Into The Trenches

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Jamie Ruther wrote this.
The Orks crested the hill, Shas'O T'au Va'Suam gritted his teeth and looked to the heavens. A flash of lightening illuminated the charging hordes in an instant, masses of the feral beasts running down the wrecked hill, jumping over craters and bunkers made by the earlier days fighting. In the same instant, the lines of obedient fire warriors stood patiently, waiting for their signal to attack. The lightening lit up the smooth curves of their armour, the sweeping helmets catching the light as it shot through the sky. Crouched behind makeshift bunkers and broken walls, the Tau army prepared to shed blood for the Tau'Va. Then the white light was gone, replaced by the inky darkness of the night, and the first drips of rain from the approaching storm. The ground shook with the tremors of the thunder, and Va Suam shivered as the shockwave passed through him and the lines of warriors. Then the rain came heavy, lashing across the hills in huge waves of water, moving with the wind as it crept around the hills. Blinking the water out of his remaining eye, Va Suam waited silently, a grim look of determination etched across his features. The Orks were audible now, their cry for bloodshed louder even than the crack of lightening, their charging hordes putting the rumbles of thunder to shame. On they came, thousands of green skinned beasts, needing the tau blood to fulfill their sad lives. They would be denied. In his mind, Va Suam pitied these beasts. Peace talks had concluded before they even started, with the leader of the Ork hoards beheading the poor Por caste negotiator, so the Tau Empire had declared war on the Ork. And now they came, impervious to the Greater Good. They would see their failure.
They were close now, and the fire warriors were getting nervous. Va Suam knew that they were disciplined, and would not break. Lines of Fire warrior cadres form the front lines, backed up with XV88 Broadside battle suits forming the second line. The rain trickled down the huge Exo-skeletons, their upper torsos slowly rotating, twin railguns gleaming brilliantly against the dark night, small pulses of turquoise light running up and down the linear accelerators. Attached to their arms were missile pods, prepared to fire explosive death at the oncoming hordes. Then there were the quick response units of XV8 suits waiting at either side, ready to lend their aid should the Ork masses reach the Tau lines, and to prevent any chance of a flanking maneuver. Unlikely, but better to be safe than sorry. Finally were the Hammerheads. Hovering above the ground like vultures circling a corpse, they toted huge railguns and ion cannons, ready to bring death to the enemy from afar. Drones with burst cannons and missile pods swung from side to side underneath the main body, sensor eyes waiting to register an enemy, and prevent it from seeing the light of day again. Va Suam turned once again, to face the oncoming threat.
Through the mist they came, green bodies shaking off the rain as they ran. Crude wartrucks and killa khans rushed down the hill, bolters steaming and claws already slashing against thin air, eager to kill, to drink blood and gorge on grey flesh.
As Va Suam saw the first green body through the waves of rain and fog, he gave the order for the tau army to unleash hell. At his command, lines of blue light filed the sky, as the Tau lines fired into the advancing enemy. The echoes of the rifles firing sounded around the valleys. The lines of fire warriors fired shot after shot with precision accuracy, down one Ork after the other. From his vantage point behind the front lines on a large outcrop of stones, and surrounded by his honor guard, Va Suam watched the combined fire power of the fire warriors begin to take its toll. The initial waves of Gretchens and lesser Orks had been dispatched quickly and efficiently, and now the larger Ork units, too slow to lead the charge, began to emerge from the darkness. A flash of lightening echoed across the sky again, once again illuminating the Orks forces. To Va Suam's horror, more and more Orks were pouring over the crest of the hill, a never-ending swarm of dark green and red. The rain lashed against their hulking bodies, droplets splintering against their huge muscles, and eyes glowing red in the night. Their crude axes reflected the light and gave an impression of terror.
Now the vehicles started to come into range, and the heavy weapons of the Tau opened fire. Hammerheads and broadsides shot solid slugs of death into the army with precision, downing crude war trucks and khans without mercy. Explosions lit the sky, foul looking war machines igniting in large bursts of fire, fuel catching fire and incinerating the Orks inside. And all the time, the rain lashed down on the poor warriors, soaking them inside their fatigues and wishing for the warm temperatures of T'au.
The battle lasted long into the rotaa, as the fire warriors continued killing with grim precision. As Shas'la T'au Shi rammed another magazine into his gently humming pulse rifle, and looked above the shelter of the trench, he thought back to the Battledome. Back there, under the watchful eyes of the Shas'vre in charge, he had sparred in mock warfare with his brothers. In the dome, Shi's cadre took part in make believe battles, against holographic enemies that never really presented a threat. Under these conditions, Shi had flourished, gaining a sense of what the computers would do next and reacting before they did, laying in wait behind a virtual wall for the unreal enemies to stumble across him. But real warfare was not like training in the Battledome. Here, you could not interpret what the enemy was going to do. They could surprise you, and that would be it. Dead, and unable to serve the Tau'va.
This rain was really getting on his nerves. Under his hooves, the mud was getting worse. Sticking to his uniform, he would have to get it cleaned when he got back to T'au. Then a cry from his right. Shas'la T'au Shi looked up just in time to see the night come alive in front of him, two red eyes glowering at him, and a sharp axe slicing through the air, aimed at his neck.
From his vantage point on the outcrop, Va Suam saw the breach. Somehow, on the right flank, the Orks had broken through the firing line. Instantly, Va Suam commed to the nearest XV8 team, and gave them the co-ordinates of the breach in the lines. After registering an acknowledgement, Va Suam turned back to see the damage being done.
Whilst focusing on the grounded Ork troops, the fire warriors had forgotten to watch the skies. Special Ork forces with crude rockets strapped to their backs had descended upon the flank, easily surprising the line warriors stationed there. Now the cadres stationed there had been killed, and the Orks were moving up the lines towards the other cadres. Whilst formidable in long range warfare, the warriors of the Tau Empire were not the best at close combat, and Orks easily beat them in hand to hand combat. Va Suam could see the jetpacks of the 4 XV8s shooting through the air, but they were too far away. Action had to be taken now.
Without thinking, Va Suam jumped into the air. Knowing that if the Orks had their way, the entire front line of fire warriors would be killed, and he couldn't let that happen. Urging every last drop of energy into the jet thrusters humming loudly behind his head, Va Suam shot over the ranks of the XV88s, and landed behind a fire warrior cadre. He sprinted down into the trenches to meet the advancing Ork infiltrators.
Shas'O T'au Va Suam's XV8 suit was different. Modified for his personal use, the whole of the life support systems had been moved upwards and re-designed to allow his head to be outside the suit, In place of the sensor head. A neuro link was implanted just below his neckline, and made the suit mirror his thoughts. Whenever he moved, the suit moved. Right now he was running to save the lives of his comrades, and the suit complied. Turning a corner, he arrived just in time to see a fire warrior being cut in half with a crude blade, cyan blood splurting out of the gaping wound and showering the Ork in the precious liquid. As the body fell, the Ork let out a cry into the night, and was echoed by its allies. Va Suam was disgusted, and instantly swore to kill every Ork that had laid a hand on one of his Tau. Letting out a pure scream of malice and hatred, Va Suam opened fire on the green bodies, twin fusion blasters illuminating up the walls of the trenches around him with blue light. The Ork nearest him exploded in a haze of superheated air and blood before the others had even realized his presence. Foul smelling ichor splashed over Va Suam's crisis suit, giving the grey XV8 a Khornate look and smell. Blood pumping in his ears, he turned his guns on the other Orks, raking them with bursts of pure power, rending their limps useless as they flopped around on the muddy ground, dark blood leaking out and mixing with the mud. Charging forwards, he ran at a group of Orks, and slashed one across the throat with the blades underneath his arms. Point blank shots to the others killed them instantly, huge gaping holes punched through their bodies, spinal chords hanging and blood seeping through. Their bodies fell to the floor as a shot ricocheted off Va Suam's suit. Turning instantly, searching for the hostile source, Va Suam saw more Orks further on though the trench network, running towards him, firing blindly and inaccurately. Va Suam drew a bead on the leader's body, and pounded him with long-range pulse fire. Slung underneath his fusion blasters were pulse rifles, so he was equipped to take out long-range targets as well. The lead Orks face was shredded in a blue storm of pulses and its body fell to its knees and rocked forward, finally falling into the thick mud. His followers were too slow witted to stop, and crashed into the body, falling and sliding down the slippery tunnels connecting the trenches. Va Suam burst forward, firing again and again, shredding their bodies to pulp, great chunks of flesh and armour breaking off as they were caught in the deadly fire. One of the rocket packs exploded, instantly incinerating the bodies and making Va Suam gag with the stench of burning Ork hide. Turning slowly, checking if there were any more threats, he commed into his Honor Guard leader.
 "Shas'O? What's the situation down there?"
 "Not good," Va Suam said. "I want you down here now. Out."
 Va Suam signed off, just as the XV8 suit team touched down. Glad of the assistance, even if late, he ordered them to secure the trench network further on down where the Orks had infiltrated, and wait for backup. He then waited for his Honor Guard.
6 Raik'ors later, his Honor Guard arrived, dropped off by a Devilfish. In total there were 7 of them. Each of them had proved themselves in battle time and time again, and Va Suam had taken the Ta'lissera ritual with them. Nodding to them, and blinking the torrential rain out of his eye once again, they jumped into the trench network to aid in the re-taking of the flank. Mud splattering against their hooves as they landed, they quickly sprinted in the direction of the fighting.
Shas'vre Bork'an Nu'jah blasted an Ork in the face with his burst cannon, feral blood flashing across the huge form of his XV8 crisis suit. The beasts just kept coming through the gap, lightening flashing against their muscles and weaponry, red eyes shining in the darkness. Nu'jah fired two missiles into the advancing hordes, blowing apart their huge bodies and sending limbs flying everywhere. Yet however many he and his squad killed, there was always more, coming through the breached flank. Raking the mob with his burst cannon, Nu'jah turned just in time to see his ally Shas'vre Bork'an Tu'Shan become impaled with a huge axe, piercing his suit and the warrior inside. Sparks flew everywhere, as mechanical liquids bled from the hole, and his dying screams echoed around the communications frequency. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, and Nu'jah saw the suit fall, the gaping hole in the armour spitting sparks and blood, cyan liquid pooling and sinking into the mud, giving it a luminescent quality in the darkness. He seemed unable to draw his eyes away from the carnage, the death of one of his closest friends. The sounds of battle fading from his ears, and he forgot about the Orks, forgot about the Greater Good, forgot about the Gretchen placing an explosive on the back of his suit...
The explosion lit the night sky, plumes of fire rising up above the trenches and illuminating everything. Chunks of Ork and Tau flew through the air, landing in the mud with sickening splats and crunches. Bone, muscle and sinew crashed all around the running forms of Va Suam and his Honor Guard, and they realized that the defense of the flank had fallen, and they were now the only things in the way of the Tau forces being completely over-run. A fine mist of blood mixed with the rain, giving the ever-growing puddles a reddish tint as ripples bounced off the sides. Va Suam turned to his Honor Guard, and said; "Let's show these green skinned monstrosities what happens when the pick a fight they cannot hope to win!"
A roar of approval was the response from his Honor Guard, and they turned away, trying to find a safe place in the trenches to take cover and fire from. Va Suam stood in the centre of the crude tunnel network, readying himself for the worst. He sent out a message to his second on command back on the hill that if he should die, and the Orks took the trenches, then this battle was lost. He was to pull the forces out, and engage the Orks another time. Also, an immediate command for any unengaged fire warriors to reinforce the breach in the Tau lines. Hopefully, this aid would arrive before it was too late. Then, he gritted his teeth, and waited for the Orks.
Bolter Brainz ran down the trench, sweat and rain trickling down his hulking arms and dripping to the ground below. He was gonna rip those grey skins heads off, one by one, and stick em on a pole for the Big Boss. Panting, his breath rising in clouds of vapour in the cold night, Bolter Brainz looked down at his gun. A long ammo chain ran from one side, and the barrel was long and smoking. He had already tasted blood this night, and he wanted more. A Gretchen ran in front of Bolter Brainz, and he squashed it underneath his giant foot, a scream coming from underneath and then a green splat. Grinning to himself, Bolter Brainz turned a corner, and got his head shot off.
"Here they come!" shouted the leader of the Honor Guard, and opened fire into the mob as they turned the corner.
 "Controlled bursts!" shouted Va Suam as his guard opened fire, scoring precision hits with every shot. One of his Honor Guard fired a grenade from his pulse carbine into the Orks, and was rewarded with screams of pain as it found it's targets and blew them to pieces. Bodies started to pile up in front of the Tau, making a shield of dead bodies that the Orks had to get around to find their targets. Va Suam waited until the Orks reached the top and opened fire with his fusion blasters, making the mound explode, along with any Orks on it at the time. The fire warriors continued to fire into the cloud of smoke and bodies, making sure none survived the attack. Va Suam jumped through the mist of rain and blood and tried to see how far away re-enforcements were. Above the trench network the battle was going well, with the obedient fire warriors keeping the Orks at bay. Unfortunately, he was unable to see any reinforcements coming towards the trenches, as it was taking the entire force to keep the hordes at bay. Landing back in the trench, he simply told his Honor Guard that they were still on their own for the time being. Looking into the trenches, they hunkered down and waited for the next group of Orks.
On they came, again and again, Va Suam and his Honor Guard dispatching them quickly and efficiently. In one brutal surge, they broke through the lines and forced the fire warriors to fall back under the covering fire of the huge XV8 suit. The huge twin blasters carving into the fleshy bodies of the Orks, gouging craters into the walls of the trenches and obliterating anything that got in the way, while the Honor Guard fell back. All the time, Va Suam fought with a grim determination, the look of murder in his one eye, glinting against the flares of plasma fire from the twin weapons. Then he jumped up, letting the pulse fire from the newly relocated fire warriors fly under him and destroy the new waves of Orks.
Then the Orks stopped coming. No green bodies to kill, no stench of rotting flesh and foul belches. An eerie silence fell, as Va Suam realized the Tau guns had stopped. All along the Tau lines, fire warriors looked at each other, the only sound coming from the pitter-patter of rain, and the occasional roll of thunder. Looking around in the trench network, Va Suam felt relieved and apprehensive at the same time. The silence was deafening. A rumble of thunder sounded again, travelling through the ground. Thunder without any lightening. Looking upwards, Va Suam saw just in time hordes of Orks with rockets strapped to their backs, the thunder being the sound of the rockets flying through the sky. With a cry, Va Suam lifted both arms to the sky and let rip with his fusion blasters, his Honor Guard following a moment later with their own firearms. Seeing the firing from the flanks, the rest of the Tau army looked to the skies and saw the horror above. Quickly raising their guns, the fire warriors reacted to the surprise spectacularly, raising their rifles and firing into the skies. A storm of blue pulses rained into the sky, the sheer ferocity of the assault bringing Orks crashing to the ground and exploding in great plumes of fire. The Orks started to dive bomb the Tau, dropping explosives and flying in to try to shoot them. But the lower they got, the easier they were to shoot, and the expert shots of the Tau picked them off with ease. After five Raik'ors, the shooting stopped once again. The silence came once again, broken by the sudden crack of lightening. In the brief moment of illumination, Va Suam and all the other Tau saw the Orks fleeing back up the hill, their numbers depleted and their morale broken enough to see them off. A low rumble started along the Tau lines, slowly growing in volume until in reverberated along the trenches, a cheer of victory for the Greater Good. For now, the Ork threat had been neutralized, and Va Suam could breathe a sigh of relief. He and his Honor Guard had lived to fight another day.
 




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