For The Tau'Va
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The light defences the Fio had constructed that morning were in ruins, groups of bio-fiends ran amok between the once clean walls while fire warriors fell back in as much order as a squad of greenskins. Vre'sala landed on a short section of defence, his thrusters evaporating smears of acrid, acidic bio-fiend blood. Vre'sala surveyed this chaotic scene. This was the second Rotaa of battle with the bio-fiends, and the war was going badly. They had lost the cities early on, later the smaller military compounds had been overrun. Now only the spaceport and three compounds remanded free of alien taint. "Shas'vre we should keep moving or we will be left behind." As Vre'sala jetted of he watched with watering eyes as the last of shas'la's were overrun. It was for the greater good.
Vre'sala looked out of the cleared land in front of the Vi'tassisa compound. The pockmarked and cratered ground revealed the furious fighting that had occurred earlier that day. Lumps and mounds of chitin and biomass that had been sorted into piles by the gun drones were now being torched by a small group of fire warriors lugging the heavy plasma-thermite flamethrowers. Vre'sala reattached his stealth helmet and flicked the HUD into action. The pyres burned bright red on the tactical overlay. He noticed movement in the plantation beyond the compound. It was a good job that the drones kept watch, no danger to anyone and if they detected anything. And they gave an immediate and accurate report on what was there. Sighing Vre'sala took a seat on an ammunition dispenser; it would be a long wait before reinforcements entered the system to relieve them. He hopped that he wouldn't have the same fate as the young shas'la. "Shas'vre are we going to take some rest, or are you intent on keeping watch all night?" "Ty'sa I will take my rest here. You can join me or return to the rest barracks, I think Fio'mal'caor will prefer to take rest in comfort." "affirmative shas'vre."
As the night drew in, reports of bio-fiend movements streamed from the control tower. In response shas'el'vis'kai had put more fire warriors on guard against surprise attacks. Vre'sala and his team had been sent to east gate of the compound along with Ui'Mon'sis and his pathfinder team. Vre'sala's suit clanged heavily on the compound wall as he moved into position. As of yet, he or his team had been unable to get fuel for their jump packs. This made Vre'sala feel uncomfortable, as he wouldn't be able to jet away if the bio-fiends got close. By the Aun, he didn't want to be vulnerable like this. Before him the crops swayed, was that a razor sharp claw or just some plant moving in the light breeze. Vre'sala's senses were on edge, every movement each barely audible sound made him start. Phut...phut phut...phut phut...boomf...boomf. What was that? Boomf. That was close. Vre'sala flicked though his HUDs overlay to pick up the thermal imaging. All round him and his squad, spherical balls around the same diameter as a gun drone were falling from the sky. As the hit the fortification they bounced around like a rubber ball before coming to rest. Vre'sala watched in amazement as these balls sprouted tentacles and began to float, gently and ever so slowly, these 'balls' came towards them. One of Ui'Mon'sis's pathfinders cautiously advanced up to the nearest one. He had hardly inspected it, when it exploded in an ear spilling pop. Those pathfinders near him were splashed will bio-acid and dropped to the ground, their agonising death screams degenerated into an unholy gurgle before their pulped bodies gave their last breath. Some of the acid splashed onto Vre'sala where it fizzed and melted a small part of his armour. As of the curious pathfinder, only his deformed carbine lay in the melted crater of the wall. No one needed to tell them what to shoot, and very quickly a light rain of acid was falling upon them. For every 'ball' that exploded another one bounced down. Vre'sala could feel a slight tingling on his arms where the armour was failing him, all the pathfinders were dead or dying. "Fall back team, fall back! Keep up the fire, retreat to enclosure E." They fell back on foot, the unnatural hunting scream of the bio-fiends resounded thought the air, while a black shadow fell over everything. Out of this black shadow massive and more minor shapes fell to the planet.
Enclosure E was in almost as much trouble as the east gate, although more troops were here and they weren't under bombardment, the defences were lighter and the bio-fiend horde was closing in. Vre'sala, Ty'sa and Fio'mal'caor. Added their firepower to that of the fire warriors, the low walls offered little protection and many fire warriors were falling to living beetles, fired from the bio-fiends... hands, if that was even possible! Less then 0.05 of a dec had passed before they had to retreat again.
The inner compound was awash with piles of chitin and bio-gore, being organised as efficiently as possible by brave fio crews to create firing channels for the remaining defenders to pour their combined firepower onto the horde now entering the compound.
Shas'el'vis'kai jetted up onto a wobbly pipe of chitin and blasted wildly with his burst cannon. No chance now he thought, my life is forfeit for the greater good. Again thumbing the flamer button, to burn the encroaching horde in a wave of noxious superheated napalm. The smell permeated the advanced air filters, the smell of death. Out of jet pack fuel and rapidly running out of flamer, the shas'el took his stand on the surrounded pile. He never saw the fiend that got him, the floating worm had closed upon him from behind and blown open his brain, the suit collapsed and rolled down the pile to be consumed by the horde.
Vre'sala discarded his ruined helmet, it had served is purpose protecting him from a passing winged fiend. The sky had really fallen black now, and a rain of spores choked the poorly armoured fire warriors. Many being slowly eaten alive from the inside. "Fall back! To the Devilfish! Fall back!" the remaining members of the cadre crammed themselves into the transports. The last few shas'la ran onto the take-off platform, waves of chitin vanguard slammed into them, rending them to pieces the odd limb here or head there disappeared into the masses, never to be seen again. Vre'sala's transport took off. Some of the remaining fish tried to leave but to be overwhelmed as they left the pad. Crashing back into the platform. They pulled away and the scene drifted into the darkness. The Devilfishes gangplank closed as Vre'sala's mind closed to the horrors of the bio-fiends.
Aun'ui'Mon'la closed his eyes, the patter of spores on the spaceport had been falling for over an hour. It was only a matter of time. "Aun'ui do we have your permission to commence a final evacuation? The Freess'en'kai orbital platform is en-route to pick us up and commence an, 'Exterminatus' as the Gua'la call it upon this planet. Our long range drones pick up a greater mass beyond this attack force, it is imperative that we stop them here." An orderly enquired. "Yes. Give the order to leave in 0.5 of a dec, any survives outside the compound will have to fair as they will. Tell them of the evacuation, but do not give them reason to hope. The Tau'va demands it."
The Devilfish crashed though the air, rents and gashes in the now unpressurised hull whistled, as they rushed towards the spaceport some 27 k'lius away. The convoy of the Devilfish had frequently been attacked as they speed to their destination. The spores had changed the planet irreversibly, strange plants and spiky vines grew everywhere and their experienced pilot had skilfully navigated them this far. Vre'sala looked out the largest gash and surveyed an alien world, black as the paint on Vre'sala's suit and filled with unspeakable horrors. In the gloom shapes could be seen running alongside them except under no circumstances would they come close. a greater mind than their instinct, guiding them on whatever duties they were undertaking.
Vre'sala collapsed onto a seat. The fire warriors gazed at him, many of them nursed light injuries. None had any hope of them making the journey alive, and even if they did, there were doubts that anyone would still be alive at the spaceport. Yet there was still hope in Vre'sala's mind. All of a sudden all the fire warriors sat up and shut up. Was it the psychic fiends? No. A vid feed transmission. Vre'sala cursed the fact that he had thrown away his helmet. "Shas'la what is the message?" "We are to...die. They are evacuating in 0.5 of a dec..." sob "remaining survivors are to gather at the spaceport... No guarantee of rescue...." Was the answer. An abrupt lurch threw Vre'sala on the deck of the craft, a grinding clink of metal crunching filled the air as a massive claw sliced though the side of the craft decapitating the shas'la he had been talking to just seconds before. Vre'sala quickly rolled over and let rip a burst of fire into the side of the fish. The claw retracted, followed by a scream of utter hate. The craft rocked back as whatever it was fell (or jumped) away.
"How many have been able to reach us?" Aun'ui'Mon'la asked. "Few. Too few, we expected roughly 200, less than 15 have made it back." "We will wait an extra 0.15 of a dec." "But the outer defences are failing as we speak..." "We will wait! May we save some brave warriors."
The battered Devilfish clunked into the outer compound. Bio-gore covered the floor and walls, sufficient to make a shas'la puke in his helmet. While he cleaned himself up the first of the evacuation ships left the pads. That was enough to stir them into action spiriting past groups of bio-fiends who ignored them and continued cutting defending gun drones to bits. The main departure hall was flecked with gore of both Tau and fiend. Great piles of dead things lay here and there. Once beautiful and elegant pillars lay in gore-covered ruin. The balcony above bore the scars of a climatic battle of epic proportions; enormous chunks of wall and metal were skewed about, lying haphazardly upon the floor. All of a sudden the biggest chunk turned to reveal the hideous face of an immense fiend.
The fiend dropped the dripping mutilated corpse of some poor shas'ui The creatures cyan coated claws clicked into action as it charged Vre'sala. Not knowing what to do Vre'sala dove of to the left, unfortunately the young shas'la's lacked his agilely. The fiend tore 3 apart with the first swing and 2 more with the other claw. With the creature's back to him Vre'sala's training kicked in. Thumbing his burst cannon into life he shot the legs out from underneath it. The hulk fell over squishing a further fire warrior into pulp.
Aun'ui'Mon'la boarded the last evacuation ship. The gangway began to slide back and the hatch close. He wished that they had more time. Perhaps it would have saved someone from a horrific death.
Now only Vre'sala and shas'la'vai (as Vre'sala had named him for his crack shot) ran the last distance down to the evacuation ship to find it close in his face. Behind them something let out a long cackling hiss... The monstrosity slid into the dim light, its slobbering maw opened wide to show them its meat hook fangs, hunks of flesh still hanging from its mouth. Vre'sala gradually moved his hand to grip a photon grenade from shas'la'vai's belt. "Stay still and only fire after the blast." Vre'sala whispered. The fiend took a step towards them and slid its menacing claws out. "Steady" He armed the grenade. Fizz BANG! The chest of the beast exploded outward. Bio-acid splashed against Vre'sala, his remaining armour seamed to melt before his eyes. In a panic Vre'sala dropped the grenade which rolled down the corridor before busting into a blinding white light. The acid fried his flesh, cyan goo ran down his arms and Vre'sala's eyes filled with tears of pain. "Shas'vre stay still!" he could hear the shas'la's cries but the pain was excruciating! "Shas'vre, shas'vre. It's all right. It's all right..." drying his eyes he made out la'vai pouring some liquid onto the burns, as he did so the pain abated and he regained himself. "Thank you." he whispered. "You lot good enough? That was one wee bad beastie!" a large tan clad soldier stepped out of the gloom, the flickering lights made his Gua'la face a demonic image. "You good, bah they don't make them that good anymore." The soldier threw his gun down and slapped a can of nano-meds on Vre'sala's arm. "Who are you?" was the only words that could come to la'vai's mouth. Standing up and saluting "Fry Wilkins. Ex-guardsman of the 453rd Tank corps, now serving as an auxiliary officer for the greater good." His speech was good, if his Tau accent was a bit gruff. "we should get going, the dammed critters won't wait for us." "shas'vre you can walk? Good. Let us be off then, top show!"
The soldier led them though enough twisting corridors that Vre'sala couldn't remember where they were or even if they were still in the spaceport. Twice they came across scenes of carnage, but whatever the outcome no one were there to enlighten them. Finally Fry slowed down. A fortified termanal was his billet. "shas'vre shas'la, welcome to...home" "Gua'la we should be getting off this world, they will not wait for us." la'vai piped up. "All in good time shas'la, both of you and I need rest. Then we will make our way to the marina to find a ship to give us passage. Now if you don't mind, take first watch" having said that he promptly lay down and fell into slumber. "What do you think shas'vre? Do we trust him? He is Gua'la after all." "No he is right I need rest you need rest and this place is BIG we have to trust him or die...don't worry I will take first watch." Smiling Vre'sala staggered over to the barricade and sat down. The patter of spores had stopped, and the stillness crept ever so slowly in. The silence being only broken by the alien cries of a different world. Grey green miasma covered the ground in an unnatural mist, the mist being punctuated by growths of alien plants and vines. Now and again figures slid though the undergrowth. To what the world had been just one cycle ago...well...
The marina stood empty, the few craft that were left were covered in growths that had forced their way in though the blast doors. "What now Gua'la? Are we to walk to space?" la'vai sneered. "no we take a bus. Let us just hope the driver is in a sporting mood." The soldier jumped down into the nearest ship and after much searching pulled out a pile of electronics and cables. "Watch my back mates, its up that ladder to the roof, do you reckon your friends we drop us a fish to pick us up? I do." Even the roof was overgrown barbarous thorns tore at their suits and ripped their gloves. Whoever that Gua'la was, he could craft like a Fio workman. In less then 0.15 of a dec he was calling in on the evac fleet in orbit.
"Aun'ui we have forces contacting us from the spaceport, they are requesting immediate evacuation." Aun'ui'Mon'la sighed. Gladness filled his heart. "Prepare a team, get them of that planet!"
Vre'sala, la'vai and Fry Wilkins made it off the planet and survived to see it 'cleansed' by the Freess'en'kai orbital platform. Vre'sala was promoted to shas'el after passing his fourth trail by fire la'vai was also promoted to pathfinder leader, but didn't live long enough to enjoy his new position. He lost his life, less than a Rotaa later in an unfortunate accident involving cleaning bio-mass from his Devilfish. Reports indicated that the craft 'exploded'. Ty'sa and Fio'mal'caor survived and they returned to service in a different cadre two rotaa later. Fry Wilkins was treated for 'psychic madness' it is believed that the bio-fiends somehow altered his brain and thus made him as dangerous to friend or foe. In three Tau'cyr the planet would be overrun again to a new hive fleet....