Enter the Tau!
The cabin room 36-01 was one of the higher quality infantry quarters provided by the Kor. The barracks had been designed with the air caste crew in mind. One could tell by the lavish furnishings that decorated the sleek white metallic sheen that dominated the room. Two suits of Fire Warrior armor were locked into their hover-stands beside bunk beds. Dataslates and monitors cluttered a long desk pinned against the far wall.
Shas’la T’au M’yen Mal’caor watched the empty world beyond the viewport. Legends spread amongst the Fire Caste about the great battle that happened on Aloh Fio, the ‘Earth of Cold Winds’. The Gue’la of the Imperium knew the planet as Tarmathon IV and had abandoned it long ago as a cursed world. An icy smile crossed M’yen’s pallid cobalt skin at the thought. As he continued to polish his pulse blaster from his bunk bed, he imagined what the surface of the planet was like those ten years ago.
An empty city, void of everything except blasted ferrocrete and the lifeblood of shas and gue’la alike. The perfect ground to draw an enemy into the waiting ambush of the Kauyon or slay them outright with the mont’ka. Much of the fighting would take place at close quarters, building by building.
What was he doing? These visions of war and hunger for honor and glory were childish notions. They had no place in a shas’la’s thoughts. There was only the Tau’va. Only the Greater Good.
“Beautiful world, M’yen?” Something malicious was hidden behind Shas’la Or’es’ voice as he made to sit down at the desk. “The graves of countless thousands are buried somewhere down there. The remnants of the last Tau Expedition are scattered across all of that green earth. To think that we could be next… excited yet?”
M’yen laughed. “Ever pessimistic, Or’es. Whatever calamity has transpired on Aloh Fio, it appears that the worst has passed. There’s only gue’la left for us to kill now. I am thankful that is all we will have to face.”
Or’es swept aside digital text upon the hologram monitor. “You won’t be so enthusiastic when you hear about this! Shas’ui Re’Shi has just messaged us. Breacher Team Shadow Hunter is being deployed in the first wave.”
“Ethereal’s blood.” M’yen felt a slight tremor in his heart. “The first wave?”
Or’es continued. “That is not all. Shadow Hunter is deploying with three other Breacher Teams alongside an Infiltration Cadre on a special assignment. It seems that we will be deployed behind enemy lines… the target is a concealed gue’la outpost. The operation will be part of a larger offensive, but the details will be discussed next briefing.”
M’yen shrugged his shoulders. “I cannot tell if this is supposed to be good news or ill. On one hand, we are taken off the frontlines.”
Or’es finished. “And on the other we’re being asked to infiltrate enemy lines.”
M’yen glanced at the armor beside his bed and took in the sight of its onyx complexion. The only hint of color that betrayed it’s presence whilst in shadows was the soft glow of the Breacher helmet lenses and the white shoulder pad emblazoned with the Tau Empire’s icon. That sturdy piece of equipment had seen him through many gruesome combats.
He wondered how long it would be before it was finally broken open.
Two Days Later
“Greetings, M’yen.” Shas’ui J’karra said as four Earth Caste Members worked diligently to seal her into her bulky XV25 Stealth Battlesuit. The wane crimson light from the hangar bay’s ceiling made her lock of fiery red hair burn ever brighter. She was young, around M’yen’s age and beautiful, in spite of a pair of nasty scars that criss-crossed along her face. “I heard your team will be operating with my own. Are you ready for deployment?”
“Greetings, shas’ui.” M’yen stepped to attention, his armor making his footfalls resound across the Orca’s hangar bay. His helmet cradled in his arm, his gaze picked up subtle readings from J’karra’s intentful stare. She was interested in him. “I am ready to get on the ground and do what I was trained to do.”
“Good.” J’karra picked herself up from her kneeling position. The stealth suit gave her an appearance of a mobile tank. She tested the weight of her fusion blaster in her grip and smiled at the Earth Caste technicians. They quickly moved on to the next shas’la. “I cannot vouch for what will happen on the ground. Despite the confidence of our commanders, our intelligence knows so little about our enemy on Aloh Fio.
“One would think that the victors of a four-way war would require more analysis rather than overestimation. But our leadership will hear none of that discussion. They believe the Tau Empire is destined to take Aloh Fio without much of a fight. Once we deploy behind enemy lines, we must protect one another as if we were all bonded by the Talissera.”
Shas’ui Re’shi quipped from behind M’yen. “Occupying my shas’la with more of your doubts, Shas’ui J’karra?” The aged veteran had a suspicious and unwelcoming look on his face.
J’karra glared at Re’shi. “I simply advise caution and a supportive attitude. Though I understand why you Breacher Teams may frown on the idea. Each of you are too hot blooded for your own good. M’yen seems the wisest of your group, so perhaps he will listen and save some lives? But I digress, I will not degrade myself to petty argument. I wish you luck, Shas’ui.” At that, J’karra turned and vanished deeper into the Orca transport.
Re’shi shifted his gaze to Myen. He chastised, “Do not listen to J’karra and her cautious tactics, Myen. We are Breachers, the first in the fight and the first to die. There can be no room for hesitation on the battlefield if you truly value your life. Follow my orders and you will be fine.”
M’yen nodded. “Of course, Re’shi.”
The Shas’ui smiled. “Join your team, shas’la.”
Another Shas’ui organized the Breacher Teams further within the dropship. “Everyone, take your seats! Place your weapons into their lockers and strap yourselves in. Trust me, you do not want to be unsecured when we enter atmosphere. Breacher Team Shadow Hunter on the far left! Breacher Team Untamed Hunter in the center! Breacher Team Patient Hunter in the far right!”
Ro’va called out. “Look who the ethereals decreed join us. Greetings, M’yen.”
“Good morning, M’yen.” Tel’kyse said enthusiastically. She was already secured in her harness and polished a pulse pistol. “You’re late. You aren’t sick with nerves are you?”
“Are you talking about M’yen?” Or’es arched a brow. “Veteran of half a dozen battles?”
Tel’kyse shrugged. “Sometimes our fears can catch up with us. I did not mean any disrespect.”
M’yen sat himself down between Tel’kyse and Ro’va. He pulled down his safety harness. “I’m fine. Our enemies will not be after the Rotaa, however.”
Eldi slammed on his helmet. “There is no need for nerves. Command does not expect we’ll face much trouble. Just another trial by fire in my eyes. Another test.”
Re’shi joined Breacher Team Shadow Hunter. “We shall soon uncover the truth of that, Eldi. But it is bad habit to be so overconfident. Treat this mission as you would any other. This operation is part of the first phase of our invasion. If it were not important, then we would not be asked to accomplish it. Understood, shas’la?”
The Fire Warriors intoned as one. “Understood, Shas’ui.”
Re’shi nodded, satisfied. “Then prepare yourselves accordingly.”