The Coming Of Kraken

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Kor'O T'au Kovash slumped into his command throne and sobbed. The battle had been a massive drain on his stamina, his courage and his men. The fleet was in ruins, with half the fleet either destroyed or so crippled it would take months, perhaps years, of repair.
This had been the third engagement Tel'Oshi had seen. Whilst neither of the past two assaults had matched the scale or ferocity of the first, it was exhausting all resources the world had.
A Kor'La entered carrying a data-pad. Shas'O Tel'Oshi Li'Sun'yi had driven off another fleet at Pral'kosh, and was requesting his presence for a war-council.
"Kor'O, is something wrong?"
 O'Kovash realised his hand was shaking. He hated fighting Tyranids. They came in endless hoards, disgorging tens, even hundreds of thousands of beasts. Every battle frayed his nerves to breaking point. Sometimes, when he awoke in the night-cycle, screaming at the visions of the horrors these monsters represented, he couldn't help but wonder how long he could stand these battles...
"I'm fine, Kor'La. Set course for Pral'kosh."
*  *  *
"Are you certain, Shas'O?"
O'Sun'yi nodded solemnly. She walked over to the ornate holodisplay, and brought up an image of the Tel'Oshi cluster.
"As you are all no doubt aware, Tel'Oshi maintains the drone-web; a series of dive-drones that can transmit information by making a warp-dive, then transmitting to the next drone in the chain. Every time the Tyranids have attacked us, we have been forewarned by the dive-drones failing to signal. We have also learnt that the larger the fleet, the bigger the 'warp shadow' they project..."
She pressed another button, and a long, red contour was superimposed over the blue holomap. It showed three distinct prongs of attack.
 "Based on our assessment of this shadow, and from the reports, rare as they may be, of scout-ships who have seen these fleets, we can conclude that an attack force larger than any other is approaching. We have concluded that the forces we have engaged so far have been vanguards, nothing more."
 A chilling silence fell, broken by the words of Kor'El Vior'La Kosh'ya.
"Vanguards... what about the craft in the first assault on Tel'Oshi? We have yet to see those creatures again. Do you believe that those ships are the ones leading the next offensive?"
"Yes," O'Sun'yi replied, "but the scale of the initial Tel'Oshi assault is noticeably smaller than what we now face. We estimate at least four-hundred, perhaps five hundred ships, and this estimate may grow as more information is obtained. I am convinced that we are about to see the true force of the Tyranids..."
 Por'El Bork'an Ukos took several, claming breaths, "what is your assessment?"
O'Sun'yi paused for a long moment before replying, "thirty Tau'cyr."
"That is how long you think it will take to stop these fleets?" El'Ukos asked.
"No, Por'El, that is how long before our race becomes extinct."
The silence was, O'Kovash thought, more chilling than anything he had yet experienced. The worst part was that he couldn't help think the Shas'O was giving overestimating their odds.
 "There is one chance," she continued, "to defeat these monsters. If we can blunt all three attacks, destroy them, or at least keep them at bay, we'll have a chance. If we don't stop them here and now, then they will be within striking distance of Bork'an, Fal'shia and D'yanoi. Considering we have already called up most of the forces from those worlds, I doubt we'd be able to defend them without sacrificing all defences on the northern rim. If the Gue'la or  O'res'la attacked, we'd have no way to stop them, and they could be at T'au before our forces moved to counter-attack... assuming we had any left. We are, as of now, within days of becoming extinct. If we fail here, I am convinced we will lose the Empire."
 El'Ukos cupped his hands over his mouth, and was staring into middle distance, unable to believe what he was hearing. O'kovash began muttering soothing litanies to himself, which failed to soothe. Finally, El'Kosh'ya stood up, and spoke with words as heavy as lead.
"Then let us ensure we do not fail."
 Shas'El Tel'Oshi J'kaara screamed in pain as a Venom Cannon smashed into her suit's torso, and blew it wide open. She woke up, soaked in blood and vomiting from the after-shock of the neuro-link severing. Her left eye was ruined, burnt and pulpy from the bio-acid splash.
"This is Vre'Sia! We're running out of ammo down here! We need more men! The Vespid are dead, our Hammerheads have been destroyed, and the Tyranids have taken the north end of the bridge! We can't hold- they're on us! They're on us! We've got to-"
The link went dead.
 El'J'Kaara looked across at the Aun'Vre, who seemed to know the bad news already.
"Call on our reserves! Prepare-"
"Shas'El," the Aun interrupted, "we should withdraw!"
"This is the only way to cross the gorge!" El'J'kaara replied, trying to ignore the phish-snap of the Skyray engaging, "If we deny them this crossing, we can hold them!"
"But the west bridge is lost!"
"Then we take it back!"
Screams of horror filled the air. The two Tau turned and stared across the battlefield, at the striding form of a Bio-titan.
 "By the Path... all forces-"
The orders were never received. El'J'kaara, Vre'Kais, and all twenty Firewarriors manning the south barricade, died instantly in a blast of bio-plasma.
*  *  *
O'Sun'yi was struggling to keep track of the battles. Information arrived sporadically at best; Jel'yth had stopped signalling completely.
 A Por'La entered the command deck, "Shas'O, Shas'El Vior'La Kauyon, accompanied by Kor'El Y'eldi Vash'ya Mesme. They are bringing-"
"Cadres and fleet strength, Por'La," O'Sun'yi snapped.
"A dozen capital ships of the Commerce Protection Fleet, and same again with their escorts, and thirty Hunter-Cadres."
O'Sun'yi cursed, not nearly as many as she had wanted.
"Tell O'Mesme to set course for Jel'yth. If that world has fallen, we're done for."
"Sir, we've had a report from the Au'taal fleet, they've been forced to withdraw to defend against Ork assaults."
The Shas'O swore loudly, "Contact the First Fleet, and get them here!"
"Shas'O... the First Fleet is-"
 "I know what theShtlk the First Fleet is! I needed those forces to hold our east flank! If we lose that flank, they'll surround us! If they surround us, we lose our supplies, our line of retreat, and this campaign!We will all die! If that happens we may as well decommission the First Fleet is theKlkn T'au docks!Do you understand me Shas'Vre!?"
 The world spun. O'Sun'yi staggered, tried to wave the spots form infront of her eyes, then collapsed, headbutting the display deck with a sickening crack.
"Shas'O! Medic! Get a medic in here!"
"...we... need..." was all O'Sun'yi could manage, before her consciousness left her.
*  *  *
O'Sun'yi awoke, tried to move, and failed miserably.
Her vision refocused onto the worn, but caring face of Aun'O Tel'Oshi Shia.
"Easy, O'Sun'yi, you've had a busy day."
"...thought you were on T'au."
"I came back with the First Fleet. They've committed, and are holding."
"...I should get back to the command centre," O'sun'yi's words said, but her tone said the opposite.
"You've had a stroke, O'Sun'yi, you won't be doing anything besides recovering for a while. Don't worry, I'll oversee the operation for you."
"And keep me updated I hope."
 He nodded, "Jel'yth fell. O'Mesme got their just in time to engage the departing fleets. They took casualties, but killed the Hive Ships, as you instructed, and the fleet fell into disarray. They've just sent a confirmation order telling us the fleet is destroyed."
"...we had a hundred ships at Jel'yth..."
"All lost I'm afraid, along with every Cadre on the planet. If it weren't for the unexpected arrival of a Demiurg Commerce-fleet, O'Mesme wouldn't have been able to finish the job. Their forces are redeploying in a holding formation."
"The rest?"
"We found another fleet, striking our extreme-west flank. Six-hundreds ships. They entered Ork space, and our recon-ships confirm a titanic fleet-engagement is going on. We've detected Eldar ships too, waiting like vultures. We hope they plan to wipe out whoever survives..."
O'Sun'yi had heard enough stories about Eldar not to put her faith in them.
"Our world?"
"Tel'Oshi has taken ground assaults, but its contained for the most part. The story here, however, doesn't look so good. It's only a matter of time before this station comes under fire..."
O'Sun'yi turned to face the window, and stared at the sky of Pral'kosh. It wasn't the sky she remembered. It looked like the skies over Tel'Oshi, back when she was repelling the Tyranid assaults at the capital.
"I don't plan to die here, Aun'O. Though my body is wreaked, my mind is not."
"I think the medics might disagree," he joked, "but I know what you're going to say, and I've already run the tests. Neuro-spike interface is green. You can pilot a suit."
O'Sun'yi smiled, "then get me into one."
 O'Sun'yi levelled her burst cannon, and raked the swarm with rapid-fire shots. She picked up a psychic-beast floating amidst the group, possibly controlling them, and banged off a trio of missiles. Two exploded in mid-air, stopped by an invisible force, but the third got lucky and struck the belly-fold, blowing the beast in half. Its pieces, spurting purple ichor, fell from sight beneath a wave of chitin.
O'Sun'yi felt no fear. She had once, fighting these monsters for the first time, but had learnt from many battles not to fear them. Fear was their weapon of choice. Panicked soldiers made mistakes, wasted shots, screwed up and died as a result. They used fear as a blade, cutting the head off their opponents so they could feed on the body. If you panicked, you died. That lesson was being learnt now, by her fellow Firewarriors, at a cost of hundreds of lives.
She realised her Ta'lissera-brother, Vre'Kio, wasn't with her. She turned and saw his suit, sensor-head blown off, lying on the ground a few feet behind her. The psycho-neural shock of the damaged had convinced his brain it had just been pulped by a bio-crystal slug, and he was comatose. She doubted he would recover, especially since there was no time to recover him from the field.
She boosted forward, shield cracking as splinter-shards impacted against her, and joined a squad of Tel'Oshi Firewarriors who were putting up an impressive defence. To their left, Ui'Myer and his men were raking flamer-bursts back and forth, holding the monsters at bay. Ui'Liski died, her final screams echoing through the comm-net as she and her Stealth team were ripped limb from limb by Genestealers. A Lictor, somehow missed by the Beast-hunter contingent, rammed its scythe-like claws into the flank of a Hammerhead, and hurled the machine to the ground with a mighty crash. Instantly, the line was hit with renewed vigour. The Firewarriors were overrun by a living tide of blades and chitin, as were the crew of the stricken Hammerhead as they tried to flee.
O'Sun'yi gave the order to retreat. The forces of the Second Line were already opening fire, desperate to buy their comrades some time. O'Sun'yi turned, raking a Tyrant with fire until it came apart, and wondered how long before they had nowhere left to run to...
*  *  *
The Demiurg were dead. The last of their three ships exploded in a white-hot blast, atomising the Hive Ship that was feeding on it.
Kor'O T'au Kovash watched in horror as one of the Lar'Shi came apart, breaking silently under a volley of pyro-acid. Another was shredded as no less than four Kraken Vanguard-ships began to feed on it, their armoured mouth-beaks crushing bulkheads with ease.
The holomap was no more comforting than his view ports. The initial volley had caused massive Tyranid casualties, but for every ship they killed, two more appeared. He didn't know how many Bio-ships were engaged at Pral'kosh, but the initial assessment of forty capital-ships was well off; it was double that at least.
He ordered the craft to come about, and the spine-gun volleyed a bio-cruiser with such force the beast explosively decompressed. Manta wings confirmed two kills on escort-feeders, and his second in command, El'Myer, reported a confirmed Hive Ship kill before his marker-blip vanished from the holomap.
He fought to stop his hands shaking, when he spotted another Hive Ship. He ordered a full torpedo volley, but another bio-cruiser got in the way, selling its life to defend the Hive Ship.
"Reload spinegun! All Railcannon forward! Destroy that creature!"
The swarm-shields writhed and splattered. It was hard to tell if they were doing any damage at all, until the hissing droplets of Bio-plasma began leaking out into space.
"Fire spinegun!"
"Torpedoes armed and away!" the Kor'La on gunnery duty chimed.
This time they hit home. The Hive Ship writhed as something vital was struck, and then exploded in a blast of Bio-plasma that killed the Explorer's Orca escorts.
Instantly, a change came over the fleet. They lost their cohesion, their unity of purpose. Several ships drifted aimlessly into firing salvos, or turned on each other. Several simply drifted off into space, catatonic to the mayhem around them.
The Tau fleet punished them. Every captain was filled with vengeance, a desire to crush the beast, and eradicate any trace of them.
All, save one Kor'O, who had withdrawn to his chambers, trembling every inch of the way.
*  *  *
The last line was breached. The courtyard of the command complex was a warzone, slowly being overrun by wave upon wave of predatory death.
O'Sun'yi felt helpless. Her suit was out of ammo, and she was stood in the loading-hanger, waiting impatiently for the wet-eyed and fearful Fio loaders to restock her armaments.
he ammo-count flashed green, and she was striding out before the loaders could give her the go. She emerged just in time to see O'Shia die, ripped in two by a Carnifex.
She was shocked by the unfairness of the act. O'Shia deserved a dignified death. He deserved to have his coffin carried through the streets of Tel'Oshi, born aloft by an honour guard of Crisis Suits whilst the sombre crowd watched on. The Por should have given great speeches, entailing the deeds he had done for the Empire. They should have spoken of his courage and his kindness, his dedication to duty, and love for his people...
That would never happen now. The Carnifex had snapped him in two with one massive, crab-like pincer. That was the end of O'Shia.
She raked the beast, blowing out its throat and eyes, before turning her vengeful guns on a warrior brood, then another, then a psyker-beast... she would kill them all, she would soak the earth with their purple blood, until the very oceans of the world were stained forever.
A change overcame the army. The Tyranids paused as one, from the smallest Gaunt to the towering Tyrants and Heirodrules. O'Sun'yi roared a victory cry, which was picked up by her men. They knew what this meant; the fleet had one.
She looked up at the sky, and laughed as she saw the contrails of Manta Missile Destroyers. The world was saved, Pral'kosh lived.
Despite all odds against them, the forces under O'Sun'yi succeeded in holding all seven theatre-worlds against the Tyranids.
Jel'yth was completely lost. Nothing but a barren rock remained, but the Tyranid Fleet responsible was destroyed in its breed-cycle. Unable to fight, the Hive Ships died giving birth to their young, who found no mercy at the hands of the Tau.
Tel'Oshi was the scene of the largest fleet-battle in the history of the Tau Empire. Despite the loss of two-thirds of the fleet, they defeated the central assault force of Kraken, though the world's ecology was altered by the Mycetic offensive. All remaining Tyranid lifeforms were eliminated within a month.
Pral'kosh was massively changed. Tyranid plant-organisms sprouted across the world, and were ruthlessly obliterated However, it would take years to remove the last of the Tyranid taint.
Qin'os became little more than a Deathworld. The Tau were forced to retreat three times during the defence of the world, finally destroying the Tyranids just as they entered the feeding-cycle. The planet was turned into a world of death, with viral lifeforms and devolved Tyranids covering the entire planet. It was cleansed from orbit, the first ever occurrence of Tau Exterminatus measures.
The Por'hui declared the campaign a great victory, the greatest the Empire had yet seen, and praised the actions of the brave warriors who fought and died for the Empire. The broadcast sickened all who had fought through the campaign. So enraged was Shas'El Vior'La Kauyon that he smashed the screen of his comm-display, and supposedly swore to kill the Por'Vre responsible for composing that broadcast. It failed to mention the total destruction of two Tau worlds, nor the 90% casualty count the Shas suffered. The Empire had a victory, that was all that mattered.
O'Sun'yi maintained a large defence force for three months, watching for further signs of Tyranid attack. Eventually, with the Aun Council demanding the return of the First Fleet, and reports coming in from Vior'La of increasing Ork activity on the Empire's eastern boarder, her Grand Cadre was disbanded. Her stroke left her paralysed down her right side, and she has yet to recover.
Aun'O Tel'Oshi Shia was buried in a mass grave, his body so mutilated it was impossible to recognise him. A memorial service was held in his honour.
Kor'O T'au Kovash died eight months after the battle of Pral'kosh. He was found dead in his chambers, having put a pistol in his mouth and blowing his own head off. His comm-screen was left on, auto-cycling reports of the Tel'Oshi drone-diver network. The outer drones had fallen silent...
...cut off by the Warp Shadow of Kraken.

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