in every decision and preparation, Kor'O Yama'nan sits on his modest command throne bridge and reflects. The Path Resurgence was the largest interstellar craft ever built in the history of three Septs. Combined, this fleet could lay waste to an entire continent on an enemy world, interdict a sector of star systems and traverse, as one, to any point on a stellar map. Despite this, the history of the Silence haunted him.

When the Y'he had barreled into the Empire they fell upon some of the most civilized and advanced worlds of the age. Sha'draig's orbital arrays had become the stuff of legend to every Kor spacefarer and Fio builder in the Empire. It's armies, freshly tested from finally taming this region of pirates and other would-be invaders from the Perdus Rift, were disciplined and accustomed to dealing with aliens.

And yet, the Y'he had been able to brush so many worlds aside, commit genocide against allied races of the Tau and finally breach the Cluster itself and lay siege to the Kel'shan Sept. Billions had died. In the wake of this onslaught the Gue'la had launched their own attack, even before the embers had darkened from the last Y'he mothership. No recovery of those places in the Silence had been made as the Ethereals declared the entire region an Interdiction zone, denying further danger lest a wayward traveler coax something back.

Yet now they were jumping.

The jump would be unlike anything in the history of the Empire. Yama'nan's ancestor Kor'El Yama'gath'to had written extensively on the peculiar nature of Gue'la and Be'gel faster-than-light travel and the possible biological connection necessary for true mastery of the vash'aun'an 'warp' dimensions. Tau vessels merely 'skimmed' such a place, requiring lengthy recharge times while the Gue'la could appear, and disappear, seemingly anywhere in the universe. The mysteries had been assailed over and over, turning many a Earth Caste scientist into madmen as they sought to solve, and failed. An entire world in the Third Sphere had been sacrificed in their study, although that was only rumor.

But then the Krta'mae Brotherhood had offered the Tau a gift, in honor of a new alliance. Unlike the Srr'tok or Thurm Brotherhoods who's Pacts of Covenant and trade agreements were hundreds of cycles old, the Krta'mae had fled some disaster in the greater Galaxy and required refuge. Previous unions with the Bentu'sin had earned the Empire technology well beyond a more linear development with Drone intelligences or Ionic manipulation. The Krta'mae did not disappoint with their gifts resulting in the Deepstar Drive being used, for the first time, on board the Path Resurgence. No longer would the Tau have to wait for lengthy reconnaissance, but could transfer an entire fleet to an exact location with the speed comparable to the Imperium.

And yet he still doubted the haste at which T'au demanded action.

Por'El Noh'luun, the soon-to-be master of all this, had none of his fear. The high diplomat was gone now as he prepared to address the fleet with the Ethereal trio somewhere. Yama'nan knew their current vessel, a heavily shielded Manta within a docked transport deep in the station's inner docking bay, but the location of their quarters constantly shifted and he was only ever notified after a transfer.

It was a sign of the dangers the Third Sphere had revealed of war in the greater Galaxy. Humanity, sluggish and barbaric as it was, had instituted assassination orders to their forces throughout their realm to target the leadership caste of his people. As a result, the Shas'Ar'Tol had ordered additional security for any Aun leaving the security of a Sept. Yama'nan had spoken against such subterfuge as, especially in the nature of the Path Resurgence's goals, spiritual leadership would be needed by all.

It had been this outspoken worry and his caution at sending such a large armada in the Silence In the early council debates that had lost him his position as leader of the expedition. Unlike so many Tau who grow from infancy into the meritocracy of the Caste system, Yama'nan earned his name from the blood in his veins. As a result he, and those family scions like him, were less eager to fling themselves into the unknown. In the Age of the Third Sphere, such eagerness was prized.

With a gesture he called up his personal history, looking to the past for any hints of solutions to the present.

His mother had breached the Asu'lom Nebula, his grandfather the Ud'kuf Starnet. They had lead and they had followed, always in service to the greater ideal of the Empire and never to themselves. Each generation that held the Yama'nan name was destined to illuminate a new shadow on the star maps held on T'au Prime, to push the border of known space a little further each time another Yama'nan family member earned their place at the helm of a ship. The line of Kiru held the same honor for each of it's members that donned a battlesuit.

Closing his eyes, he saw them, the faces of his parents and their parents, stretching back since the dawn of the First Sphere. His body shuddered as he was reminded of his responsibility and the expectations that weighed on his shoulders. It was a familiar weight, one that gave him pride.

He brushed his hand on the dial imbedded in his bodysuits hip. The personal gravity field around him lessened and he propelled himself to drift into the air just above his command throne. The eyes of his crew, Tau that had served with him since he was the shipmaster of a simple gunboat, looked up from their work respectfully. They were the best, and they responded to his rising with a solemnity that matched any temple or drill field.

"Por'El Noh'luun is ready, High Shipmaster." His comms 'Ui said, preparing hololithic menus that made his station glow orange in readiness.

"As am I, Kor'Ui." He folded his long fingers behind his back, holding his head up high. Ahead of him, Noh'luun's face blinked into existence on the forward viewscreen.

The Por'El tilted his head in a gesture of friendship, "Esteemed Kor'O, brother, I have been notified that we are moments away from translation."

Kor'O treated the rise of his ire with a deep calm. Noh'luun's familiarity with him was a constant irk as he was a full rank below from Yama'nan yet considered himself a 'brother' Por'O. "Greetings, Por'El, yes, we are awaiting the final confirmations of safety and then we shall make translation."

"What is the status of the Regulant Auspice?"

"It has made it's jump to He'pha'n and has been given the proper coordinates to recover our position once it's mission is complete."

"And the Selim?" Yama'nan glanced at the most recent report from the far flung Explorer Class vessel. Towing a Waystation ahead of the Path Resurgence had been one of Yama'nan's accepted precautions. No one knew what the Bentu'sin technology would do on such a level and so Yama'nan had insisted that a Waystation's coordinates be the first to jump to, rather than a 'blind' jump.

Noh'luun as well as the Shas had protested, stating that the additional two months for an Explorer ship to slowly reach the acceptable jump extremes and wait for the Path Resurgence would place the mission in jeopardy. Thankfully, the Ethereal's had sided with Yama'nan.

"The Selim should be at it's proper station. Our sensors have picked up the Waystation's position and it has fed us the coordinate stream. We are ready."

"Then only one matter remains."

Yama'nan gave a slow bow, "I am prepared to transfer the mantle of leadership to you."

"Let us be swift for I plan to announce to the fleet our great plans."

Yama'nan nodded. A bridge drone, the size of his torso, detached from the wall and banked to Yama'nan. Yama'nan did not flinch as it's main sensor scanned his left eye with invisible laser readers, mapping the neural network grafted to his brain and downloading directives and codes. After a short while there was a click.

A similar drone fed that data directly into Noh'luun's eye who, Yama'nan imagined, seemed to drink the information greedily until the process was done.

"Thank you for your service, Yama'nan." Noh'luun smiled, and the channel died.

*


Sol'n rested on his cot, alone in his room after being dumped here by Nars. The edges of a headache were barely being held back by a cocktail of suppressants, what had he been thinking? His console flickered to life, the symbol of the fleet forming; the three contributing Septs Kel'shan, Au'taal and Vash'ya connected by bands of light. It was quickly replaced by the image of Por'El Noh'luun.

" Tau'faan, gentle beings, citizens of the Empire, I bring words from our holy Ethereal's to guide our way in the coming cycles... We now embark on a great quest. To traverse the darkness, the Silence, beyond the veil of safety and into the unknown. We go into this void not to uncover new worlds and be graced by the light of strange suns, but to reclaim that which was taken, to find what was lost. Sha'draig, overrun by the Y'he, is out there and we will, we must, reclaim it and all her worlds."

The image changed, showing the mushroom like construct that was the Path Resurgence.

"The Bentu'sin have gifted us the means to make our first jump into the vash'aun'an, traveling as one past the interdiction. In our holds is not only the means for our reclamation but the citizens of Kel'shan and Au'taal who will sleep, and wait, until they may be woken to sow the seeds of Empire once again in fertile soil...

"On behalf of the Ethereal Council, I formally accept the honor of shepherding this grand Coalition. We will, together, bring light where their has been only darkness and shatter the Silence with the words of Truth. All of us, be we of the Cluster or beyond, Tau or Gue'vesa, Tallarian or Jikita, we will all play a part in the reclamation of these systems and each will find the reward of service and the fruits of reclamation. Together, with the Tau'va as our guide, we will act as a bulwark against those who would foolishly conceive our ruin." Noh'luun closed his eyes.

"We shall prosper, as T'au shall."

Noh'luun sank his head into his chest and whispered an edict in ancient Tau'sia.

"T'he'n to'ct et Tau'Va," and the image dissolved just as the entire ship began to vibrate.

The screens in his room dimmed, replaced with cautionary script explaining a jump was imminent. Sol'n laid onto his bed, closed his eyes, and gripped the white sheets and tried to calm down. He had been in an earthquake once, a minor one, but he had felt T'au itself roll about, as if some great creature were underneath the soil and shifting it's weight.

As a historian he understood that the early plain dwellers had worshiped spirits, in place of understanding the elements, to appease such earthquakes. As the Path Resurgence's drive engines began to strip the laws of physics that surrounded it, Sol'n considered offering such a prayer to the fates that all would be well.

*


In space, the Path Resurgence shuddered as purple lightning arched from the Demiurge augmented jump system in the aft section, kilometers away from the habited frontal disk. Unlike other Tau gravitic dives where the ship used impulse engines to enter a jump gate, the enormous vessel seemed to fold in on itself, the lightning intensifying. With a pregnant moment, the vessel shrank exponentially until the ether of the Warp swallowed it whole.
Last edited by Calmsword on Sep 02 2013 03:06, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#9 » Sep 01 2013 11:06

Chapter 2: The First Enemy


The Tau'Va reflects life. Order, understanding and reason are the edicts of a universal order that has been adopted by every major species discovered. The Be'gel are the manifestations of survival of the fittest while even the mindless Y'he, extragalactic in nature, adhere to the evolutionary laws and that is because all reside in this continuum. The alter-continuum, places the human's call 'Warp' or 'Immaterium' have no such constants and the beings that call it home are truly madness to behold.

Sol'n's eyes were closed when the feeling shook him, like he was coming apart, stretched and crushed at once. His eyes bulged open but there was nothing to see, only darkness, darkness and then... pain. It came not from without, but within, as though his guts had suddenly been squeezed by an unseen hand.

Someone screamed.

He stood, flying across the room, through the walls themselves. He put his hands out, clawing at the bulkhead but it fell through his hands like water until he fell through the station walls itself and fell into space. But there was something wrong, the Path Resurgence was falling away behind him until it was the size of a eating stick. He reached out to it, plucking it from the air, how was this possible?

He licked his lips, but found he had no tongue. He stuck his other hand in his mouth to find it, and all his teeth fell out, floating next to him in space.

They began to chatter, "Forthcoming in duty." Their voices were his father's, then his mother's, then Dey'telioc and finally his own. "Squander your birthright." He laughed and the laugh turned into an all encompassing face that opened wide to consume him.

*


Sol'n woke up screaming. Lying on his back, the sheets of his cot torn about him. The emergency lights were on and a deep rumbling could be felt in the deck of the station.

*


The mountain sized prow shook through the walls between dimensions, scattering atomic particles in a hurricane of transitional light. Rising from the portal, the Path Resurgence dawned, returning to the physical realm in all it's glory. Coruscating bands of electricity, gravity and temporal fields cascaded down it's frame, warping the metal as it twisted under the strain before, blessedly, the kilometers long Tau vessel finally pushed through, shutting the doors of this universe from the other.

*


The bridge was in a state of madness. Yama'nan had been thrown against the restraints of his throne, bruising flesh, and he fought to regain his senses. Looking around, he saw crew members struggling against computer terminals that blinked on and off as other outlets simply exploded as backlash electricity arched out of them. One Kor'Ui was dead at his post, his eyes were smoking holes where his headset had exploded.

"Status report!" Yama'nan barked, fingers dancing across his terminal as he accessed the shipbound Vesa network.

"We're through, fleetmaster!" A Kor'La, blood pouring from his forehead. "But the vessel's gravitic sheath was compromised. Reconciliation protocols are in effect, but there is damage."

Yama'nan could see that. In those areas where the Bentu'sin device required gravitic shielding in order to make such a tremendous 'dive' there had been overloading risks. Yama'nan had known this in the testing and had insisted on additional power units to compensate. And yet, even with such enormous power, the shields had still failed against the eddies of the Warp.

"Send repair teams both within and construction rigs with drones without. I want Air Caste pilots out there now! Launch our defensive fighters once they are able and-"

"Fleetmaster!" A Kor'Ui shouted from the sensor banks, "Emergency alert signals are being picked up from the Explorer vessel Selim, it is under attack!"

"What?" Yama'nan released himself from his couch and quickly returned to his position of authority above the bridge, floating on a pocket of anti-gravity. "On screen, now!"

The screen fizzled with static and snow for a moment before filling itself with the tortured aspect of an ancient Explorer class cruiser. The kilometer long ship, while impressive in it's size, had barely any weapons and had been primarily a scientific and, as it's class name denoted, explorer ship.

Now, the ugly but all too familiar monstrosity of a Gue'la city-ship hung above it, closing in on the Selim, it's cannon arrays belching solid rounds across space. Yama'nan watched as the glowing explosives fell through the areas the Selim should have been shielded, and tear great chunks out of it's armor.

"How are they this far out here, there are no human worlds, no bases that they could be striking from, how!"

His crew did not respond and, he realized, it didn't matter.

"Launch every element of the fleet, open a channel to Shas'El Tae'en and Coalition Leader Noh'luun, appraise them of the circumstance for our translation back into real space. Bring us up to maximum alert and prepare the Path Resurgence for combat.
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#10 » Sep 14 2013 06:55

( Hey guys, sorry for the late update- been running ragged with this latest movie)

The Selim turned itself over on it's axis, it's heavy rail guns spooling up and firing in concentrated volleys as the Dauntless light-cruiser bore down on her. The hyper velocity rounds bypassed the human shields, boring into the prow section of the ship with little result. In response, the human ship's own dorsal lances flared, peeling back layers of the Selim like a butcher's knife through prey flesh.

The human ship closed, using it's turrets to sweep the Tau interceptor craft away with gouts of fire. Even so, the Air Caste pilots flew in the face of the city-ship, dying as they sought to buy their mothership time.

Their sacrifice was in vain. Now within the defensive zone of the Explorer, the Dauntless launched hundreds of six-man assault pods from it's launch bays. Automated drones directed a flurry of burst cannon defense fire, blasting the pods until they were overwhelmed.

Ravaged, the Selim's engine sanctuaries, bridge and decks, one by one, were overwhelmed by the most evil of shock troops in the Rift...

*


Sol'n arrived at Noh'luun's personal quarters, a series of circular chambers just beneath the bridge sections, in a huff. Warning klaxons had sounded through the station, rousing it's population even though it was still reeling from the strangeness of the warp-transition.

Squads of white armored security Firewarriors had materialized at every junction that Sol'n was rushed through by the nearly hysterical Vhem'es. Sol'n noticed that, as he neared Noh'luun, the number of alien species drastically dropped off until only Tau filled the halls and chambers.

Por'El Noh'luun was standing in the center of a raised dais, dozens of holographic images flowing around him like a photonic storm.

"Por'la Sol'n, to me," Noh'luun beckoned, not turning from his attentions.

Sol'n moved forward, leaving Vhem'es at the chamber entrance, and waited.

One of the images rushed toward Noh'luun's face, an amorphous cloud of reds and blues. It spoke in a deep, rumbling voice, "This is most unexpected, Poe'El."

"Yes, your excellency, I realize that but-"

"An attack on one of our vessels so early, no, there must be reconciliation lest our confidence be fractured."

Another holo image, this one a mass of flapping wings but with no body, interjected, it's tone tense and feminine. "The Path Resurgence cannot be threatened nor it's image marred. Our victory must be swift, complete, and without the loss of our fleet most precious."

A third image, a perfect cube that glowed from within with yellow geometric shapes, joined the first two, causing them to orbit one another. It's voice was a pure, calming sound that almost brought Sol'n to tears. "You are in command, Por'El, offer your subordinates the opportunity to form a solution, together. We will be watching."

The trio faded, quickly replaced by maps and data streaming in. Noh'luun looked at Sol'n for the first time.

"Heavy is the head, correct?"

Sol'n nodded, "You summoned me, Por'El."

"A forward vessel called the Selim is under attack by Gue'la pirates. It was meant to establish the first in a string of waystations that would lead the Path Resurgence to Sha'draig, that won't be happening." He made a gesture and a map spun toward Sol'n.

"They've boarded the waystation, the crew is likely dead... The Selim itself is fighting valiantly, if ineffectually and I have just been told we cannot risk thwarting these barbarians with our full strength for fear of damaging the image of this endeavor."

Sol'n watched as pinpoints of light, listed as defensive fighter screens, raged against enemy craft. "Por'El, I am not accustomed to actual warfare!"

Noh'luun smiled, "Good, neither am I. Por'O Ul'naam sent you here to advise me. So..." He clapped his hands and the faces of Shas'El Tae'n and Kor'O Yama'nan formed from all of the other images.

"Por'El! You have kept us waiting in this time of action!" Tae'n barked immediately.

"I was was in conclave with there esteemed excellencies. I am ready now to discuss the Selim."

"Discuss? The Selim's been boarded!-"

"Find calm, Shas'El." A hardness entered Noh'luun's voice that made the Shas'El stand-down. He turned to Yama'nan. "We cannot risk this fleet, nor the image of wholeness. A Gue'la city-ship is capable of inflicting such damage even as it dies. I need an alternative solution that provides a victory where this attack will sow doubt."

Yama'nan closed his eyes. When he opened them, his eyes shown with a deep, generations old confidence. "We must strike on every front decisively and without error. The enemy is human, if we attack with strength they may destroy themselves to spite us. With too little strength and we will cast hundreds to their deaths. Use our Defender escorts to pinpoint missile strikes against the foe."

Noh'luun shook his head, "Such a strike would endanger any crew still aboard the Selim."

"The crews have probably already been executed, Por'El. Better to cripple the beast and then send our hunters to slay it, so says the Path of Fire."

Sol'n, ignored by all, looked carefully at the long-range scans of the human ship.

Yama'nan agreed, "Human's do not take prisoners."

"These humans will." Sol'n said, instantly regretting it as two holographic heads and a suddenly annoyed Noh'luun glared down on him.

"What?" They asked, almost as one.

Sol'n used his fingers to expand the image of the Dauntless light-cruiser. From afar it was typical of the vessels the histories told of the Lithesh War. Sol'n had wrote a treatise on them. The Empire both respected and were in fear of Gue'la city-ships. But this one was different.

The many gold eagles and crenelated spires that gilded all human vessels, were bent and smashed, the eagles beheaded. On the side of the ship were thousands of frozen bodies, tied or crucified in a manner Sol'n had witnessed reading the kartak histories of Kel'shan's war with human pirates in the Rift.

"Explain yourself, Por'La." Noh'luun said.

"They are Rift pirates. The dregs of human colonies, mercenaries and I am almost certain they are flesh eaters." He pointed at the image. "Look here, the bodies have been... fed upon."

Noh'luun 'grabbed' the image and expanded it before him. Sure enough, the flash-frozen emaciated bodies of a variety of species chained lifeless from the hull, were clearly chewed up.

"That means, what?" Tae'n asked.

Yama'nan scowled, "It means they will try and gather as many crew as possible, then transport them back to their own vessel for food... We must stop this. I have faced denizens of the Rift before. If they are what your Por'La says they are, we must recover our brethren."

Noh'luun closed the image and looked to Yama'nan. "Can we, Fleetmaster?"

"Three squadrons of Manta's. One sent to the Waystation, another two to retake the Selim. It will be close quarters, no room for XV frames."

Tae'n's town calmed as he began his own speculation. "How will we prevent the humans from just destroying the Selim, they won't care for their own if we are winning, and they'll destroy it if we throw too much at them."

"Kauyon." Noh'luun murmured. "The outward appearance of the station implies damage. We will play on this fact, simulate engine damage, and send our escorts to contend with the humans from afar. Meanwhile this strike force will attack. The humans will attempt to steal as many of our people as possible and then run."

Yama'nan gave a wry smile, "That may work, Por'El."

"I will address the Fire Caste of the fleet. Once the Selim's crew is recovered they will retreat to the Manta's and withdraw back to our fleet. I can have a squadron of my best pilots engage the humans in conjunction with the interceptor fighters."

Noh'luun looked down at Sio't and gave a quick nod. "Then let us make it so."
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#11 » Sep 16 2013 02:14

Shas'El Tae'n turned away from the comm's array, putting an armored hand on his chin and tugging at the finger length beard he had cultivated since he was a linetrooper. He glanced at a screen that held live feeds on the front of the grav train he now sat on, the travel tube a blur.

Being in charge of the fleet's security cadres, literally thousands of Firewarriors stationed throughout the fleet and the Path Resurgent, put him on par with the council of field Commanders and Fireblades. They took their orders from he and he alone, after of course he too orders from Noh'luun.

Noh'luun... Tae'n had seen a lot in his time. Planets, shattered by Be'gel asteroids and the torrent of a Y'he void swarm. He had never seen such a being as Por'El Noh'luun. If even half of the rumors were true, about the Red Sun systems and the Western Veil...

"Shas'El, data streams have been received, your instructions?" A Shas'La, still in armor but with his head bare, turned from the forward stations.

The train had been one of Noh'luun's. Rather than have a single security complex beneath the bridge, the Por'El had insisted that a mobile command unit, able to reach any point in the station quickly, would be optimal. Tae'n had argued, and lost. Now he, and his personal complement of teams, were crammed in the double decker train.

"Divert our course to the spine and request the use of nine Manta dropships from the Air Caste." He scowled at his console, his eyes searching for names, histories and the dossier of the different Cadres in attendance for such a mission.

"By your will, Shas'El." There was an instant shift in the train as it took a different course 'down' station.

Fighting would be tough. For the first teams landing on the station, they would need to enter through airlocks or enter from the hull using fusion satchels. The data would the goal on the station. Humanity's greatest asset , in Tae'n's experience, was the sheer variety the species had. Some were savages, other's who's technological brilliance bordered on the impossible. The Firewarriors that stormed the waystation would have to recover it's navigational data, and if they could, defeat the pirates they found there or otherwise scuttle it.

The next front would be the Selim, the thickest of the fighting would be there.

The Shas'El pulled up the Explorer ship's blueprints on a nearby holo projector. The craft spun into life, a giant 'I', it's bridge section opposite a large thruster array with it's launch bays forming the middle. They were ancient starships, used in the early days of the colony phases. They had largely stopped producing them but were still optimal for long range colony missions for the massive spaces they could afford.

The human cruiser was in close quarters, still launching attack boats filled with enemy warriors. These warriors would be overwhelming the Selim's own marines, even rounding up the civilians by their hundreds to... Well, Tae'n had also seen the Kroot in his time.

The Manta's would land in the docking levels, fortifying a breach, and hold the human's at bay. Then they would play the dangerous game of Kauyon, allowing for further pirate reinforcements, enticing them to commit more and more, buying Yama'nan's longest ranged vessels time to pinpoint on the Dauntless.

Tae'n marveled at Yama'nan's quick thinking after being told they must save the Selim. Each Shas'Ui would be given a beacon with the goal to plant one of them on board a human attack shuttle and enable concentrated missile strikes from millions of kilometers away.

A dangerous, dangerous game.

There was a dip in speed as the train slowed. He would make his selections now,
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#12 » Sep 17 2013 07:06

Enjoyable read, nice flow and character building. Barely spot the rare spellcheck sponsored error. Help and a curse that, I'm always half ready to turn it off completely.

Look forward to reading your take on a full engagement.

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#13 » Sep 21 2013 02:33

Those cadre commanders able to arrive in person did so, in armor, with their lifewards and consulate officers. Those too far away appeared as nearly life-sized holograph projections, their own support personnel moving in and out of receiver range.

They waited, thirty officers and representatives, silent and in readiness.

It felt good to be surrounded by warriors. Sometimes Tae'n felt as though he were bogged down by the political aspects of his position, waiting for the stylus pusher's to make up their minds whether or not to pull the trigger.

Tae'n had served with many of them in one Coalition or another throughout his life and he had hand picked from the rosters when the Path Resurgence needed them. With almost no information the various Firewarrior leaders had agreed to their repositioning, by the word of Tae'n alone.

Others were still strangers.

Like Shas'El Da'hes and his Ke'lshan commandos, an extremely unorthodox Firewarrior that had run foul to a number of Shas'O but could get the most difficult missions done, an asset to say the least. Shas'Vre Numin'ro and her XV teams, still untested but eager.

There were some aliens here too, to Tae'n's annoyance, standing amongst those Shas that were not Kel'shani. Long limb Kroot, a Gue'vesa'El in customized line-warrior armor and even a Greet in it's strange segmented suit.

The Empire was protected by the Fire Caste, relying on such beings was a risk. The Iron Hammer campaign and the Y'he Swarms had taught Kel'shan Sept that lesson long ago.

But the Ethereal's had insisted on integration, and Tae'n followed his orders.

"It is you that have been chosen to accomplish the first military mission of this Coalition." He depressed a key on his wrist computer, instantly sending all the pertinent data to the assembled.

"Our mission is three fold. Manta's will lead the approach, supported by the Air Caste to two locations in what will be extreme close quarters combat." He paused as each being reviewed the images and intelligence he himself had witnessed in congress with the Por'El.

"Our enemy are Gue'la, human pirates. A lone city-ship has engaged the Selim Explorer ship thinking that it was alone. We're going to teach them otherwise." He cleared his throat and stood a little straighter. "These pirates are cannibals which suggests their interests are not in technology or resources but... The crew of the Selim of which there are several thousand."

"You will enter the juntas side launch bays after clearing the fighter screens, create a beachhead, and rescue as many of the crew as possible. During this operation, each of your team leaders will be given a device," He raised a hand and one of his dedicated Shas'Ui stepped forward, holding a chromatic beacon that looked more like a T shaped hand grenade.

"Any of these devices must be attached to one of the assault ships the Gue'la are using to shuttle their forces, and their hostages, to and from the Selim. Once this is done our long range ordinance will be able to get a fix and annihilate the city-ship."

"Those of you designated to recovering the Waystation will need to enter via hard-vaccuum. The pirates have yet to withdraw which implies there may still be crew. The primary mission is the stellar cartographer and it's destruction. There can be no chance that the intelligence here can fall into enemy hands lest they map out the Path Resurgence's jump patterns both into the Silence and back to Kel'shan Sept. Questions?"

Shas'El Kel'shan Byaar raised a hand. Tae'n nodded.

"Why are we only getting a fighter screen? Why not send this whole station and knock the pirates on their g'yi?" A few chuckles, that was good, Tae'n thought.

"It's suspected that the Gue'la would end their operations, destroy the Selim, recover any data and withdraw from the system with the Path Resurgence's location."

"So sending a needle to do a spear's job." Byaar smiled.

"Precisely."

Another hand, Tae'n didn't know her personally, a Shas'El from Au'taal. "This is Kauyon then? Hold the enemy until he commits himself then strike back?"

"Yes."

"Are there any contingency plans? Sir?" The Gue'vesa asked, the hair growing from above his lip dangled with two ceremonial beads as he spoke. Tae'n almost didn't answer the question but he suppressed his ire.

"The fleet is in no position to withstand further damage until the Earth Caste and Demiurge can assess the strain from the last translation into real-space. But should you fail, return to your vessel or activate the Selim's escape measures while long range Kor'vattra destroy the Gue'la before they can make the jump."

He looked around the room, no one else had anything else to ask. Which was good since he had one last briefing to give.

"Dismissed!"
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#14 » Sep 21 2013 06:17

Keep up the great work, Calmsword, I'm really liking where this is going.

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#15 » Sep 23 2013 10:30

Thanks Wolf- my own schedule is so wonky that I worry about maintaining pace
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#16 » Sep 23 2013 01:22

There were Tarrelians lining the hallways, helping one another get their kits into gear. Tae'n noticed they were covered in bionics, the alien race's telltale and no soldier was without his own slew of augmentation.

'Dog-Soldiers', as they were called, were long time associates to the Empire but had not been offered membership status. As a result their weapons were exotic to say the least. Guard issued las guns, Tsanian disc launchers and the Tarrelians own fletchette rifles made up their armament.

As he passed they tilted their heads, exposing their necks. He surmised it was some kind of primitive salute, which he did not return. Let them know his authority, for they had none.

The bulkhead hatch irised open, revealing a modest barracks that, uncharacteristically Tau, was swathed in darkness. What little light there was emitted from personal computer monitors nestled by each cot pushed against the walls. In the center of the room stood a beautiful female Firewarrior who instantly saluted as Tae'n stepped in. They were otherwise alone.

"Shas'Vre Han'avrak An'yr," he saluted back, "Is your team ready?"

"They are, Shas'El."

"And they are recovered from cold-sleep?"

"They are ready, Shas'El." Tae'n looked the exotic Shas'Vre up and down. Her tone held no arrogance nor insult but was of a type of confidence that was unsettling. Tae'n knew that An'yr operated outside of the normal chain of command and that his visit to her tucked away corner of the station was more of a courtesy she offered him as the highest ranked member of her Caste.

Tae'n had only been told of An'yr, and her units personal ship, in the final day before the Path Resurgence's launch. "Special issue" equipment was being tested by her and her unit, giving her autonomy in the typically rigid hierarchy of the military. Orders from Tae'n could be rejected, something that had initially sent the Ar'Tol reeling, but when he'd read the fine print he realized what An'yr was actually testing, he had silenced his officers.

He also knew that she was privy to every shred of intel on board the station when she had forwarded him her battle plan mere minutes after the call had gone out that the Selim was under attack. That meant that either she, or one of her unit specialists, had sliced through the Mont'hui battlenet as well as the shipboard AI collective, all violations but Tae'n supposed he would have to let it slide.

"Your plan is... Ambitious, 'Vre An'yr.

"It is, sir." The moment hung as Tae'n pretended to read his data slate. An'yr just looked straight ahead.

"Well. You don't need my approval to commit to the hunt. Your plans," He held up the slate, "Don't interfere with ours. But that means we won't be able to support you, by your unit's very nature we won't even know where you are."

"Correct, sir."

Tae'n's face contorted into an ugly smile, "Who are you, 'Vre An'yr? I've never seen a Firewarrior fall under the jurisdiction of the Water Caste exclusively. Tell me, do you prefer this? Perverting your devotion to your own and the Empire."

An'yr didn't say anything.

"I want to see them. I want to see your warriors."

"I am currently not able to abide that request by the parameters of my mission." She stared at him for a moment then added, "sir."

Tae'n nodded. Everything about this female was an insult to his rank, to his station and to their Caste. "Did seeing Shas'Ui Nars remind you of when you served your real duty?"

Again, she said nothing, but Tae'n enjoyed a twitch over her left eye when he mentioned the little Water Caste historian's protector. He'd been able to find out something about the shadowy 'Vre. Nars and her had been involved until he had catastrophically failed his Trial by Fire.

"Fine, Shas'Vre. But do not expect me to risk a single life for you or your team. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Tae'n's smile turned into a grimace and he spun on his hoof and left.

An'yr remained still for what felt like a long time. Then, with the cackle of electrical fields and the smell of ozone, twelve warriors appeared in a semicricle around her as their cloaking fields shut down.

They were tall, standing a head taller or over An'yr, enclosed in armor of a classification that would have baffled any other Firewarrior. Mounted to their backs were bulky thruster packs that looked like scaled down versions of XV15. They carried a vicious combination of compact pulse carbines, sleek rail rifles and snub nosed ion canons.

"Stealth systems work, sir." The unit leader, Ka'ra, stated.

"Good," She said, lifting her helmet up and fastening it to it's moorings. "Then lets get to the corvette."

*


The Manta wings launched, enormous 'V' shaped craft bristling with guns. With no need for faster than light travel, their generators maintained power for a frightening array of weapons, both defensive and offensive. In close escort were a dozen squadrons of Superiority fightercraft, their forward ion cannons cackling with pent up energy as their pilots readied for the battle ahead.

Yama'nan had carefully chosen which squadrons would go and which would remain with the fleet on standby. Too many Tau craft and they would risk both spooking the pirates and hitting their own, too few and the Tau would be overwhelmed by their own tactics.

The Kor'Vre leaders were still disseminating their briefing, each a personal communique by the Kor'O himself. The first squadrons would hit fast, coming to the aid of their beleaguered comrades launched by the Selim. While the dogfight continued, the Dropships would rush toward their targets before the city-ship's defenses could hit them.

They flashed across the void, the glow of the stations fleet still untangled itself from the jump, flashing across their hulls. Their formation was condensed, dropships within, interceptors without. Slower trawlers and transports were swarmed over as the pilots sped to combat speed.

The thrill of the hunt. It touched every being in the universe. The quickening of cerebral chemicals, the anticipation of action, it is an undeniable and perfect emotion.

The phalanx of fighter and bomber craft left the fleet with a blast of afterburner glow, riding through space on columns of fire. The brightness of the station and it's still organizing fleet began to shrink to another collection of stars in the blackness of space and the ongoing battle ahead ignited the fore.

As they did so, another craft, slipped from the station and followed, it's engine outflow filtered so that it was invisible on any sensor. Tau or otherwise...
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#17 » Oct 02 2013 07:26

Chapter 3

Engagement


"Ambient Leader to all fighters, form up behind me, formation L-29-8." Kor'Vre Squadron Leader Ya'pon switched her navigation computer to manual. The drone assist intelligence, nestled behind his cockpit beneath a decorative symbol of the Air Caste, twittered in response to her commands, updating his squadron with flight details.

"Leader to Three, what's our ETA?" Three had an advanced sensor package in the nose of his craft. She glanced at her heads-up display and saw the mission chronometer click into their first minute.

"This is Three, ETA at current velocity is... Forty seconds."

As the interceptor flight, sixteen AX-1 Superiority Interceptors, folded into a tight delta formation, the much larger AX-83 Manta dropships stayed in their solid line of nine. Other squadrons, Nimbus, Coral and Tachyon, blazed into similarly defensive formations.

"Switch to long range frequency, scan for command channels." She waited until her AI hailed one Kor'Ui Au'taal G'alat.

"This is G'alat, what's your pleasure?" The voice that filled the cockpit was strained, exhausted.

"This is Ambient Leader of the Path Resurgence, let's help you out with these pirates, shall we?"

"I copy, there's not much of us left."

"Here are your fall-back coordinates, G'alat and here's our attack vector." She uploaded.

There was a grunt of acknowledgment, "They're all yours, Ambient."

She nodded. With G'alat pulling the survivors back, it would allow her own forces free-fire.

Her comm. buzzed, "This is Coral Leader to Ambient Leader. Private comm."

She switched. "Go for 'Vre Ya'pon, what is it Coral Leader?"

"Permission to engage first, the Selim is defended by fellow Au'taalan." Ya'pon grimaced. There hadn't been time to acclimate the four Septs that made up the Coalition and previous allegiances were still strong.

"Permission denied, Coral. Your squadron was assigned to dropship 9 toward the station."

There was a beat. The lightstorm ahead was growing. Ya'pon could make out individual fighter craft now, corkscrewing and threading in and out of dogfights. The enormous bulk of the city-ship stretched out, a third longer than the Selim, it's boarding craft rushing out of it's flank launch bays.

"Acknowledged, Ambient Leader." There was a click and the channel died.

"Ten seconds, Leader." Three reminded her.

She let the AI highlight enemy fighters, knife shaped Gue'la fightercraft suddenly confused as the Selim's defenders abandoned the fight. The reticle went from gray, partial lock yellow then a dangerous red.

"Secondary strike force, break! Primary strike force, let's get it done!"

*


The squadron's thrusters went nova for a heartbeat as they dove straight into the thick of the fighter screens. Missile clusters spiked outward in a devastating barrage, taking full advantage of the human's confusion. As they closed, automated burst cannons and ion guns sparked, blasting a corridor which eight Mantas slipped through, their own defensive weapons blazing.

The humans were no rookies, however. Hardened renegades, accustomed to having to scrape by and fight fiercely in the hostile galaxy. Counterfire chaff filled space as they diverted away from the Tau onslaught or they flitted away on afterburners. In short order their captains had regained control, forming up to renew their formations. They turned back, hungry for vengeance.

As the Tau blossomed outward, rushing close to the near stationary Selim, they cleared away enemy fighters then doubled back, letting the Manta's slow and enter the Explorer ship's launch bays. As the Tau interceptors turned back they met a wall of humans, their own weapons now trained.

Within the cockpits of their own craft, human and Tau roared primal battle cries as space exploded around them.
~Good Hunting

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Re: Into Silence: Latchkey

Post#18 » Nov 05 2013 12:36

Hey everyone- just wanted to give a quick update in that I'm back home after being gone for a month doing a feature.

I should have the final elements of this chapter done by the weekend.
~Good Hunting

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