Alone in Enemy Territory
This Article was written by:
Night wall falling over the city of Helm's Glory, which is quite different from a traditional sunset. The increased layers of carbon dioxide, citrus florixide and different ozone layer cause the intense ultraviolet radiation of the nearby star, Helm, to cause a brilliant cascade of what at first glance appears to be solid blue, but through an infrared projection it is like washing millions of kilometer long ripples.
This bizarre sunset offered no relaxation to my adrenaline-pumped body. I was supposed to rendezvous with my scout patrol seventeen Tau minutes ago in the drainage pipe I was standing in, which was built into the bluff where the city's boarder was located. This view, however, did please me, as I knew that, no matter what, in a few thousand years the acid-rain assisted erosion would topple the city. The humans had doomed themselves.
I heard a splash behind me. I immediately dropped to a prone position, which almost submerged my head into the excrements of millions, and I brought my pulse rifle to bear. I had been forced to pick it off the body of a Tau Fire Warrior, whose body was too wrecked by grenade fragments to identify. I still had the video footage in my suit's databank. If it reached a Tau network, the knowledge of my efforts would be remembered.
The splash turned out to be formed from about a metric ton of human excrement and urine. The sewage system of this colony was primitive at best. They simply ejected all garbage off the bluff, where it came crashing into the Valley of the Helm, over thirteen thousand meters below.
Checking my chronometer, I realized that my squad should have arrived twenty-six minutes ago. They weren't coming. Something told me that. Either they were dead, engaged, captured, wounded, thought I was dead.any number of things can happen in a battle, so I figure it best not to ponder and to focus on surviving.
I needed to escape back to the Tau military outpost of Alpha-4, which was thirteen kilometers away. The bluff escape was completely impossible. I'd watched a team of Pathfinders plummet to their deaths whilst under fire from Imperial Guardsmen when trying to scale the cliff from Advanced Base Camp Bravo. Plus my rappelling cable didn't stretch thirteen kilometers. I turned around and started heading back through the sewers for an exit not covered under tons of wreckage.
Human sewers quickly increased my hatred of the disgusting species. Instead of filtering, reusing or at least selecting unused particles, they simply dumped it all away, wasting everything. It was a symbol of power, I figured. Tau couldn't act this way because we didn't have the resources to ship in the massive terraforming machines to millions of worlds, wasting away systems of resources. Useless. I had deactivated the olfactory sensor in my helmet hours ago. I had vomited inside my helmet, creating an awful mess, and spent the next eight minutes cleaning everything out with a water-filtering canteen.
About an hour into my mission through the waste-high sewage in a several-kilometer long pipe, a dead corpse of a Kroot came floating, face down. Stopping, I grabbed a hold of the body and examined it. The light green hide had multiple plasma burns in the chest and back, and the skull was cracked from some sort of blunt object. I did not spot the Kroot's weapons or other gear. Moments later, to my horror, I say dozens of other Kroot bodies flowing through the unlit tunnel. If my infrared vision hadn't spotted the bodies earlier, I probably would have spewed again when I pumped into the bodies.
Not that I held any liking for the Kroot. Omnivorous, cannibalistic, barbaric - these are all adjectives I would use to describe the Kroot. They are effective fighters, true, but they have absolutely not civility. They eat the flesh of the dead, and they crudely apply biotechnology to their bodies in hopes of enhancing their combat abilities.
The real threat was that these Kroot had been killed by plasma burns from an Imperial Plasma Rifle, such as the sorts issued to Guardsmen of the Imperial Guard. No surprise there. This was an Imperial settlement, and I'd already killed my share of those unrefined morons, though there were untold billions of them.
A male voice spoke perfectly in my helmet, though I knew by accent and voice pattern that it was that of a young male human, thoroughly exhausted and slightly agitated. It was coming from about ten meters dead ahead of me. Human night vision was an odd thing. Sometimes it worked, but more often than not it didn't. In any event, I literally dived (quietly) into the water, using the compressed oxygen tank on my back to keep me breathing and the infrared vision in my helmet to pick out stuff.
The combat-alert feature in my visor detected a pair of human legs dropping into the water twenty-two meters away, making a load splash. I guessed he had dropped from one of the ladders connecting to the sewage pipes on the ground. The legs moved towards me just a bit, and then were joined by a second pair, this one wearing only a pair of shorts.
Carefully, I poked the tip of my rifle through the surface of the slightly rushing water, hoping that the darkness to enough to keep the filthy rifle hidden from view. In my peripheral vision, I watched the targeting footage. Three humans were present now, all armed Guardsmen with primitive flashlights strapped onto their rifles with a military tape. One was wearing a thoroughly dented helmet, and the others had visible buzz cuts. For this climate and degree of discipline, they were common soldiers.
Lowering the rifle, I slowly crawled, prone now, towards them, fighting a small current towards the legs. Now there were four pairs. When I was within eight meters my audio sensors could make out conversation, if not a bit static.
"-amn xeno. Killed my bro' and best mate three days ago. I slaughtered those retarded reptiles though. Horrible little slime balls they are."
"Smart ones, though. My platoon was wiped out, and we were a damn Sentinel squad. Last time I step into an armored buggy will be for the cruiser back to Olympus."
"Oi! Shut up you lot! Those snipes aren't fond of waiting you know. Thefted a carton of rations one did. Earned himself a free bolt pistol to the head for that."
Imperial Marksman, informally known as snipers, were one of the few ranged-combat threats to the Tau. The high-powered rifles could shatter a Fire Warrior chest plate, and the snipers were some of the few patient and disciplined ones, if not confused. I had no intention of letting any of the xenophobes live.
The great thing about an aquatic mission is the amount of custom equipment. My electromagnetic pulse grenades were modified with a mode to make the EMP not penetrate water, which, in this case, was extremely useful. I primed one, through up in the air, and, following a bright blue flash, followed it.
There were four guardsman, all temporarily blinded, in front of me. My rifle nabbed two of them in the throat before they had time to respond. One was raising a rifle when two shots nailed him - one in the groin and one in the skull. The forth actually managed to pull his trigger, though the EMP had short circuited the power source, making most weapons useless. Three bolts got him dead in the chest.
The grenade fell back in the water.
I picked the dandy thing back up. The great thing was that these were rechargeable. In a few minutes I'd be able to pull the same trick if I felt like it. Looking up, however, I realized I had different problems.
On a ladder directly above my head, a marksman was staring dumbfounded down at me. Before I had time to shoot, he let out a cry, dropped of the ladder and landed on my shoulders.
If it weren't for the pressure-plating in the armor, I would have been unconscious or dead. Luckily, I wasn't, though I had dropped my rifle, and my melee skills weren't top notch. Actually, they downright sucked. Scrambling to my feet, I was about to reach into the water to where my electromagnetic vision had detected the rifle, when the sniper tackled me into the water. Oddly, this was a full human sniper, instead of the confusing alien/mutant species that made the majority of the class.
Remembering my basic martial training, I grabbed his submerged shoulders which were parallel to mine, then flipped him over. He had a sniper rifle strapped across his back, though no backpack. There must be more reinforcements. I ripped the rifle off his back, and he rose to the surface for air. I still had 1.45 minutes of air left. Aiming the rifle, I fired an underwater shot into his groin. He collapsed, blood spewing in the water like an odd vapor. I saw the man's face, contorted with pain, but also sadness. Firing the trigger, I shattered that face into a million pieces of flesh.
Resurfacing, another Guardsman had dropped down behind me. How many were in a damn platoon? Fifteen, I guessed, but in a battle I could always be wrong. Squeezing a shot into the man's chest, I realized I had to abandon the rifle and move on. Already I heard voices above issuing commands, and it sounded like many people were moving. I primed a plasma grenade and tossed it up the shaft. The explosion should keep them for a while.
Running at full speed, I checked the ammunition cartridge that even more primitive projectile weapons used. Six two-centimeter bullets. Great. I'd forgotten to grab the ammo pack all snipers carried. No time to go back now. Rounding a corner, I found a small metal door with a red light, symbolizing emergency, above it. I deduced that this meant the Humans still retained electrical power.
Bashing through the door, I found myself running down a flight of metallic stairs at full speed. I couldn't here anything other than the sound of my own heavy breathing. I realized that I was heading further into the belly of the beast - but I had no time to worry. Sixteen stories below the stairwell came to an end. The floor lead me to a massive hydro-electric turbine. Of course. Helm's Glory was an Imperial leader in hydro electrical energy. Tapping the Glorious Waterfall two kilometers away from the city, the water came flowing through multiple turbines and produced an amazing amount of energy.
The turbine room was dark. Very dark. A few pale glow sticks had been taped to the walls, and some dim emergency red lights were hanging above distant doors. All I could here was the sloshing of millions of liters of water. This water was contaminated, and would eventually be shot off the bluff through one of the lower pipes, such as the one I had previously stood on, though these were much larger.
Listening, I didn't here any voices. No gunfire, no yelling, no barking of commands. Without immediate threat, my duties as a Tau came into affect. My equipment was limited to a human sniper rifle, some EMP and plasma grenades, a rappelling cord and some miscellaneous items such as ration packs and useless ammunition cases. I pulled out one of the ration packs, quickly undid my helmet, and devoured the tasteless, texture less and fiber-free cube of white. The calories spurred my body into action.
My suit had some of the technical specification for the city, which, as I was pleased to find out, included the data plans for the hydro plant, which had been stolen from an XV-15 team some weeks back. A brief overview of subjects such as CRITICAL POINT, PRESSURE POINT and FAILSAFE gave me a pretty good idea of where I needed to be.
An exhaust pipe, only a dozen or so centimeters in diameter, channeled all of the heat produced by the infernal machine out to a steam mill several kilometers away. It was a bizarre concept, but the humans wanted to make best use of all possible resources. Also, the exhaust, if released this close to the bluff, would kill all the local kiy'na birds, which were a favorite local delicacy. Disgusting little disease-ridden mammals.
After crossing a shaky metal bridge, climbed two wooden ladders and took a story-jump as a shortcut, I found the pipe. Amazingly small thing. I could feel the air pressure around me, though my suit filtered all the heat out. The external reading showed it was over 600 standard heat units, which would cause vapor to form on most glass objects, such as a sniper scope. The rusted metal pipe, however, was essential for the fume plant outside the city to function. Also, those little birds would finally die. One of them had decided to peck at my fingers while I was resting two days ago, and I had to spend several minutes disinfecting the wound. Last time I try to be empathetic.
Tossing my last plasma grenade into the shaft, I saw it fly several meters before exploding. I'd set it to a low burst radius, but the damage would still take a long time to fix. My next objective was the hydro turbine itself. I was just going to head over to the turbine shaft when something caught my attention.
A single shell, a dozen meters away, fell to the ground. It was what happened when a heavy machine gun weapon was reloaded. The spent casing were kept inside the gun until the rifle was reloaded. In an emergency, the shells could actually be fired, albeit about an 80% loss in accuracy and damage.
Countless bursts of heavy weapons fire came my direction, lighting up the darkness with the flare of muzzle flashes and the sound of automatic bullets. Men were screaming at me, but nothing legible. The bullets tore through my armor in a thousand places, riddling my body with bullets.
Or would have. Had I been standing there.
I was already over a rail and fell to stories down, landing right next to a massive pump of sorts, which function I do not know. The pumps, however, were going up and down like a lunatic. Grabbing the sniper rifle, I targeted one of the humans who'd dropped down a few meters in front of me. Without remorse, I pulled the trigger, and he went toppling back, a fist-sized hole in his chest, straight over the rail and into the massive pumps, where his body was pummeled beyond recognition.
"There it is!" I heard somebody yell above me, and seconds later I sparks were bursting from the place I once stood. I realized I was running out of options. There was no way I could outsmart and outgun hundreds of humans, despite their low intellect and imagination.
Sliding down a ladder, I pressed my back to the massive water turbine. I couldn't hear a thing, though humans were definitely searching for me. A minute passed. Two. Four. Ten. I didn't move. I hardly breathed (stupid of me).
Just as I was about to peek around a corner, two Guardsmen, carrying well-worn lasguns and wearing the uniform of a Cadian 8th, stopped right in front of my position, and began staring out at the water that was rushing beside them. With my audio sensors at max, I could barely make out a conversation. The aquatic filters weren't at optimum quality.
"-just got a vox from the fume plant. Says their all messed up. Fried or something."
"Yeah. Slimy little things, Tau are. Really make you sick. Where the RD?"
"Capt'n wants us back at the archway in ten. Figured I could take a breather, you know. Let the adrenaline calm down. Bring any drink?"
"Last of the whisky is in my pack. Wanna dig for it?" Whisky. That was an alcoholic beverage popular amongst most adult humans, and some minors. It slowed down cognitive and perceptive abilities, slurred speech and damaged the liver. Some Tau got allergic reactions to contact with alcohol, such as myself.
The two men, after rummaging through a backpack, pulled out a plastic canteen and started taking swings from it. Amazingly, they managed to get 'drunk' off it, and were soon laughing and joking. The canteen itself rolled of the catwalk and down into a pool of water below, where it would fly off the bluff with the rest of the water.
I listened, patiently, as the soldiers go drunk of their alcohol, and their minds forgot duty and responsibility. They mist their patrol, but continued to drone on about war stories from distant planets. The stories were oddly depressing. The man with the Whisky, Carl, had been raised under constant Dark Eldar raids, and was sent to the Imperial Guard in a recruiting policy. The other man, whose name I could not pronounce, was an arsonist back on Olympia. When he accidentally started a forest fire in the planet's outback, he was sentenced to the penal legions before earning his redemption, which allowed him to serve in the (slightly) safer Imperial Guard Corps.
For a second, I almost felt a trace of pity. Each of these men did not understand the very danger they were in, and neither had volunteered for this duty. Raising the rifle, I put both men out of their misery with two compressions of the trigger. The later man didn't even notice his partner's head explode.
'Now what?' I thought. The adrenaline had left my body. The Imperials were no longer searching for me. I had left men dead, downed a power plant, and was fleeing for my life. My squad was gone, and I needed to escape before I was executed on charges of being xenomorphic. Tough, I told myself.
I spent the next few hours walking slowly, hiding in shadows. But there were no patrols. No civilians. No corpses. No plasma scarring on the walls or depleted shells on the floor. No sounds of cannon fire and machine guns out in the distance. It sounded as if all the fighting was done.
Pausing to stop for sleep, I found myself a nice ventilation duct, almost two feet wide, where I crawled in and waited. Despite being unarmed, abandoned, lost, confused, mentally distressed and in constant threat of danger, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the tin plating.
When I woke up, it was two the sounds of heavy footsteps. Quickly checking my chronometer, I found that I'd slept for a solid thirteen hours. A personal record. Peeking out the duct, I saw two neat rows of men in thick, bubbly white suits. I would have found it comical, had I not read a data file on this several weeks before the invasion.
White suits were the 33,900th Rad and Chem Corps. Known for being the unsung masters of radioactive and chemical warfare, these were men who had stopped Tyranid invasions, repelled Orks and given Kroot a heck of a time breathing properly. It didn't take long for a body's immune system to adapt, or for the next level of radiation armor to come out, but it was still deadly.
As soon as I slipped quietly out of the vent duct, a blaring siren came screeching from somewhere in the middle of the men, who were thirty or so meters ahead of me. "UNIDENTIFABLE MINERAL CONTENT DETECTED. UNIDENTIFIABLE MINERAL CONTENT DETECTED. UNI-"
"What the crap is that?" asked one of the men, hitting something dramatically and cutting off the genderless voice mid-sentence.
"Unidentifiable mineral content-" started a second corpsman, but ironically he didn't get to finish his sentence. A sniper rifle bolt had blown his head into a million pieces.
"Nobody move!" I yelled, my computer translating it instantly into Gothic Standard. One of the great advantages about biological and radiation weapon smiths is that without their complicated and advanced weaponry, they are completely useless.
Thankfully, none of these scientists (I still had trouble thinking of them as soldiers) were exceptions to that rule, and all raised their arms vertically in a peculiar fashion of human surrender. I only had two bullets left.
"You there!" I barked, in a tough commander-style voice, pointing two the nearest man, "Where's the nearest hanger?"
"A click back there's a civy long-term parking storage thing. You can-"
"Then that's where were going, gentlemen," I said, trying to sound cooler then I actually was. If they decided to try to overpower me, I could kill two at best.
The scientists, thankfully, were cooperative. Nobody asked any questions. These men were all educated individuals who knew I would kill them to make a point. They obviously knew the danger they were in, and how to make the best of it.
The long-term parking garage housed several hundred human vehicles, all primitive by Tau standards. There was one Guardsman overseeing docking control, and a Tech Priest Engineer inspecting a Leman Russ Demolisher.
Tech Priests are quite possibly, in my opinion, the most pathetic of the humans. Despite amazing education, they still turn to religion to explain what they simply cannot understand. They could repair vehicles, yes, and apparently had some sort of control of psychic energy fields, but had no idea what they were actually doing.
My sniper rifle wasted the Guardsman three stories up before he had time to press an alarm button. I had to shatter a pane of bulletproof (not really) glass, and I knew more Guardsmen would come soon.
"Engineer!" I barked, raising my rifle in a menacing fashion. My twelve prisoners were still in their two-by-two formation behind me. I think I was starting to go mentally insane. Everything was going so fast. Slow down.
"Hotwire this delivery ship if you value your life!" To my great surprise, the Engineer spat on the ground, a few feet from my feet. I noticed the bizarre array of technological implants, scars and a hovering skull beside him. These religious practices were getting too out of hand.
"I would rather die a thousand deaths then betray the Emperor!" he yelled out the top of his voice, spittle flying everywhere.
The Emperor. Don't get me started. This human hundreds of light years away supposedly responsible for keeping the Imperium intact whilst raging a xenophobic war. Hardly the person I'd want to follow. This Engineer, however, had blatantly stated his support for this war monger, and that was something I had difficulty tolerating. If he would rather die, so be it.
The butt of my rifle cracked down on his tin skull, sending him sprawling to the ground. I proceeded to stomp on his chest with all my force, and the man's misery as well as his life. Great. My only hope now was the hostile engineers.
"Unless any of you with to join your Emperor prematurely, I suggest you rig this cargo ship to fly before I get any more insane." The cargo ship was a stand B-22 'Arrowhead' transport primarily used for on-plant rapid delivery of goods and occasionally troops.
In under a minute the ship's engines were warming up. After familiarizing myself with the controls and securing the prisoners in the cargo hold, I flew departed from the dock, leaving a trail of leaking gasoline and sparks behind me (dangerous combination).
Thankfully, the twenty-six minute flight was uneventful. No fighters, no turrets, nothing.
"Kilo Base this is Tau Pathfinder Captain 333-T coming in for landing. I am in accommodating a hostile cargo ship with unarmed noncombatant prisoners aboard."
"333-T this is Kilo Base, we read you. Transmitting landing coordinates now."
And thus ends my first, but certainly not last, military operation. Pathfinder Captain 333-T of the Helm's Glory Campaign signing off.
End battle report.