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Entry J - Fire and Fury: A Warrior's first Ride
Old 01 Sep 2008, 12:52   #1 (permalink)
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Default Entry J - Fire and Fury: A Warrior's first Ride

Fire and Fury: A Warrior’s first Ride
- From Commander Oi Nan’s first speech to the first class of Shas’saal to attend the Fi’Rios Fire Warrior Academy

The hum of exited young Shas’saal filled the Fi’rios Fire Warrior Academy auditorium. The freshman Tau had been engaged in rigorous devilfish combat debarkation drills every rotaa for the better part of a kai’rotaa. They were battered and tired, yet no less enthusiastic about their training and chattered away with youthful vigor in the absence of their instructors.

Shas’O’Dal’yth Oi Nan’Cae’Mont’yr looked one more time in the mirror, ensuring his uniform was impeccable before entering the auditorium. He wore white robes, the uniform of a dignitary and an instructor at the newly founded fire caste academy on Fi’rios. The billet of academy Commandant was one he gladly accepted rather than retire altogether and he felt that perhaps his experience could benefit the next generation of warriors. As he stepped out onto the walkway that would bring him to the lectern, a single student rose to his feet and shouted “Attention on deck, Shas'O'Dal'yth Oi Nan'Cae'Mont'yr on deck!”

With that, the entire auditorium rose to their feet in unison and remained still and silent with their heels together, head and eyes straight to the front. The commander’s footsteps were the only sound in the once noisy auditorium as he took the podium. Oi Nan looked out over the crowd. Their eyes reflected the innocence and wonder of those who had yet to bear witness to the horrors of the battlefield.

“Take your seats, Shas’saal,” the old veteran said softly. With the same discipline that brought them to their feet, the students sat down without taking their eyes off their commandant.

“For some time now, you recruits have studied and applied combat debarkation with mixed results. We have pushed you through the maneuvers in small steps at first and recently introduced combat simulation drones, programmed to behave as the enemy. You have been forced to debark under rigorous conditions without support and to fight against odds you lack the tactical knowledge to face,” he looked at the crowd of students through the stoic bearing of a blooded veteran. “Many of you may wonder why we have not simulated pathfinder or XV8 support during our drills, but not everything goes as planned on the battlefield and I would rather you learn how to operate on your own before I introduce another element to the training.”

“My first combat mission upon graduation from the academy on Dal’yth was in response to a Necron incursion on a Dal’yth trade city,” The commander explained while surveying the crowd. “I was with the cadre for less than a full kai’rotaa, when we were called to action, and like many of my peers, I was nervous.”

“Our devil fish detached from the cadre’s manta in sub-orbit upon receiving word from forward-operating pathfinders that the time to strike was at hand,” the commander paused. “As we approached the battlefield, I remember that while most of us were looking around at each other in anxiety, Shas’Ui Lar’Nars held his weapon and looked only to the hatch which we would debark from.”

“I tried to emulate the Ui’s calm demeanor, but I could not stop myself from shaking,” Oi Nan admitted. “We could hear the sounds of battle erupting and enemy ordnance striking the earth around us. I could also hear the devil fish crew coordinating their movement with the team of XV8 which we were escorting and with the pathfinders who would provide marklight support once we were in position.”

“Lar’Nars stood and gave the order to make ready, at which point we busied ourselves taking weapons from the racks beside us and powering up our helmet mounted communications,” the commander spoke the words as his arms went through the motions of enabling a Fire Caste helmet. “As soon as my comm link was up, we heard the thrashing sound of gauss weapons as the pathfinder Ui relayed that they were taking incoming fire.”

“The end of the pathfinder’s transmission was punctuated by the dull crunch of an impact on our port side,” the commander’s voice echoed throughout the chamber, he was one of the few instructors who could speak to the entire auditorium without the aid of audio amplifiers. “Several of the Shas’la fell from their seats as the fish banked in reaction to the blast. There was panic in the cockpit as Lar’Nars shouted ‘get back in your seats and prepare for debarkation!’ At his command, the panic receded and the crew regained their composure. The fish banked heavily and the hatch growled loudly, attempting to open.”

“The hatch had been damaged from the impact and already the crew chief turned to the Ui and told him we would have to abort debarkation,” Oi Nan now drew away from the lectern, half-reliving the events which took place nearly 40 Tau’cyr ago. “The Ui didn’t even acknowledge the crew chief’s remarks as he drew his pulse rifle into his shoulder and placed a round into the edge of the faulty hatch. As it blew open, he ran forward shouting ‘DEBARK NOW! ENGAGE TARGETS WITH RAPID FIRE!’"

“Many of the veteran Shas’La aboard were already through the opening by the time my disbelief had worn off,” Oi Nan admitted without a trace of embarrassment. “As I exited the transport another gauss blast sent the devil fish to the ground, immobilized. We had disembarked in the middle of an enemy volley which had laid waste to our XV8 team and exacted a heavy toll on the pathfinders and our own devil fish. Through the smoke and dust, I could see dark shapes with glowing, empty eyes filled with unnatural light approaching us, making ready to fire upon our position. I drew my weapon to my shoulder along with my brothers, and fired into the oncoming menace.”

“Without markerlight support, many pulse rounds failed to find their targets and to our horror, some of the machine creatures who were hit, began to rise and continued to march as their gauss weaponry lit up and tore into our squad,” the commander paused, looking down toward his balled fists. He took a deep breathe and moved back to the lectern. His composure renewed he continued.

“The enemy’s weapons took the left arm and much of the torso from the La to my right and reduced the La to my left to ash. He had been a close friend since the academy,” Oi Nan looked up from the lectern and for a moment thought he could see the faces of his lost friends in the crowd, but continued his story in a low tone. “The squad had suffered four casualties and several of us had taken minor wounds. A thick smoke had risen, obscuring everything that wasn’t within arms reach. In that instant, I found myself in a private hell, unable to function and I hoped that our Ui would give the call to retreat to cover. I could hear the screams of the dying over my comm set and nearly lost my nerve. I thought for sure I would die immediatley.”

“After that unforgiving moment, the smoke drifted and I could see that Shas’Ui Lar’Nars stood, in the same position he took when we debarked, his rifle in his shoulder, his eyes on the enemy, which had closed within two rifle lengths of the Ui. I began to regain my senses at the sight of his stance, his discipline and the blade secured to his thigh, a symbol of our bond as warriors.” Oi Nan looked into the lights of the auditorium. “My comm link clicked on and I heard Lar’Nars, in a voice of stone call ‘Mark Ready.’ A reply came back from the pathfinder team, ‘Marking targets.’"

“As soon as the markerlights illuminated the display within our helmets, Lar’Nars called ‘FIRE!’ I fired into the incoming enemy with a renewed sense of calm, moving from one lighted target to the next and when it seemed that the last of them would fall upon the Shas’Ui, a missile volley smashed the remaining enemy ranks with marklight-guided precision.” The commander’s eyes left the overhead lights and without blinking, he gazed back over the crowd of Shas’saal, who were leaning forward in their seats, enthralled by the story, though they could only imagine what he and his battle-brothers had actually lived.

“We had held our position long enough for the Manta to deliver the rest of our cadre, including the Deathrains which had protected us from close combat with the enemy,” the commander straightened, his chin held high. “I watched as XV8 Helios pattern suits landed behind the enemy’s strange vehicle structure and brought it to the ground in a pyre of unnatural green flames.”

“The pathfinders continued to mark targets, which quickly fell to the incoming XV8s and before we could engage another enemy unit, the entire force of the dark machines vanished without a trace, including their downed vehicle.” Commander Oi Nan drew a deep breathe and walked around to the front of the lectern with his hands held together behind his back at parade rest. “The reason for the attack was unknown and the Necrons never attacked Dal’yth again. Shortly after the occurrence, our cadre would be drawn into the Third Sphere Expansion, selected by Aun’va himself to help expand our Empire for the Greater Good.”

“Lar’Nars was commended by our commander for his actions on the field and was selected for duty as an XV8 pilot,” Oi Nan’s eyes darkened and he looked down for a second before recovering. “If it were not for his stoicism and his bearing, our unit would have been destroyed before it had disembarked. In another situation, an Ui would have been expected to call a retreat for his squad, but he held the ground to protect the pathfinders and as a result, they were able to mark targets throughout the battle, enabling the rest of the army to quickly dispatch the Necron force and turning the battle in the favor of the Greater Good.”

“While the Mont’ka doctrine of combat debarkation, also known as the ‘Fish of Fury’ is a solid and proven maneuver, it is also contingent upon many supporting factors and is only one of the tactics your commander’s can call upon,” the commandant stated matter-of-factly. “You should be prepared to face adversity and you should understand that even the best-laid plans can fall apart on the battlefield, which is why every one of you will learn to fight without support before you learn to operate with it.”

Before he stepped down from the stage, the commander’s expression softened slightly. His eyes gave the look of earnest intent. “There is much training ahead and I encourage each of you to train as hard as you can, but understand that death does not spare the gifted, nor does it forgive fools. You will all graduate as Shas’La someday, but you will earn the title of Fire Warrior on the battlefield. The toll you pay for that title is your sacrifice to the Greater Good and you will bear it until the day you die, whether that be in a hail of enemy gunfire or in the robes of a venerated commander.”

With that, the old veteran stepped down and walked back toward the exit. A Shas’saal stood and called ‘Attention on deck, Shas’O’Dal’yth Oi Nan’Cae’Mont’yr, off deck!’ and all of the Saal rose to their feet in unison with uniformed discipline, their heels together, head and eyes straight to the front. The commander's footsteps were the only sound as he left the auditorium. He was tired, reliving the fire and fury of his first ride, left him exhausted and haunted by the faces of those who died to give him the lessons he taught today.
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Old 01 Sep 2008, 12:53   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Entry J - Fire and Fury: A Warrior's first Ride


Through the next two tau’cyr, Commander Oi Nan and his instructors did their best to help mould the next generation of fire warriors. As time went by, it eased the commander’s heart to see his instruction take hold in the minds of the Shas’saal. He took pride in their abilities and though some would be recycled to lower classes due to injuries or sub-standard academic achievement, many went on to graduate and become Shas’La.

It was not until Oi Nan took the stage on the night of their commencement, that he began to feel the pull of the demons of war on his old heart. As he stared out over the crowd that night, he fought hard to keep his resolve …

Bought with blood
From the commencement speech of the first Fi’rios Fire Warrior Academy graduation

“As a fierce battle ensued across the surface of Fi’rios during the Third Phase Expansion, we fought many hard-won battles in the name of our empire and the Greater Good,” said Shas’ O Dal’yth Oi Nan Cae Mont’yr as he stared out at the senior class of Shas’La recruits before him. “Because of the brave warriors, both Tau and Kroot, who gave their lives in battle against the green savages, we are here today.”

He could feel every eye in the room on him now. Many of those young minds either believed they knew what he was talking about or were trying to wrap their head around the concept. They would learn soon enough.

“Every inch of this planet, every seat in this auditorium and every breath you draw,” the commander paused, his memory stirring. “Was bought with their blood.”

The old warrior stiffened up and shook off the creeping memories, maintaining his bearing as he stood on the stage in his ceremonial white robes, though he half-wished he could be among the crowd, young and eager to fight, with no knowledge of what lie ahead.

“Before we close our instruction for the day, I will pass to you a story that may serve you in your travels after you leave this school.”

With that the Shas’O spun a narrative, detailing one of the first battles in the invasion of Fi’rios. The planet was under the control of a fiercely powerful ork warlord. The orks held the surface through strength of numbers, but the Tau had already begun to implant small teams of pathfinders and XV15 suits near ork outposts to observe an harass the Be’gel and create a suitable situation to begin a Kauyon.

“I was serving as the Shas’Ui for a team of pathfinders. We were one of the first teams and, as you may be able to imagine from your survival training, life in the wilderness was tough.”

“We had been observing the orks from deep within the tree line for nearly a Kai’rotaa, when we received word that a hunter cadre was inbound. The orks were fortified in a makeshift fortress; not the best conditions to wage battle with fierce Be’gel. Though this fortress was of little importance, the orks would fight to the death to keep it. Our duty now was to bring the majority of the orks out of their lair and into the forests, where the cadre would make quick work of them.”

“With that in mind, we laid down enough carbine fire to spark their interest before heading west. We were the bait that would bring them to the cadre. To ensure we had their full attention, the local XV15 squad hit the first crew of orks to leave their fortress with a torrent of pulse rounds before disappearing into the forest.”

“My team took the lead from there out, sticking near the main road to ensure that our tracks would be followed by the simple creatures. It worked as they had sent the majority of their warriors to follow us.”

“Every now and again, we would offer them a glimpse of our squad from a distance to keep them on the trail. After nearly three decs of running, we reached an area of low ground, where two streams crossed in a section of lowland. The area around the stream was free of trees and was surrounded by higher ground was dense with vegetation. This would be where the Kauyon would close upon the beasts.”

“I radioed Shas’O Or’es Kais Mont’yr with the coordinates. He had been tracking us and informed me that a team of Fire Warriors was in place and that himself and a crisis unit was inbound. Our job was now to apply our pre-deployment training and mark targets for the cadre.”

“As the orks began to come into view, it was easy to tell why they were known amongst the commanders as O’res’la. They had been pursuing us on foot, carrying their large weapons as they sprinted over an uneven and muddy trail. Despite all of this, they didn’t betray a hint of fatigue; in fact they seemed to be invigorated by the chase.”

“As a force of nearly fifty green skinned barbarians closed in with us, I gave the order for the pathfinders to hold their position, keep their finger off the trigger and make ready to mark targets.”

As I heard the panting, grunts and foul orkish language echo through the trees, the killing blow began.”

“First, a short series of ‘thunks’ burst out in rapid succession as black projectiles filled the air above the orks. They barely had time to look up when suddenly the air above them filled with bursting flames. A small group of the orks fell, pierced through with razor sharp rain of shrapnel launched by an experimental air bursting fragmentation projector.”

“Though they were badly injured, many of the O’res’la still attempted to join their brethren in a counter attack, yet before a single ork could regroup, a loud crackle came from the same direction as the last volley. Lightning flashed horizontally through the forest, immolating small trees, cutting some of the green skins in half and searing the flesh of many more. I fought the urge to cheer as I witnessed the cyclic ion blaster unleash destruction in the name of the Greater Good. I knew this was the commander in one of the few Ionstorm pattern crisis suits, developed specifically for this conflict.”

“The column of barbarians was essentially cut in half at this point, when I gave the command to mark the closest group of orks. I took up one of my Shas’la’s rail rifles and finished the largest ork on the field as I called ‘Mark!’”

“As soon as the faint light kissed their green flesh, the tree line beside them came alive with pulse rifle fire. The fire warriors had been deployed to just the right place and their Shas’ui had held their fire just long enough for the commander to escape. The projectiles punched hole in the remaining orks at the front of their broken formation, coloring the crystal clear streams a thick green as their hulking carcasses fell in and around the water.”

“Now that many of the orks had fallen, the survivors in the tail end of the column turned to run, only to be cut down by the XV15 who had been tailing them since we had left the fortress more than three rataa ago.”

“With the enemy dispatched, we boarded a devilfish transport, as did the fire warriors. We could now join the crisis teams and the commander to neutralize the remaining orkish forces at the garrison.”

“Death rain crisis layouts were essential in destroying fuel and ammunition within the garrison, but it was Commander Or’es, with his Ionstorm special issue suit who had secured the victory, denying the orks the chance to mass their troops and bolster their morale.”

The fire that had built in Commander Oi Nan’s eyes suddenly faded and there was a moment of silence on the stage. Oi Nan wasn’t there, he was on the battlefield, but in a moment much less glorious than the one he was sharing with his students. He realized that he had trailed off, but was not aware for how long.

The Shas’O, his eyes still distant, cleared his throat and in a voice barely above a whisper, he said, “When the war is over, tell them of us and say, for a greater tomorrow, we gave up our todays.”

The few students that heard what Oi nan said furrowed their brows. How could they understand the burden he carried, he thought. He was merely a relic of that war. It was something these young warriors could only know through tales told by their parents or by an aging Shas’O.

Once again, the old warrior straightened his back, inhaled deeply and took a fresh grip on his bearing, wearing his discipline on his rigid blue face like a bullet proof mask. Behind all of that, the images of his squad, his cadre … his friends swirled through his mind in a maelstrom of both bloodshed and the tense, yet peaceful, moments between. In less than a Tau’cyr, all but six of his cadre would die in the battle for Fi’rios.

He could never explain to this group of recruits the way warfare changes everything it touches. He could never share with them what it means to press on for the Greater Good after losing everyone you know. They would have to learn for themselves how to deal with that when they and if they survive long enough.

He offered the only advice he thought could be of tangible help to these children.

“Your commanders will exercise the will of the Aun and the Greater Good on the battle field and they will always do so with a well-laid plan in mind,” his words felt heavy. “But not everything happens according to plan and even the Be’gel can adapt to our tactics and even destroy a cadre. It is what you, the Shas’la, do when the plan falls apart that determines the outcome of the battle. It is you who may one day command and send our troops into harm’s way. What will you do when your best plan falls apart?”

With that the commander turned and stepped off the stage, leaving a silent auditorium standing at attention behind. The students had much to think about and the old veteran had much he wished he could forget, but he would be present again because his suffering is his contribution to the greater good. So long as there is an enemy, there will always be a war, young Tau to fight it and old veterans to pass down its deadly practice.

-The End
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