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Dark Dealings
 
Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:16   #1 (permalink)
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Shas'El
 
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Default Dark Dealings

Por’la Jal was a young one, even by the standards of his young race, the Tau. Born into the water caste, Jal was destined to represent his race as a diplomat on the forefronts of his races’ territories. Inexperienced and ambitious, Jal had dreamt of great deeds that he would accomplish. Those that knew him knew how ahead of himself he could get. He was often caught daydreaming when he was supposed to be honing his wordplay. While even the lordly Ethereals settled disputes physically with their honor blades, Jal and his fellow water caste members wielded a different kind of weapon, one that was often more effective than weapons. Their weapons could also cause pain, but more importantly, could persuade others. Hailing from a family of successful diplomats from T’olku, a world renowned for its skillful diplomats, Jal carried an abundance of pressure expectations. However, Jal was not one to crack under pressure. Jal’s techniques were far better than the other water caste members of his age. He began to resemble his father through his wordplay more and more everyday. This gained him a reputation as one who was destined for great things. But there was only one person he could not impress; his distant father. Jal craved acceptance and respect. He wanted nothing more than his father’s good word. And he planned to show his father what he could really do as soon as he had an opportunity, which would come sooner than he thought…
As always, the races of the universe were locked in turmoil and war. Diplomats were always needed, and the time for Jal’s first expedition had come. His mentor, Por’vre Vesa, had enrolled Jal to go with an expeditionary force to a small asteroid that was inhabited by some rebel humans. Before even hearing any specific information about his mission, he envisioned himself arriving home with many human followers at his back that were ready to become Gue’vesa and accept the Greater Good. Por’vre Vesa ensured Jal that this was going to be a simple mission and he would be successful. Vesa was very kind, and Jal was very fond of him. Vesa never showed it, but he considered Jal one of his own. Vesa wanted Jal to be successful almost as much as Jal himself did. Jal’s training was complete. The day before Jal left, Vesa told him “I have taught you all that I can, you can only learn from experience now. Good luck.” That was the last thing Jal ever heard from him.
The day had finally arrived. Jal was packed, well rested, and excited. After saying some last farewells to his friends and family, Jal boarded the Gharial christened the Li’sun’yi. Everything was going fine, but Jal could not shake an ominous feeling he had. He thought it was just anxiety but the more he thought about what he could achieve with this voyage, the more he remembered the risks and what would happen if he failed. His family name would be tarnished, he would let down Vesa, and most importantly he would strengthen his father’s resolve that Jal was unsuccessful. But Jal’s persistent nature allowed him to look past the risks with an almost unwavering confidence. This was his time, his chance to prove himself worthy of his name, and he would not allow anything, or anyone, stop him from realizing his destiny.
The crew of the Li’sun’yi consisted of Jal, and a few other water caste members, three air caste pilots, and two squads of fire warriors. The group was meant to be small, so as not to be threatening and show how trustworthy the Tau were. There was also a shortage of fire caste members because of the new Tyranid threat. However, Jal had been instructed not to let the humans know that. The few fire warriors that accompanied Jal were young fire caste members that had not even seen battle yet; not the seasoned bodyguard one would want. But Jal was not worried. Humans had developed a reputation as a bloodthirsty race that was selfish and weak-minded. The Tau considered the humans barbaric and primitive. They were, however, intelligent and would see the benefit of joining the Greater Good. There was only on thing that concerned Jal about the humans; if they were willing to betray their own race, how trustworthy could they be? But Jal did not give it a second thought; he did not want to second guess the decisions of the Ethereals.
While journeying towards the asteroids that the humans now inhabited, Jal did as much research as he could on them. The humans had been discovered by scouts and were said to be stranded. They were also rumored to be low on resources and would be inclined to join the Tau, even if only to survive. The humans that inhabited the asteroid were rebels whom had run away from the Imperium. The Imperium was vast and more powerful than the young Tau Empire, but too fractured for its members to ignore the greater good. Besides, as usual, the other inhabitants of the universe were fighting in their barbaric ways. The Imperium had bigger problems to deal with besides the Tau, at least for now. The Ethereals knew this and took advantage of it. The Tau philosophy was designed around the Greater Good, and it was the job of the Tau to spread it. When human colonies joined the empire, Tau space expanded and the ranks increased. Diplomacy was favored as the common method of first contact by the Tau. And Jal now had to live up to it.
The Li’sun’yi approached the asteroid with no resistance. But as they drew nearer to the planet, it was obvious the humans were not defenseless. The air caste pilots were bringing the ship in to land, when the humans suddenly opened fire. The Li’sun’yi was hit and descended in a flaming death spiral. The dorsal side of the ship hit a cliff edge, which sent the ship crashing into a low, open field. The asteroid’s surface was abundant in ground abnormalities such as craters and hills that provided superb cover; the whole rock was perfect for setting up surprise attacks and static defenses. While the pilots had a clear view of what they were approaching, those inside the ship did not. Jal who was in his quarters, not strapped down, was sent hurling into a wall when the ship was hit. He was immediately knocked unconscious.
Jal awoke to a splitting headache amid burning rubble and the smell of searing flesh. The burning, charred, and immobile corpses around him brought the grim reality into perspective all to fast. Jal immediately remembered what he had been told by Vesa, “This will be an easy mission. These humans will join our cause without retaliation. I expect you to come back successfully.” Angered by the truth of what was really happening, he spat the blood out of his mouth in disgust. But he put the memory into the back of his mind; he needed to find the survivors of the ship. He stood up, wincing in pain as he held his ribs. He began to limp, only to fall back down shortly. He coughed and wheezed. Then his vision blurred, and the world went black.
This time Jal was awakened by a sharp pain in his side. No longer was he surrounded by rubble and fire, but by bars and his shipmates. They were in a large steel cage and it was late in the afternoon with the sun still lingering slightly over the horizon. Among him were several fire warriors, one pilot who was barely alive with serious injuries, and Por’vre Doran, the veteran diplomat of the expedition. Doran was quiet, he never instigated but had a remarkable way with words. They were in a small cage with steel bars. Jal stood up and called for the guard on the other side of the cage. He said, “Where are the other survivors of our ship?” His question was answered with a sharp jab from the guard’s gun butt. As was becoming the custom, Jal fell to the ground with the air knocked out of him, gasping. Learning his lesson, he decided to avoid the guards from now on. He proceeded to ask Doran what was going on.
Doran excitedly replied, “Jal, thank goodness you’re alive. It seemed like you were lost. You’ve been unconscious for hours.”
Jal then quietly asked, “I am fine, just a little banged up. What happened? Are there any other survivors?”
Head hung low; Doran said, “We were attacked at the last minute before landing. Apparently the humans are not going to be so willing to join our cause as we thought.” Doran did not even bother to answer the other questions.
Before the conversation could be continued, the cage was swung open and blaring light shone in. Naturally, Jal and the others covered their eyes with their hands to block the brilliant light. The cage door closed as fast and abruptly as it had opened, but after the light was gone and Jal took his hands down Doran was gone. Jal caught a glimpse of blood on one of the guns with flashlights mounted on them and felt a cold chill of fear go up his spine. Jal was not close to Doran, but without him, he would have to work without anyone to help him or offer their experience.
About an hour after Doran was abducted, he was dragged back to the cage, except he was limp and bleeding. The guards proceeded to bring him to the edge of the cage where Doran said, “Everyone I am sorry. I have betrayed you all. Please forgive me. And Jal, you are the only water caste member left. Use your words, and you can save whoever’s left. Make your family proud. Goodbye.” Confuse by Doran’s words, Jal was left speechless. He dare not blink as Doran was dragged away. Several armed humans lined up opposite Doran and readied their weapons. Even when facing death, Doran was quiet, he did not weep or show any signs of weakness. He would have made a much better leader than anyone who was still alive in the cage and could probably get them out of their predicament, if anyone could. The expedition’s survivors watched in solemnity as the guards readied their sights, awaiting the signal. Suddenly, the signal to fire was given, and the guards’ weapons simultaneously went off. Jal observed the travesty in slow motion, still disgusted how the humans had acted. As Doran’s body fell to the ground, the whole event was burned into Jal’s memory. He vowed to himself that he would not let Doran’s death be in vain.
After witnessing their expedition leader executed, those that were still alive did not have much hope. Even the unwavering confidence of Jal was broken. Things seemed grim, but the survivors were not ready to roll over and die just yet. Jal’s instinctive behavior and characteristics took over. He assumed control over the rag tag lot and decided to again try to reason with the guards, just not the guards who reasoned with Doran. But first he took in his surroundings. Their cage was next to a fire in the center of a circle of tents. Some humans were cooking a small animal over the fire, and that reminded Jal that neither he, nor any other survivors, had eaten for some time. He quietly called over a near guard, carefully trying not to let the guard who had hit him before notice.
Learned in the human tongue as part of his studies, Jal timidly asked, “We have not eaten for some time now. May we have some rations and drink?”
With a face of shock, the human was obviously surprised at Jal’s fluency in English. He remarked quickly in a deep voice with a hint of disgust, “You’ll get what’s comin to ya xeno.” Then he walked off without a second glance.
Jal did not know his cellmates well, and was unsure if they spoke English or not, but he took the gamble and pretended that the guard had said something entirely different. In order to keep up what little morale was left, he said “We will be fed soon and I am going to have a meeting with their leader.” The heads of the men perked up, believing the lie. Jal was not surprised the fire caste members did not know English, but was surprised by Ephraim, one of the fire warriors. Ephraim pulled Jal over after his little speech and confronted him.
Angrily, he said, “What are you doing? Why are you lying to us? I may not understand their language, but I can tell by the look on your face. What is really going on?”
Jal was shocked. Ephraim was much like himself, young and ambitious. Jal could tell by looking into his eyes. Jal took an immediate liking to Ephraim and planned to rely on him as his right hand man. Jal faced Ephraim and stared him down for what seemed like a minute.
Then Jal calmly said, “Ephraim, can you lead the other warriors?”
Taken back by the straight forward remark, Ephraim replied, “Yes. But we are captured, have no weapons, and no clue what our captors are planning to do with us. Do you have something in mind?”
Jal disappointedly answered, “Not yet. But let’s get some rest and regroup tomorrow.”
Ephraim went and told the other fire caste members the plan and checked up on the air caste pilot. He relayed the information back to Jal, without even thinking. It was unnatural for a fire caste member to be taking orders from a water caste member in a situation that involved fighting. He instinctively saluted Jal, and said, “The pilot is badly injured and his condition is worsening. He will surely die soon if he is not given medical attention. As for the other fire caste members, I am the most experienced among them and they will be looking to me as their leader for the time being.” After describing the situation, Ephraim was going to end with a sharp salute, but caught himself and only cut off his “Si-!” He had almost saluted a water caste diplomat! He knew in this situation, he was definitely more suited to lead and coordinate the survivors, but something about Jal made Ephraim acknowledge his leadership. However, Ephraim put this in the back of his mind and hoped the other fire caste members had not seen his mistake.
Shortly after Jal had finally managed to force his self to sleep, he was awakened by a hand the covered his mouth and held his body against the cage bars. Jal was caught completely off guard and was unsure about what to do. But just then, Jal’s captor whispered into his ear, “Did you come here with peaceful intentions? Or is this “greater good” you Tau speak of just another name for conquest as with so many other races?”
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:16   #2 (permalink)
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Shas'El
 
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Default Re: Entry A - Untitled

Jal was shocked that the primitive human knew about his race. But he was not scared. He had a gut feeling that the human was not going to harm him. As if the human read his mind, he pulled his hand back. Then he said, “We can discuss this later, but if you want to live, wake the others and get ready to run in five minutes.” Then he melted into the shadows just as fast as he had emerged from them. Jal did not want to have to rely on beings he did not know or trust, but he did not want to stay and suffer at the guns of the executioners.
Shortly after the cloaked man had fled, one of the circling guards walked up to the cage. He noticed Jal was awake and approached him. He said, “Hey xeno, you’re in luck. Da boss says you and your boys’ execution has been moved up a day. So you better get a good night’s sleep!” He walked off chuckling obnoxiously. The new circumstances had changed and Jal’s mind was set. They had no other option except to go with the mysterious man.
He woke Ephraim and quickly told him, “Get up. Wake the others and prepare to go. We are getting out of here. It is time to escape.”
Ephraim understood. He did not question Jal. He dare not jeopardize any chance of escape they had. He and Jal quietly awoke the other survivors and explained what was about to happen. As the last of the survivors was awakened, three men cloaked similarly to the original man appeared in the bush adjacent to the cage. They snuck up to the cage and made the symbol for silence.
They had brought strange knife-like tools that cut through the bars almost silently except for the quiet whirring sound they emitted. Aside from the small noise, the compact tools also glowed a bright white. They melted through the bars like a hot knife through butter. Ephraim was shocked by the sight. The Tau Earth caste engineers had just begun to experiment with such technology. He had seen a similar prototype on the field when he was a young shas’la. The shas’ui of his squad used the knife-like tool to sear rope, cut through foliage, and even amputate wounded teammates without the problem of blood loss. The tool instantly seared the limb. The tool was incredibly flexible and simplistic. But it was believed that the Tau were the first race to think of it. It was planned to be issued to all squad leaders soon. But now, Ephraim was shocked by the humans’ technological progress. None of the other survivors knew anything about the tool and thought nothing of it. Ephraim did not say anything, but took a mental note of it.
The survivors escaped through the hole in the cage while two fire caste members carried the air caste pilot in a make shift stretcher. They managed to make it to the cover of a nearby forest without being spotted, but it was just a matter of time before one of the many guards noticed an empty cage with a large hole in it. Once they entered the shadows of the forest the cloaked men warned them, “We have prepared traps throughout the forest in order to stop any who decide to follow us. We will not force you to come with us, but do so at your own risk.” They moved as quickly and silently as possible. They followed the cloaked men for what seemed an eternity until they suddenly stopped at a large tree. One of the cloaked men walked up to the tree and knocked it several times in a pattern that sounded like something Jal had learned about when he was studying human language. He remembered a code that humans had used to communicate only with a single noise that was made in patterns. But before Jal could give it a second thought, part of the tree swung open and the humans began to enter. The Tau survivors hesitantly entered, but entered nonetheless. After walking down a small winding path, they came into a great hall that could easily accommodate two hundred. There were also many halls that led from the room to other carved out hiding places.
The survivors were through a long hall to a set of large wooden double doors. One of he cloaked men knocked a pattern similar to the one they used to enter the tree. Jal decided to ask about the pattern this time, “What is that pattern you use to knock on the doors? I know I learned about it, but I just can’t remember it right now.”
He replied, “You know Morse code? That’s surprising! We use it because the other humans have long forgotten about it and it doesn’t require any tech.”
“That’s true, but I bet some humans would recognize it,” Jal answered.
The human grinned then said, “They can’t recognize it if they don’t get to hear it.”
Then the group entered through the doors into a brightly lit room filled with scanners and monitors from wall to wall. They approached a tall burly man who had a thick beard and eye patch on his left eye. Upon closer inspection, Jal noticed that the man was scarred almost everywhere; a hardened veteran. The man’s uniform was decorated but old and tattered. He had obviously fought before. The burly man took the initiative and said to the Tau survivors, “Hello. I am Admiral Whitcomb. I am the leader of these humans. We mean you no harm, unlike the other members of our race. We have heard of your so called Greater Good, and were trying to escape the Imperium in order to come join you. Unfortunately, we were betrayed by a former crewmember for a measly reward. We were followed and attacked. We managed to defend ourselves and even destroy the frigate that was chasing us, but we sustained too much damage to continue much farther. That is why we ended up crashing on this asteroid. We have set up static defenses and fortified our position, but it is just a matter of time before the Imperium stumbles onto us. Now we are coming to you for help. Will you aid us and let us join you?”
Jal was surprised that he did not need to use any wordplay to persuade the humans, but secretly delighted; one less chance to fail. He felt the humans had proven their loyalty and saved the lives of several Tau including himself. He planned to return the favor. Jal walked up to Whitcomb and stared him down, “First things first. Our pilot needs medical aid. We will help you, but in order to do so we need some way to contact T’olku. If we can manage to explain the situation to my world, they will send aid. From now on, you and your people are Gue’vesa; our human helpers. You now do what is best for the Greater Good, not yourselves. If we want to survive this ordeal, we must work together as we are destined to do. Now let’s see your communicating devices.”
After the air caste pilot was brought to the medical wing, the Tau survivors. Accompanied by Admiral Whitcomb and his men, carried on to the communication center. Surprisingly the rebels’ technology was mostly Tau hardware. Ephraim had no trouble setting the right frequency to contact T’olku. He managed to contact the fire caste there and requested pick up. An orca would come to pick them up the next day, but that meant they still had to survive for another whole day…
Everyone, particularly the rebels, was happy to know that pickup was coming. The hope of escape shone brightly on all of the rebels’ faces. But the Imperial soldiers’ were knocking on their doorstep. Admiral Whitcomb knew that it depended on luck for their survival. He pulled Jal aside from the others in the communication center. He said, “Jal, we need to get going. The Imperial soldiers are storming one of the entrance ways to our underground hideout. We must escape before they can get here. Try to contact T’olku, maybe we can finally get off the god forsaken rock.”
Right after Admiral Whitcomb’s last word, he hit a red button on the wall. It sounded an alarm and the humans began to scatter. Complete chaos ensued after the press of a small button. Jal stood motionless with Admiral Whitcomb in the midst of the mess; two leaders who were preparing themselves for the last stretch. Then Ephraim ran up, “Jal, I managed to make contact with another Tau diplomat. He will be here with an orca in half an hour. It’s amazing, I have no clue how he managed to get an orca as a diplomat. But it is lucky he was so close to us! Get your people ready admiral, it is time to go.”
After blocking off their trail, the rebels and Tau survivors escaped through one of the many tunnels into an open patch of field. Ephraim used his position device to mark their location, and within minutes the orca was landing in front of them. The air caste pilots opened the doors and the rebels rushed aboard. Lastly, the Tau survivors boarded the ship, with Jal at the end of the bunch. When he climbed aboard, there waiting for him, was his father. Jal was speechless. Jal’s father, Jinu, matter-of-factly said, “Jal, it good to see you alive. I almost thought I was not going to make it here in time. Vesa warned me that a human expedition was headed toward the same asteroid as you, and I called upon my resources to get a bit of a rescue party going. But we can talk more when we get home, let’s get going.”
As the pilot was closing the door, a shot from an imperial soldier hit him. The soldiers were begging to pour out of the tunnel that was still minutes ago. They closed the door and prepared to lift off. The pilot was dead cold, instantly killed. Jal, Jinu, Ephraim, and the air caste pilots proceeded to the cockpit to lift off. That is when they realized their problem, an orca required several air caste members to pilot it, and now they were short one. With all of the pilot seats filled by an air caste member except one, Jal bravely sat down in the seat. Just as he sat down, a hand was laid on his shoulder. Jal turned around to see the once wounded air caste pilot he and Ephraim had cared for. The pilot was still injured and wincing in pain, but he was also vastly more qualified then anyone else on the ship for the empty position. Jal stepped aside and allowed the pilot to get to the controls. A moment later, the thrusters kicked in and the orca began to lift off. The air caste pilots worked amazingly fast and efficiently together, a prime example of Tau working together for the Greater Good.
Narrowly, they had managed to escape the asteroid and imperial soldiers. Cheers exploded throughout the ship. The orca flew at full speed back to T’olku and got enough of a head start to outrun the imperial ships. They were on T’olku shortly after, and Jal was renowned for his efforts and leadership skills. The humans were accepted as Gue’vesa and Ephraim and the air caste pilot who had been injured both were awarded with special honors. Jal was also awarded, but he did not care for the award nearly as much as he cared for the small smile he saw his father have as they were going back to T’olku.
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Old 20 Aug 2007, 15:53   #3 (permalink)
Shas'Ui
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 937
Default Re: Entry A - Untitled

I applaud the author for writing on the Air Caste; something I've never seen before.

Pros
+Writing on the life of a negotiator, not a fighter (there are plenty of both in the dark millennium that is 40k)

Cons
-Some glaring fluff/plot inconstancies (Humans speak Low Gothic for the most part not English and asteroids should not have forests and fields of foliage, ect.)

Thank the author for thinking outside the box.
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