At first they looked like shooting stars, or an incoming asteroid belt burning up in the atmosphere. Children ran to their windows pressing their noses against the glass, marvelling at the heavenly sight, beholding the wonders of the universe in their rawest form. The stars got brighter, shining out in the sky, breaking through the shadows of the night. It was unusually dark that night in fact, although something had blocked out the regular moonlight. Cloud cover was rare on Ksi’m’yen and the moons usually shone out, lighting up the darkness left behind by the system’s star. Not tonight. Tonight the moons were gone, replaced only by the darkness. The only time this usually happened was when Fire Caste Cadres passed through the system, stopping only to pick up supplies, before they were on their way. The huge transport ships had blocked out the moons, casting a similar shadow on the surface below. But there were no ships scheduled for orbit for another two kai’rotaas. No-one cared about this till the stars began to rain down on the planet. It was at this point the local populace realised that this was no meteor shower. They realised there were no shooting stars. This was doomsday, and the Angels of Death had come to claim their souls.
“What the hell are we doing here Kais?”
Shas’la Klan’tla Kais turned around to face his comrade. The cold nights of patrol duty could get long and arduous and the only way to pass the time was to talk. So every night, whenever they were tasked to patrol the outer perimeter, this question came up. And every night, regardless of the context or spin put on the question he would answer with the exact same reply.
“Serving the greater good.”
This was the reason behind everything. Nothing mattered except the greater good. As long as the greater good prevailed the Tau Empire would reign supreme. Ever since he was a child Kais had been subject to this reasoning. It was made clear from an early age that if required, he would be expected to give up his life for this theory, as was every other child in his education unit. The greater good was what made the Empire strong and no-one was above it. Built upon foundations of equality, Tau society demanded that every male, female and chld was equal. From the lowliest mechanic to the highest ranking Ethereals, all were seen just as important and no more inferior than one another.
So here the young fire warrior was, on Ksi’m’yen, as a protector of the people. The space port planet had flourished in recent Tau’cyrs and had thus been seen vulnerable to enemy attack. As a third expansion phase colony it was on the very edge of the established Tau Empire. After claiming the planet for the greater good, the esteemed comrade Commander Shadowsun had moved on with the crusade, leaving behind a contingent of fire caste warriors and the wise Ethereal Aun’Kau to oversee the transition from Imperial World to Tau colony. The transition passed peacefully, with Aun’Kau living up to his reputation as the finest negotiator in the sector. A balance was reached with the remaining humans, allowing them to continue their trades in return for compliance with Tau law and politics. Although pleased with the acceptance from the humans, in the bottom of his heart, Kais was hoping for conflict. He had spent the last several Tau’cyrs of his life being educated in the art of war and the techniques that accompanied it. So, when he heard that he was to be garrisoned on a newly established colony, Kais could not conceal his disappointment. Still unblooded in battle, he and his fire team were all too ready for an engagement. Alas, here he stood, on the edges of a peaceful port, making small talk with a fellow warrior.
Cradling his carbine in his arms, Kais turned on his hoof and continued on the designated patrol route. As he walked his armoured carapace clunked with a reassuring tone. Although designed to protect him from ballistic attacks, the only thing that it had protected him from so far was the cold. Kais chuckled to himself at the sentiment, regretting it an instant afterwards.
“What you laughin’ at?”
“Well you must have been laughing at something now, mustn’t you?”
“I said it was nothing, a private joke.”
“Care to share, comrade.”
“Not really Tarak, just stay sharp okay?”
“Hey I’m always sharp.”
They continued along the route, stopping every now and then to observe their surroundings. The male accompanying Kais was another young recruit who went by the personal name of Tarak. Even though he had seen no combat, the young warrior was exceedingly self-assured bordering on arrogance. A short tau, he stood at just over 5 tef’ry.
After their fifth stop, he tried to break the silence once again.
“It’s extremely dark tonight, don’t you agree?”
Kais was pulled back again in to an autopilot response.
“I mean where are the moons? We can usually see one at least.”
Before giving another non-committed answer, Kais actually glanced into the night sky. Although he didn’t like to, Tarak had a point. How was it so dark tonight? Kais had seen one of the two moons blocked out in the past, but two moons being invisible was nearly unheard of. In the five Tau’cyrs he had been stationed on the space port, the only time he had ever seen this occurrence was at the last reinforcement transfer. A large fleet passed through the system, taking on supplies for the frontline. Commander Shadowsun’s crusade was beginning to dwindle in manpower and therefore firepower. A much needed reinforcement had been sent from the second sphere, passing by the Ksi’m’yen system. The fleet was so large it had blocked out both moons of the planet, throwing a shadow over the port. Now the same thing was happening, except this time there was no Tau fleet on its way to the frontlines. Kais was snapped out of his thoughts by Tarak’s voice calling from the other side of a habitation-module.
“Uh……Kais…….I think you betta come see this….”
His heartbeat rising, Kais moved his way around the outer walls of the module.
“What is it? What is it Tarak!?”
Rounding the corner, the entirety of the sky was unveiled. Kais didn’t need Tarak to inform him what the problem was. Across the night horizon scores upon scores of lights fell. Like shooting stars back home on Klan’tla, the balls of fire descended, casting a torch like light, flickering over the planet. The atmospheric combustions continued for over five minutes, only ending when the objects had reached the lower atmosphere. Pulling their helmets over their heads, the two fire warriors, using the helmets’ built in optic enhancers, focussed in on the descending missiles. The sight transmitted back to their brains was clear. An egg shaped metal container, controlled by thruster engines on the base. It bore minimal markings on its mat black hull, the only apparent insignia being a white cross. In the sky above Ksi’m’yen, hundreds of drop pods were falling towards the surface. Both Kais and Tarak knew who used these devices. They were the Imperium’s finest warriors known by the Tau merely as Astartes. And Kais knew that their world was about to come crashing down around them.
Crouched in a now abandoned entertainment-module, Kais made the last minute checks to his pulse carbine. These last minute checks had been taking place for the last twenty minutes. Since an initiate, Kais had field stripped his weapon, cleaned the mechanisms and rebuilt it to relieve stress. With his helmet now attached to his carapace, Kais was starting to feel slightly claustrophobic but knew that the anticipation was also a factor in the way he felt. From what he and Tarak had gathered from jumbled transmissions and word of mouth the space port was being laid siege to. The deep, guttural boom of heavy artillery could be heard not so far away. According to a panicky, scrambled radio message, the outer reaches of the space port had already fallen, overwhelmed by the human force, pushing its way through the colony. The astartes had struck hard and fast in what a Tau would call a Mont’Ka strategy. The marines had consolidated all their power into one small area and hit in one go. With the inexperienced fire warriors being slaughtered by the overwhelming force of the humans it seemed like the colony was doomed.
All over the urban areas high pitched klaxons could be heard wailing, instructing civilians to make their way to the docking stations. Evacuation was the only option available and the high command, probably Aun’kau himself had taken it. With little warning, Kais’ team along with another five like minded fire warrior teams had taken the initiative, setting up a line of defence in the lower citadel. Using the urban buildings as cover and firebases, Kais’ commanding officer was able to coordinate effective fire arcs and cross fire paths to catch the incoming enemy off guard. The orders had been given and within minutes the unblooded fire teams were in position. Every single Tau in the line knew his duty. Each one of them knew that they were the last defence, the only thing blocking the barbarians from reaching the evacuation assembly points. Each one of the fire warriors dreaded to think of what the repulsive gargantuans would do to Tau civilians. Kasi pushed the notion to the back of his mind. They would all fight to the death, because every minute they held their ground, the chances of civilian casualties dropped. As time trickled by, Kais heard the noises of combat; the gut wrenching sounds of war get closer and closer, approaching like an impending doom. Before long, screams of pain became distinguishable amongst the commotion of noise, the glowing embers of fire visible over the high rise habs. Without warning a crashing noise came from behind the lines. The line was unprepared for a rear attack, the fire angles were not calculated correctly, they were going to die.
Kais’ heartbeat tripled, creating feelings of severe panic and nausea. The feelings were mirrored in his squad each one of them snapping their heads around, frantically searching for a target, thrown into disarray by the new threat. Just before breaking point a message came over the transponder system. Each member of Kais’ team heard the words and looks of reassurance washed over their concealed faces. A false alarm. In reality the thunderous crashing noises were from a team of broadside battlesuits which, in the chaos, had been looking for a deployment area. Their dominating presences stood vigil over the streets below, powering up the mounted railguns they carried aloof their shoulders.
The sound of munitions fire and motor engines were drawing closer. The time for waiting was over and the time for battle had begun. As the heavily armoured marines came into the quadrant, they were already filled with a zealous rage. Already having slaughtered hundreds of tau in the outer city, they brought their unholy wrath towards the port epicentre. However, the tau they had experienced beforehand were unprepared, shocked at the swift attack that had swept over the area. The tau the marines found they were facing now were prepared and all too ready for the imminent attack. Although inexperienced, fire caste training had taught them the procedure of a fire fight and in the name of the greater good they would give these barbarians a battle to remember.
Situated in the third level of the hab-building Kais was one of the first in the ambush to spot the enemy. Spreading the word over the transponder network, the fire warriors readied themselves. The order was given to hold their fire. Kais knew that the only way this would work was if they drew the marines into a fire base with no cover or hope of survival. Known by the tau as the Kauyon art of war, a lure was generally deployed to pull the enemy into to this situation. In this case the lures were the broadsides. For all his cockiness before Kais noticed that Tarak had lost most of his confidence. Kais himself could feel the tension in his mind, pushing him to his limits. Drawing up a personal helmet to helmet com link with Tarak, Kais spoke to his friend.
“Come on now Tarak. We can do this. I know we can.”
“But Kais we’ve never done this before. How can you be so sure?”
“To be honest with you I’m not, but I’ll be damned if I see these monsters get to the assembly points.”
“You’re right…….Let’s give these bastards what they deserve!”
With new resolve in his voice Tarak powered up his plasma cell. The next few moments seemed like a lifetime. All the fire warriors could hear was the trudging of the human marines. Their steps rang out, echoing through the deserted streets. Obviously cautious, the astartes were making use of bio-scanners and motion trackers. Kais thanked the empire that they had made use of the power lines running through the habs. Each fire warrior was concealed from auspex readings, the scanners disrupted by the heat signatures of the power feeder lines. The eerie silence was broken by the opening shot from the broadside team. The first beam of plasma tore through the leading marine, incinerating his caracass indefinitely. Hell broke loose in the crowded street. Kais’ first conflict had begun.
In the following five minutes, Kais saw more death than most tau citizens see in a lifetime. Calculated perfectly, the fire warriors opened up using the fire arks to shower the power armoured giants with plasma fire. The marines, realising their error, sought whatever cover they could find. The opening moments of the fight saw many of the marines brought down by the overwhelming fire power of the fire warriors. However, Kais and his fellow tau had seriously underestimated the durability of the human monsters. Many times Kais had struck a marine, only to have him shrug the plasma off like a tank. Kais placed shots that would destroy a mortal being in an instant. But these astartes were different, they moved gracefully like birds, but were armoured like hammerheads. Indeed it wasn’t long until the marines reasserted themselves and began mowing down the tau initiates with their barking rifles. The cover offered by the hab-buildings became irrelevant as the marines’ bullets tore through the walls like wet paper. The tau behind these walls were struck with the missile, only to have it detonate on impact, spelling the end for many of Kais’ troops. On three separate occasions in the opening moments of the war, Kais was forced to throw himself to the floor to avoid the incoming death. Slowly but surely the fire warrior numbers began to dwindle, the marines starting to gain an upper hand. The enemy had completely overrun one of the hab-building another fire warrior squad were making use of, exterminating Kais’ comrades like they were vermin. Momentarily this gave Kais an adrenaline boost of rage, allowing him to focus his determination. Resting his long rifle on the window frame, he took aim at a marine making his way towards Kais’ building. Squeezing the trigger, Kais let loose a ball of blue energy, taking the marine of his feet. Where the enemies head had been moments earlier, there was now just a lump of defiled meat and gore. Before Kais could take any glory in the headshot, a small object sailed over his head. Landing on one of the roof supports the object made an ominous clink. Realising what it was, Kais spun, hurling himself down the stairs into one of the lower levels of the building. Landing hard, Kais’ armour took the majority of the impact damage with the carapace cracking in places. He dragged himself to his feet and moved as quickly as he could towards the entrance. Upstairs the explosive grenade detonated with a deafening boom, bringing down the roof on the Kais. The young fire warrior lost consciousness as the weight of the hab, thundered down on top of him.
Kais awoke with his vision blurred. A ringing in his ears, stifled out the noises around him. Disorientated and battered, he fell in and out of consciousness. His breathing was heavy and staggered, but he was alive. His helmet had been crumpled by the impact and Kais dragged it from his head. Looking around him he saw the remnants of the hab he and his squad had made refuge in. The only thing left of it was rubble and synthetic materials. As his vision cleared he realised the fight was still going on around him, assuring him he had not been out for two long. But, as he lay there the realisation came to him that they had failed. It was over, the tau despite their tactics and effort had lost. However the klaxons of the port previously wailing throughout the city had ceased to be. This indicated that the evacuations of the city were over. With numbers against them, the tau had been doomed from the start, but with their defence they had allowed the innocent civilians another chance at life. Content, Kais observed the armoured giants go from corpse to corpse putting bullets in the skulls of his fallen companions. No-one was spared. As, he scanned the street he watched one of the monsters in particular for it was this behemoth who would get to him first. Snapping his head around he looked for his rifle, but amongst the rubble and clutter of the fight it was no where to be seen. Before he knew it the marine’s formidable form was glowering over him, his boots crunching down on the rock below. The clicking of his pistol sounded guttural and metallic. Kais shut his eyes, finally excepting the inevitable. There was only one way out of the Tau military and this was it.
The bolt pistol fired a single shell.
+++IMPERIAL MILITARY RECORD, PLANET 1634, PREVIOUSLY KNOWN AS KSI’M’YEN+++
+++REF: KTV651/019-6712 alpha+++
Participants – Astartes Chapter Black Templars
Objective – Exterminatus
Locations – Damocles Sub Sector
Author – Scribe Jamocle Trevarl
To whomever it may concern,
In the year of the Emperor 917/M41, a holy crusade was undertaken by the renowned Black Templar Astartes Chapter. The planet designated as 1634 had come under the control of the xenos filth known as the tau. It was necessary that the astartes were deployed in this endeavour due to the danger the tau empire poses to our Imperium. By our laws I am required to report that each objective was completed and that the planet 1634 is now under control of the Imperium. The tau forces fought defiantly until the end and it was imperative that the planet was cleansed of all xenos breeds. It should be noted that the veteran tau leader known as Ethereal Aun’Kau was captured in the conflict after he encouraged tau forces to fight on. It was also this alien that was responsible for the rallying of the tau militia stationed on 1634, bringing reinforcements to bolster their defences. We believe that the Inquisition may be extremely interested in this creatures mind and body.
In the name of the Holy Emperor of Terra
"Heresy Fiction Competition 2009 Winner"