Pathfinder Expedition

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The Pathfinder Expedition was one of the largest taskforces ever compiled by the Tau. A fleet of four Gal'Leath class, seven Il'Fannor class and no less than nine Lar'Shi Class Starships, accompanied by a dozen Kir'Qath class and carrying eighteen Kass'L class craft set out on a titanic mission of exploration and conquest. Trailing behind such a mighty fleet were numerous support ships and tug-boats, hauling defensive installations that could be set up on colonized worlds.
In charge of this titanic expedition was the respected admiral Kor'O Tau'N Y'Eldi Shovah Tau'Va Shi, more commonly known as Kor'O'Shi.
Kor'O'Shi kept a detailed diary of his expedition, which we will look into as a record of this mission.
"The first world we came across was an isolated world previously unreachable due to warp storms in the region. Now that we were able to make Warp Dives into the region, we found it to be mostly baron, save for three worlds of interest.
The first was small, and showed signs of extensive overmining. We sent a Fio Caste team down to investigate, while pressing deeper with a faction of the fleet.
The second world was uninhabited. However, it looked an ideal location for a colony, save for some unpleasantly cold weather. It was eventually agreed the world would be settled, and we left two polar stations as guards for the world.
While we were on the second planet, our expedition team reported the remains of an ancient settlement. Archaeological teams requested time to study the ruins further, and seeing little need to rush, I conceeded. I ordered Kor'O Vash'Ya Ukos to proceed deeper into the system, and examine the remainder of the planets.
O'Ukos has found something of interest. It appears that there is a Gue'La colony on the final habitable world. We do not know when it was founded, but they seem technologically backwards, and indeed totally ignorant of the galaxy around them. Por'El Dal'Yth Ikis was requested to integrate the Gue'La into the greater good, and we decided to leave some of our ships to further the development of the system. At O'Ukos' urging, I allowed him to remain with his Gal'Leath Vash'Ya and Kass'L, as well as two Lar'Shi Vash'Ya and four Kir'Qath. These ships would meet up with us later."
"The next system proved to be less desirable, containing nothing but stellar dust and dead worlds. None of the planets seemed capable of sustaining life, so we moved on, sending a Message Boat back to the splinter force of our new destination."
"Almost as soon as we entered the system, it was clear this would not be easy. In the shadow of the Damocles Gulf, we ran into Ork raiders. however, our superior numbers resulted in a quick victory. We crept into the system slowly, but encountered no other Orks.
Around the centre of the system, our forward scouts found a fascinating phenomenon. Derelict ships of countless designs had gathered here. We estimated at least three seperate races, one of which were the Gue'La. Further searching found remnants of Ork vessels.
The first sign of trouble was when a long-range torpedo strike destroyed two of our Kir'Qath. Before we could launch a proper counterattack, the Dal'Yth Gal'Leath Kor'Vre Shar was struck by bombers from out of one of the larger hulks and crippled her engines.
Panic ensued. Enemy ships streaked out of the graveyard, swooping and diving as if they were Tigersharks. Our gunners attempted to engage, but our sensor systems couldn't lock on. It was as if the ships were made of star-light.
As the fight raged, one massive alien craft signalled us. Apparantly, the ship was named "The Kindred", though part of its name defied translation. It's leader introduced their race as the Eldar, and said that this system was theirs, and had been so sinse the birth of the stars. While I was inclined to point out the grevious error of this individual, by this point our ships were suffering considerably, while inflicting little harm ourselves. I conceeded, and told the Eldar we would depart from their system once we had made essential repairs, and the rest of our fleet had caught up with us.
He refused our terms, and pressed the attack. We had to flee, leaving two crippled ships behind, as well as an Il'Fannor that suffered a drive overload and was obliterated. We limped away. No persuit was made, and we lingered as long as we dared on the edge of the system. Thankfully, our remaining ships were swift in their return, and we fled from the system.
Our morale was weakened considerably. This "Eldar" race had proven that their technology was considerably more advanced than our own. Not only that, but their fleet had inflicted numerous casualties despite their meagre numbers. We left marker drones on the edge of the system, warning other Tau vessels to stay away.
Our fleet was reduced to 17 Capital Ships, and 20 Escorts. We also lost several support craft, but still we felt there was strength enough to press on.
Plotting a new course, we continued into the void..."
The Pathfinder Expedition was now almost five Kai'Rotaa out, and had thus far discovered three new systems. However, their first contact with the Eldar had proven that the galaxy is filled with strange and dangerous races, all of which we must be vigilant of.
Though it seemed undesirable, Kor'O'Shi saw no alternative now but to plot a course through the Damocles Gulf, and circle around the Eldar world. He recorded his memoirs of the journey...
"The Damocles Gulf was a dark and frightening place. Our sensors were blind in the cosmic cloud, and many feared that we would accidentally stray into the Eldar once again. Fortunately, no such emergency occured, and we passed out of the Gulf safely.
We've found a planet! There is a world totally shrouded in cosmic dust floating amidst the edge of the Gulf. We can vaguely detect a blue-giant star somewhere ahead. This find has certainly lifted our spirits. At last, we may have something of value.
We believed this find to be a treasure, but instead it became a trap. The world was already inhabited by another race, who didn't take our arrival kindly. Their warships (which we recognised as the same type found in the Starship Graveyard) engaged with savage ferocity, and with our force sensor-blind, we couldn't be sure how many were against us. After several hours of gruelling battle, we made planetfall with the Fire Warriors, and engaged on the ground.
It took almost two weeks of ground assault to obtain the world. During this time, skirmished broke out frequently, and we had to spread our fleet to keep a vigil again more aggressors. By the time the world was taken and colonized, we had lost two Il'Fannor (Dal'Yth configuration), three Kass'L one Kir'Qath, with several other ships damaged. We also lost more of our support ships, and many of our orbital stations. We requested additional ships to be sent from the nearest Fleetyard to strengthen our push."
"Our next world was once filled with life, but now it was a desolate hell. It seemed the attackers were named the Skiv'xh (pronounced "Skiv-Tzish"). Their other systems had been purged by the Gue'La, and this had been their final world before it had been subjected to viral bombardment. The Skiv'xh expressed a desire to join our Empire, and provided three Olxhos class war-cruisers to assist us further.
Not long after, we found the Gue'La fleet. At the urging of the Skiv'xh, we engaged, seeking to reclaim the world for the Greater Good. The fleet was large, but had suffered considerable damage in their genocidal campaign. We defeated the Gue'La, but once again we suffered losses. Another Lar'Shi was lost, along with five Kir'Qath. The Gue'La disengaged, but we feared retaliation, and kept a close watch for future attacks."
"At the insistence of the Skiv'xh, we pressed on for the next Skiv'xh colony. The Gue'La did not wish to contest the world, and fled without a battle. The Skiv'xh began recolonization. We left two of their craft, and an Il'Fannor with two Kass'L as a guard. Despite our initial hostility, these new-found allies had proven themselves trustworthy and eager to assist. Perhaps if we encounter the Eldar again, we will experience similar success..."
"Another system as been found, with only one world of interest. It is undesirable, but it's mineral content is worthy of note, particularly materials required in the more complex engine drives. A colony has been formed.
We have come under attack by Ork Skirmishers. Only one Kass'L was lost, but our assailants lost five Capital ships, and several escorts. We are holding position while damage is repaired.
Most upsetting, however, is the damage to my own craft. Our bridge suffered a torpedo hit, and Aun'El T'au Kais was killed. Many do not wish to press further, and I must admit I am amongst them..."
After countless conflicts, the Pathfinder Expedition was being whittled down to a fraction of its initial size. Starting with twenty Capital Ships and thirty Escorts, its combat elements were now reduced to thirteen Tau Capital Ships and one vessel of a newly discovered race, along with eleven Escorts.
Combined with the loss of the fleets most important Ethereal, and an ever-increasing distance from the rest of Tau space, it seemed the journey that had now taken just over eight Kai'Rotaa was about to come to an end...
"The next system we encountered was perfect. The world was large and fertile, and we decided to claim it. However, no sooner had we begun moving the stations and colonists in an Ork fleet poured into the system. Their size was mind numbing. Massive "Space Hulks" and "Rokks" stormed towards us, along with numerous Captial Ships and swarms of Escorts. We fired off long range missile salvos, and caused serious harm to the Orks, but in the end we had to flee, abandoning the Colonists. However, we first deployed large contingents of Fire Warirors, trusting in the skill and fortitude of the Shas.
As always, the Orks were eager to make planetfall. Once they began landing, we pounded them with long range missile fire, causing their ships to scatter. Once this happened, our fleet pincered around in two groups, picking them off one at a time, then withdrawing. Using this technique, we were able to inflict numerous casualties, though the twin Hulks still proved difficult to defeat.
The battle was long and brutal. In the end, however, the Orks began to organise, and it was clear that unless we retreated, our ships would be lost. It was then that our most unexpected allies emerged. The Eldar vessel we confirmed as "the Kindred" emerged along with its fleet, and began to systematically slaughter the Orks. With their aid, we defeated the massive Greenskin fleet.
However, it seemed that once again the Eldar were after their own interests, not ours. They made planetfall, and began to recover various items. They made it quite clear that inteference would mean death. Once they were done, they vanished back from whence they came, leaving our fleet to finish colonisation.
After our monumental victory, we named the world "Kai'Shi". Despite our joy, our fleet was in ruins. My Gal'Leath was the only one to survive, and one Il'Fannor and five Lar'Shi were also lost, as had a Kir'Qath and our remaining Kass'L. Though we had triumphed, the cost had been terrible. The Pathfinder Expedition was over, and after a supporting fleet arrived some three Kai'Rotaa later, we plotted a course for home..."

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