Into Silence: Lighthouse

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knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#1 » Jun 07 2014 09:11

Hello everyone, this will be my second story involving the Fo'tan cadre's return to the main fleet. I hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think.

Prologue
Dark wine eddied and swirled in the crystal goblet between Kel’sparin’s two fingers. From his tower pavilion, he looked on distastefully at the mere few dozen guests on the main plaza below. It would seem that his feud with Merrighan was costing him allies. The sentiment had not gone unnoticed. Whispers and low conversations were underway even as his Reverie of Delights had begun. Weakness could not thrive, not in Commorragh. He must show them opulence, wealth, and power, to ease their suspicions, and so the displays of violence during the opening games were overwhelming, each made to outdo the last. Now before the feast, mingling among his guests were his prized pleasure slaves. Some were already enjoying the wares of the flesh. Others, basked in the sights of naked beauty as the slaves paraded around the plaza carrying pitchers of dark wine and plates of sweet meats. Most of the slaves were newer to the calling, their fear still palpable on the air, especially when his guests would reach out to satiate their thirst. Some of the guests looked on at the carnal displays, others however just ignored them, still whispering in small groups. It was these that concerned Kel’sparin.

He furrowed his brow but no hint of gesture reached his eyes. He had heard Ov'arok enter the chamber moments ago, but refused to turn. The captain would wait on the archon’s pleasure. He had had too much insubordination and would stomach it no longer. He would probe his captains’ patience. Ov’arok was rumored to be loyal to a fault, an efficient killer, fearless with a ship under him. The captain had offered the archon his slave share from his great victory over the monkiegh genosolders. Still the fare was always poor with Ov’arok. His bounties and raids were more about wreaking havoc and destruction rather than yielding living souls for Dark city. As of late, Archon Kel’sparin had favored other more subtle instruments. His hounds, Vak’sanithar and Gel’thran’vex, were good soldiers, ruthless, smart, feared, and deadly warriors. Many of the Kabal’s successes were owed to Vak’sanithar’s talent for information and his brother’s brute strength.

“Vak’sanithar, how you disappoint me now, “he said more to himself than Ov’arok.

The captain looked puzzled, but stood stiff and straight. Kel’sparin turned to explain.

“He has made his play, most likely, slighted because I have chosen to elevate others above him. Vak’sanithar and his brother are ever ambitious, and I figured they would betray me eventually. It is too soon, the move almost disappoints me more because it is too soon. Is that not strange, captain? My ‘loyal’ hounds try to bite me, and I am at odds that they did not bite correctly or at the most opportune time,” ended Kel’sparin laughingly.

Ov’arok made no move. The captain’s dead stare was an impressive display of discipline. Truly this was been the captain’s strength, for in the dark city, most gave way to their passions. Ov’arok, however, was rumored to be the pinnacle of stoicism. It repulsively reminded Kel’sparin of their haughty craftworld kin. It was also one of the reasons that Ov’arok was not more than a mere captain. He only showed cleverness and fearsome as far the completion of his mission. The captain’s lack of ambition meant that he never invested beyond his specific orders. Ov’arok was a blunt instrument and this was at odds with Kel’sparin refined tastes.

The archon could feel the anger wash over. He let his displeasure show to gauge Ov’arok’s reaction, but the captain looked forward maintaining his stoic expression. Disappointed, Kel’sparin drained his goblet and turned his back on the captain. The captain was either stupid or indeed a blunt instrument, nonetheless maybe it was time for one.

“Find be Vak’sanithar and Gel’thran’vex. If they still live, bring them back to me… alive. Furthermore find out why they disappeared. If for slaves, bring those back too,” ordered Kel’sparin, in a cold commanding tone.

“As you wish, my Archon,” replied Ov’arok.

As the captain left the room, Archon Kel’sparin turned staring into the black sky, feeling gnawing pangs of doubt. The kabal of the Bloody Rose were out there. He could feel them like some predator, lurking in the darkness. He had sacrificed much to make the Kabal of the Twisted Vine powerful, and being blind to Merrighan’s upstart kabal could threaten that work. The feeling was powerful, almost nauseating. His pulse raced, and his head throbbed. His hands shook and squeezed causing the crystal goblet to shatter suddenly, cutting his fingers half a dozen times. Numb to the pain, sound of shattering crystal broke his panic. Dark maroon streams ran down his fingers, but still he felt no pain until he flexed. The pain made him smile.

“I am alive,” whispered Kel’sparin to the empty pavilion, as if it were a revelation.

“And while I live, I will not be afraid of shadows,” he said louder, more confident. He would bide his time. Merrighan and her misbegotten fools had vied against him for many a year. They would surface sooner or later and then the Twisted Vine would be ready.

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#2 » Jun 07 2014 09:11

Chapter 1
El’Sha’nan concentrated hard as he scrolled on the new wrist pad with his artificial hand. His hope that they would be able to replace the limb with a vat grown clone had vanished when the medical Fio’vre had informed him that too many of nerve clusters had been fused by the var’sin’da weapon. He had nearly died of shock. In the end, he had received a nano-crystalline plate that covered the right of his chest. That had then allowed the medical fio’fann to attach a prosthetic arm. Despite the acclaimed increased durablity and dexterity, El’Sha’nan had already broken two other wrist pads. Looking through casualty reports should not take such an intense effort. He pulled his artificial arm back, focusing to not jerk it back.

His cadre had not been idle. They had rescued El’Savon, her command squad and another two XV-8 pilots. Her cadre was still at 63% operational status. Luckily most of the orcas she had deployed were not even half loaded. She had wisely left most of her cadre on the Regulant Auspice. Nevertheless, she was still unconscious and would be for at least several more rotaa.

El’Sha’nan’s cadre had fared better, but still had suffered loses. Outside of Vre’Mua’da, only one other shas’ui pilot had survived his death blossom and all his fire warrior teams had wounded. He would need to promote replacements, as the mobile suit teams provided an invaluable screen to his armor. He had already selected several candidates to undergo their trials, but that would have to wait until they returned to the Path Resurgent and the expeditionary fleet. Aside from the fio’fann El’Sha’nan’s cadre had rescued, no other survivors had been found. Kor’El’U’ten had been sending crews, mostly fire and earth caste to retrieve the dead and collect useful technologies from the surface. As the highest ranking, uninjured tau, El’U’ten had decided to abandon the colony. The structures had been set to collapse and already the last orcas were docking in the bays below. Still, destroying the colony, where so many had died, brought back feelings of failure and futility. He tried to shake that feeling, for if they had not come to He’pha’n then they could not have discovered the danger to the Tau fleet. Hopefully their warning had reached the Path Resurgent by now and the fire caste and fleet had been placed on high alert. He flexed instinctively, his artificial arm mimicking his left.

The medical drone chimed softly and in a monotone voice said, “Honored Shas’El, please refrain from any unnecessary activity as you are only cleared for light operational duty.”

It had only been the fourth time the drone had repeated its automated warning this rotaa. El’Sha’nan slid off the medical bed and slid on a jumpsuit. His new arm made the task somewhat difficult as the arm continuously kept jerking irregularly. The final insult came as he was pulling the suit over his chest, the cybernetic arm, unwarranted, released its hold of the fabric and hit El’Sha’nan in the face. The drone repeated its message while El’Sha’nan struggled to fix the suit’s clasp around his neck.

The halls were brimming with tau, a mix of earth, air, and even some fire caste, in fio’tek white, maintaining security. They nodded with respect as he passed. It took almost a dec to make his way down into the lower decks, where Vre’Shais’ka had established a makeshift rifle range. The bay was dark except for the lights that hung over the scorched slabs serving as targets. Mass pulse fire flashed, loud booms dissipating almost as fast as sounds were made. 22 fire warriors were lined up in a row taking shots in turn. Behind them stood three shas’ui’s, barking corrections and assisting with reloads. Vre’Shais’ka and Vre’Mua’da were further behind, dividing attention between the fire lines and their wrist pads. El’Sha’nan felt a twinge of jealousy as they moved fingers over the pads with causal ease. As he approached, he noticed that the fire warriors seemed to missing as often as they hit. Some seemed to squirm in their gear as if it were ill fitting. Further down the line, several El’Aloh’ka’s forest green warriors were firing with better accuracy and slightly faster than his own.

Vre’Shais’ka saw El’Sha’nan’s look as he approached and spoke, “Utterly horrible, aren’t they? They have been getting soft, seated in the armor and pirahnas. No reason to worry though, I will have them whipped into shape in the next 10 rotaa.

Vre’Shais’ka was in a lighter mood than El’Sha’nan had seen his brother in a long time. It was a welcome change and El’Sha’nan smiled, giving a grunt of approval. Behind him, Vre’Mua’da stood at salute. She also smiled, but there was an intensity in her eyes. El’Sha’nan would need to ask her about her condition later.

“And how are you faring at suit recertification?” asked El’Sha’nan.

Vre’Shais’ka’s smiled dimmed but he shrugged somewhat jokingly.

“I passed, but do not expect me to survive if you are going to perform any more death blossoms,” said Vre’Shais’ka.

El’Sha’nan expressed mild annoyance but again grunted in humor, even Vre’Mua’da chuckled. He again looked down the fire line as a pilot in full gear took a shot and completely missed the block.

“Tell me this isn’t happening across the entire cadre, Vre’Shais’ka?,” asked El’Sha’nan concerned.

“Kna! Here are the fire teams’ scores from earlier. If they were as bad as this kass, we would have all died a long time ago,” said Vre’Shais’ka

El’Sha’nan gingerly and awkwardly scrolled through the data, scraping the glass hard as he did. He breathed a sigh of relief. The scores were excellent. He looked up questioningly to Vre’Shais’ka, motioning to the crews firing.

“As I said, our crews have become too used to the targeting compensators on the tanks,” said Vre’Shais’ka.

“I suggested that we switch out the crews with line warriors,” said Vre’Mua’da jokingly.

“That would be madness,” spoke Vre’Shais’ka suddenly flaring.
Vre’Mua’da and El’Sha’nan laughed. Vre’Shais’ka flushed when he realized that they were teasing, but shook it off and laughed as well.

“It is good to be here with you both,” said El’Sha’nan.

They traded solemn smiles and nods.

“You should practice as well, there are some empty stalls there at the end,” suggested Vre’Shais’ka, pointing to the end of the row.

Vre’Mua’da bend down and pulled a rifle from a container, activating it and plugging in a fresh power cartridge. The pulse rifle hummed as it charged up. Vre’Mua’da passed it to El’Sha’nan. He looked at it a moment before taking it. As he walked toward the row, he tried not to show his nervousness. Normally pulse rifle firing would be second nature to El’Sha’nan, but with the replacement arm he was uncertain as to how he would perform. The target was a standard 24 tor’leks. He performed a quick check on the display and fit the butt of the rifle to the artificial plates of his right arm, chanting the focusing rituals his first instructors had taught him back on Fo’tan. He exhaled and squeezed the trigger. The pulse hit the fio’tek slab squarely. El’Sha’nan repeated this over and over, sometimes holding the trigger to fire a controlled burst. He moved to the slab to the left as it was unoccupied, firing faster and faster. Bolts of pulse plasma left the barrels and hit all his intended targets, though several times he had unintentionally fired burst as the artificial fingers seemed slow to respond. Nevertheless the rounds went were he intended. It felt good to fire the pulse rifle again. He alternated between the slabs, pulse after pulse slamming into them. His pace quickened, twisting at the torso as he continued alternating targets. Tight almost circular carbonized patches began to form on the slabs, still glowing from the heat of repeated rounds. El’Sha’nan paused, lowering the rifle, when he realized that he was the only one firing.

All the Shas’fann were looking at him, one of the shas’uis nodding in approval, before turning to the others and saying, “That is how you should all be firing those rifles.”

El’Sha’nan, suddenly shy about his performance, nodded and moved off the line but had to concentrate to let go of the pulse rifle. His new right fingers released the rifle in a clumsy motion as he handed it back to Vre’Mua’da.

“It is good that the few rotaa you were recovering have not dulled your aim brother,” said Vre’Shais’ka, seriously.

“I think that is the highest metric score we have seen, including myself and Vre’Shai…,” started Vre’Mua’da.

The deck shook violently as a deep distant boom drowned out all other sound. Everyone stopped firing, but managed to keep their balance. Most were trading confused looks. El’Sha’nan was about to call the bridge, when a second tremor rocked the deck. This time most, including El’Sha’nan, fell. He crashed against the deck but instinctively tried to struggle to his feet as he helped Vre’Mua’da and then Vre’Shais’ka to regain their footing. The Shas’uis were barking to clear the deck and assume battle stations. The command team was closest to the lift tube, only 43 tor’leks away, but they made a fraction of that distance before they all lost their footing again. A klaxon sounded, as the fire caste struggled to the lift. The crashes and shaking became constant, changing in magnitude, sometimes more violent and louder, drowning most sound out, others distant like a faint echo. Somehow the Shas’uis reached the command team and helped all three to the lift.

When they got to the lift Vre’Shais’ka turned and said,” Go, I will handle things here.”

El’Sha’nan and Vre’Mua’da more fell rather than walked into the lift. The lift doors swiftly shut and took off. El’Sha’nan felt anxious to find out what was happening. The shuttering continued, and with each violent shake, they could feel the lift lose speed. Lights flickered in and out and several times the two fire caste had to hold each other as they struggled to maintain balance. Holding Vre’Mua’da brought amorous thoughts and feelings to his mind. He flushed as he pushed them away, unsure of how to act. As the lights restored and the lift picked up to its original pace, he thought he saw Vre’Mua’da flush as well, though she turned quickly. The lift opened to a scene of klaxons blaring and a wall of frantic air caste and fire caste security forces struggling past each other. They made their way to the bridge, sometimes using their superior strength to forming gaps.

The bridge was a hub of excitement, each station on the three amphitheater-like rings manned with Kor’ui technician’s frantically passing technical data, firing solutions, and positions. Drones hovered overhead and behind them stood Kor’vre ring officers, guiding the drones from station to station. Down at the center, stood Kor’El’U’ten, griping one of the safety rails that surrounded the holographic table. The table projected images of the Regulant Auspice leading two strange vessels. A third, the largest of the odd vessels was lazily following far behind. Though curved and sleek, the unfamiliar vessels sported many sharp points. The images of the foreign vessels were unsteady and kept flickering in and out, sometimes disappearing entirely for moments at a time. The images would only solidify moments before the ship shook from an attack.

“Kor’fann, I would like to know the enemy’s position before they fire if at all possible,” said Kor’El’U’ten gripping the rail tight.

His voice was seemingly calm, but to El’Sha’nan there seemed to be a hard edge to it. With the ship under constant fire, the two fire caste struggled down past the rings to El’U’ten’s level. As they closed, El’Sha’nan could see that under each ship projection was statistical data indicating speed, heading, spatial positioning, angular and azimuth heading. The two closest flickering images were slowly gaining on the Regulant Auspice. The tau ship seemed larger than any of the other vessels but it was difficult to be sure. The Kor’El concentrated on the table, before looking up to speak but stopping when he saw El’Sha’nan and Vre’Mua’da. He passed a tight smile and nod to them before returning to ask, “Vre’Be’nai’su, what is the fastest recorded time that Gue’la vessels turn and spin?”

From the second ring, a response came, “4.1 UPD, but our vessel is capable of much faster turn…”

“Thank you, Kor’vre, I know. Kor’Ui’Ol’ni, turn to juntaas 4 UPD, down 4 UPD, and perform a spin at 6 UPD. Kor’ui’tush’an, where is my fire solution for those missiles?”

From another direction came, “Solution in 18 rai'kan.”

As the ship’s projection turned to match the course set by the helm, El’Sha’nan saw the other two vessels turn to keep pace, widening to come on either side of the Regulant Auspice.

“Good, on my word Kor’Ui’Ol’ni, continue the turn but increase speed to maximum until the ship at our juntaas is in front of us,“ said El’U’ten.

The ship continued to rumble as it took more punishing fire from the two closing vessels. El’U’ten kept his focus intently on the display indicators. Several times, the bridge shook hard enough to knock several of the Kor’fann out of their seats. During the latest barrage, El’Sha’nan had to grip his rail hard, Vre’Mua’da helping him as well. El’U’ten had leaned hard into his rail, but despite his height had maintained a steady stance.

“Fio’vre’Gen’to reports that the Juntaas side shield generator is getting close to overload,” said another Kor’ui.

“Noted,” said El’U’ten.

Moments seemed tortuously long before the Kor’El looked up and calmly said, “Now Kor’Ui, maximum speed.”

The turn was so fast that El’Sha’nan’s body shifted before the gravitational compensators adjusted.

The move had surprised the two ships. The Regulant was coming around to face one of her attackers. One of the vessels was now approaching from the rear while the other was raising, desperately trying to clear out of the Regulant’s front arc.

The captain’s calm under pressure was impressive. Suddenly, the image of the rear ship stayed solid, only fading after several rai'kans. El’Sha’nan realized that it was firing another barrage.

“Brace,” he yelled.

All at once, the ship rocked and boomed. In the bridge several of the crew were thrown violently into walls or against the floor. The bridge blacked out momentarily, before power was restored. El’U’ten was on his knees. Several technicians cried out in pain. Others made reports.

“Fio’vre’Gen’to reports that the rear shield generator is critically damaged,” said one Kor’ui.

“Juntaa thruster 2 is offline Kor’El, we will only be able to achieve 84% maximum speed” said one of the Kor’vre ring officers.

“You may fire when ready, Kor’Ui’Tush’an,” said El’U’ten, rising but still calm.

A red flashing projection appeared, moving fast from the front of the Regulant’s image. Its speed was great but El’Sha’nan frowned as he realized that the alien ship was still fast enough to evade the missiles.

“Kor’El, with due respect…,” started Vre’Mua’da

“Patience,” said El’U’ten as though he had read their minds.

“We should…,” started one of the other Ring officers.

“Wait,” said the captain, this time with only the slightest hint of annoyance.

The alien ship moved clear of the missiles. It sat high in front and already heading back to rake along the tau ship.

“Now Kor’ui, adjust the missiles’ heading,” said El’U’ten, somewhat smugly.

Unexpectedly the missiles altered their trajectory and realigned themselves with the ship, forcing it to evade again. El’Sha’nan had forgotten that they were still spinning from the image and as the alien vessel adjusted its path, the ship moved into the Regulant Auspice’s toroq side.

“Kor’Vre’Nu’van, please fire all Toroq side batteries,” said El’U’ten.

El’Sha’nan sat semi-stunned as an uncomfortable silence took hold of the bridge. Whenever he engaged a foe, the combat had always involved deafening sounds, recoil and heat of blazing guns, and fire born from the adrenaline of combat. There was a silent intensity on the bridge as the ship unleased a seemingly barrage, leaving the Shas’El feeling unsatisfyingly detached. Suddenly the bridge came alive again as blinking red circles surrounded the now solid alien vessel.

“47 confirmed hits, Kor’El,” said one of the Kor’Ui.

Kor’El’smiled and turned, “is the vessel dead?”

“No, but she is venting plasma badly and …breaking o…,” said first ring officer.

The ship shook violently as it was rocked again with a series of booms. The alien ship behind them was seeking revenge for the mauling of its sister.

“Kor’El, Juntaa thruster 4 is destroyed, maneuvering speed down to 64% maximum”

El’Sha’nan approached, “So the missiles were a distraction, but how will you deal with the other two vessels?”

“The missiles are not just a distraction, Shas’El,” said El’U’ten.

The missiles had continued to follow the wounded ship which had moved with all speed to get close behind its sister. As the two alien ships passed close, the missiles again altered course and were now closing the second undamaged ship. The missiles were so close they would not have time to evade.

“if the vessel is a true war ship then it will have close protection guns, however the spread should be enough for some to make it. Kor’Ui’Ol’ni adjust course. Come to Toroq 76 UD at maximum speed. Kor’vre’Fen’Sho prepare the ship for dive,” said the Kor’El.

Vre’Mua’da came up beside El’Sha’nan, “We are retreating then?”

El’U’ten looked at them both grimly and nodded, “We must. None of the enemy vessels are destroyed, the last ship is already moving to engage and given our status, we would not survive. Before we retreat though, we must break away.”

El’Sha’nan turned back to the holo-table. The image of the second vessel expanded and he could make out individual missile markers, eight in total. If only several hit, it would still resign the ship to a slow death. It had already altered course, trying to buy time for its close range guns to lock on and destroy the tau missiles. If the vessel succeeded, they would catch the Regulant Auspice. The quiet intensity returned as all the Tau’fann on the bridge focused on the holotable. When the first missile marker disappeared there were cries of distress from the rings. The second and third disappeared almost on top of each other. The markers seemed to move agonizingly slow, only crawling closer to the ship as the forth disappeared. The fifth disappeared, and a sixth icon disappeared as the missiles closed the last few hundred tor’leks. The last two icons both vanished and a solemn hush fell over the entire bridge. Suddenly the table lit up, flashes indicated contact. Cheers went up from the ring stations and El’U’ten exhaled in relief.

“Two confirmed hits, Kor’El,“ said the first ring Kor’vre.

The holotable panned out, the second ship turning down sharply and breaking pursuit. Already they could see the distorted disappearing image of the larger ship moving toward them. Despite its larger size, it seemed as fast as the other ships. El’Sha’nan could see concern take hold in the Kor’El’s face again.

“All available speed to the jump point Kor’Ui’Ol’ni. Divert power if you must, but we must be in dive position before that third ship reaches firing range,” said the Kor’El.

The din in the bridge grew as the kor’fann anxiously relayed information. Steadily the flickering image of the last ship continued to gain on the Regulant. A proximity warning icon appeared, also flashing and disappearing with the strange ship.

“12 rai’kan until dive,” came from one of the rings over the din.

The last ship was almost in position. El’Sha’nan felt the tension as El’U’ten frowned, leaning forward and gripped his rail tight.

“8…, 7…, 6…,” started someone from behind El’Sha’nan.

The large vessel’s image solidified and brightened. It had fired. Instinctually, El’Sha’nan’s body tensed, his replacement arm straining the integrity of the rail he was holding. However the ship never shook, instead the familiar and sickening pull of a dive took hold as the Regulant was catapulted way from the deadly vessel. Cheers again erupted across the bridge, but El’U’ten was quick to silence them.

“I need damage reports, status of repair teams, and our spatial position as soon as possible,” started El’U’ten.

“Spatial estimates- are available now, Kor’El,” stated the first ring officer.

El’U’ten nodded and asked, “Kor’vre’Fen’Sho, how much time until we can perform another dive?”

“Kor’El, it will be another 20 rai’kor before the dive engine is ready again,” said a Kor’Vre.

El’Sha’nan realized that they had made a blind jump. He let go of the rail, but grimaced as he saw an impression from his right hand embedded into the rail. El’U’ten clearly saw, but simply shook his head dismissively.

“We must choose our next destination quickly. They might be able to calculate our location as they would have a fix on our last position and speed,” said the Kor’El.

El’Sha’nan leaned toward the holo-table across from El’U’ten, conscientious of resting his new arm against the rail. A semitransparent sphere expanded out from the image of the Regulant Auspice. It stopped several times, leaving a marker at each pause before finally fading out. The Kor’El was looking between them, and his wrist pad, frowning.

“We are too far away from established space. All of these are non-empire installations, and from the available data, these are the only three would provide us with the means to repair our ship,” said El’U’ten, as though he had eaten something distasteful.

El’Sha’nan studied the options carefully, the closest being a Gue’la outpost. The outpost would be a dangerous prospect. Most Gue’la not part of the empire, had resisted helping the Tau. Some had blindly attacked Tau vessels attempting diplomatic contact. Even if they did assist, it might turn to treachery, for many Gue’la had only a simple twisted sense of honor. He dismissed the idea, as the security risk was too great. He found that the second was also Gue’la, a trading ship, known conspirator with the tau. Its captain and crew had agreed to pass on information regarding the imperium, in return for some mild technology. While El’Sha’nan had no personal account, he had heard that these deep space traders mostly operated on the fringe of the Gue’la imperium’s laws. Normally Tau interactions with them had always been when the Tau had superior fleet assets on hand. El’Sha’nan knew that the Regulant Auspice was damaged and with no escorts, the captain might attempt to take advantage of that vulnerability.

He realized that he was unsure of the ship’s status and asked, “Kor’El, how badly are we damaged?”

Kor’El’U’ten frowned, seemingly sad, “There is extensive damage. First and foremost, our communications array has been destroyed. We took initial barrages on the Juntaas side, damaging 83% its broadside guns and forcing us to seal the launch bay on that side. We have lost a third of our forward thrust capacity. Most of the shield generators are off line and there are several hull breaches that have force me to seal decks three and seven. I have lost close to 40 crew members and many more are injured.”

The Kor’El gestured into the room. Some of the bridge officers were helping injured technicians to their feet or out of the bridge. Two technicians were carrying a third, unconscious, between them. A Fio’ui came in tailed by a trio of drones, each fitted with beam cutters, grabber arms, and lum-fusers. The drones fanned out and moved to stations, removing paneling before beginning various repair routines.

El’Sha’nan nodded in sympathy. Battles were always hardest in the aftermath, when taking account of all that was lost and sacrificed.

He said, “As we are vulnerable, we should avoid contact with Gue’la. This last point, what is that?”

“It is an Okeni city outpost. It is located on a dwarf asteroid,” replied El’U’ten.

“The Okeni?” asked Vre’Mua’da, coming up to stand beside El’Sha’nan.

“Invertebrates, given non-threat status on the basis that the Okeni physically fragile and have no formalized government. They are a scattered race of traders and merchants. Most reside on other foreign planets offering interstellar economic expertise. A few acquire enough wealth to build isolated refuges such as this one. They are a mixing pot of alien races. Some water caste envoys have been to this particular station,” said U’ten.

“We should make for the city-station. Out of the three, they will have the least offensive capabilities and we are not at war with their people,” said El’Sha’nan.

The Kor’El studied his wrist pad some more, frowning in what El’Sha’nan hoped was concentration.

“I do not like any of our choices, but the last time we debated, I stood against you, and we have all paid a heavy toll for not listening to your wisdom,” said El’U’ten, rotating to face one of the ring officers.

“Kor’vre’Fen’Sho, prepare a dive for the Okeni Station, I have transferred spatial coordinates to you,” said El’U’ten in his flowing tones.

“They obviously will want something in return for use of their materials and repair facilities,” stated Vre’Mua’da.

“Obviously,” nodded El’U’ten, turning back to face them and the table.

Now it was El’Sha’nan’s turn to frown. He had not thought of trade. Very few of the Colony’s hydroponic food cells made it back to the ship. Due to the nature of the mission, the ship had only carried spare military hardware and additional power cells. Shas’ar’tol strictly forbade the trade of military grade hardware. In any case it would not be enough to buy the necessary materials for repair, even if they could have. It would have been the same with any of the options.

“Let us hope then, that it is not a price too hard to pay,” said El’Sha’nan.

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#3 » Feb 07 2015 12:50

Sorry to anybody that has followed my story. It has been a really long time, I will hopefully wrap this one up soon but here is the next installment

Chapter 2
First Praetor Hek’tar strode down the nearly abandoned thoroughfare. The few aliens that milled about, parted quickly for the bulked soldier. The gorm species, being naturally tall and muscular, often caused a slight instinctual intimidation in other aliens. The gorm soldier class were even more unsettling. Hulks covered in thick segmented metallic armor over snug body suits. Hek’tar bore a humming plasma caster fitted to his right wrist gauntlet. It had been upgraded with a non-standard regulator, allowing him to bypass safety locks should his foes require more stopping power. As befit his rank, the first Praetor had a blade projector fitted to his left wrist. It had been a personal gift from his father and he bore it with honor and pride. Heavy shielded cables hung from both wrists, running to a standard issue power-pack that was fitted to the warrior’s lower back. The first praetor had several ugly battle scars that ran the length of his bullish snout. The back of his neck sported several ports and plugs that softly glowed and blinked, where his implanted data core fed him information, memories, and experiences of hundreds of his gorm predecessors. While their physique was impressive, it was the data cores that truly made Gorm warriors elite and highly sought defense and mercenary forces on the Eastern Fringe.

Hek’tar’s command visor, fitted over his left eye, directed him down another empty street. The journey would have taken much longer as the bare streets were usually packed with strange aliens shoppers, traders, and miners. The space station had until recently been home to several million myriad lifeforms, offering rich deposits deep in the asteroid’s cave system and loose trade far from any civilized planet and their regulations. Now only a few thousand remained, here because they could not leave. Orks had crash landed on the far side of the asteroid, and fearful reputation of that savage menace had led to the station’s mass exodus. To add insult to injury, the crash had destroyed the station’s only transponder, leaving it bereft of a means to call for aid. Initially Lord Ven’tak, the Gorm commander, in charge of the station’s defense, had purposed that everyone go to personal life support and that the station turn off the asteroid’s atmospheric generators, suffocating the orks. The Okeni masters refused the plan, uncertain if the ancient generators would reactivate. Left with no feasible alternative, the Commander had then led an offensive, but the damp caves that dotted the far side of the asteroid were numerous and in the initial sweep, most of the caves had been left unexplored. It was ideal breeding ground for the greenskins and in short time, the orks had massed to greater number than anticipated. Several weeks of attack and counter attacks raged on the plains outside of the station, but the Gorm had only provided light security forces and lacked heavy equipment. They could not clear the orks of the caves but nor could the orks cross the rocky plain without sustaining heavy losses. However savages were far from pacified, and their resolve and cunning had nearly taken the station when they discovered that the cave paths that lead right up to the Station’s Delphi gate. Squad Ven’gar had repelled them but paid with their lives. The path was sealed but the orks again proved determined in opening new passages. Breaches were almost daily, so frequent that the Gorm were becoming strained guarding the approaches to the station. The situation had turned and eventually without aid or relief, slowly but surely the orks would have the station. The Okeni masters had tried to keep this secret from the station’s population but as usual the information leaked. In a single panicked cycle, riots started, ended, and turned into a panicked and deadly evacuation. Every being with a way off the station had left. Without a transponder, Okeni could not call for aid, or even ships to evacuate those that remained. The Gorm would stay, because honor would demand no less. Hek’tar snorted in amusement as he realized that even if they had lacked honor, the gorm had no ships on which to leave.

He had reached the orbital elevator and nodded to the two soldiers that guarded the entry way. As he summoned one of personnel elevator cars, he looked up and took a step back. Docked with the station, was a large whitish vessel. Along its belly and wings, lights blinked in and out at a steady pace. Hek’tar’s hoped that these were reinforcements or an evacuation ship for the remaining civilians. He stepped in to the cart as it opened with a chime. He studied the underside of the ship. It had an elegant but foreign shape, like some aquatic invertebrate. Its sleek curved wings smoothly transitioning up into a central fuselage. As the cart passed over it however, his face grew stern and his earlier optimism died. All along the ship’s left side, blackened scoring could be seen. At the top of the ship, electrical discharge was arching from a heavily damaged alien array. The ship had several bluish fires burning from its hull. His enhanced bionics could make out 14 suited aliens and 42 disc shaped robots moving from several places on the surface of the ship. Another eruption of bluish flame sprouted, lightly shaking the glass of the vacuum sealed cab. Finally, Hek’tar lost sight of the craft as the elevator passed into the upper dock spire. The car came to a smooth slow stop and chimed as the hiss of pressurization proceeded the opening door. He stepped on to the top level of the spire. The outer wall was a transparent dome of reinforced glassteel, with industrial oxidized trusses between. The walkway widened as he walked forward and beyond the wall the Praetor took in the view of the raw void of space. Below he could see the damaged vessal, the grey white dust of the asteroids surface and the dormant city station, so few lights glowed that he could appreciate the abandonment even more. He moved, reaching the intersection that formed a ring to allow access to other pathways that went to the wall. Ahead lay one of the many offices and control rooms that the Okeni used as meeting or control rooms. Lord Ven’tak had converted an unused one into a briefing room and his quarters.

Hek’tar walked on, letting his command visor guide him to designated room. Automatic doors opened, and Hek’tar immediately trained on the alien party. Though they all had similar features and skin tones, their physical differences made them look as though they had had diverged into several different species. Ten of these new aliens stood before the Okeni masters and Lord Ven’tak. The four in front were all holding a hand held device to the side of their head, leading Hek’tar to believe that this was the command party. At the rear of the command group stood the tallest alien. It was incredibly thin and wore a dark body suit and gauntlets that had some form of computer or consul built in. At its hip, it sported a holstered hand held weapon or device but was otherwise unarmed. Its moves were fluid, slow, and relaxed compared to the two in front of it, and none were as animated as the speaker at the very front. The tall one had a similar facial ridge to one of the shorter aliens, while the other had the same “Y” shaped ridge as the speaker in the front. In front of the tall alien, the next two were shorter but bulkier. They wore similar computerized gauntlets and holstered pistols, but instead were dressed in looser fatigues and armor. The armor was the same make but different in color and pattern. The one on the right had a bionic arm and camouflage patterned armor, while the one on the left had cream colored armor similar to the skin of the docked ship. The helmeted security detail that escorted the party bore thin boxy weapons and also bore the same white armor.
Drawing from his datacore, Hek’tar was able to surmise that the one with the prosthetic had only recently received it, as it used the arm with stiff uncomfortable movements. The group’s body language suggested that they might have had some dispute or disagreement. The speaker’s movements caught his attention and he turned his focus toward it. This one was slightly smaller and more slender though not as thin as the tall alien in the back. It was engaged with the three present Okeni. The alien speaker wore the most ornate clothes, a long white robe with several ornate bright contrasting patterns of blue, purple, and orange. Its wrists bore jewelry rather than the computer gauntlets. To either side of it, two disk shaped drones hovered. The command visor finally located and uploaded species data, designating the race as the tau. It gave basic description, physique, and political status but Hek’tar had been unfamiliar with them despite that that Tau had previously visited the station during his tour. Looking at their small warriors, he was unconvinced that they would be a serious threat and turned toward the Okeni present as he continued forward.

Both masters Hvibash and Grelda, had chosen to wear simple functional exosuits that had functioning armatures and put their sluglike bodies in an upright pose. Their bodies were suspended by several auto clamps. Their one real appendage, their tail hung lifeless behind their exosuits’ legs. At the center, was Master Nruhaba. His exosuit was ornate, perhaps even ostentatious in its embellished decorations. The platinum plated bench held the Okeni’s bloated body in a relaxed rested position. The exosuit had four legs and a set of arms on either side of the bench, which ended in stubby rounded tri-pincers. The arms floated, as the fat okeni listened with half attention. Hek’tar took his place to Lord Ven’tak’s left and sat when motioned.

“…and that, wise, generous, Okeni masters have why we have come. We only wish to repair our vessel and return to our noble journey to reclaim our lost region,” translated the drone for the speaker alien, with a small elegant bow.

Hek’tar looked curiously at the drone, for it was more than a simple translator, it matched the pitch and emotional range of the speaker almost perfectly.

Hvibash’s suit hissed as it vocalized his squeals and hums into monotone understandable language, “How do you know that these attackers are not following you to this very station?”

The speaker tau nodded and made a facial gesture that conveyed calm, “we had to make a lengthy pause after our second dive to facilitate some critical repairs, and in all that time we have not been attacked. It is believed that we have eluded those that wish us harm.”

“What do you have to trade? We scanned your vessel and other than the ship itself, it does not look like you came with much that would interest us,” spoke Grelda.

The tau speaker’s facial gesture still portrayed calm, which to Hek’tor indicated discipline. When it spoke again, there was no sign of nervousness, indicating that the creature was practiced in the art of negotiation.

“It is true that our vessel was not prepared for a trade, but our empire is. Assisting us now will yield a bountiful dividend as the wealth, technology, and the security the tau can offer you would be of great interest,” said the tau speaker.

Lord Ven’tak grunted and bristled at the perceived insult.

“We are well protected, as you can see by the finest the Gorm homeworlds can provide,” spoke Nruhaba sluggishly and as though bored, his exosuit’s armatures gesturing toward the two Gorm commanders.

The tau speaker nodded in agreement, looking to the praetor and the gorm lord in turn.

“I mean no insult, for indeed the gorm are fine noble warriors, I am certain that they serve with distinction and honor. It is something that our own fire caste embody and respect. I was only offering…,” started the tau speaker humbly.

“I do not care what the tau are offering. I grow tired of these dancing games of negotiating. What we have is an infestation and what you have is soldiers and a ship, am I right?” asked Nruhaba, his hissing and squealing, a contrast to the stoic delivery of his translator.

Shock only lightly danced on the tau speaker’s features. It recovered quicker than the other two Okeni. It bowed meekly, tactfully facing but not looking directly at Nruhaba.

“If the Okeni Master has a proposal?” asked the tau speaker, with almost genuine confusion.
Hek’tak had already surmised that the tau would have known about the orks on the other side of the asteroid. This meeting was a foregone conclusion, that while the tau seemed to be observing the niceties, Master Nruhaba had not.

Nruhaba gestured one of the arms toward the Gorm. Hek’tar snorted again, he took a second glance at the tau warriors again, ready to dismiss them again until his eyes met those of the warrior in the camouflaged armor. The alien’s eyes spoke of an attentiveness, of discipline, and experience with the horrors of watching comrades die. Hek’tar realized that the warrior had been studying him and despite its size, found that he respected the attitude.

Lord Ven’tak rose and bowed respectfully which the small alien warriors returned the gesture.

“I am uncertain of your capabilities, but any assistance would be appreciated, together maybe we can achieve what my security cohorts could not do alone,” said the Gorm lord.

His voice was deep and filled with gravel quality. To any other, the words must have seemed stoic but Hek’tar knew that it was hard for his lord to say them, that they had been bitter tasting. Some like the Okeni would mock this humbling gesture.

The Tau speaker motioned to speak, but the warrior in the camouflaged armor stepped forward, turning to Lord Ven’tak as he spoke, the drone floating over to him to translate, even its pitch dropping to match the deeper tone of this alien’s voice.

“Gorm Leader, I am Shas’El’Fo’tan’Sha’nan, Commander Swiftsword in the Gue’la tongue. We would be honored to add our strength to yours,” said the tau warrior, puffing out its chest as it stood straight and bowed.

Lord Ven’tak nodded his bullish head in respect, “Very good, then let us begin.”

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#4 » Feb 16 2015 03:50

Chapter 3
The burst cannon whined at top speed, firing into the latest be’gel wave trying to make it up the stunted cliff face. Hundreds were roaming down in the rocky valley below, moving from cover to cover until massing and dashing futilely up the plateau where El’Sha’nan had positioned his cadre. Despite the massed pulse fire causing heavy loses, the greenskins seemed to be determined to take the position. To his left, Vre’Mua’da laid down a withering line of fire that cut into the savages like a blade cutting grass. Vre’Shais’ka was to his right, launching another missile pod and releasing gouts of flame that turned orks into charred corpses.

The cadre’s position was close to a tor’kan from one of the larger cave openings. Huge lights from spire provided dim light from which they could see. It had reminded El’Sha’nan of a story he had read when studying Gue’la history about towers placed near seas so that human sailors would not crash their ships into the coast. The station’s spire was a solitary beacon on a sea of grey dust and rock. The Gorm had assured them that there was atmosphere but El’Sha’nan had still ordered void conditions. The plateau was the natural selection as it was the farthest defensible point from the caves while still being close enough for an earth caste team to map the cave network. The orks had seen their approach and though the trek to the plateau had met with light resistance, the situation had gradually escalated. Already more orks were pouring out from cracks and crevices all along the mountain side. In response, fire warrior teams had deployed from the relative safety of the devilfish, taking positions all along the ridge. At first small arms fights would be light momentary engagements, but gradually the amount of fire continued to build, and now every time the be’gel charged, every warrior was firing. This had not been El’Sha’nan’s first ork encounter and he knew that given time more and more of the brutes would gather and charge, determined to overrun the position with a mass of bodies. The slaughter was sickening, but to relent would mean death for his cadre. To his left, two orks reached the cliff, cutting down two of his warriors, before El’Sha’nan leapt forward, his burst cannon tearing into the small group as the remaining fire warriors closed the gap.

The Gorm commander had employed a Kauyon plan but with the Regulant Auspice only somewhat repaired, it had risk. Drawing out the orks required that it remained undetected, the cadres would have to keep them distracted while drones moved and mapped the caves. The Gorm captain and El’Ol’savon would defend the cave approaches as the orks had established a pattern of counterattacking the city station, when provoked. As soon as the telemetry mapping completed, the Regulant Auspice move in and target heavy ork positions and clear a path for the Fo’tan cadre to move on to one of the cavern entryways. The cadre would introduce CVT-45, an effective nano-toxin purposely designed to seek and deteriorate ork celluar structure and spores. If all went well they would be mopping up before the day’s last rotaa.

The orks’ latest push for the plateau died off, and the cadre took advantage of the temporary respite. The pathfinders were still picking out long distant targets as the orks in the rear continued to mass for another assault. Meanwhile fire warriors switched out depleted power cartridges. El’Sha’nan checked the seal on his helmet and then opened his suit’s canopy, helping it open with his feet. He ordered Vre’Mua’da and Vre’Shais’ka to stay in their suits, running to a supply pod. The light gravity made him bounce more than run and he lightly crashed into the closest crate. He pulled out fresh power drums and rolled them to the command team’s hooves. Last he handled a flamer fuel box and started back to his team. Already Vre’Mua’da had extended her suit’s hands, retrieving missiles for Vre’Shais’ka from a second supply pod. His brother lowered his suit enough for El’Sha’nan to reach nearly exhausted flamer tank. Once Vre’Shais’ka was fully reloaded, he helpled Vre’Mua’da with the power drums for her burst cannons while El’Sha’nan turned to his own suit. He had managed to remove the old burst cannon drum. Normally he would need several drones, but the advantage of the low gravity was that he could manage the weight of the drum without help. Still he struggled to get it into position and continued to struggle until Vre’Shais’ka and Vre’Mua’da chucked before helping with the container. The laughter died, as the deep drum of an ork battlecry echoed from the valley. El’Sha’nan hurried back into the suit’s cockpit, lights glowing against his face as displays came back to life. He had precious few moments as the first of the orks dashed up the steep ridge. His suit lifted into the sky, landing hard with his burst cannon cutting the first be’gel down.

“How much longer?” he asked the two technicians at the rear.

Near the center of their position, two technicians worked with a device that resembled a snub nosed plasma rifle with arms spread conically in front of the barrel. At regular intervals they discharged the device into one of cave entries. While the two Fio’fann moved at a nervous speed, the technician’s tone seemed to be bored.

“We need another 14.2 rai’kor before we have retrieved enough data to begin the targeting acquisition calculations.”

“You haven’t already started the calculations,” asked El’Sha’nan, unable to keep the shock entirely from his voice.

“No, the caves are vast and we are having to increase pulse intensit…

“Shas’El, you better look at this,” interrupted Vre’Shais’ka.

One of his internal monitors flicked to feed from Vre’Shais’ka’s visual feed. Up till now the orks had trickled out of the cave entries in small groups, but it was as if the caves were erupting speeding rivers of green and rusty brown metal lava. Intermixed with the ork foot soldiers, were ramshackle walkers that belched dark smoke and sparked as they moved. He turned to face the new threat, his audio receptors catching fragments of feral yells and guttural cries. He swallowed hard before forcing himself to calm. He had held his tanks in reserve, but decided now was the time for his hammerheads to enter the fray.

“Weapons free, Fire! Like your lives and the tau’va depend on it,” he commanded, opening up with his burst cannon as he landed were the ork tide was closest. He could make out alien faces, some continued the guttural battlecry, while others foamed and bled from the mouth as they ran.
“Fio’Ui, you better hurry, I am not sure we can give you half that time.

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#5 » Feb 23 2015 10:47

Chapter 4
Praetor Hek’tar had already reevaluated his opinion of the small alien warriors. They did not seem to possess any great physical prowess, but their disciplined ranks and supporting fields of fire had considerably thinned the horde coming at them. He and the tau commander had laid out a series of make shift defensive lines. They had been forced to abandon two lines already, but the clever tau had set traps on the first. The explosives had blunted the first ork surge and bought them valuable time to make it to the secondary line. When they had decided to abandon the second, Hek’tar had pulled his own trick and activated several of the hidden automated flamer turrets. The sudden activation of the hidden defenses left hundreds of the greenskins burning, rolling around in agonizing death, and had cut off their vanguard from the main ork host. Still the enemy numbers seemed endless and even now the orks were swarming over the guns. He could see dismantled parts starting to float on a wave of ork bodies charging toward them.

“This is the last line, but we only have to hold for moments until the Regulant Auspice is in position to give us support,” said the strange voice of the tau commander.

The Praetor had learned that the facial ridges indicated the tau’s sex and that the cream armored soldier was a female. Now he was having trouble recognizing her as soldier. “She” was not what he expected, though as often was the case, most alien species had baffled him. He had forced himself to recognize that she was proving an excellent shot and seemed to be handling her cohort well enough though her inexperience was noticeable. She was in a bulkier armor suit, armed with two rotary cannons. The suit had some device that made her difficult to track. She and her body guard had bought more time when the vanguard had reached the second line, baffling and misdirecting the orks before fading back to the defensive line.

Hek’tar snorted and nodded, “they seem more cautious than before.”

The wave had not stopped but had slowed as the lead orks were scattering and had paused at the abandoned second line while still trading scattered fire with the Gorm and Tau forces. Behind them the main wave of orks slowly approached. Several were tentatively poking at ground or at the makeshift barricades inspecting them for further traps.

“If they charge again, we may not have enough time. A counter charge though may buy us enough though,” Hek’tak continued, taking an aimed shot at an exposed ork.

“and place your gorm in the fire path of the ship. That is unacceptable..,” said the Tau commander.

“it might be necessary,” he cut in.

And as if on cue, the main body moved again toward the second line. At its head a giant ork that surpassed even Hek’tar’s bulk growled a war cry, raising a crude oversized chainaxe toward them. The wave surged, as orks broke the cover at a marching pace toward them. The volley fire from pulse weapons and plasma casters was overwhelming, and at first was cutting down the orks as fast as they broke the cover. The unrelenting press of bodies slowly started to win however as more orks poured through then they had shots. Hek’tar had tried to target the giant ork, but the beast was lost in the green sea moving ponderously coming toward them.

“There are just so many,” the tau commander said quietly.

His datacore indicated that she might be borderline for shock. Her weapons were still firing but the manner in which she jerked from target to target made it clear. He had to distract her.

“This is the first time you have faced death, isn’t it?”

“I have been in combat for almost 12 Tau’cyr now, I have faced death many times,” she retorted angrily.

Hek’tar switched his caster to full auto and pre-ignited his blade.

“Personal death, I am sure, but never the death of your cohort, of your mission. It is different when you command, because you know the burden of the situation if we lose. The weight of death is heavier than when you were a mere line soldier,” he said, firing smoothly into the front of the horde.

The orks had already been steadily firing as they moved, bracing when firing, but continuously marching toward them. Suddenly they stopped aiming and picked up speed halfway between the defensive lines. The defensive fire intensified, pouring out of the line in a nearly blinding volley. The orks, like a relentless wave, were content to stumble and topple over hundreds if not thousands of dead or dying orks. The press of bodies became so thick that aiming was irrelevant. The tau commander’s rotary cannons switched to a continuous fire mode, mowing down the front line until several crude yet heavy armored orks strode to the front. Though slower, these orks were soaking up a heavy concentration of fire and had shrugged off all but a couple of shots. They were a larger, tougher stock that shrugged off wounds and continued on, not slowing or even crying out in pain. The Praetor switched his caster to high intensity and fired, the recoil kicking his arm back as the dense ball of plasma speed toward one of the armored hulks. It punched a hole into the greenskin's chest. He fired again and again, felling several more of the hulks, before a searing sensation on his wrist warned him that the caster had burnt out. He threw the dead weapon away and looked at how dangerously close the orks were. Without a word he transmitted a silent order to his cohorts. As one they rose from behind cover, most still firing, but all pulling combat weapons or igniting blade projectors. The orks were so fervent to reach them that most of their wild firing was well wide of his exposed cohorts.

“What are you doing?” asked the tau commander nervously.

“What is necessary,” said Praetor Hek’tar as he charged out from behind the wall.

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#6 » Mar 02 2015 11:56

Chapter 5
El’Sha’nan had been prepared for death when they had performed the Death Blossom, however he could feel a deadly fear begin to creep over his battle calm. The cadre was completely encircled and every warrior and vehicle was firing at rapid pace. His command rig had estimated cadre ammunition exhaustion in less than three rai’kors. The tremors of the Regulant Auspice’s first bombardment had started and ended moments before, however no one could afford a moment to turn and look up. The charging orks required full focus or they would die. Several of his fire warriors had been dragged down and hacked apart by momentary distractions and survival fixated the remainder on the barbaric horde struggling toward them. That intense focus combined with the greenskins’ bloodlust, allowed the Tau cruiser to creep up into firing position without notice.

When training at the academy, El’Sha’nan had been stunned to discover that tau vessels were “lightly” armed when compared to the ships of the Gue’la. The first blast wave from the Regulant Auspice was so bright that even with his flash compensators, he instinctively turned away. The ground shook and had many of his cadre not already been laying down, they would have fallen hard. As it was, several bounced up and down off the ground. Cracks formed along the plateau’s crust. The internal screens in El’Sha’nan’s suit dimmed as its core devoted more and more of its processing power to stabilization. Orks not caught in the blast radius, tumbled and fell back. They tried to regain their footing when the quake subsided, but another blast hammered down, and then another. The orbital bombardment continued, disintegrating orks in droves as the spheres of white blinding energy engulfed them. Nothing but grey dust and smoking craters remained of the areas hit. If the Gue’la possessed weapons more powerful than this display, it was humbling. Already the sound started to dissipate as the orbiting ship’s fire thundered away from his cadre. In its wake, the sea of orks was gone, replaced by a few stunned stragglers. Some turned and fled back into the caves while others picked themselves up and once again made for the plateau, unconcerned that the all around them were dead or gone. His teams were already displacing back to the devilfish as the vehicles’ burst cannons turned on the last charging orks. The hammerheads took point, tailed by their pack mate Skyrays. Smart missiles fired occasionally, hunting down any lingering orks among the rocks. El’Sha’nan and the command team fell in, jumping to keep up with the vehicles.

“Thank you, Kor’El, you may cease fire, we have it from here,” he said, jubilant.

“Thank you for holding the line, Shas’El,” commed the Kor’El.

He ordered a fire warrior team to remain and guard the two technicians, who were still compiling their telemetry data. The rest of his cadre began their thrust to the nearest cave to administer the smart toxin. He felt a small pang of guilt over employing such a weapon, but the orks were among the worst enemies of the empire and the Tau'va. Never relenting in their warmongering, the brutal race could not be bargained with or made to see reason. He knew that if he did not deliver the toxin, that the station would be doomed and never free of the be’gel. Even with the toxin, there might be spores that survive. Several fringe worlds had already reported that the spores on their worlds were becoming resistant to the nano-toxin.

A sudden tremor stalled their advance. At first, El’Sha’nan had thought that the Regulant Auspice had fired again, but the feel and sound were different. There were no blast marks or bright flashes. His sensors tracked hundreds of movements coming from the nearby cliffs, mostly loose rocks shifting. A second tremor came and then a third and forth like the beginnings of an earthquake. More tremors continued with a more frequent regularity. He was still scanning when the jagged stunted peaks of the rocky caves exploded away, the rock and dust showering outward. The cadre had stopped well short and remained unharmed. Where a mountain had been, a gigantic ork walker writhed and rose from its ruin. The mechanical monster took an ungainly step forward, further freeing itself. All around it, a tangle of rubble, metal, and sparking wires fell away. While most of the be’gel’s gear looked haphazard and cobbled together, the walker seemed half-finished by even their standards. Its ponderous movements were unsure and its incomplete armored skirt was missing large patches of plating, leaving bare frame exposed. Pistons attached to each arm blew out and dangled uselessly, spewing black lubricant as though it were bleeding. The walker still had an abundance of functioning pistons on each armature and it carried a score of guns, missiles and rockets haphazardly fixed to its right arm while the left ended in a large spinning cutting blade. Black smoke pumped out from its eight oversized exhausts as it took a few more shaky steps. Rather than conserving its ammunition, every rocket and missile suddenly launched from its right arm.

“Break formation, evasive action, now!,” ordered El’Sha’nan, more panic in his voice than he would have liked.

The vehicles all veered off the path. Most of munitions fell either short or beyond the column, though the sheer amount had ensured that some would land among them. One of the hammerheads was struck, its frontend smashed into the ground. The tank vanished in a blinding explosion. Flames and smoke erupted out from its broken hull. El’Sha’nan did not even have to look at the status indicators to tell that the entire crew was dead. Anger boiled in him, and he heard the remaining hammerhead fire its railgun in retaliation. More armor plates flew off and small fires erupted at several spots, but the walker seemed undeterred.

Vre’Shais’ka barked “Your orders, Shas’El?”

El’Sha’nan surveyed the ruins around it. Most of the tunnel entries were collapsed, meaning the team on the plateau would need even more time, but he also realized that the walker had also isolated itself from support. He smiled at the ironic twist of fate that would see his cadre avenged.

“I am surprised that you have to ask, brother. If ever there was a situation for Tide Strike, it was now.”

The cadres of Fo’tan had always maintained that tide strike or the Tel’ka originated by ancestral hunters on sacred T’au. While the most of the hunters had developed and adopted the Mont’ka and/or the Kauyon, the very southern plains tribes had established a different hunting technique to deal with the larger prey that lived in the colder climate. Tide strike did not rely on one powerful deathblow or an elaborate trap that ensnared an enemy, but instead delivered a series of smaller blows from several hunters working together. If executed properly, they kept the prey off balance and distracted before weariness and wounds took its toll, ending the hunt.

The armored column fanned out upon their Shas’El’s implied order. The commander had not forgotten about orks that might still be lingering among the rocks and ordered his devilfish transports to the flanks to screen his heavier armor. The walker’s pilot seemed confused by the move and its head swiveled left and right in an attempt to track all the scurrying tau vehicles. It finally fired at one of the skyrays but the shot was sloppy and wild, not even close to its target. The two skyrays started to move to either side of the ponderous walker, and it started to turn to follow one of them before the hammerhead fired, striking its side hard. The walker shuttered and one of the exhaust plumes fell off as the pilot altered direction to face the hammerhead. It fired its main gun, releasing a high pitch squeal followed by a booming bass rumble. The hammerhead pulled hard, almost completely avoiding the devastating weapon, only its Juntas engine was clipped, resulting in it trailing black smoke. The sky ray to the walker’s right, unleashed its entire payload, the seeker missiles punching through the armored skin of its belly. The detonating missiles shook the walker hard and more black smoke seeped out from the seams under the walker’s remaining armor plates. Again the giant orc mech turned it to face the latest aggressor. The force of the move reminded El’Sha’nan of an angry fiery beast attempting to seek vengeance against the gnats that had stung it. It fired its main gun again but the shot sailed wide, as the Skyray sped from its position. The tau command team jumped close to the mechanical giant for its part in the Tel’ka. El’Sha’nan aimed his fusion blaster at an opening in the belly, where he could see a leg joint comprised of mismatched pistons, stitched metal, and crude welds. Vre’Shais’ka launched more missile pods into the belly to widen the opening. El’Sha’nan fired, turning the joint bright white. Several of the larger pistons exploded away from the melting metal. The attack had not gone unnoticed and again the walker took the bait, moving to engage the tau battle suits at its feet. As it twisted, the second skyray fired its payload of seekers, stitching up its left side. Combined with the command team’s strike, the walker stumbled on the weakened joint. Its momentum however not been blunted but accelerated and its other foot came down farther and faster than they had anticipated. El’Sha’nan and Vre’Mua’da had jumped clear, but Vre’Shais’ka had not been as lucky. Whether through inexperience or panic, he had leaned too far back as he jumped away, causing his suit’s feet to become hooked on a heavy boulder, allowing the walker to catch it under foot. The suit’s legs were crushed and pinned under the walker’s bulk. Vre’Shais’ka began to scream in pain. Vre’Mua’da tried to calm him, telling Vre’Shais’ka that they were phantom pains but it was doubtful that his younger brother could hear anything over the pain and screams. The walker struggled, but was lifting its left arm in anticipation of finishing off the pinned suit with the loud spinning blade. El’Sha’nan and Vre’Mua’da fired desperately, the shots connecting but only causing superficial damage. A shot from the hammerhead struck it in the offending limb but nothing could distract it from its pinned victim. Another seeker missile struck it as the arm reached the apex, but still it stayed its course. The entire torso suddenly twisted as it began the deadly stroke. El’Sha’nan yelled out, his bowels twisted in a sickening knot, however the walker’s sudden shift had broken the arm joints loose and the broken limb crashed down, missing the beleaguered Vre’Shais’ka. The loss of the arm caused the ork walker to lose its balance, as the violent gesture had also further damaged its injured leg. It stabilized again, coming to rest on its torn armored skirt. Four more seeker missiles struck it, tearing more and more of the plating. Its maw opened and closed futilely, sounding off a chorus of mismatched horns and whistles that made it seem as though it were bellowing in pain. The Hammerhead fired a last time, striking the walker in the head. The round punched through before the head vanished in a shower of fire, smoke, and shrapnel. Rather than fall, the walker sagged, the belching smoke from its remaining exhaust began to lessen and the background hum of its power plants trailed off to nothing. Its raging fires became the only source of activity from the now lifeless pile of steel.

***
The technicians had indeed required additional time from the cave collapse and El’Sha’nan had taken advantage of the extra time. Under a strong screen, the command team had extracted the wounded and gathered the dead, though some were unrecognizable, so viciously hacked or burnt that they were nothing but destroyed bits of flesh and sinew. His breathing felt hard and a sickening feeling lurked in his stomach. Vre’Shais’ka, was physically uninjured, but was obviously still experiencing the ghost pains from his damaged suit. Still Vre’Shais’ka had wished to stay struggling to talk and walk. In the end, El’Sha’nan had to order his brother to leave with the orcas. Vre’Mua’da had wanted to go with them, but he had ordered her to remain for the final approach. His early hesitation was buried under the emotional weight of his dead. Another 11 members of his cadre were dead, six more were wounded, including Vre’Shais’ka.

Still, when the Fio’fann had transmitted the ready signal, some part of him felt soiled. Thoughts of his brother and fallen steeled him on. The teams, weary of greenskin ambush, moved up cautiously before dropping CVT-45 canisters at the designated cave entrance. As the cylindrical containers opened, a small semi-transparent grey stream hissed out of each of them. In the distance, the dead burning hulk of the ork heavy walker shuttered and partially collapsed inward, as if to submit to the Be’gel’s final defeat. El’Sha’nan acknowledged it, before ordering the cadre’s exfiltration. He looked up into the stars, focusing on the bright one he knew to be the Regulant Auspice, dotting lazily across the sky. It shined like a welcoming beacon.

“Let’s go home.”

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Lighthouse

Post#7 » Mar 16 2015 01:20

Chapter 6
The First Praetor woke to the steady rhythm of the medical monitors. His eyelids were slow to respond and heavy. He struggled to even open them before being blinded by light and his eyes instinctively shut again. It took him several moments before his sight adjusted to one of the bright white sterol medicae pod of the spire. He could still feel his feet and his hands and took that as a good sign that he might not be permanently damaged. He was covered by a thin blanket, but was otherwise naked. His torso was a mess of fresh scars and healed cuts. Several medical cables stuck out of his chest and he could feel the weight of more attached to his neck. He tried to rise but stiffness and pain forced him back down. He craned his neck and found that Lord Ven’tak was standing just outside his pod. Instinctively he tried to rise again, before his aches pulled him back down. This time he nearly shouted in pain, but managed to turn it into a grunt as he fell back against his bed.

“My lord, I apologize about not rising, I mean no disrespect,” said Hek’tor, through gritted teeth.

The older Gorm shook his head dismissively, “Hek’tor, you stand to much on ceremony. It is I who should apologize, for you should have rested another three or four cycles. I had need of your council and had the medics wake you.”

“Sir?”

The older Gorm gestured with his chin out past the room. The Medicae pods were located right below the docking ring on the spire. The designers had envisioned that the pods would be the first stop for quarantine and medical examinations. It was a good idea though there were not enough pods to serve the station and now other customs and inspections facilities were used at the base of the spire. The pods had an excellent view of the dock. At first all Hek’tor could see was the black void against the metallic ring, but something was wrong. He blinked, trying to clear his head, until he noticed that he could not see any stars. The darkness outlined a sleek blade like vessel that seemed to swallow the light.

“More surprise visitors?”

“No, our new guests were invited,” said the Gorm lord with a degree of disgust. “I knew that when the council took this contract that the Okeni worms had little honor, but this… this is unacceptable. I have sent word on of this to the council to see if they have breached our contract.”

“Word? But how? Our relay was…” started Hek’tor.

“Rebuilt by the tau technicians, they also needed it. I believe they tried to send a message of their own but were unsuccessful.”

“What of the orks? Are we at least secure from them?” asked the First Praetor managing to sit up, with only minor pain.

“I have patrols mopping up, but the tau toxin was…effective.”

Hek’tar snorted looked at his lord with serious eyes, “our losses?”

The lord stood straight and stern, but there were touches of sadness in his face.

“Any loss is tragedy, but all in all, it was not as bad as it could have been. We are less than two cohorts strong.”

Hek’tor felt as though he had been struck in the gut. Anguish and anger wrestled for control inside of the wounded gorm. Worse he knew that this would reflect poorly on Lord Ven’tak. There might even be an inquiry or command relief.

“I have failed you my lord,” said Hek’tor, his voice filled with shame.

The old lord just shrugged, “You acted as a Gorm war leader should. Your charge was necessary and I stand by it.”

“She saved my life,” Hek’tar remembered, almost whispering more to himself.

Memory of the melee came hazing into view. Combat had stormed around him. The mass of stinking green bodies raged at him and the cohorts. Hek’tar hacked and slashed, punched and kicked, tearing flesh and breaking bones, so furious that at times he had wipe the viscera and blood from his face to see. He had spun and met every foe he could see until one of the larger brutes had surprised and crashed into him. They wrestled on the floor, all while being stepped on and kicked as they struggled for supremacy. Though the gorm were strong, this ork was stronger, its massive arms aided further by crude power armor that gave it the edge over the praetor. Hek’tar kicked away, trying to rise, however another ork took advantage of Hek’tar’s distraction and stabbed at his side. Pain shot up his torso and he dispatched the greenskin with a quick punching jab. The act though had allowed the brute to close again. Hek'tar tried to dodge but its over-sized weapon grazed him, destroying his breastplate. The ruined armor fell away, but Hek’tar struggled to rise. The ork savage pressed its advantage and viciously kicked the Gorm to the ground. It raised its weapon to deal the deathblow but from seemingly nowhere jumped the tau commander. She screamed as her rotary cannons spun furiously at point blank range. The ork was pummeled with hundreds of rounds until only the smoking remnants of its giant hulk slumped lifelessly to the floor. Hek’tar rose shrugging off his wounds as he prepared to reengage but the tau commander shouted something as she jumped back. His translator was broken and only too late he realized that the bombardment had begun. His last memory was the intensely bright sphere approaching.

“Who? Do you mean the Tau commander?” asked Lord Ven’tak, breaking the flashback, doubt clear in his voice.

“Yes, I must thank her,” said Hek’tar.

“Hek’tar, they are gone. They left two cycles ago,” said Lord Ven’tak.

Hek’tar nodded in disappointment. He refocused on the dark ship again.

“Who is docked, and why were they invited?”

“They are eldar corsairs. Some of their kin have referred to them as the fallen or lost. They are hunting and Okeni have information on their quarry,” said the older Gorm, his tone thickening with disgust as he spoke.

Hek’tar’s mind worked, trying to piece together the news that his lord had conveyed. The Gorm commander was clearly angry and with the threat of the ork menace lifted, surely ships would return to the station. He suddenly recalled what had brought the tau here in the first place. They had been ambushed, and needed repairs. They had been sure they were not followed else their attackers would have been here sooner. Some of the tau crew must have come aboard and passed on information about the attack and their intended route. The Okeni had pieced together the information and discovered who the attackers had been. Now despite the Tau's help, the Okeni offered to sell the information to their enemies.

“How can they do this, the tau helped us, when they could have easily abandoned the station to its fate?”

Anger swelled, and Hek’tar smashed his fists into the bed. His body instinctively jerked from the sores and pain, but he snorted in futile rage.

“Your anger is shared,” I could only send the two messages before the Okeni shut down communications.

“We must take the signal room by force and warn them,” said Hek’tar this time succeeding in rising. The pain was barely tolerable and he moved slowly and stiffly. He began looking for a body suit

“Hek’tar, stop, listen, I could only send the two messages.”

Hek’tar was about to yell but stopped, and took in what Ven’tak had said.

“Why would you need to…,” the question died as the Praetor realized what he had done.

“They are still in danger, grave danger,” said Hek’tor studying the dark outline of the docked ship.

“Yes, but now they have a chance.”



Epilogue

Ring officer Kor’vre Nu’sau looked again at the message icon, blinking in half disbelief, half attempting to save face with the Fio’ui technician that she had been arguing with for most of the last dec. The message proved that the array was indeed operating and capable of receiving incoming messages and comms traffic. Both the station operator and the technician were staring at her. In the end she could not mount any kind of comeback and sighed before issuing a quiet apology to the Fio’ui. He nodded and walked on.

Vre’Nu’sau gritted her teeth at the lost pride, but turned her attention to the message, studying the source. It was from the foreign station they had only just left. She opened the message at once, unsure what to make of the words. She read it again trying to understand the words again. Perhaps the translator was corrupting the message, nevertheless she had to inform the Kor’El.

She approached the command dais at the center. El’U’ten had again extended the holo-table and was conversing with the Fire caste commanders. The conversation was obviously heated, though it looked as though El’Uten was trying to mediate.

“Sir, message received,” she said uncomfortably.

They all stopped, focusing on her, which added to her discomfort.

“From the Path Resurgent?”

She frowned with understanding, “no sir, it is from the Okeni station, but I can’t make sense of it. I think the translator may be damaged.”

She transferred the message to El’U’ten who in turn moved it to the holo-table. The four words floated and rotated slowly.

BETRAYAL, DANGER, APPROACHING, ELDAR

One of the fire caste cursed.

“I hoped we had escaped them, or would at least have more time,” said the other.

El’U’ten, seemed momentarily unconcerned with the message.

“Kor’vre, now that the array is repaired, how long until we can expect word from the fleet?”

Vre’Nu’sau looked slightly stung but adjusted, “about that Kor’El, according to the technician, it has been operational ever since its repair at the station. We should have already received word.”

The three ranking Tau exchanged worried looks, and even El’U’ten’s posture seemed more tense.

“We must now acknowledge that something must have happened to the fleet,” said the male commander.

“We don’t know that, there could be all manner of interference, or the Path resurgence could be suffering from tight beam transmitter damage,” responded the female commander.

“Yes, but there are a large number of capitol ships escorting, all of them would have to be suffering the same type of damage,” said the male commander.

El’U’ten turned back to face them, “that is a possibility. There are nebula and gas giants that have been known to cause issues with tight beam communications. There is also the possibility that our communications are being jammed.”

“Is that possible? They would have to be between us and the fleet, and know that we were transmitting. Our pursuers would have to know where we are and where the fleet is,” spoke the female commander.

“It is unlikely, but remains a possibility. I do find it more plausible then the entire fleet suffering transmitter damage. Besides the fleet would have continued to move. Someone should have received and sent a clear transmission by now,” said the male commander.

The female made an annoyed clicking sound at the perceived insult.

“There is another possibility, that the fleet was destroyed,” said U’ten quietly.

A pregnant pause followed. The words seemed impossible to Nu’sau, so much so that the word came unbidden to her mouth. Again she drew the attention of all three senior tau. She flushed with shock and then embarrassment.

“Kor’El’U’ten forgive me, I have overstepped my place,” she stammered.

The Kor’El turned. His face was passive and he raised his hand to stop her from further apology, “I too, hope that nothing is wrong with the fleet, but we must look to all possibilities if we are to decide the correct course of action. If we dive again, there is a chance we could lose our hunters again. “

Vre’Nu’sau started to nod in ready agreement before stopping with a pensive look.

El’Uten gestured her to join them at the table, “What is it Kor’vre?”

“You could be correct, Kor’El, of course, however, the eldar will have data from two of our dives now. From that they could determine our path. The only thing that would be difficult to determine is where along our trajectory we would emerge.”

“if it is the eldar, then they might have other means to determine that anyways,” spoke the female fire caste.

“then we should prepare as though a fight is inevitable,” said the male commander

“more importantly we must survive that fight. For the greater good, our mission is to determine what happened to our fleet or warn them,” said El’U’ten.

A queasy sensation rooted its self in Vre’Nu’sau’s stomach. The first attack had been brutal and they had only barely escaped. The two fire caste where again debating some detail, but they both seemed nervous perhaps even frightened. Her life organ fluttered, but then her eyes met her Kor’El. His were steady passive. He looked decidedly more determined then she had ever seen, and in that look she found calm. Whatever threat lay ahead she was glad that Kor’El’U’ten was with them.

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