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Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"
 
Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:25   #1 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

The Hunt of Viros

1. The Skies of Viros III

Shas’Ui Fi’rios Cal Mont’yr moved down the Dropship’s bench, squeezing past Ui’Elan’s Crisis suits as he dutifully checked the equipment of his fellow Fire Warriors. Each gave a crisp salute as Ui’cal finished his inspection, which caused him to smile under the helmet obscuring his face. He worked diligently to make sure the Tau under his command exuded competence and professionalism, but it was his easily-cultivated reputation for toughness that helped the most. A few well-placed reprimands, sternly worded, would compel his subordinates better than any speech UCal could think up.

As he reached the end of the bench next to the Orca’s ramp, his helmet communicator’s private channel came to life. “Your Fire Warriors do you credit, Shas’Ui.” Cal turned and looked up at the hulking form of Shas’Ui Fi’Rios Elan Kir’la’s Crisis suit. The head unit was pointed right at him.

“If you’d like me to look over your team, I can. But if any of them try to salute, we may all perish.” Space was at a premium with two Crisis teams in the Orca, a necessary sacrifice to have their firepower near at hand.

Ui’Elan roared with laughter. She was the younger of the two, a battlesuit pilot full of drive and marching purposefully to the day when she’d command more than just a single Crisis team. As an aging Veteran long since barred from the battlesuit ranks, it would have been easy for Cal to clash with him. But the two had always gotten along well, and UCal found himself looking forward to the day that Elan gained recognition as a Hero of the Tau.

The cabin tilted as the Orca banked smoothly, lining up on their objective. Cal began working his way past the suits and seated Warriors to his place closest to the command deck. His comm. kept Elan in his ear. “I trust Aun’Ukos is well?”

Cal smiled to himself again. How was Aun’Ukos during every Orca ride? The regal, inspiring Ethereal sat dozing in his throne on the command deck, eyes closed and head nodded forward elegantly.
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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:26   #2 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

The first time he had ridden with Aun’El Fi’rios Ukos Shi and witnessed him sleeping through the experience, Cal had been stunned. Surely an Ethereal should be always alert and vigilant; any member of the Fire Cast would be ashamed to be found otherwise. His surprise only widened after landing, when the robed figure had approached him personally.

In a soft, reassuring tone, the Ethereal had spoken with him. “Do not be distressed, Shas’La appearances can be deceiving.”

“Aun’Ukos?”

The regal Tau had walked as he talked, leading Cal out of hearing range of his companions. “During a landing, the Crew is busy, the battlesuit pilots are busy, and you Fire Warriors are busy. They are all these things whether I am there or not, were I involving myself I would not be helping them prepare any better, although I may distract them.” He gestured to the other Fire Warriors behind them, “They require only my presence to inspire, and to reassure them. They have the training as warriors, I do not need to do anything more than make sure they are able to use it. If I can sleep through the landing, their nerves are soothed and my energy is saved for time of need.”

Cal had nodded and thanked the Ethereal for his wisdom, then returned to his team assured and confident. Three kai’rotaa later, on the same rotaa he was turned away from Battlesuits due to incompatibility, he was presented with an offer from Aun’Ukos. Cal was invited to join Ukos’ personal Honor Guard.

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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:26   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

Many Tay’cyr later, Ui’Cal now led that Honor Guard team. He could not call Aun’Ukos a friend as he could Ui’Elan or some others, but there was no other Tau that Cal trusted more or would defend longer.

As he neared his seat, Cal felt the Dropship bank again. Then again, this time more urgently. That was unusual, this world was supposed to be easy game. He looked forward; the two Fire Cast Xar were talking quietly but rapidly into their comms, their hands rapidly working the controls. Aun’Ukos still slept, but something was clearly not right. Technically, Cal was only team leader of the Honor Guard. But with no higher-ranking Fire Cast onboard and Cal closest to the Ethereal, he was effectively in charge of all 24 Fire Warriors, 8 drones, and 6 battlesuits onboard until they were deployed. Instead of sitting, Cal climbed up the four steps to the command deck.

The command deck was roomy and comfortable compared to the rest of the Orca’s interior. The Ethereal’s throne was mounted on a motorized base in the center, so it could rotate to face back toward the troops or forward toward the crew and screens. A curving screen in either forward corner gave the Tau seated there a panoramic view fed by the Dropship’s sensors. In between them and directly in front of Aun’Ukos’ throne was the Ethereal’s own large, flat screen. What Cal saw there shocked him.

Angry red beams and streaking projectiles were rising up from the surface, trying to reach Cal’s Orca and the other aircraft accompanying it. The Tigershark escort leading the group was already smoking, and it was either deploying or jettisoning gun drones. Chatter over the Xar comms was calm but urgent; all craft were calling for help. The formation was trying to weave around the incoming fire.

Cal resisted the urge to start asking the crew questions. As Aun’Ukos might say, they were better off being left to do the job they were trained to. He wouldn’t be of any help to them and the distraction could be fatal. He looked back to the troops, most did not seem ruffled though a few had noticed his absence from the bench and were looking up at him expectantly. I should return, have faith in the crew and prepare Cal thought, but as he turned to do so a blossom of light from the forward screens brought his head back around.

One of the Orcas was hit, its port-forward thrust pod had exploded and smoke poured from the rear. The Dropship began a slow, but accelerating roll toward the damaged side, it was clearly doomed. As the screen’s display tracked it, the rear hatch blew off and the Crisis suits inside began jumping out the back. They were still high up; Cal had no idea if their jet packs could land them safely. But he knew even id so they would be alone, isolated in a hostile environment with no support and no way out. The last out had an odd look, and just before it disappeared from the screen Cal realized with shock that it was carrying an Ethereal in its arms.

“Brace!” one of the crew shouted just as the Orca began a violent turn. The maneuver wasn’t enough, something heavy slammed into the Dropship from below. Structure groaned in protest, lights and screens flickered, but things held together. Cal found himself on the deck in a daze, but a hand pulled him to his feet. It belonged to Aun’Ukos.

“Get to your seat quickly, Ui’Cal, I fear our landing may be unsettling.”

He didn’t need to be told twice, Cal scrambled to his seat and secured himself. He switched his comm over to the general circuit. “Fire Warriors, we are under attack and the Orca has been damaged. Prepare for a hard landing and immediate combat.” The he switched it off, there was not really anything more to say until they were down.

For tense moments, the compartment was silent save for the muted sounds of combat outside and the disconcerting groans and thumps of glancing hits. Eventually, Aun’Ukos’ voice broke in over the general Comm. “Crisis teams, deploy immediately.”

“Yes, Aun!” responded Ui’Elan. She didn’t wait for the ramp to open or jettison, instead she lit her jets and jumped into it, tearing the whole thing from its mounts. The rest of her team and Ui’Mal’s followed, jumping into the void.

Heads turned to look, however nothing but gray sky and smoke was visible out the hatch. Fight well for The Greater Good, Elan Cal said silently. The drones in their overhead racks were next, activating suddenly and then flying out into the angry sky. Now only the Fire Warriors and Ethereal were left onboard.

Aun’Ukos’ back was turned, so most of the helmets turned to look at Cal. He remained silent, arms crossed. Don’t break character now, Shas’Ui he thought to himself now when they face their death they need to be their best. Be the hard veteran they know and trust, as long as you can keep it up.

The Orca slammed into the ground, skipped back into the air, and then slammed down again, skidding. Rifles and carbines were dislodged from their racks, a warrior next to the hatch was thrown out when his seat harness broke, lights flickered and died. Somehow, the cabin held together as the Dropship scraped across the land and smashed to a stop against some unseen obstacle.

Cal was out of his seat before his mind caught up to what his body was doing, four teams of Fire Warriors following his example. He turned to the front, duty immediately taking over, but Aun’Urkos was already coming down the steps looking completely unharmed. The same could not be said for the Orca’s crew, he saw no movement from the Xar forward. They did their job, we’re down. Now it is my turn. He turned back to the 24 living Tau still in his charge.

“We must get Aun’Ukos to safety of some kind and await his rescue. All teams with me, defend the Ethereal with your life For The Greater Good!” Crisp salutes responded, someone handed him a carbine. He jogged toward the hatchway, out of the dead ship and into the din of battle.

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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:26   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

Ui’Cal fired in short, controlled bursts. His carbine’s pulses tore through the twisted, wretched shapes bearing down on his position and their charge faltered. More shots went into the gaggle of insane Gue’la and the survivors began falling back, but others behind pressed forward still. Mad chants and cries mixing into a terrible din, Cal wished dearly his helmet hadn’t been damaged a few decs before, it was better at keeping the sound out.

He told himself to be happy he was still alive. Eight decs since the crash and nearly half his Fire Warriors could not say the same. They’d fled from the crash sight, hoping to loose their pursuers among the ruins of the ancient city they found themselves in. But it was quickly apparent that the horrible denizens of this world knew the ruins well, and would not loose their prey.

Their saving grace early on had been several drones and battlesuits making an improbable rendezvous. Together, the rag-tag band had smashed the through several search parties and continued to elude a killing blow. But casualties had been heavy. Cal had watched as Ui’Elan fought her last battle; her battered Crisis suit first holding off waves of fanatical Gue’la, barely armed but suicidal in their frenzy. Missiles gone, she’d used her flamer to hold back an onrush. Flamer depleted, she’d fought with battlesuit’s limbs. The mob of mad creatures had covered her before some sort of vehicle smashed into the whole pile, destroying friend and foe alike.

Now, they were falling back before another wave of the mad ones in the darkness of an evil night. The foes were clearly Gue’la, but even for aliens they looked… wrong. Flesh was rent, metal spikes and sigils embedded in their bodies, and a mad fire burned in their eyes. Most were pathetically armed with crude blades and simple projectile weapons, but he’d glimpsed a few who looked far more dangerous. Lurking behind the crowds of fanatic servants were masters, beings of great size who wielded dark energies. But these stayed back, hidden from the Fire Warriors fire and directing without participating. Cal could not say why, but their minions were of more concern for the moment.

By some miracle Aun’Ukos was still alive, wielding a piece of wreckage like an Honor Blade he had fought off the enemies who’d reached him. His once-glorious robes were tattered, dirty rags now, and wounds marred his skin. But the Ethereal kept his composure, and his example kept them together.

“Down!” came a cry from a fellow Tau, and the party dropped in time to dodge another drone crashing. The last, as it turned out, ammo spent it had mostly been a decoy anyway. Cal found himself oddly proud that the drone hadn’t outlived them, that the blood and sweat of the Fire Cast still meant something. The thoughts which followed, however, were less heartening. Without the battlesuits and the drones, the tide of enemies would soon wash over them.

As the dark sky began to brighten, they rounded the corner of a ruined intersection with a gap to their pursuers. Cal took his latest headcount. 3 short from the last count, all the rest were clearly wounded. Looking ahead, he found a pile of rubble across the road. They’d have to scale it, but at least they’d be able to get some cover once over the top.

Still, he hesitated momentarily. What after this obstacle? Where were they going? Was the Air Caste tracking them? Would they be found? Glancing over to the Ethereal, Cal saw the other looking at him as well. “Up and over, Fire Warriors” Aun’Ukos ordered with a nod. For once, Cal let a smile of gratitude show. Even after all this, Ukos knew who needed to hear and see what.

Four Fire Warriors crouched behind cover at the base, laying down suppressing fire for the rest. Eight wounded and tired survivors crawled up the heap toward the crest, Cal leading the way. Shots snapped into the rubble around him, and he heard the occasional wordless cry. But as he pulled himself toward the summit he could still hear the Pulse Rifles of the Tau firing, so he kept going. At the top, he could turn and try to give covering fire to the rest, but he couldn’t be stopped before then or he’d never reach it. With a final effort, he hauled himself over the last obstacle and to the crest of the pile. And there he froze.

A second tide of Gue’la had cut them off, the leading fanatics already halfway up the pile and climbing with speed. Fire was already ricocheting off the rubble at his feet. Foes to the front, foes to the rear, walls to either side that they couldn’t hope to scale.

Cal turned to look at Aun’Ukos. The battered Ethereal still wore his ruined robes, still clutched his improvised weapon, and still regarded the scene with the same serene expression he always wore. But the Tau Cal had known for a long time was gone, his unassailable confidence utterly spent and his reassuring presence diminished to a hollow shell. From the periphery of his eyes, Cal saw his fellow Tau dead and dying, horrors being wrought on the fallen as the dwindling survivors desperately fought on. This was it.

Ui’Cal looked down at his weapon; it was still functional and ready. He willed his arms to raise it one last time, and shouted “For The Greater Good!” as he fired. Pulses slammed into enemies, and they fell. He felt heat and then wetness as enemy fire found him, but he shifted aim and kept firing. His vision began to narrow, he had to move his head more to see around him. A wretched, scarred face loomed in front of him suddenly, and he fired the Carbine’s grenade launcher at point blank range into it. Sound deafened him and light blinded him, but he could still feel his weapon firing. He blinked to clear his vision, but it refused to clear all the way.

Cold was creeping into his limbs now, he felt a distant thud as his legs buckled and his body crashed to the ground. His hands were so numb now; he couldn’t tell if he was still firing. He looked over and saw a graceful shape backlit by the light of a terrible dawn. It looked like Aun’Ukos, still fighting with a grace and beauty that none could match. Cal tried to talk to the shape. But Shas’Ui Fi’rios Cal Mont’yr could no longer speak, even his thoughts refused to organize coherently. Presently, the cold took him.

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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:27   #5 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

2. T’au

Aun’el Vior’la Doran Monat was having a good few rotaa. The tragedy at the Gue’la world Viros wasn’t wide news; but in the halls of the giant complex which housed the great Councils that ruled the Tau Empire, changes were being made. Changes which saw some loose status and others gain.

Aun’Doran found himself moved from a seat on an ancillary council on Fire Warrior training standards to a spot on the newly-revamped Viros council. Water, Earth, Air, and Fire Cast representatives from four Septs were drawing up plans for the next attempt on the planet, and Doran was now a central figure of that planning. Better still, Aun’Eoro had chosen Doran as his voice on the Viros Council. Aun’O Eoro, who sat on the Council of the Highest. A single, simple Gue’la planet could not possibly warrant personal attention from one of its members, who together managed the entire Empire. But something about Vios did hold the attention of Aun’Eoros, and through Dora his will would be done.

What Aun’Eoro decided Aun’Doran would suggest to his council, and what Aun’Doran suggested would be done. It was a great feeling, both having such influence and being graced with the personal trust of a Council of the Highest member.

Inspecting his bold, red robes yet again for any minute flaw, Doran waited outside Aun’Eoro’s personal chamber. He held a data pad with the recommendations of the Viros Council, which he would present and discuss. He felt confident in the plan they had developed, and hoped it would hold up to his Superior’s scrutiny.

The door slid open and Doran strode in confidently. He wasn’t prepared for the sight that confronted his eyes; Aun’Eoros was not as tidy in private as in public. The chamber was a mess, charts and printouts covered large areas of wall, floor, and ceiling. Screens displayed multiple static and looped images. Data pads identical to Doran’s own were everywhere, he nearly stepped on two just going from the door to the desk against the far wall.

Aun’Eoros was simply dressed, a green robe with few trimmings over his frame. The great and influential Tau stood behind his desk, studying one of the screens intently with his arms crossed. He spoke softly as Doran came to stand before him. “Welcome, Aun’el Vior’la Doran Monat, I trust the Viros plans are ready for review.” It was most certainly not a question.

Doran extended help up his pad with one had. “Yes, Aun’O, I have them here”

With a smooth, quick motion Aun’Eoro turned, took the pad, and tossed it into a corner. “I did not put a data pad on the Viros Council, I put you there. If you cannot recall the pertinent details and discuss them with me without the pad, I’ll find another who will.” His voice remained soft and calm, but his eyes locked Doran in an icy stare.

The more junior Ethereal fought to maintain his composure. An Ethereal must always remain composed, Doran’s life of training coming immediately to the forefront of his mind, for it is our calm and steady hands which guide the Tau along the path of the Greater Good. He responded in a voice equal to Aun’Eoro’s “Of Course, Aun’O, would you like me recite the options in detail or summarize the critical points?”

The elder smiled serenely. “The last time I tested an Aun from Vior’la that way, he responded by challenging me to an Honor Blade duel. Pointless and time consuming, I was tempted to do more than demote him afterwards.” He chuckled and sat down behind his desk, motioning Doran into the seat across the expanse of fine Earth Caste craftsmanship. “I’m glad to see it was a personal failing and not indicative of any Sept-wide defections in our Caste.”

Doran sat, immensely pleased with himself but trying to not let it show lest the test was not over. “I am pleased to serve satisfactorily, Aun’O.”

“Indeed. Now, to your purpose, Doran. Tell me what your Council believes we should do with Viros.”

Doran, not Aun’Doran or even El’Doran! “Well, Eoro, as you know a Fire Cast Contingent suffered heavy casualties, with large parts of 3 Hunter Cadres lost completely, during the initial attempt on Viros. After being directed to take the world into the Tua’va, the Air Caste performed reconnaissance of the planet and determined it to be a mostly unremarkable Gue’la world. Unclaimed by their insane ‘Imperium’ and nearly undefended, the Fire Cast determined a small force could be landed and secure the planet with little or no fighting. A contingent from Fi’rios was sent, and after over flying the Capital with Air Caste aircraft several times without response, Aun’Ukos decided he and the other three Ethereals in the Contingent would set down in Orcas with heavy Drone, Battlesuit, and Fire Warrior support. El’Ukos’s official log indicates the Fire Cast leaders present disliked being left behind in the Vattra, but acquiesced.”

“As soon as the Orcas reached the lower atmosphere, a massive arsenal of hidden weapons opened fire on them. All three Orcas were shot down over the city, some of the warriors and Aun’Ukos survived on the ground for some time but were eventually overwhelmed. A Manta and several other Air Caste aircraft were destroyed in rescue attempts which dove almost suicidally into the heart of the planet’s defenses.”

“My predecessor, Aun Shi’Va, forbade orbital bombardment by the Vattra, before returning to T’au and being removed.”

“After being re-assembled with new membership, the Viros Council reviewed data from the first attack, including detailed imagery of the city compiled by the Air Caste when they searched for survivors. It has been determined that the planet’s denizens have fallen under the influence of the strange Vash'aun'an beings which the other Gue’la so fear. Their citizens have become mad fanatics, worshipping the beings as Deities of ‘Chaos,’ devoting themselves to murder and desecration of any who fail to walk their corrupt path. Their weapons aren’t sophisticated, but exist in numbers and scale so great as to be quite formidable if properly coordinated. Unfortunately, the mad faith which now rules these beings seems to be providing that coordination.”

“To successfully take the planet into the Tau’va will likely mean the elimination of almost the entire population, the Mad can rarely contribute to the Greater Good, as such the obvious choice is Orbital bombardment. But that path has been specifically been barred. Any direct, conventional assault on the City would incur heavy casualties so long as the defenses remain coordinated, but if they can be disrupted they would loose much of their effectiveness.”

“To that end, The Viros Council believes a three-pronged attack is key. A battle force will be assembled, including the remains of the Fi’rios contingent already in-system. This force will be split in two, a Kauyon lure formation consisting of the Vehicles, infantry, and Broadsides will be landed away from the city and draw attention to themselves. The Battle’s Crisis and Stealth teams, meanwhile, will remain with the fleet and prepare. A single team of capable Kroot allies specializing in such missions will then infiltrate the city and disrupt or destroy the ability of the city’s defenses to coordinate.”

“At this point, the lure formation will attack via the ground, and the battlesuits will be dropped into the city directly. Victory may take some time, as the fanatics are likely to fight until extinction, but uncoordinated and assaulted from multiple directions the prey will doubtless fail.”

Finished, Doran sat patiently and waited. Aun’Eoro had not interrupted once, nor had his face betrayed any ill thoughts. Presently, the elder Tau sat back in his chair and spoke softly. “You did not ask why orbital bombardment was forbidden, Doran. Surprising, as it was one of the first things out of El’Shi’Va’s mouth.”

That caught Doran off guard. Of all things, he did not expect to be examined for following orders without question. “I believed that the reason was important, but that I had no need to know if that reason was not provided to me. I accept that there are some secrets which must be kept For The Greater Good.”

“As well there are, unfortunately the reason behind the order is the same reason I cannot approve your plan.”

“Aun’O?”

El’Eoro reached down and pulled something out of his desk. Another data pad. But he didn’t hand it to Doran, instead he entered some commands in. Presently, he turned the screen so that the younger Tau could see the image on the screen. A Gue’la face looked out at him.

“This, is ‘Marcus Maranis the Seventh,’ as he calls himself. He is a close friend to the Water Caste, a merchant who not only trades with the Tau but also often acts as our proxy in dealings with Gue’la and other races’ worlds which fear open relations with us. He provides information to us as well. He has contacts on hundreds of worlds, a formidable trade and information network established by several generations of his predecessors.”

“A Tau’cyr ago, he informed us of something alarming. Another trader had been searching desolate worlds for tradable goods. He sold many things on many worlds, some trinkets, most worthless. But on Viros he sold an artifact from Arthas Moloch.”

Arthas Moloch! Doran looked up in shock. The very name of the place turned his blood cold. Arthas Moloch was the last world O’Shovah went to as a loyal servant to the Greater Good, the world that claimed the lives of all the Ethereals in his army, and the world that had left as his own agent. He and his army had crossed out of the Empire and never returned. Something on Arthas Moloch had turned O’Shovah and thousands of his followers from the Tau’Va, and the world had been forbidden from all Tau ever since for fear of it happening again.

Doran was aghast. “Why, in the name of the Greater Good, would we send any Tau there? Why would we not annihilate the planet and the threat on it from orbit?”

Aun’Eoro turned that pad away from Doran and interacted with it again. “For the same reason Arthas Moloch was not destroyed in the same manner, Doran, because we know too little. What is on Viros? What is it made of? Can it be destroyed? Did it cause this uprising of fanatics among the population? Is it related to O’Shovah’s actions?” His voice became ice cold and demanding, “What could turn one of our race’s most loyal and capable champions against the Tau’Va?

Silence hung between the two for a long moment. Presently, Aun’Eoro put the pad face down on the desk. “The Council of the Highest cannot allow whatever…contagion is on Arthas Moloch to spread. Aun’Ukos was sent to find the Artifact, seal it in a chamber towed by one of the Air Caste’s best vessels, and have it dropped it back into Arthas Moloch’s atmosphere from high orbit. He shared those orders with no other Tau, and the other Aun in the fleet were told only to monitor him closely and ensure he returned to T’au after completing his assignment.”

“The Kroot!” Doran said suddenly.

“Yes, Aun’Doran, the Kroot. Worthy and deadly allies they may be, we cannot risk their contact with the Artifact. Particularly not with the dark influence of the Vash'aun'an beings so thick on that planet, their faith in the Tau’Va is not strong enough.”

“I agree, Aun’O” replied Doran, mind racing. Without that team the whole plan must be re-done, we’ll loose several rotaa starting over. Could another ally do it? Maybe, Vespid, or…Wait! “Eoro, I think I have a solution. With one modification, the plan can still be used, and we can send an all-Tau force to retrieve this Artifact.”

“Let me tell you about a test program my previous Council approved some time ago, something that the Capitol Academy on Vior’la thought up called Monat’Sin.”

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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:28   #6 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

3. The skies of Viros III

The heavily modified Orca transport launched out of EVA bay at max acceleration. The buffeting from the Emissary-Class carrier’s bow shock was jarring, even high in the upper atmosphere of Viros, but the sturdy craft held together. Clear of its mothership, it activated powerful, customized jamming and stealth systems and turned to fall in behind a squadron of Barracuda fighters already in formation. With any luck, anyone looking on the ground would see the fighters and the jamming and just believe another strafing run was incoming.

Not that it was much comfort to the highly specialized Team inside. In the surprisingly cramped confines of the heavily modified crew compartment, sat a 6-Tau team of a very unique type. Five had trained extensively to work together as a single team independent and alone. The 6th was a newcomer, a last-minute replacement whom they hoped could adapt well. But special training or not, all knew the mission they were embarking on was almost suicidally dangerous, and with little precedent.

Their leader listened intently to his comm for a moment, then turned and held up his right hand to get attention. “We’re half a dec from touchdown; do your equipment checks and then do them again, I don’t want any problems of our own making if possible.”

A chorus of “Yes, Shas’Ui!” responded, and they got to it. Packs were emptied, their contents checked, and then pre-packed; weapons were stripped and then rebuilt; and, in one case, a bulky suit of Stealth Armor was given a thorough once-over. As they worked, Ui’Savon walked among them and did his own scan. His regulars looked fine, and so did the new addition. But he stopped next to her and her red and grey XV15 exoskeleton anyway.

“How are you, Ui’Cova?”

The silent hunter turned from her checks to give a salute. “Well, Ui’Savon.”

“And your XV15?”

Cova stiffened slightly. “In perfect order as always, Shas’Ui. No matter how unusual the mission, the Silent Hunters are always prepared.”

Savon suppressed a grin; she was going to fit in well. “Don’t think of it as any different from the missions you trained for. We have a mission; we will complete it for The Greater Good. That we are on out own only gives us the freedom to adapt.”

“Yes, Shas’Ui”

Across the deck plates, the teams’ other female looked up from her Carbine. “Oh, call him Savon, Cova, I don’t want to stiffen to attention mid-battle because you’re calling him ‘Shas’Ui.’” La’Oi’s tone was scolding, but her smile betrayed her. “Besides, since you’re both Shas’Ui we’ll probably wear out the comms reciting your full names!”

“Some of us like our full names, Oi.” La’Bork, who was wrapping camo-net back around his Pulse Rifle after reassembling it.

“Sure, nothing quite as fun as saying La Vior’la Bork Sh-“

“Ok, enough,” Savon cut in. La’Oi would start singing next if he didn’t cut in. “Individual names it is, for the comms’ sake.”

But Cova’s expression was bordering on aghast. “I cannot, I’m not bonded into your team!”

Savon shrugged. “The Ethereals gave us wide latitude to innovate, Cova, as long as we complete our mission I’m sure they’ll be fine with it.”

With that, Bork returned to his rifle, Oi started chatting one-on-one with Cova, Suam and Kak produced a portable game board and started playing Pack, and Savon went back to monitoring his comm.

“Quarter dec to touchdown, Monat’Sin.”

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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:28   #7 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

“This is a most unusual request, Shas’Ui.”

“This is a most unusual mission, Shas’O.”

Shas’O Ko frowned and looked down at the data pad again. Presently, he sighed. “And you believe this…breach of doctrine is warranted due to this ‘most unusual’ mission?”

“My rail rifle expert and second in command, Shas’La Lynu, is unavailable. I have carefully considered the possibilities and I believe this is the best solution.” Replied Shas’Ui Vior’la Savon Mont’yr. “I must compensate for her missing firepower as best I can, and none of the Pathfinders in this Contingent have any training in independent teams. Shas’Ui Cova’s Stealth team is trained specifically for working independently.”

O’Ko tugged at his hair, a nervous tick he’d tried hard to loose for most of his life. Unfortunately, it always seemed to come up when he was struggling with administrative decisions. Give me a battle to win for The Greater Good, he thought to himself as always, not this hoof ache. Why did the Ethereals approve this mission with this insane team anyway?

For his part, Ui’Savon stood staring icily at the Contingent’s Fire Cast Commander. Resplendent in bold red formal dress, bonding knife prominent in its scabbard, he cut a picture of intimidating confidence. Savon knew he was right to make the request, and that the Ethereals blessing to his team’s mission was as good as a free reign to requisition what he pleased even if he weren’t. The formality of convincing O’Ko to go along willingly was a needless pain.

“Very well, I suppose one more oddity among many today will do no more harm. If the Ethereals have decreed 6 Fire Warriors should attack a city alone, on a Drone-piloted Orca no less, then I bow to their wisdom. U’Cova will join you on the Custodian of Time as soon as she can. I wish your team Victory for The Greater Good.” He stood and handed Savon back the data pad.

Team Leader Savon of the Monat’Sin saluted and took his pad, then turned crisply and departed the Commander’s office.

……………………………………………………………..
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Old 05 Sep 2009, 00:28   #8 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

The Barracudas burned in low, weapons pouring death into the city below. Just behind them came the stealthy Orca, its engines screaming in protest as the transport was flogged to keep pace with the fighters. Weapons fire reached up from the surface and touched, two, then three, then 6 of the attacking warplanes. But nothing was aimed at the Dropship, only strays got close.

Finally, the formation split, the Orca diving between the spires of the old city’s tall buildings while the Barracudas reached for altitude and safety. The deception would be much easier to detect with the Dropship alone, but the mission’s planners had hoped the enemy would be hard-pressed to fire at a target amongst their own structures.

That proved to be optimistic; fire soon tore through the ancient buildings wildly, seeking to close in on a target they couldn’t quite track. The transport hugged the terrain, rising over piles and decrepit hulks of vehicles and diving into giant sink-holes. Risk had to be balanced, to save the Air Caste fighter pilots from excess casualties the Orca had separated further from its objective. Now, it screamed across a quarter of the City to reach the drop point.

Finally, the objective came in sight. A simple signal light rigged next to the rear hatch glowed at the appropriate time, and the Team inside braced. The hatch blew off, and as the Dropship screamed over the intersection the Monat’Sin jumped, 5 dropped under simple but effective fabric parachutes, the 6th igniting the jets of her Stealth suit to land.

The Orca had one more mission, which had necessitated the improvised Drone crew. It continued further across the City’s expanse, and then augured into one of the heavy anti-air weapon stations.

They landed in a line, Savon at one end and Cova at the other. Cova raised his right hand, palm down, and then pushed it down. As one, the team activated their digital camo nets. Bone white suits trimmed in bold red faded until they blended with the dreary greys and haunting blacks of the city.

Savon glanced back at the team, his helmet’s display highlighting their outlines and displaying their vitals. All were looking his way intently. Well, the time comes at last. He held up his right hand again, and then chopped it forward. The team began to move silently forward.

Their objective was simple enough; they had been dropped at the last intersection before a street which dead-ended at a large, black building covered in spikes and carved figures. Intricate scanning and diligent analysis had satisfied the Viros Council, the Vior’La Capitol Academy senior officers, and finally Savon himself that whatever was coordinating the City’s defenses was based there. So they were going to take it out.

Sirens screamed like banshees, and worse, as the insane denizens of the City were summoned. But they couldn’t converge on an enemy they didn’t know existed, and the team walked softly.
As they neared the target, a gaggle of corrupted Gue’la shambled onto the road from a side building. Savon held up his hand and halted the team. The small mob wasn’t likely to see them, but it was going to be in their way too long for them to wait. Savon held up 2 fingers, and pointed right, next he pointed at Cova, then pointed left. The team moved into firing positions, Bork and Suam to the right, Kak and Oi staying with Savon, Cova to the left.

With everyone in position, Savon looked over to Cova. She stood with one leg back and the other forward, braced against her Burst Cannon’s recoil. Left hand on the cannon’s handle, right on the trigger, she waited. She fits in well indeed. He nodded.

Cova opened up, pumping bursts into the crowd. The others joined in with precision fire, laying into targets too surprised to respond. Carbines chattered, Bork’s rifle barked, and the Burst Cannon roared. As soon as it started, it was over.

Savon scanned around them; audio pickups on his helmet maxxed out, searching for signs the firefight had drawn attention. He saw and heard nothing until a single, wet thump came from behind. Whirling around, he saw Bork standing with his boot buried in the skull of one of the Gue’la. “Survivor” was his one-word response to Savon’s unasked question.

The team moved forward again, halting twice in response to Savon’s hand signals as signs of danger appeared, but they were able to silently skirt around these and press forward. The Shas’Ui checked his mission timer on his helmet and frowned. Taking too long, the armored formations outside the city would begin their attack soon and they needed the Monat’Sin mission complete to keep casualties down.

As they passed the last building on the left before their objective, the team paused. Part of the front wall was caved in, and the reason why was there for all to see. The shattered form of an XV8 Crisis battlesuit lay where it had fallen amongst the carnage, the broken bones of a Tau skeleton still clutched in its arms. They had both been desecrated, bones re-arranged and crude iron spikes piercing through everywhere, but skeletons’ robes were unmistakably those of an Aun. Here, an Ethereal had died.

Savon swept his arm forward to get the team moving again. He spared one last, mournful glance, and marked the location on his helmet’s navigation system. Another reason to succeed.

Finally, they reached the end of the road and the target building loomed in front of them. A pair of horrifying guards stood in front, heavily mutated Gue’la by the looks of it. They didn’t seem to be on any kind of alert, they just stood and looked intimidating.

Savon pointed at Bork and then pulled his finger down his torso. The Fire Warrior nodded, and crept forward a few paces. Leaning his Pulse rifle on a rock, he aimed carefully. He fired two shots, and two abominations slumped at their posts, leaving purple stains on the wall behind them.

A new siren wail began, and it was clear they wouldn’t be alone long. Savon swept his arm forward, and then made a hooking motion with his fingers. The five regular team members nodded in unison, slung their weapons, and charged toward the building. Rather than entering, all stopped at the wall and pulled out scaling guns. They fired in unison, grapnels grabbing hold far above and trailing monofilament cables. As one, motors engaged and the team ascended. Cova jumped into the air, lit her jets, and boosted to jump on top a convenient gargoyle. She repeated the procedure as needed to keep up.

Gue’la liked to equate height with importance, so Intelligence said, and what they were looking for would be high in the building. Halfway up the building, a wide-area broadcast broke through the jamming. “Kauyon lure engaged, Hunters needed swiftly, time is short.” The team pressed upward. On a ledge three quarters of the way up, something found them and projectile fire started chewing through the windows. Suam fired a photon grenade through blindly and Cova gave a healthy dose of return fire, but the team pressed on rather than look to their results.

Finally, they reached what looked to be their target. Large windows looked into a large, round room with maps and screens. Dangling from their cables, the four carbine-carrying team members shot through. Cova’s battlesuit barreled in and she began firing bursts into anything that looked important, the rest of the team swinging in to follow.

Savon took in the sights; it certainly looked like a control room. It had chairs and tables, big screens, bigger maps, and all the hallmarks. But nothing living seemed to be around. In the center of the room was a large, baroque piece of equipment. Lines ran in and out of it in a jumbled mess, and oily black smoke emitted from the top.

Someone spoke up. “Is that what we’re here for?”

Bork pointed his rile at the strange machine. “Only one way to find out.” He fired a single pulse, which speared right into the objected and flashed out of existence without causing any damage.

Oi’s voice broke in “that’s not good.”

What happened next was worse. The room filled with a bone-chilling wail, and lights began flashing everywhere. A terrible, disembodied voice began booming from walls, and every door to the chamber slammed open.

Oi looked over to Savon “I think we made it mad.”

He nodded “Cova and Bork; suppressing fire on those doorways, Suam, Kak, Oi; mark targets and stay alert for other surprises.” They scrambled into position, leaving Savon to face the machine.

It seemed to grow ever viler looking as he watched. More smoke poured out, and pulsing lights seemed to beat in some sort of organic rhythm. The pulse round didn’t hurt it, that seems certain. So what… He looked down again. Cables.

Savon slung his weapon and pulled his binding knife from its scabbard. The blade was a symbol more than a weapon most of the time, but no Vior’la Tau would ever carry a weapon that could not be used. He picked up one of the cables and tested the blade against it. With little difficulty, the conduit was severed.

Something screamed, and more smoke poured from the machine. Yes! He heard firing and looked up. Cova was pouring bursts into one of the doorways with Oi standing beside, marking targets. Suam and Kak were pumping carbine fire into another. Work fast.

He started cutting, quickly but methodically. One cable gave easily, the next fought. One tried to pull its two halves back together. Another tried to leap out of his hands. But he kept at it. The din around him was rising; he caught flashes of grenades and snapping of ricochets in his peripheral vision. But he kept working. This one tried to strangle him, the next emitted some kind of gas, another tried to shock him through the suit’s insulation.

Something slammed into him from behind as he neared the end. Claws ripped at him and he felt fiery pain shoot through his leg. But Oi came out of the carnage and shot the thing at point blank range. Her helmet was missing, and bloody cuts marked her attractive face. “Kak is down, Savon, Cova and Suam are trying to cover him and the doors but some things are getting through.”

“Where’s Bork?”

“Backed into a corner, but holding them at bay for now. Hurry.” And then she turned and laid a stream of fire into something.

Savon turned back to his work and ripped through more cabling. The machine’s smoke was trying to blind him now, filling the air. But his helmet kept it out, and finally his blade bit through the last cable.

The machine screamed in agony, all pretense of it being inanimate now gone it actually writhed in pain. But the lights on its sides started dimming, the smoke abating. Pieces began to fall from its sides.

Savon sheathed his blade and snatched up his carbine, ready to rejoin the fight. But as he turned all he saw was the aftermath. Grotesque bodies lay everywhere, no two alike. Oi was laying on the ground immediately to his right, panting for breath but otherwise well. The cluster of Covan, Suam, and Kak was across the room, the Stealth suit warily scanning while one Fire Warrior tended to another.

Bork was walking toward him, but his eyes were not on Savon. “What in the Tau’Va is that?”

Savon turned back to the machine he’d killed. A pile of broken pieces greeted his eyes, a vile ruin of the thing. But sitting perfectly on top as if placed there was a single piece of metal, glowing with an unnerving light. It was in the shape of a perfect sphere..

Savon gaped, none of the others dared to breathe.

A new voice broke into the silence. “That, I believe, is the reason you were all sent here.”


To Be Continued………
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Old 06 Oct 2009, 20:00   #9 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Royal Leamington Spa, England
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPAG) - 3.3/5
Plot, storyline etc. - 10/15
Realism/Plausability - 2.7/5
Interest - 3/5
Characters - 3/5
Ease of read - 3.2/5

TOTAL - 25.2/40

Comments-

-Not a bad story, but not great either. It,s a good attmept at trying ot present the background of an assault, but I didn't get caught, I felt it was a bit too artificial

-A fairly decent and well-written story. It’s unfortunate that it does not reach a conclusion at the end. Perhaps too many characters, which makes it hard to get attached to any in particular. A few repeated spelling mistakes and the occasional grammatical error.
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Old 07 Oct 2009, 19:14   #10 (permalink)
Kroot Shaper
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Default Re: Entry H - "The Hunt of Viros"

-Spelling/grammatical mistakes are a recurring challenge for me since I'm Dyslexic, getting better but I think the added complexity of trying to keep the Tau names straight might have derailed me a bit. My failure for not getting someone to edit it.

-This story originally conceived to cover much more time, but I realized about 1/4th of the way in that I wasn't going to have the time (I also started entirely too late) or word space to fit it all in for the contest. Rather than start over or truncate, I convinced myself that the "To Be Continued" route would work. About a week after the voting opened I was stuck in my house battling an onset of Strep so I decided to read my story over again, and discovered that the TBC ending really sucked. ;D

-The characters problem relates to the length problem, in the full story evidence of Cal's desperate fight and death in the opening recur to remind Savon and his Team how bad things are on Viros, their story would get better attention, and the duo of Doran and Eoro would return to lend more background (their one scene was kinda crammed in this version to create some background rather than spread out to draw the reader in more). At least that's what I tell myself, as it came out in this form nobody's around long enough to get attached to.

Thanks much for the excellent criticism, I hope to improve next time. I think I may have butchered this story too much to flesh it out, but I think I have a good handle on where things went wrong.
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