Into Silence: Crossroads

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knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#1 » May 04 2015 11:08

Prologue

The El'taro was a custodian-class carrier, one of the largest tau constructed ships built on a standard basis. It was not the clumsy roaring monster that seemed to embody most Gue'la ships. The grossly sized ostentatious behemoths lacked any sophistication as their over-sized engines brutishly pushed them through space. The El'taro was the polar opposite. Not a oppressive ship, she was a stalwart shield that moved with a grace and elegance that sheathed her deadly intent, rather than promoting it. Kor'ui'Au'taal'Te'shim had always admired its clean curved lines even from the first time he was preparing to board. Au'taal had spared no expense in making sure she was equipped with the best armor and sensors, and highest performing parts and weapons, but also had also installed pearl inlays, padded fio'tek floors and sensory packages that filled the crew quarters with the subtle sounds and smells of Au'taal's beaches. The mess hall was well stocked and after visiting the galleries and social decks aboard the Path Resurgent, Ui'Te'shim was convinced that the El'taro's crew ate better.

He had served dutifully on board for more than 6 Tau'cyr and had recently been promoted to scan officer, second watch. He and his bondmate, La'Kau'da,had taken pride at the promotion and found a renewed vigor in performing their duties. Still, as the sixth rotaa of sensor sweeps was well underway, Ui'Te'shim found it hard to look at his empty monitor dec after dec. He had already calibrated the sensor suite five times, just to ensure it was working. There was nothing out here, this far away from the fleet and the waystation. During his shift, several hushed conversations sprung up from his console monitoring brothers and sisters, but he could rarely participate. The price of being scan officer required constant attention. Look away and miss a micro meteor or spinning piece of debris that would be come invisible as it spun. Neither were serious threats to a ship like the El'taro, but Ui'Te'shim did not want to be seen as deficient in his duties. A soft chime cut in, informing them that the shift was coming to an end. His eyes did not waver, but he was already imagining his evening meal and hot cup of Tisan with his bondmate. A second tone, sharp and loud, rang out from his console swinging his a full attention to his monitor. The whispers around him died as if the unbidden noise had given the order for silence. His screen projected a object or part of one at the very edge of his scan field. The El'taro's path was carrying it away, making it difficult for even the superior computers to discern its shape.

"Kor'El, Contact! It just appeared on my screen. The object is moving irregularly and spinning. I cannot get a fix as we moving away from it," said Ui'Te'shim, trying hard to rein in his sudden excitement.

The ranking bridge officer rose, moved toward him to take a look at his screen. The object was still spinning and had begun slipping from his screen.

"Wake the Kor'O, and helm come around, lets get a good look," said the Kor'el.

Slowly the object followed the edge of his screen before finally pulling inward, it seemed odd, almost triangular in shape as it drifted and spun slowly. His screen suddenly registered another, much smaller, object that shot out of the first, and sped away from both them. The smaller object was moving fast though still slow enough to be detected. Ui'Te'shim thought it unlikely to be a weapon until it suddenly exploded. He did not need scanners. From the bridge windows everyone could see the small star flash into existence as it expanded outward. The spinning object was struck and pushed forcefully away from the epicenter.

"Shields," cried the Kor'El, suddenly alarmed.

The Kor'El's concern was unwarranted though. Already Ui'Te'shim's sensor readouts were showing that it was plasmatic discharge and at their range, they would barely register on the shields. The weak wave of faint plasma washed over the bridge, harmlessly dissipating in an opposing wave of spectrum color.

"What did they fire? Damage reports." said the Kor'El in his full commanding voice.

Each station reported negative damage. The readouts reported that the makeup was a 92 % match for core material. Despite its mass, the shape had a small energy signal and its heat signature was dropping rapidly. There were significant life scans mostly centered near the center of the object indicating it had crew. Ui'Te'shim stared hard at the shape, his eyes widened as he realized what it was.

"Kor'El, I don't think that it was firing at us. I think it is a Emissary class."

The Kor'El looked back at the screen focusing on the spinning object, before his eyes too widened.

"Where is the Kor'O? I think we found the Regulant Auspice"
Last edited by knightofthewr on Mar 22 2016 10:21, edited 1 time in total.

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T113
Kroot'Ui
Kroot'Ui
Posts: 137

Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#2 » May 05 2015 05:19

Looks like the boys (and girls) of blue are coming home :biggrin:
The Future is uncertain. To stagnate is to die!

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#3 » May 21 2015 12:08

Chapter 1
El'Sha'nan woke from a fitful sleep in his unfamiliar quarters aboard the Path Resurgent. Despite the excellent climate control, thermal blankets crunched and wrestled away from him, falling to the floor. When the Regulant had ejected her core, he had been prepared for microgravity, but was surprised by the rapid decline in temperature. The emergency suits were designed for minimal energy usage and were barely keeping his body above hypothermic conditions. The bay which housed the entire crew with the exception of the few earth caste, had developed a sheen of thin frost within a few rai'kors. That had been before the emergency lights had died. Without power, the ship that had sheltered them and carried them through the stars was dead, drifting in space and frightfully cold. Moving in microgravity was dangerous, especially with the large numbers in the utter darkness of the bay. It was beyond discomfort and disorienting. To El'Sha'nan it had been decs floating blind in the dead ship. A blinding light shocked him as the bay's doors were pried opened. The rescue had been close to the two dec limit when the shuttles arrived. Kor'vessa poured from Orca bays and pulled the survivors back in some sort of synchronized shuffle. He was bathed in a slight warmth as the drone pulled him into a shuttle and a fio'fann propped him up into a seat. As they travelled to the Path Resurgent, he had moved to see the carrier that had rescued them as it towed the dormant Regulant behind it. He had been stiff and sore from the cold and microgravity and when they landed, he fell. it had been the same deck as from their first journey, but rather than the bright, bustling hub of activity, it was dimly lit and quiet. In contrast to the vastness, the rushing medical fio'fann and security details seemed muted. The oncoming security teams almost completely ignored them. It was the stasis pods that housed their nine living Var'sin'da prisoners that held their interest. He had tried to study the security teams. They bore similar armor to El'Ol'Savon's though it somehow it looked finer. Coordinating the teams, was a somewhat short female, who like him, bore dark metallic prosthetic arm. Her scalp lock peppered and neatly done into a tight "S" braid that bore several rich enamel rings. He could not be sure, weary as he was, but it seemed that her eyes shimmered with a golden hue in the dim bay. She more strode than walked, issuing commands smoothly and confidently. He was almost past her, when she paused and moved toward him.

“Ah, my friend I see we are almost ta'lissera you and I?” said the commander in an obvious Au'taalian accent.

She pointed a black chromium finger at El'Sha'nan's prosthetic hand. El'Sha'nan was taken back by her directness.

“I should call you my little brother then, no?” she said as she pulled a packet from a belt pouch and offered it to him.

It was rustic looking, almost out of place on her otherwise immaculate, refined armor. El'Sha'nan realized that it was a drinking vessel of a sort as she helped him sip from it.

“My wine ration little brother,” she said with a friendly smile.

The wine was sweet but heady and for a moment brought forth a warmth that removed some the memory of the cold dark bay. Fo'tanians were not known to be tongue tied but he was so startled by her sense of familiarity. Though weary, he sensed no mocking tone, as she used of the expression 'little brother'; as if her were indeed a younger crèche brother.

“I cannot imagine what all of you have endured…” she said as a pained look came over her face.

“Take care little brother get strong again!” she finished with a look of pride before returning to the removal of the Var''sin'da prisoner stasis capsules.

El'Sha'nan thought to ask where the prisoners were to be detained and questioned, but stumbled again and was lead away by two medical specialists, who assisted him all the way to his quarters.

He had found little rest however, and now rose, moving stiffly to the dermal sonic scrubber in his quarters. It would be his third time using the device since his arrival but in addition to the cold, the emergency suit had left him feeling unclean. The gantries moved over his body, finishing with scan and a chime indicating that his body was clear of microorganisms and dust. He was more awake but still felt sluggish as though he carried weights on his arm and legs. He had detached his replacement arm prior to sleeping and walked over to the tray where the cybernetic prosthetic rested. He suddenly thought of the commander in the bay. The air with which she walked spoke of confidence and experience, yet her personal touches were so out of place among the Fo'tannians, . Her odd scalp lock had shocked him but it was her prosthetic arm that was the most intriguing. It had been dark and maybe even tinted, in contrast to the plain fio'tek coated one he had been issued. He caught him self before prejudging the strange commander, almost ready to place her among those arrogant peacocks yet he realized that he knew nothing about her character or career. Had his Fo'tanian cadre not endured the same. With an ashamed frown, he shook the distraction and pulled a set fatigues on. Next he attached the prosthetic on through the nerve plug that attached to the machine hole in his torso. The sensation was not painless, but with a satisfying click, he smiled through gritted teeth. The arm began a start up cycle, flexing his robotic fingers and joints involuntarily. The plates that simulated his upper arm flexed. Through it all, his brain registered each sensation and movement. When he gained control, he fit a wrist com on his left hand and checked for messages. There were none, no summons, briefings, nor acknowledgments of their warning. When he had first arrived at his quarters, before he had slept, or used the dermal scrubber for even the first time, he had submitted a command priority message to Shas'EL'Tae'en, warning him of the Var'sin'da and the jamming of the Regulant Auspice. Frustration flooded his head. He had no time for the political maneuvering. Using the com, he requests a live com but only managed to reach the security commander's aide.

"Shas'El'....Fo'tan'Sha'nan, what do y...eh..how may I help you?," said the Shas'Vre.

His tone had transitioned from boredom, to acknowledgement of his sept, and finally his rank.

"I need to speak with your commander, I have urgent information," said El'Sha'nan

"Yes, the Shas'El received your message. They are discussing it now, El'Tae'en has been in session all morning with the other significant security commanders," said the Shas'Vre.

El'Sha'nan was uncertain if it was meant as a barb or not, but tried to focus on what he said.

"Other significant security commanders?"

"The sub-commanders for the Au'taal and Vash'ya contingents," said the Shas'vre, with emphasis on the last word.

The aide continued, returning to the bored monotone at the beginning of the communication, "if they require your...testimony, they will summon you, will that be all?"

"No it will not be all, Shas'Vre. When you are addressing a veteran member of the fire caste, you are to give them proper respect and maintain martial decorum, are you not?"

The Shas'Vre was in stunned silence.

With a little more force, El'Sha'nan asked, "Shas'vre?"

"Yes Shas'El, my apologies if my words were...,"

"I have earned my rank, Shas'Vre. As I am sure that you have earned yours. I have shed blood, lost and sacrificed friends, and killed in the name of the Greater Good. This warning is greater than any petty differences lie between our septs. Please remember that."

He cut the com line, and maintained his calm to ensure the line was disconnected before slamming his fists against the tray that served as a desk but began his calming techniques right after, honing in on the details he now knew. That there was need for a discussion was concerning. Surely they had believed in the threat. The Regulant's condition should have been all the evidence that foes were out here. It was beyond his control now. He sighed and instead focused on his next task.

El'Sha'nan typed in a request for an encrypted tight beam communication to Fo'tan Shas'ar'tol command. It had been less than a rai'kor when he received the authorization with a warning that there would be a delay of 9.2 rai'kors. He was accustomed to message delay, from his other stations in faraway war zones. Despite his anger at the situation, he found himself nervous as he began to submit his casualty report. Death was an inevitable part of war, even still, requesting replacements was a burden on the commander. They were the reminders of the warriors the El'Sha'nan had failed and he had been struck hard by the staggering costs to his cadre. His rising nervousness was mostly caused by the fact that he had never lost so many. He had secretly consoled himself that his brother and Vre'Mua'da were not on that report. He felt as though a hatch had shut as he submitted the replacement and refit request. He could already envision the old quartermaster enraged at his incompetence. It was more than double the 9.2 rai'kor delay time before he received a response. El'Sha'nan had checked the connection twice, wondering each time if the tightbeam had been received or was being jammed but after an agonizing wait, the aged dour faced quartermaster finally appeared in his wrist screen.

"Shas'El'Fo'tan'Sha'nan, your request for reinforcements is granted. Still the Fo'tan Shas'ar'tol are demanding a full action report to replace the standard summary. The casualties are just too high to understand at present. In addition, there are several amendments to your original request. Replacing the losses to your fire warrior teams is no issue, and I have a XV-8 team on deck already, but the tank and crew losses are more problematic. This is not the only...engagement we are involved in and Fo'tan has already submitted five full armored strike cadres to other engagement zones. In addition we have received pressure from other Shas'ar'tol stations and the Council of the Highest, to begin armor training for our kroot allies, meaning we need veteran crews to help train them. Still we have found a way to give you a hammerhead and crew. I have enclosed the full dossier and tactical lists for your replacements. Remember Shas'El, we consider this an important mission and will be monitoring your progress, Fo'tan serves, and for the Greater Good."

The old quartermaster had sounded bitter, but El'Sha'nan was uncertain if that had anything to due with the losses or just his standard demeanor. A full action report was a tedious task and reinforced his apprehension. It was the first step into an inquiry, a process that he had already experienced and disliked. Still left with no options and no assignments, he decided to at least start the report. It was going to be several long rotaa and in the end had decided it was good that he could not find sleep.

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#4 » Nov 05 2015 04:23

Chapter 2
Shas'vre'Shais'ka sat on several of the empty crates that overlooked his cadre's deployment area on the ready deck. He had spent the last dec awaiting the arrival of the replacements sent from Fo'tan. One of the annoyances of interstellar FTL was that timeframe was not accurate, as schedules for incoming ships were listed in ranges rather than precise timestamps. His growing appreciation and continued study of tactics made the lack of precision rankle even more. In fact many of the maneuvers he had studied required tight time tables. Feeling bored, he opened a the data log of the Aggressors of Kel'yi, letting in the distraction of the old martial philosophies. The more he read or reviewed, the more he wanted to know. He had even taken to enjoying the war simulations with his brother.

Thoughts of El'Sha'nan made him close the comm feed, with anxiety adding to the mix of boredom he had felt previously. He wished that one of the command team were here, however Vre'Mua'da had been leading the cadre in physical maintenance exercises, while El'Sha'nan was using the Path Resurgent's primary tightbeam transmitter for the last part of his inquiry. The inquiry was the largest part of his worry, though outwardly he was unusually calm, given the annoyance of justifying questions and the long range debriefs. Maybe this new interest in command was leveling his temper, or maybe it was that Vre'Shais'ka hoped that nothing would come of this latest political farce. Even with his budding understanding of wider tactics and strategy, he could not find much fault with his brother's decisions. Still, it would be another inquiry on El'Sha'nan's record in less than four Tau'cyr. That alone would make it difficult for his brother to pass the next trials.
Vre'Shais'ka took another look at his wrist pad, focusing on the chronometer, growling that only a few rai'kors had passed. He could not even access suit simulations as he needed to be attentive. Laying back hard, he moaned again, in a futile attempt to alleviate his growing frustration.

"Resting, brother?" said El'Sha'nan.

Vre'Shais'ka shot up and nearly jumped, becoming unbalanced as he fought to keep from falling off the crates. His sudden struggle greatly amused El'Sha'nan.
Vre'Shais'ka strained but finally managed to pull himself up.

"I am glad I can amuse you," he panted with cheeks flush, clearly embarrassed at being surprised.

He took several sobering moments, studying the nearly empty bay, scanning to make sure that Vre'Mua'da was not waiting to ambush him.

"So what did Shas'ar'tol decide? Are you to be reeducated? or sent to serve as permanent logistics officer on some obscure planet in the fringe?," he asked, while still surveying a group of crates that were close by.

He had been joking but as he looked at El'Sha'nan, he could see that it was not well received.

"There was a reprimand? Seriously? What was their reason?," said Vre'Shais'ka, straightening further with shock.

He could feel his anger churn and boil rising through his body. He had held the belief that other tau had looked down upon them, because they were from a backwater sept, but this was Fo'tan, metering out an unjust act, on his own blood brother. His fists tightened and he slammed them against the nearest crate. El'Sha'nan held his hands out in his usual gesture to try and calm Vre'Shais'ka.

"It is not that bad, I am still here and still commander of the cadre, but my application for Shas'o trials has been suspended for two more Tau'cyr.

"but that is..."

El'Sha'nan cut in with a shrug, "Rare but not unheard of...and think, brother, in four Tau'cyr...,"

He thought for a moment, realizing what that meant.

"Ah, the inquiries will be archived, ancient history," Vre'Shais'ka finished, calming as he thought it through.

El'Sha'nan nodded, giving a weak smile, "Now all we have to do is kept ourselves out of trouble."

"...and survive," Vre'Shais'ka smiled back darkly.

Their conversation was interrupted by the warning chimes echoing across the deck. The nearest bay door sheened in rapidly changing blues and violets as its pressure shield activated. Its locking clamps disengaged, and the giant doors began to part with a steady hum. The void beyond the doors was impossibly black against the dim light of the bay. Its low light, still enough to washout the possibility of stars. Only one small light appeared against the darkness. It began to grow, becoming the unmistakable glow of engine wash as the craft moved against the black canvas. Slowly Vre'Shais'ka could make out the broad details of a Manta Missile Cruiser. It took another rai'kor for the ship to reach the doors and glide smoothly through the ethereal sealing wall. Though barely audible from the interior, the whine of its landing gear and engines could have drowned out him and his brother. Several drones sped by, circling the craft as they inspected it for external contaminants. The fio'tek floor lit up, designating a rounded box for the manta to land. The large craft gracefully moved over its target before hovering and rotating so that it was facing the door it came in through. The ship touched down with a slow drop before the engine whine dropped to nothing. Moments passed before the pressure seals on the back of the transport hissed, its upper deck doors opening as its ramp descended to the floor. El'Sha'nan started to move, but Vre'Shais'ka held a hand out as he leapt off the crate.

"Wait", he said with a mischievous grin.

Shas'la began to descend the ramp, followed by a more disordered group of tall kroot that all wore seemingly grim expressions and had skin tones that reminded him of Fo'tan's forest green. Just as Vre'Shais'ka had hoped, when the first shas'la stepped off the ramp, he immediately paused, causing him to collide with his fellow shas'la in a chain reaction that resulted in entire group toppling like dominos. The kroot warriors were quicker to react and most moved aside, avoiding the collapsing line of fire warriors. Amid the curses and shouts of the confused warriors, both brothers laughed.

The Au'taalians had outfitted the mobile station with many lavish innovations, but some were too foreign to be accepted when first encountered. Still chuckling, he and El'Sha'nan walked across the floor undeterred, having become accustomed to the shifting fio'tek that was half marvel, half alien to the new Fo'taninans. The kroot jumped off the ramp, testing the floor for themselves and clicking, agitating their quills, and hooting to each other. One stepped forward, several scars lining its spotted face, its beak chipped and sporting a sophisticated prosthetic arm that grizzly transitioned to his chest. A tattered crimson cloth was draped over the kroot's other shoulder, marking it out as the auxiliary's leader. It bore several bone beads in its head quills, painted in bright reds, yellows, and blues. It shifted its long rifle to its natural arm before offering its artificial hand as greeting to El'Sha'nan and Vre'Shais'ka. His brother returned the gesture and all three fit translator pieces. The kroot leader began to click and holler.

"I am Shaper Si'tok, of Fo'tan, greetings Commander Swiftsword."

Vre'Shais'ka left his brother to talk with the kroot shaper as the upper ramp was cleared and retracted. The manta's lower deck opened, with the familiar hum of a hammerhead pouring out of the ship. It emerged from the deck, heralded by the servos of three crisis suits whining in a off beat cadence. The hammerhead, the suits, and fire warriors all bore the same multipurpose camouflage pattern that had been adopted by the cadre. The crew seemed to be driving the tank with practiced ease, but Vre'Shais'ka's apprehension grew as he could see the barrel of the rail gun had been wrapped in ragged linens. Strange totems and crude bone ornaments hung from parts of the tank. The skimmer kept level, but Vre'Shais'ka was unsure if some of the hammerhead's movement were not slightly overcompensated. He turned to face the fire warriors. The now composed shas'la had formed a rough line directly in front of him.

"I am Shas'Vre'Fo'tan'Shais'ka, and part of the command group for the 412th Armored Strike Cadre, your cadre now Shas'la. I bid you welcome," he said, with what he realized was a bit to much of the gruff.

Several of the shas'la were staring at him wide eyed, nervous apprehension clear on their face. Even several of the nearby kroot stopped their conversation, studying him for the reason of his perceived anger. Vre'Shais'ka decided to tone back.

"I trust that you all have your housing assignments and unit placements. See me if you have any questions," he said.

"Now before we get to our scheduling for the next few Rotaa, lets get to the really important question...where to get the best drinks here," he said with a smile.

Several of the shas'la chuckled, while others breathed out in relief.

***

There were indeed several issues that had to be resolved before all the shas'la and kroot were dismissed. Despite his unfounded mistrust of the kroot crew, the new hammerhead was decently moved and parked next to the cadre's other recently refitted vehicles. Vre'Shais'ka was mad with himself for thinking ill of the kroot crew and decided to meter his words and decisions carefully before acting to ensure that he was treating them with fairness. The rotaa was coming to an end and when the crew had assured him that they were ok, he left the bay, only pausing to watch the manta that had delivered the replacements, glide out away from the Path Resurgent. He navigated the huge station, moving down to the designated recreation deck, taking the shortest route, only to find his brother and Vre'Mua'da in the corner of their favorite cantina. The attraction between them was clear, though they were both too proper to act on it. He found it slightly annoying the way they overcompensated by shifted away from each other when he approached, each pretending to be nothing more than distant friends. He knew that he would have to push them to take the next step, but not this time. This time was about celebrating together. His brother's inquiry was complete, the cadre was whole again, there though there would be other battles, in this new rotaa there was peace and tranquility aboard the station. At least until all three of their wrist comms chimed repeatedly in unison.

knightofthewr
Shas'La
Shas'La
Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#5 » Nov 24 2015 06:20

Chapter3
El'Sha'nan had been fixing his dress uniform but paused as he realized how acclimated he had become to his artificial limb. The soft sound of the servos in the finger actuators contrasted against the backdrop of his calm breathing in his spartan quarters. The artificial fingers moved with as much if not more manual dexterity then he had ever known and he had even become accustomed to the delicate whine every time he flexed the prosthetic arm. He felt a strange detachment when he flexed remaining natural arm in relative silence. Weary of the time, he returned to quickly buttoning his dress coat. He tried to shake off the sensation with annoyance but could not. The summons to a high level debrief was making him more anxious than the inquiry. Yet it was he that had been pushing hard to gain information; harassing Shas'El'Tae'en's aides, the Au'taal sub-command, the Vash'ya Fire caste delegation; anyone that could provide him with more details. Up until now he had been politely but firmly ignored. It had been almost 40 rotaa since their return and as far as El'Sha'nan could tell, nothing had changed about the station's security level. He watched as fire warrirors and cadres practiced, drank, and went about their daily tasks as though there was no eminent danger. The inquiry had been a distraction, but now he could focus, observe it in the other cadres as they trained together. So many young shas'fann, naive of the danger they were in.

Still it had been almost 40 ro'taa, and not even a so much as an errant scan had revealed itself to the fleet. If the enemy was out there, why had they not made so much as a light probe? Many would ask if any enemy could be so well hidden from the fleet's powerful scanners? El'Sha'nan knew that his thoughts would seem like paranoia and that his actions and orders already reflected that. He was working his cadre hard. Rifle and confined quarters drills were now standard parts of the rotaa long training regime. He had staged drills to improve his teams' response time to the closest arms lockers. Recreation time was kept to the absolute minimum, but still despite his concerns, most of the cadre spent their waking hours not on duty, on the recreation decks. Pressured by his brother and Vre'Mua'da, El'Sha'nan attended, but to his brother's chagrin, he had refused anything other than mild teas or light meals.

His wrist comm chimed from under his left sleeve, reminding him that it was time to leave. He brushed away some of the creases in his dress uniform, being mindful of his wrist comm, the plugs of his body suit, and the sharper edges of his prosthetic. Outside his room, shas'fann leaned against walls and rails, having hushed conversations, courteous of those resting from their duties. His journey to the deck lift was a mix of obvious cold shoulders, warm salutes, nods, and obliviousness. He wondered if his two Shas'vre were already outside the briefing room or if he should wait, but a message chimed on his wrist comm, with the word "hurry", He activated the lift without further delay. He came to the same deck where the He'pha'n briefing took place and as he passed the vacant dark empty briefing room a strange nostalgic feeling washed over him.

Several groups of uniformed shas'fann were outside the appointed room, having hushed conversations. El'Sha'nan looked for his brother or Vre'Mua'da, finding neither among them. As he moved to the room's entryway, the low conversations around him fell off and he could feel their eyes on him. Many kept their faces neutral but the silence made the tension clear. El'Sha'nan chose to ignore them. The chamber was large and well lit. Several rows of seats were arrayed at the rear, farthest from the opening. Almost half were occupied, a mix of fire caste and water caste. On the opposing side, closer to the room's entrance, were seven empty high back chairs that were placed on a platform arrayed in an loose arc. Between the two groups of seats was a fiotek bench that that could be recessed into the floor and what El'Sha'nan assumed was a podium. This was far from the usual prompt short debriefs El'Sha'nan was used to, and had the unpleasant and familiar air more akin to that of an inquiry. Vre'Mua'da, Vre'Shais'ka, and to his surprise, El'Ol'Savon were seated on the bench. All of them were wearing dress uniforms and staring at the platform. His younger brother was studying the seven seats and wore a smoldering expression while Vre'Mua'da, concern etched on her face, kept turning, looking around. He wondered why they were not speaking to each other. El'Sha'nan frowned, resolving himself to meet this "briefing" head on, but as he moved forward, a small Por'la, wearing a similar uniform to his, barred his way. She was young, and her eyes were fixed on her wrist comm.

"You are Shas'El'Fo'tan'Sha'nan, yes? Of course you are, you have all the noble bearing of a commander returned from victorious battle. We are honored that you have attended the briefing. Please your seat is at the bench, closest to the podium. We politely ask, that in the interest of factual information gathering, you refrain from speaking until the beginning of the session."

She spoke so fast that it took a moment to process. The courteous words were practiced and not without some warmth but felt like empty platitudes as the young por'la posture was obviously bored and she never made eye contact.

"Session?"

"Yes. The commanders had agreed that more than one session will be required to determine our next course of action. In fact we have already had one earlier in the rotaa," she said, her eyes finally meeting his.

El'Sha'nan looked past her, realizing that no air caste were present.

"Where is Kor'El'U'ten? He should be here, as his testimony is important," he said, still scanning the room to see if he had missed the tall lithe form of the Regulant's ship master.

The por'la's focus returned to her wrist comm.

"hmmm....I do not see a Kor...ah you are referring to Kor'El'Tash'var'U'ten. He testified in the session prior and will not be required here. Can I show you to your seat?"

She looked up again, bearing a cheery expression, but again, El'Sha'nan could feel her insincerity as though the expression had been practiced enough times to become a convincing lie.

"No, I understood your instructions. Thank you Por'la."

She bowed and moved aside.

He moved to the bench and shared a look with his brother, and then Vre'Mua'da as he passed. Vre'Shais'ka was still a silent fuming storm, and Vre'Mua'da was indeed nervious. He tried to pass off calm, but was not sure if he had convinced even himself. He turned to El'Ol'Savon, but she refused to even look at him. As he sat down he tried to look straight ahead as well though the temptation to speak was more taxing than he thought. The thrum of conversations all around him made him feel the weight of the restriction. It was a few more agonizing moments before the singular tone told the assembly that the meeting was about to begin and shas'fann and water caste filed in to the seats behind him. The sorted conversations continued however till one of the fire caste stepped on to the platform. His face bore several light scars and he carried the poise of a stern veteran shas'fann as did his attendant fire warrior, both in white fio'tek combat armor. They both wore light purple in their scalp locks marking them as Vash'ya representatives. Another entourage followed, making El'Sha'nan repress a gasp. It was the commander that had greeted him when they had been brought on board. Her scalp lock was oddly patterned, or styled, he realized, with several of the strands stark white in contrast with her dark hair. Her \prosthetic arm was indeed a dark hue close to true black and contrasted against her immaculate cream armor. The flecks of green clearly marked her as the Au'taalian contingent commander. It was embellished to a degree that would have embarrassed El'Sha'nan but she seemed not troubled at all. She had a slightly bemused smile and made eye contact with him. Despite his best efforts, El'Sha'nan felt abashed, and turned his head. Her artificial eyes were dark pools of midnight but flashed blue as she and her attendant took their seats on the left of the platform. She still bore the smile and El'Sha'nan hardened his gaze in anger. This was evidently a serious matter yet she carried a look that made him think she was thinking on some inside joke. It was almost another rai'kor before El'Tae'en walked in, his two aides in tow. The senior security commander wore a stern gaze, and El'Sha'nan could feel his stare fall on him. He looked at the security commander, unsure if he was being measured or if the commander was just upset. During their earlier encounter, El'Sha'nan had failed to realize that both of El'Tae'en's eyes were augmented replacements and that a large section of his head was encased in burnt yellow fio'tek. The senior fire caste commander surveyed the room before he took the central seat. El'Tae'en activated something on his wrist comm before closing his eyes in a moment of silence, bowing his head. The room followed his lead. It was only after a long pause that El'Tae'en broke the silence and continued.

“I would like to welcome all present to this debrief session of the He’pha’n rescue mission. As stated in previous sessions, it is important to understand this is not an inquiry or a trial, but a true debrief. We, the senior-most commanders of the largest bodies of fire caste present, have reviewed many rotaa of logs, battle recordings, and are now proceeding with live testimony, which we plan to use in the security recommendation regarding the fleet’s next destination and route to the Zone of Silence.”

El’Tae’en paused, letting the room absorb his words. He in turn nodded in respect to the Vash’ya representative and the female commander and they did likewise.

“I mention this now because while this is not a trial, several issues demand further explanation and review, for while this mission is considered a success, it only succeeded in the rescue of a small fraction of colonists and sustained heavy losses in doing so. We must understand better, so that we can better protect the empire against its enemies.”

Again the senior commander paused, before his gaze fixed on El’Sha’nan.

“We shall begin with the actual initial mission. Shas’El’Sha’nan, the death of Shas’El’Aloh’ka is a regrettable loss, as he had shown so much promise and only risen recently to the rank. Being made mission commander was based on his service record and recommendations from several of his former commanders. We have learned that from recordings and datalogs, that you and mission commander had some form of disagreement concerning the deployment and distribution of the cadres. We eventually agreed that you ultimately obeyed the mission commander, but please elaborate on the nature of the dispute?”

***

The session had dragged on for several decs now. All four of the shas’fann on the bench had been subjected to questions. Vre’Mua’da had gained composure the more she was subjected to questions while Vre’Shais’ka held his anger in check through short grunting answers and scowling facial expressions. The senior most commanders asked for accounts concerning the entire journey, seemingly picking apart El’Sha’nan’s decisions, recommendations, and orders. Late in the second dec, El’Tae’en had pushed hard on El’Sha’nan’s decision to stay and combat orks at the alien station. The Fo’tan commander had defended his position, but wondered if the security commander was right, reflecting that in the end, the devious okeni had betrayed them, costing more lives then in just the battle.

El’Ol’Savon was thankfully close to completing her account of the internal defense of the Regulant Auspice. El’Sha’nan was sore from sitting on the bench and his head had started a slow dull ache. He wished that he had indulged in a larger meal earlier as hunger was also beginning to creep into his stomach. As El’Ol’Savon finished her report and again took her place, still refusing to look at any of the Fo’tan command team, the commanders on the platform began whispering amongst themselves. The conversation suddenly broke with El’Tae’en sweeping his hands in swift angry arcs.

“That will conclude the testimony portion of this session. I would like to state that I have not agreed with many of the decisions made by both the assigned mission commander and the acting one and as such, I believe that those poor decisions have resulted in the heavy casualties suffered by your cadres, the loss of Shas’El’Aloh’ka, and the dissolving of his cadre.”

The Au’taalian commander clicked in annoyance while both Vash’ya fire warriors stiffened but made no other expressions.

“If it had not already performed, I would have demanded an inquiry, though I doubt the results would have had the same outcome, nevertheless I digress. We would like to hear the status of Shas’El’Ol’Savon’s Cadre and then her recommendation regarding the potential threat we could be facing, if any.”

“As well as the status of the Fo’tan’s Cadre and their commander’s assessment of the threat,” said the Au’taalian commander, the sly smile returning to her face, though the gesture never reached her eyes.

El’Tae’en had been about to speak when, the stern looking Vash’ya commander spoke up as well.

“as would I.”

El’Tae’en’s head whipped around in frustration, but acquiesced, waving his arms in futility as he said, “and then the Fo’tan’s cadre commander will give us the status of his cadre and …assessment.”

El’Ol’Savon returned to the podium, nodding to each of the three commanders in turn as she had earlier.

“Senior security commanders, my cadre stands ready to serve. We are at 98% combat readiness and our performance scores are approaching our previous numbers prior to the He’pha’n mission. As you may know, I have been conducting a series of drills, some in concert with El’Sha’nan’s cadre, in boarding and counter boarding exercises as requested and recommended by my former instructors and commanders.”

She paused, taking a breath before continuing.

“I have also assembled a team who have been conducting a study, coordinating the efforts of dozens of our patrols, compiling their sensor data to see if any credible threat remains of the enemy, the Var’Sin’da, that we encountered in route back to the Path Resurgent. My team included several the hololith, earth caste, and kor’vesa. The ships we had encountered, had possessed a highly sophisticated stealth technology, but it was not completely able to defeat our detection or sensors. The team focused on those weak signals to see if any match could be found. As of this rotaa, our study has been unable to locate any sign, errant or otherwise, of their ships. It is my conclusion that the fleet that attacked the Regulant Auspice were responsible for the blocked the transmission in an effort to prevent us from calling for aid. They may have been aware of the fleet’s position prior to the last jump, but I believe they were deterred from action given the size of the Regulant’s escort fleet as their best opportunity to attack us would have come during the rescue of the Selim. This also corresponds with our knowledge of the Var’sin’da. They are a fractious race of small loose tribes and it is very possible that this tribe attacked the Regulant Auspice in retaliation for the losses they suffered on He’pha’n. Most of these tribes would not be able to match a fleet as large as ours and given that the race has engaged in infighting, their disunion would make it doubtful that that several tribes have banded together, though not impossible. There is also the matter that our fleet has made another jump, given the difference in technology, with regards to our enemy and even the Path Resurgent itself, it would be difficult for them to know our next position if any of this “tribe” are still alive. I believe that the threat is nonexistent.”

El’Sha’nan felt woefully unprepared. Her argument had been excellent and that she had been researching the enemy was more than he had done. He had been drilling the cadre hard, but had not mentally prepared for them, had not learned anything about their goals or previous tactics.

Still there were things he knew, as he had been following the prisoner interrogations and aside from a few abnormalities, one fact remained, all the prisoners had maintained that they knew nothing about the fleet, their mission, nor most importantly the missing ethereal.

He stood the moment El’Ol’Savon sat down and made his way to the podium.

“Senior commanders, my cadre is 94% battle readiness, as in addition to our reinforcements, several of my veterans are more than halfway through XV-8 pilot certifications. I have been conducting heavy training in conjunction with several cadre commanders, primarily in counter boarding operations and weapon preparedness drills.”

El’Tae’en gestured for him to stop, “and why is that commander? Your cadre specializes in mechanized armored deployment, namely vehicular and rapid response? Ship security is out of your specialty?

“Unlike my sister commander, I am unconvinced that the threat has passed. There is still the case of the missing Ethereal, we know that his shuttle went down on He’pha’n.”

“We know that a shuttle went down on He’pha’n. We have no confirmation that it was the Ethereal’s shuttle. There were no further investigation other than your initial incomplete survey,” said the Vash’ya commander.

El’Sha’nan regretted not having investigated further, but they had been called back by El’Aloh’ka. Later he had been recovering from injury and most of the fire caste were absorbed in the efforts to evacuate the colony and they had been forced from the planet by the Var’sin’da before even completing that.

“The fact remains that the ethereal, one with knowledge of this mission, is unaccounted for. The council of highest cannot disclose his route, for security reasons, but refuse to confirm his current location. In addition, none of the prisoners we captured, knew of the fleet or had any knowledge of the missing Ethereal. It is possible that the Regulant Auspice attackers are from a rival tribe.”

“The datalog and your own accounts show that most of the enemy were poorly trained, perhaps they use similar tactics to the Be’gel and used fodder troops for assaults and boarding operations. It may be that the prisoners were not privy to this information. As difficult as this may be, are you certain that the Ethereal did not…perish… in the crash or worse, in your mission’s engagements with these Var’sin’da?” asked El’Tae’en.

“We had been recalled before I could conduct a thorough search, but my initial assessment is that the orca was forced to touch down more than destroyed in flight. I believe they wanted live prisoners. If this particular group had captured the ethereal, why would they not have used him as a hostage during our battle? I think the answer still lies on He’pha’n. Perhaps we should return in force and survey the crash site.”

“Out of the question, we are too deep to turn back now, the delay would definitely jeopardize our security.”

“What of the other orcas and escort? Was there any sign of them? If they escaped they would have reported the loss of the ethereal,” said the Au’taalian commander.

“and the Council of the highest would have been alerted as well and would most likely alerted all commands,” said the Vash’ya commander

El’Sha’nan had not thought of that. The ethereal must have checked in at some point afterwards otherwise the entire empire would be alerted to his absence.

“Perhaps they are coercing the Ethereal into betraying us,” said El’Sha’nan. The words slipping out almost through impulse. He regretted it the moment he had said them. He knew that the argument reeked of paranoia and desperation.

The room was washed in gasps of shock. The entire senior staff sitting on the platform stiffened. El’Tae’en stood, raising his hands in a call for quiet.

“That is a serious accusation you level at the honored Aun, Shas’El. Take care with your words,” El’Tae’en said, leveling a scowl of disapproval at El’Sha’nan.

“My apologies to all present, I spoke without thinking. I know that the honored Ethereals would always act in the interest of the Greater Good,” he said abashed.

“I must ask if you believe that your judgment is not clouded Shas’El’Sha’nan. Do you not think that you are making more of the situation, out of some personal need for glory or to be heard? Might it not be arrogance in thinking that only you have perceived some threat, when most evidence indicates otherwise and other wise and experienced commanders think otherwise? You have been through an ordeal, perhaps one you were not well prepared for. It could be that in coping with the shock, you are not rationalizing the facts correctly? That this thin theory creates unnecessary panic and fear where we need unity and faith of purpose?” said El’Tae’en.

El’Sha’nan choler rose, but he pushed it down to ask himself the same questions. Was this selfish ambition, a cry for attention?

“No,” he heard the ghostly memory of his mentor’s voice inside his head. Something was off, wrong about the attacks on the colony, though he could not see it with clarity, not yet anyways.

“No,” El’Sha’nan said, echoing the ghost inside his thoughts. He continued, “My only concern is for the well-being of this mission and her success. There are many questions that I cannot answer, but something is not right and I urge that we tread cautiously, ready for anything.”

El’Tae’en stared hard at El’Sha’nan, but the Au’taalian commander spoke up.

“Shas’El’Tae’en, perhaps our kor’fann brothers and sisters have time to conduct a large range sweep. That would be likely to catch any hidden watchers and only cost the fleet a few additional rotaa.”

The chief security commander turned and looked at her, and then to the Vash’ya commander, who also lightly nodded.

El’Tae’en’s jaw clenched, but also shut his eyes, before nodding repeatedly as though he were concentrating.

The security commander sat back down.

“Given the testimony and the recommendations given by the assembled commanders, I will recommend that despite the costly delay, our Kor’vattra escort perform a detailed sweep of the area, though the ultimate decision will lie with Kor’O’Yama’nan. I thank the commanders that gave testimony today. This session is adjourned.”

El’Tae’en had starred out among the assembly as he spoke, only refusing to look at El’Sha’nan, but his words were metered and cool, leaving El’Sha’nan unsure of his standing with the security commander.
Others began to file out, only parting for the senior commanders as they departed. First to leave the security commander and his attending Shas’vre. The Vash’ya commander followed shortly after. Lastly the commander from Au’taal stood, staring at El’Sha’nan again with that knowing smile before passing through the chamber’s opening. On their heels, El’Ol’Savon left without a single word.
El’Sha’nan tried to talk to his brother, but Vre’Shais’ka raised his hand, “no brother, I need to calm my mind first. Today’s “briefing” has upset me, I do not wish to talk now.”
His brother walked away. El’Sha’nan turned to Vre’Mua’da, but she too stood and left with an annoyed snort. El’Sha’nan knew that expression, though he could not understand why Vre’Mua’da was upset. He thought to stop and ask her, but already the crowd migrating to the exit, separated them, keeping him from catching up to her. It had been a strange rotaa, he decided as he sat back down, waiting for the throng of tau’fann to thin. He decided to meditate, to calm his thoughts. This debrief or trial or whatever this had been at least shown his missteps and in the end, the fire caste would at least take precautions, he had convinced them of that. Against the growing tide of casual conversation, he sighed in relaxation, feeling as though a weight had been lifted and he could finally truly be safe.

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Calmsword
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Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#6 » Nov 25 2015 04:42

Excellent stuff.

I actually reread the entire story and something that I didn't mention before was how much I like your specificity with Tau culture. Bringing up Ui'Te'shim's bondmate for example or the aspect of resource rationing has the subtly that makes me adopt the Tau perspective.

Against the growing tide of casual conversation, he sighed in relaxation, feeling as though a weight had been lifted and he could finally truly be safe.


Truly safe huh? NOT LIKELY :biggrin:
~Good Hunting

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TauMan
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Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#7 » Nov 25 2015 05:10

T'ahh very nicely done with the 'Au’taal commander' mon ami. :) Good read!

T113 and I were thinking we were the only ones left posting Into Silence stories, now I can't keep up! Glad to see both you and Calmsword are posting.

The TauMan Abides
Viro’los gu brath!
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knightofthewr
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Posts: 104

Re: Into Silence: Crossroads

Post#8 » Nov 27 2015 11:28

Thank you both for the awesome words of encouragement I am honored again to be a part of this great project with so many talented and unique perspectives

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