Broken Swords - Wh40k Fiction

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Broken Swords - Wh40k Fiction

TauMan
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TauMan
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Joined: 12 Aug 2014, 01:31

21 Dec 2015, 22:12 #1

BROKEN SWORDS
by Riodan O'Duffy Copyright 2015

Jhi'nan T'cha'yen'ka: "The broken sword may still cut." – Ancient tau proverb.

Jhi'nan T'cha'yen'ka O'b'sha sabu't' jikit xan:
"The broken sword may still cut, when the point is sharpened into a dagger." – Proverb of the Enclaves.


PART I: Trust Your Commissar


Blue and wild, the sky was deeper than any sky than any Private Billie Kegit had ever seen, and so filled with clouds too. High above in that deep blue sky were so many clouds, that Bille couldn't trace them all with her fingers. Lying in the thick green grass, she tried to think what the shapes of the clouds reminded her of, but there were so many she couldn’t decide. So instead she lay there watching as the white contrails of Imperial bombers pierced the clouds, as they headed west towards the Black City. There was no sounds other than the soft breeze in the trees and whistling of birds.

'Wake up, wake up! No day dreaming on duty Private!' said someone shaking the tips of her boots and laughing.

'What I wasn't sleeping Commissar Cumberland!' shouted Private Kegit sitting bolt upright, as a small red objective landed in her lap. ‘Ooh, a bullseye. Why is the Commissar giving out candy?' she asked pulling off the plasticine wrapper and popping it in her mouth.

'Well, funny you should ask Private Kegit. We've won!' yelled the tall Commissar, who then began firing off one bullseye after another at the guardsmen up and down the trenchline. The whole while he was lobbing candies he laughed and shouted, 'INCOMING! INCOMING!'

One after another of the soldiers shot up their hands to snatch the brightly coloured spheroids, or deftly catch them as they landed on, or near their persons.

'Kicked the blueys’ arse did we Commissar?' asked Private Albert Huxley, snagging a purple bullseye out of the air.

'Must have Albert!' said Kegit who was sitting next to him.

'Yes! Yes! And double yes!' shouted Cumberland as he jumped onto the observers platform next to Lieutenant Crispin.

The thirty or so Imperial Guardsmen of B Battery, 856th Field Artillery now jumped up on the firing bays or even scrambled over the pardos of the trenchline to wave their helmets and entrenching tools at the dark tau city. Cheering and screaming in their excitement they shouted, 'The Black City is ours! The Black City is ours! The Blueys lost it! Huzzah for Field Marshall Bochantin! Huzzah for General Toragawa! Huzzah for Commissar Cumberland! The Blueys lost it! We’re off to the Black City! We’re off to the Black City!'

And then there was silence.

It seemed the sight of the charcoal grey tau city with its’ soaring skyscrapers, wondrously wrought in the smooth and rounded style that was so distinctive of tau architecture, for the moment at least, took their breath away. To many the tau city seemed like a fairyland castle, rising as it did from the lush green landscape, and situated as it was on the other side of the wide sky-blue river. The snow white clouds and rich blue sky only enhanced the magical effect the city had on them.

Looking around at the guardsmen the Commissar Cumberland yelled, 'Gather around children, gather around!' Now rubbing his hands together, he pulled out a folded slip of paper from inside his waist coat, and opened it with a crisp snap.

'Alright, so there's still a wee bit of scrap going on over yonder in the tau's Black City. Wait... correction our Black City. It seems a few tau workers still don't know when they're licked!' smiled the tall Commissar, his ice blue eyes blazing from beneath the bill of his peaked hat. 'So please be so kind as to let me share with you this missive that was delivered by a Sanctioned Pysker to myself, from one Capitano Raffaele Carpenelli of the 45th Ferraian Air Assault Brigade. Here's what he has to say:

"Mio caro amico, my dear Rolando we have taken the tau's black city! As of 09:50 hours, D-day +1, all quarters of the city are in our possession, and except for a large pavilion area at the city centre, all resistance has been neutralized. At the city centre a few earth caste workers have put up some good resistance. They've definitely got more back-bone than the few firewarriors we encountered! In any case the Sisters of the Argent Shroud are itching to purge something, so the General Toragawa has permitted them the honour of incinerating the remaining blue vermin. You can't image what this city looks like from so high up! When my company repelled down from our Valkyries on to the top of the tau skyscrapers; we found ourselves landing into the middle of forests! Yes, on the tops of their buildings are a kind of nature preserve with trees, gardens, ponds, and one even had an orchard on top. An orchard? On top of a building?"'

Cumberland stopped to look at the guardsman and said, 'Can you believe it? An orchard.

"The city it seems wasn't finished, and some my guys are finding empty building after building full of crates of un-opened office furniture. Sergente Romani of 3rd company found some of the tau robots still un-packing and assembling furniture when they arrived..."

'Apparently someone forgot to turn off their robots on their way out the door... abominations that they are!' said Cumberland looking up over the note at the guardsmen.

There was burst of guffaws and cat-calls. Then looking down at the note with an arched eye-brow he said, 'I say someone's gonna get a nasty bill from the power company that's for certain!'

More laughter.

"...Repelled down to the floor were General Toragawa and his staff were tossing down the champagne and cognac to celebrate our victory…"

Several "oohs" and "ahhs" arose from the surrounding soldiers. 'Well, aren't we special... champagne and cognac? That lucky dog Ralffaele!'

"...and we were rewarded with several glasses sparkling wine as well as some delicious food!"

'Well, that makes him a "double lucky dog"! Alright, so I won't bore you with the rest of it, but it seems the battle for the Black City... is over.' And with that the Commissar Cumberland returned the paper to his waistcoat and made a bow with several elaborate flourishes.

'Your first name is Roland?' asked Private Deely scratching his cheek.

'No, that's my middle name. My first name is Benidicto...' laughed the Commissar.

Lieutenant Marta Crispin of B Battery turned to the Commissar and said in a serious manner, 'Commissar Benidictio R. Cumberland, sir. You-sir-are-out-of -uniform.' The red haired platoon leader then pointed at the two golden daisy-like flowers on either side of her regulation plastisteel helmet.

The very tall Commissar now looked up and down the trenchline, and it seemed that every Guardsmen was wearing two of the yellow flowers on their helmets. 'Ah, so it appears I am out of uniform?'

'Sergeant Freeman would you like to help me with the honours?' asked the lieutenant to the sergeant to standing next to the observer platform.

'Thank you ma'am,' answered the sergeant removing a slender cigar from his mouth as he stepped on to the platform. Crispin fixed two flowers to the head band of the Commissars' peaked hat, while Freeman fixed a flower to his lapel.

'Thank you Lieutenant. Sergeant,' said Cumberland nodding to each of them.

‘You’re welcome Commissar,’ replied Freeman giving Cumberland a wink.

Then three rousing "Huzzahs" then rose up from the trenchline and putting one arm behind and one in front, bowed to the group of flower laden guardsmen. Now turning to Sergeant Freeman Cumberland reached over and took the cigar from his mouth; and taking a long drag on it said, 'Thanks Sergeant'.

'You're welcome again Commissar,' answered Freeman as he took back the cigar. Their two hands lingered for a moment around the cigar.

There was laughter and boisterous in the forward trench of the B Battery with several soldiers smoking tabc sticks and sharing bottles of homemade flak juice.

Commissar Cumberland turned and from the observer's platform tossed out his remaining bullseyes. Then in a half-serious tone said, 'Well, I suppose you all think it's over don't you? I bet you're thinking, "We've got these blueys on the run and the fights pretty much over." And if not then it's, "Well they're all wee little fellow right? Got those wee little arms, and those wee little legs, and wee tiny three fingered hands? Can't fight worth a damn...Bad eye sight...Bad over bite...Why they can't even say the letter "R"...Am I right?'

There were a few chuckles from the guardsmen.

The Commissar now pretended his arms were very short and so put his hands close to his chest, and then squatted down on his haunches. He then waddled about on the platform as if he couldn’t walk properly; which got the crowd of Guardsmen in stitches. Then pantomiming as if he were half-blind, he squinted as he couldn’t see any of them. More laughter and guffaws. Then pretending he had a severe overbite, the Commissar yelled at them in a high falsetto voice.

'You cannot resist da powa of da Gleata Goot guay-la! Suwenda to da inevadable destinee of da Tau Emp-i-ah. It is usewess to oppose us guay-la!'

Some of the guardsmen were now laughing so hard they were crying, and others threw their crumbled up candy wrappers at the faux tau firewarrior.

'Well that's all fine and dandy, but it's ALL BULLOCKS!' shouted the Commissar standing up.

The men and women guardsmen all stopped laughing and looked up at the Commissar.

Commissar Benidicto R. Cumberland stood tall on the observer’s platform, while the cerulean sky with its’ shock white clouds made an impressive backdrop to his presence. He seemed to dominate the skyline, standing there is his tall peaked hat, sword, and the vermilion red sash. The gold braid of his waistcoat almost seemed to glow. The Commissar then put his hands behind his back and waited for the clump of guardsmen to become completely silent. His face taking on a grim-dark visage as he scanned their upturned faces.

'Now listen up all of you, you all know my reputation as straight talker. And those of you who have served with me before can testify to that. Pay attention to what I've got to say, because what I have to say, just may save your life.'


The Commissar now had their complete and undivided attention.


The Commissar continued, 'First: you must disabuse yourselves that we are facing a weak and ineffectual enemy.' The Commissar paused to let his words sink in. 'Let me set all of you straight. Their arms aren't any shorter, and some tau firewarriors are as tall as we are. And though, on average their eye sight is slightly worse than ours... that's on average mind you...they can still see in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrums. That is to say they can see in the dark. Not to mention their advanced optics, which-by-the-way, are built directly into their helmets. Oh, and one more thing, they're just as strong as we are, and that includes their female firewarrors as well.'

The faces of the Guardsmen began to lose the exuberance of victory. Commissar Cumberland nodded in agreement. 'A bit sobering isn't it?'

He adjusted his peaked hat and continued, 'The tau are known for fighting in and around cities, just as if were any other piece of terrain. They more often than not, do not hold ground...I repeat...do not hold ground. Rather they attack from the periphery, trying to draw away the defenders for ambushes...'

'Just soz you know Commissar Cumberland, I can't wait to see some red tau blood drippn' of my bayonet!' said Private Zim out loud.

There was much clapping and shouting in response to Zim's boast.

'It ain't red Oskar, the blueys got purple blood!' shouted the dark skinned Private Alz.

'Bullocks...and also bullocks,' said the Commissar pointing at one guardsmen and then the other. But then putting his right boot on top of a water can said, 'Their blood is blue. Not a dark blue, but lighter blue, in fact their blood is almost a royal blue colour.'

'Whaaat?' whined Private Zim. 'Everybody knows tau blood is red!'

The Commissar suddenly jumped off the observer’s platform and got close to the private. Towering over the terrified Private Zim he said menacingly, 'Are you questioning the veracity of one the Emperor's Commissars? Are you denying I have experience of fighting tau firewarriors? I'll have you know Zim, I've killed so many tau, that I've been up to my arm pits in blue tau blood!'

Private Zim shook as he stared up into Cumberland's face, but he didn't answer.

'Alright then Zim spit it out,' demanded the Commissar putting his open palm out in front of the private’s face.

'What Commissar?'

'Spit out the candy Zim, I'll not be giving bullseyes to soldiers who doubt my word! Go ahead spit it out!'

Private Zim looked sheepishly at Commissar Cumberland, and then leaning over puckered up his lips to spit out the candy.

'By-the Throne don't do that!’ shouted the Commissar whipping back his hand. ‘What am I going to do with half-eaten candy? You're spit laden and used candy by the way Zim? Go ahead and shut your trap Private.'

The crowd of guardsmen laughed as Cumberland turned and resumed his place on the platform.

'Commissar, so the tau ain't short? And they ain't blind? And their blood is blue? So you’re not going tell us now they can fight too? You're not going to say the blueys are real scrappers are you?' asked Private Azl.

'You no gotta wolly about dat! Dey no can fight rike us Pwivate!' answered the Commissar in his falsetto tau voice.

Another burst of astra militarum laughter.

'That's because their reflexes are so much worse than ours isn't it Commissar?' shouted Private Westre.

'No,' replied the Commissar shaking his head. 'It's...more like...hmm...well it's more like they don't know what they're doing in close combat? They don't train much for it much, focusing as they do exclusively on ranged combat. So when it happens, it's like: "Oh, no there's a human trying to kill me with a bayonet! What do I do now?" But otherwise their reflexes aren’t much slower than ours. The tau do fight of course, but you'll always get the boot in first....Yes, Private Crowshank?'

'What about their stealth technology? Are they really invisible? I mean can you see them or not?'

'No, they're not invisible, but it's not like the cameleoline cloaks that our snipers wear either. You know what I mean by cameleoline don’t you, where the material changes to match the background?...Ah, so I don't know how tau stealth works...but it's more like you’re looking at ghost maybe? There'll be something there, but it’s hazy and almost transparent. So if you find yourself facing down what looks like a ghost, lead your target. That's because what you see isn't exactly where the tau stealth suit is at; rather it's just as likely to be a metre out in front, or to the left, right, or even behind of what you're seeing…. Ah, a question from our daytime napper Private Kegit? Didn't disturb your sleep too much did I?'

'Gawww Commissar! I told you I wasn't sleeping,' groaned Kegit. 'What about those flying robots they got? The Imperial Guardmen’s Upliftn' Primer says they're little better than a servo skull?'

'Lots better and far deadlier. Those things are fully autonomous, carry two pulse carbines with grenade launchers...and they can fly. I've seen them fly as high as thirty metres off the ground. So when it comes to drone units being deployed, better keep your eyes peeled. What's more they're not going to stay at shoulder height. You can expect them to come at you at ankle height, or tree top level, as well as any other height. And they're a real bugger to fight in close combat I can tell you!'

The Commissar removed his peaked and looked to the east across the trenches, towards the line of Basilisk mobile artillery. Running his fingers through his dark curly hair he said, 'Seems the gun bunnies have their earthshaker guns stowed away, so you can probably bet we'll be moving out of the position by nightfall, if not sooner.'

A rousing chorus of “Huzzahs” reverberated from the assembled guardsmen.

'Oh, another thing about the tau robots and stealth units. The tau gun bots can use stealth as well. So, the question is, "How do see them?" The tau anti-grave disturbs the air, it's like looking at the heat waves coming off hot tarmac road, or heat coming off an engine exhaust.


'What you looking at Albert?' asked Kegit of Private Huxley.

'Nothing...I'll tell you in a minute,' he answered looking west towards the tau city.


'Yes, Apothecary Medic Ubermann you have a question?' asked the Commissar.

'Yes sir, scuttlebutt has it that the tau pulse rifles out range our lasrifles? That isn't true it Commissar?' asked the soldier.

'Sorry to say Ubermann, it's true. And all their pulse weapons: rifle, carbine, and pistol, have the same strength and penetration of an Imperial heavy bolter,' answered the Commissar.

He waited for a moment for that to sink in and repeated, 'The same strength and penetration of a heavy bolter.'

'Oh-my-emperor! Even the pistols?' asked a shocked Private Botswana.

'Yes my dear. And what kind of protection is you flack armour against a heavy bolter?' said the Commissar leaning down to rap on the armoured chest of the Guardsmen.

'Nuthin'! It's just like paper to a heavy bolter. Why I'd be a bug splat if I was hit with a bolter round!' she answered wide eyed.

'Or a pulse round. Listen up everyone! Best to use all available cover when facing any kind of pulse weapons. That'll give you the best chance of surviving a volley of pulse fire...Oh which reminds me, are tau flash grenades really a threat? Anyone?'


'Albert what-are-you-looking-at?' asked Kegit scanning the western horizon.

'Shhh Billie,' he whispered.


'Yes, Commissar! Almost like a frag grenade if they're tossed into a trench line like this one...'

'Brava Kegit! Brava! Wait, did you overhear me speaking to the Lieutenant back on the Terra's Manifest Destiny?'

'Maybe...' smiled Private Kegit.

'Well aren't you the clever girl! Alright so I hope you all heard that? A tau photon grenade is not the same as our flash grenade. It can nearly blind and deafen you on open ground, and in broad daylight. So with that much concussive power, when it lands in a trench, foxhole, or bunker...'

'Sir, sorry to interrupt,' interjected Private Huxley.

'Yes, Huxley what is it?'

'Sir, you said "like heat waves coming off a hot tarmac", isn’t that right sir?'

'Yes, for tau gun bots. You see something?' said the Commissar turning to glanced towards the city.

'Straight off of my eleven o'clock position...what do you see sir?'

Commissar Cumberland turned and casually looked off to his "eleven o'clock" position. 'Hmm, may I see your field glasses Lieutenant?'

Lieutenant Crispin climbed onto the platform and handed the Commissar her field glasses. She looked back at her soldiers and shrugged her shoulders.

'See anything Benidicto?' asked the Lieutenant as he handed her back the field glasses.

'Here take a look at the eleven, twelve, and one o'clock positions and tell me what you see Marta?' whispered the Commissar.

'Ah, there's three sets of heat waves signatures...also two more at the two and four o'clock positions.' she whispered back.

That makes five so far,’ answered Cumberland.

'Well, well that's the prettiest damn city I ever saw! Wouldn't you agree Private Huxley?' said the Commissar looking back and winking. Then nonchalantly jumping off the platform, Cumberland began walking up and down the trenchline, laughing and playfully slapping the chest armour of soldiers, as he alternately whispered or shouted: 'Gun bots spotted...Plastisteels on your heads ladies and gentlemen...slowly now...HA-HA-HA A DAMN PRETTY CITY IT IS TOO...No bayonets, too obvious...gun bots at least twenty five to thirty metres out...SORRY CORPORAL STRAIGHT OUT OF CANDY...On my signal, mount the firing bays...ready your grenades...KEEP SMILING, KEEP SMILING!...THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!...Private Mannequin get on the voxcaster and contact HQ, tell them we have enemy stealth teams in the perimeter. Tell then we've spotted stealth gun bots...Attack eminent...Now Mannequin!...HA-HA-HA!'

Commissar Cumberland having now made his way back to the observers platform, turned towards the two soldiers sitting on the edge of the trench, and gently thumped the soles of their boots

'Kegit, Huxley...I want you both to come down, but slowly...and not both at once...Keep smiling...HA-HA-HA A DAMN PRETTY CITY INDEED HUXLEY!'

Sergeant Freeman leaned in close and whispered into the Commissar's ear, 'Sir, behind you!'

The Commissar looked over Freeman’s shoulders, and saw all the guardsmen standing behind the Sergeant were staring back at him wide eyed. Then casually, almost indifferently, the Commissar looked over his left shoulder to the south trenchline. And there, not more than ten metres away, was hovering a metre wide disk with two under slung pulse carbines. Its single, non-reflective, dark blue lens staring down the Commissar and his men.


The tau machine hovered in menacing silence.


From the corner of his eye Cumberland could see Kegit was already down in the trench strapping on her helmet, but Huxely still sat above on the edge. A blade appeared suddenly and swept Huxely's head from his shoulders. The head flew off and hit the Commissar in the chest, while the falling body sprayed Kegit, Freeman, and Cumberland with its warm red blood.


The world was now drenched in a rain of red blood – human blood, for the Battle of the Black City had come to B Battery of the 856th Field Artillery.



Been a while my gue'la friends of the Imperial Guard...oh, excuse me Astra Militarum. :salute2: PS. Trust Your Commissar!
I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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RedVoodoo
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RedVoodoo
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Joined: 06 Dec 2015, 20:17

22 Dec 2015, 06:27 #2

Great read, nice one mate
"Pain is temporary, honour is forever"
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TauMan
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TauMan
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Joined: 12 Aug 2014, 01:31

23 Dec 2015, 19:56 #3

PART II: Gue'la Mont'au

Impact.

Sprays of red blood.

Guardsmen thrown up against the pardo wall.

Attackers' knives slashing, stabbing. Pulse pistols flashing blue-white.

More red blood.

Face-to-face with a tandem eyed attacker. Screaming, men yelling, and then a three fingered hand about the throat.

With laspistol in the hand, the Commissar fires. An explosion of cyan-blue blood douses his face.

The Lieutenant pries the three fingered hand from the Commissar's throat. Cumberland pushes, as Crispin pulls at the tau's corpse.

The Sergeant pumps rounds at the drone, his lasrifle crackling. More yelling and Cumberland is on his feet. Sergeant Freeman pushes him and the Crispin against the pardo wall yelling, 'Get back!'

Then his upper body explodes in twin blue-white flashes. Geysers of red blood and ichor spray the two that he's just pushed against the trench wall.

Crispin and Cumberland fire their laspistols into the drone.

The drone flinches as it is hit, its blue lens is shattered and metal body damaged.

The Lieutenant and Commissar fire again.

The drone charges.

'Down!' yells Cumberland, but the Crispin is pistol whipping a firewarrior stabbing Private Kegit. The tau machine hits all three: Crispin, the firewarrior, and Kegit. The drone cracks the firewarrior's curved helmet and clips the Lieutenant's plastisteel. The firewarrior goes down and Crispin yanks Kegit out from under the tau.

'This way!' yells Cumberland, but he slips on the bloody remains of his lover.

The Commissar gets up and runs down the trenchline.

Crispin, Kegit and a few others follow.


Cumberland leads them down the south trenchline, turning right into the communication trench and eastward toward the guns. The almost completed communication trench is of a zigzag construction, designed to protect the guardsmen traveling its length. Now one-sledge-hammer-hitting-a-steel-drum concussion after another, rocks the guardsmen in the trench. Looking up they see first one explosion, and then another, and followed immediately by yet another; each hurling brown earth and black smoke skyward. The explosions toss bits of the self-propelled artillery upwards: tumbling earthshaker cannons, pieces of gyrating track, and flying bodies of the crewmen; all thrown upward into the blue and white sky.

The remnants of the Lieutenant’s detail move rapidly forward, making it almost of the way to the support trench, before Cumberland signals 'Halt.' Looking back he asks, 'Lieutenant how many do we have?'

‘There's myself, Kegit, Deely, Putinov, Uni and Rosuko...,’ replied the Crispin ducking from an explosion. ‘...but Kegit's injured.’

'Get a medi pack on her. Deely you come with me!' and with that, Cumberland and Deely creep further up the trenchline. Coming to an observer’s platform, Cumberland motions for Deely to stand overwatch, as he takes a look-see over the pardos. Pulling off his peaked hat, he peers briefly through the observer's port, but it’s all he needs.

The same unit of Pathfinders that had just hit their trenchline, are now high-crawling their way towards the support trench, their light tau armour matching the colour and hue of the green grass perfectly. High above their heads are a line of tau gun drones, laying down supporting fire. Staying high, means they are drawing fire from the few guardsmen who still have their wits about them. The drones fire one last barrage of photon grenades; and the Pathfinders leap forward into the trenchline, their pulse pistols blazing and their long knives flashing. In is all over in seconds.

Looking eastward Cumberland can see the two pre-fab rockcrete pillboxes, one on either side of the communication trench, now open up on the drones with their heavy bolters. The tau drone squad quickly lost three of their number, the bolter fire chewing them up mercilessly. Their A.I. morale broken, the tau machines now turn and quickly flee westwards towards the first trenchline.

A small drone appears above the lip of the trench, looking much like a flying holovid camera lens. It is followed shortly by two or maybe three even smaller drones, each the size of a regulation I.G. bread loaf. The small drones weave, bob, and spiral as they fly towards the pillboxes, easily evading their heavy bolters. Two of the little drone hits their mark, and the pillbox on the left explodes with a deafening bang, its roof spinning high into the air. The pillbox on the right more or less implodes, when hit by a single drone, the detonation collapsing the rockrete walls in on themselves.

'Holy-Mother-of-the-Emperor!' whispers Cumberland jumping down.

'Jeepers!' says Deely whispering back.

Two swift shadows now cross over the trench where Deely and Cumberland are squatted down.

'Bloody damn! Get down Deely!' shouts the Commissar pushing the private to the ground.

'What were they? I didn't hear a thing,' asks Deely.

'Piranhas...and no you wouldn't. Oh bloody double-damn Deely, ghosts!'

Deely turns around and sees the weirdest sight he has ever seen in his short career as an Imperial Guardsman. Back towards the first trench line, there are now three ephemeral grey shapes, jumping back and forth across the communication trench. An eerie and macabre sight, made even stranger, when every few seconds a "ghost" produces a spectacular blue-white burst of pulse fire.

'They're coming this way Commissar!' yells the frightened private.

'Deely we need to get the Lieutenant and the others!' replies Cumberland.

Luckily for them, Lieutenant Crispin had the same idea, and they see her coming around the corner of the trenchline.

'Stealth teams, better get a move on Commissar!' yells Crispin as another shadow of a Piranha crosses over head. Two smaller shadows are following it – tau gun drones.

'Oh, that's not good, the Piranha just dropped their gun bots,' yells the Commissar, but then pointing at Kegit he asks, 'Can she move?'

'Yeah, she can move,' answers the Lieutenant.

'Sliced up a bit sir, but I can jog,' yells Kegit.

'Get a move on then, but watch the intersection! The tau have taken the north side support trench, and probably the south side trench as well. Keeping moving till you’re well past the pillboxes. NOW EVERYONE GO! GO!' yells the Commissar waving on the squad.

The smoke-like stealth suits continue their advance, illuminating the trenchline with blue-white cascades from their burst cannons.


Two kinks in the zigzag and they are at the intersection. Crispin stops the squad and looking up the north support trench, and sees that it is filled with corpses. She motions to Deely and Rosuko, and nodding they sprint across the intersection to the far side. Once there, they peer down the south support trench, but it too is filled with bodies. There are also a group of firewarriors moving away from them to the south. Deely waits until the tau are gone before giving the 'All Clear' signal. Crispin and the squad then hoof it across the intersection. Commissar Cumberland brings up the rear, keeping his eye open for the trailing tau ghosts.

More explosions.

Glancing back over their shoulders, the squad can see a line of guardsmen standing above the trench. All of them have their arms raised high trying to surrender, but the tau ghosts do not understand the gesture, or if they do, they take no heed. The next moment the three tau ghosts cut down the guardsmen in an intense blue and white cascade. Each guardsmen exploding like a tomato hit by a scatter gun. The ghost-like stealth suits now resume their hunting of the communication trench.

The squad quicken their pace down the trench, clearing the last zigzag and entering a straight section of trench that passes between the destroyed pillboxes. Then, as if it were Winged Death itself, there appears on their immediate left a tau a Piranha, silently floating through the smoke of a burning pillbox.

'EVERYONE DOWN! LIE FLAT AND FOR THRONES-SAKE, PLAY DEAD!' shouts the Commissar pulling the nearest guardsman Uni, down to the trench floor.


Lying still as it turned out to be no problem at all. When the Piranha slid sideways through the smoke, it stopped directly over top of them. The tau skimmer then lowers itself slowly down onto the trench. To the guardsmen lying in the trench, the tau anti-grav feels like being covered with a thick warm quilt; only this quilt happened to have a large fat man lying on top of it. All their bodies and faces are pressed hard to the rockrete floor. Cumberland, though he could still breathe, thought he was being suffocated. The Piranha for its part, just hung above the trench for what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, not more than a quarter-of-an-hour anyway.

Lying there on his back with one arm over his face, so as to keep his eye on the Piranha; Cumberland can see that it's heading the same direction as they. That is to say it was facing east towards the artillery line. Remaining still, the Piranha fires cascade after cascade from its burst cannon. Now like with all tau weapons, the burst cannon is nearly silent, giving off only the faintest of hissing sounds. It is thus while pondering the mystery of silence and tau weaponry, that Cumberland notices the two seeker missiles attached to its underside fins. It strikes Benedicto R. Cumberland that at this very moment the tau skimmer is much like a nesting bird. Hovering as the Piranha does above the trenchline, its two stubby wings resting less than half a metre above the lip of the trench. And that its two missiles are like eggs comfortably snuggled down into a nest. In fact the missiles are now less than two metres above the heads of the squad.

'The-Holy-Mother-of-the-Emperor, if those frakking blueys fire a missile this close to us...' thought Cumberland. Then, as if the Holy Mother of the Emperor herself has heard his a plea from her place in the heavens, but then having second thoughts about it, decides she'd rather to ignore it, a missile let loose with a roar. The trench fills with flame and noxious gasses, as Cumberland tries to shout, 'MASKS!' The Piranha then fired the second missile, but just as unexpectedly shoots straight up into the air and heads east at high speed.

Choking and coughing the squad scrambles to their feet and run blindly down the trench. Reaching the end where the trench forks sharply they stop, all of them singed and gasping for air. Cumberland gagging and retching asks, ‘All…here? Lose…anyone? No?…Yes?’

‘All…accounted for,’ replies Crispin, as Uni and Rosuko slapped out the flames on her still burning regs.

‘Deely see…any…ghosts?’ says the Commissar before puking on his wellingtons.

‘No sir…clear of…ghosts,’ gasps Deely. ‘Alright there sir?’

‘Lungs…full…of exhaust…need to get…moving,’ and with that the Commissar leads them down the left branch of the divided trench.

Uni has to help Kegit as she was even now more disabled, having inhaled a fair amount of rocket exhaust. Above them on the right, the number two Hydra flak battery is burning, and though they can’t see it, a column of smoke marks the place of the battery’s demise. The trench heads in a generally southwardly direction; which means they will soon reach flak battery number one. But an intense fire in that direction indicates it too is probably destroyed. Cumberland now signals for them to halt at where then trench makes a sharp turn to the right. Rosuko and the Lieutenant round corner, and both creep on for another ten metres, to where the trench makes a sharp left turn. Keeping their backs to the trench wall, each take turns to grabbing a quick peek around the corner. There is a short trench segment, not more than fifteen to twenty metres long; which then ends in a large rectangular field latrine area.

The ways not clear,’ whispers Lieutenant Crispin as she returns.

The pardo is down,’ whispers Rosuko coming up behind.

Cumberland himself creeps up to where the trench turns left, and crouching down, glances around the corner. Indeed large pieces of the rockrete have come away, and a crumbled pile now fills the left side of the trench. Luckily there are no tau to be seen anywhere. Behind them the Piranhas are still crisscrossing the trench, and there were more explosions, along with some sporadic lasrifle fire. From somewhere there comes the unmistakable high-pitched sound of a lascannon, ‘Freem’.

‘No sign of tau in the trench or the latrines, but be careful as you climb over the broken rockrete and keep your heads low,’ said Cumberland after making his way back. ‘Crispin, Deely, Rosuko, you come with me. Putinov you help Uni with Kegit. Let’s move.’

The Commissar and the two guardsmen round the left corner and start to head down the short trench segment; but they no sooner make do they the turn, when a piece of the crumbled pardo wall moves. Cumberland signals a halt, and then the little piece of crumbled rockrete moves again.

Strangely it resembled a tau’s three toed hoof.

But now coming down the trench at a dead run is a group of panicked guardsmen. They run down the right side of the trench, and the lead soldier is almost past the faux debris, when she starts to shout something. However she never gets a chance, as a piece of the pardo wall reaches out and grabs her by the collar, and then repeatedly stab her in the neck with a straight edged knife. The whole of the fallen pardo now jumps up to stab and slash the fleeing guardsmen. Cumberland pushes back Rosuko, but Deely and the Lieutenant are already back around the corner.

Grenades,’ mouths the Commissar.

Rosuko, Deely, Crispin, and Cumberland all ready a frag grenade as Putinov, Uni and Kegit drop for cover. ‘On three everyone. Ready – pull! One…two…three…THROW!’

All four of them toss their grenades around the corner and jump back: ‘BLAM, BLAM, BLAM-BLAM!’ Waiting only a moment to let the shrapnel to subside, the three close in with lasrifles at the ready. Not much is left stirring in the trench, and what does move is easily dispatched with lasrounds to the head. Moving quickly the Commissar, the Lieutenant, and the two guardsmen make it to the latrines. The Commissar signals for Uni and Putinov to get Kegit up to the latrines.

Once clear of the trench, the three wait as the others search and secure the latrines compound. Cumberland sets Rosuko and Putinov at the far south-east corner to stand overwatch at the exiting trench. Then carefully making his way back between the two rows of portable latrines he asks, ‘All good?’

‘All good Commissar. But what’s with the bluey armour?’ asks Crispin pointing back at the dead tau. The armour of the tau bodies mimics precisely the ground they lay upon, even duplicating the camouflage pattern of the dead guardsmen's uniforms, and the stains of red human blood.

‘Damn! What kind of xenos technology is this!’ asks Cumberland with awe in his voice.

‘I've never seen cameleoline mimic a background that well sir? Have you?'

‘No. Then again Marta, I’ve never seen tau fight like this either?’

COMMISSAR! Blueys inbound!’ whisper-shouts Rosuko.

Take a commode everyone! Rapid-fire! Open up as soon as you see them!’ whisper-shouts the Commissar diving for one the middle row portables. Each guardsmen now dives for cover behind one of the other twelve latrines. Ensconced behind their individual portable toilets, the guardsmen have only seconds before the first firewarrior rounds the corner. There are only seven Pathfinders in total, and the first two go down in a blaze of concentrated lasfire. The third however manages to get off a photon grenade, before being dropped by a lasround from the Commissar. The high-decibel explosive ripping apart the last portable in the line; which unfortunately is the one Lieutenant Crispin is using for cover.

The remaining Pathfinders now fall back behind the corner and there begins a fire fight of pulse rounds versus lasrounds. Number five Pathfinder is dropped by a lasshot from Uni. Deely takes down number six, when the tau clears cover in an attempt to fire a spread of photon grenades from his pulse carbine. And finally number seven crumbles and falls against the pardo wall from multiple shots. There is a pause as everyone is momentarily blind and deaf from the retort of the wayward photon grenades. When the squad does opens their eyes, still unable to hear anything, all the firewarriors lay dead were they fell.

Silence.

The guardsmen wait and watch for movement

The last Pathfinder however proves to be implacable; and if awakened from the dead, the seventh and final Pathfinder rises up on it hooves, whips around the corner, and fires a fusillade of pulse pistols rounds. Though already hit several times, the tau methodically fires with deadly accuracy, killing a guardsmen hidden behind a commode with well-placed pulse round after another. Now a shot from Private Deely slices off the firewarrior's left hand at the wrist; but un-phased the firewarrior kills Rosuko. The pulse round going through the commode door and wall, before exploding the guardsmen's chest. The firewarrior then takes more two lasrounds to the dead centre of its chest, only to then kill Uni with a well-placed pulse round that popped her head like a balloon, after first piercing the commode door.

A lasround from Kegit takes out the firewarrior’s left knee, but the Pathfinder simply drops down onto its right knee, and continued firing. The Pathfinder kills Putinov next with a shot that explodes the portable latrine along with the guardsmen's shoulder and neck. Moving to the next in line the Pathfinder shoots the Commissar. The pulse round exploding his commode in a big blue splash of treated sewage, but Cumberland still goes down firing. His last lasround is a head shot that drops the tau face first onto the ground. In the end only Deely and Kegit still have their commodes intact

Staggering up from the ground with a toilet seat around his neck, Commissar Cumberland grabs on to Deely for support.

'Thought the bluey got you sir?' says Deely helping the Commissar remove the toilet seat.

'Thought he got me Deely? He did get me!' replies Cumberland showing Deely the right side of his neck was red, swollen and blistered. 'Took off half my collar as well,' he adds removing the charred remains from his coat.

'Bloody accurate shot that!' says the private pointing at the tau.

'A bloody damn lucky shot is what it was Deely,' replies Cumberland bending down to remove the tau’s long curved helmet. 'Hmm, he appears to have been a she?'

The men look down at the tau and see the 'I' shaped nasal slit on her deep blue face; which is tattooed all over in barbaric red lines and swirls. And where her left eye had been, there is now only a gaping hole dripping cyan-blue gore.

'Female? Don't tau females have a 'Y' shaped thingy on their foreheads?' asked Deely suspiciously.

'Deely? One day you're going have to forget all that barracks room xenology, or it’s going to get you killed!' says Cumberland with a tired and annoyed expression on his face. 'Both male and female tau have all kinds of ah…silts on their foreheads, shaped like either an 'I', 'Y', or a 'T'. Some even have an arrow-like shape.'

'Alright sir, then how did you know the he was a she?'

'Well, look at her face Deely. It's oval shaped and…ah…feminine like. I mean male tau faces are more angular or square-like. Well, doesn't she look like a female to you Deely?'

'Ah, I wouldn't know sir?'

'Well we should see how the Lieutenant is doing. Oh, wait there she is...'

Still dazed Lieutenant Crispin stumbled her way towards the two men, arm-in-arm with Private Kegit. 'Bloody damn blueys!' shouts Crispin. 'Frakking blueys! Dog-and-cat-eating-damn-bloody blueys! Damn, I can’t even hear myself yell!'

'Deely go help Billie with the Lieutenant. Then get both of them behind the latrines in the corner. Afterwards let's start scrounging Uni, Putniov and Rosuko for energy magazine, grenades…or whatever we can. Go ahead and get to it Deely!'

As Deely went about following his instructions, the Commissar ran back to the south-east corner. Scrambling up the between the two corner walls, he places one foot on each wall to support himself, and then lifts himself up to carefully peer over the trench lip. Cumberland takes stock of their situation, but it doesn’t look good.

The whole battery seemed to be burning, the artillery line is nothing but burning wrecks. The Hydra AA batteries are all destroyed and burning. And here and there is an occasional burning Chimera transport. Some Chimeras are completely ripped apart, as if it hit in the rear by a seeker missile. There seemed little in the way of resistance now, only the rare staccato sound of a stubber or heavy bolter lets Cumberland know that there is any fighting still going on. Everywhere human bodies were strewn about, but mostly in pieces, visual evidence of the terrible effect of tau weaponry on human flesh. Then Cumberland saw something he just couldn't understand, the bodies of some guardsmen appeared to have been beheaded. 'Who the hell are these tau we're fighting?' he thought.

The Commissar had little time for contemplation, because high in the sky above, hell itself was open for business! The brilliant blue sky with its white broiling clouds, was dabbed by puffs of black AA fire and laced by the grey-white streaks of missile contrails; while wave upon wave of tau aircraft pass overhead. The large number of red and grey tau Barracudas and Tigersharks were being valiantly opposed by far fewer Imperial Lightning and Thunderbolts fighters. But the number of black smoke trails trailing Imperial aircraft told Cumberland who was now really in command of the air. And then, as if thrown from the hand of a terrible god-of-the-sea, a wave of Manta drop ships breaks through the clouds heading west towards the Black City. The immense tau landers with their aquatic delta-wing shapes, blot out the sun as they pass over.

Cumberland jumps down and running over to stand next to Deely, the two men watch as a second wave of Mantas passe overhead. Their defensive burst cannons blasting from the sky, any remaining Imperial fighters foolish enough to challenge the giant flying sea creatures. Then Cumberland saw what he was dreading most, the Mantas began releasing their cargo. XV-8 Crisis Battle suit teams began to descend from the sky, followed shortly afterwards by Devilfish transports and Hammerhead tanks.

'We're frakked aren't we sir?' asked the wide-eyed Deely.

'Understatement of the 41st millennium private,' answered Cumberland. ‘Understatement of the millennium.’


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks RedVoodoo, I aim to please. ^_^ [
I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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26 Dec 2015, 17:03 #4

PART III: A Hot Cup of Tanna


'Wait sir, where's our Imperial fleet? Don't we have the high-ground sir? I mean shouldn't our fleet be swatting the tau dropships out of the sky?'

'Uh?' said Cumberland doing a double take, but thinking said, 'Damn good point Private Deely! That's what I'd like to know. Exactly where the hell is our fleet?'

The Lieutenant and Kegit now came up and stood beside the Commissar and Deely. Crispin still was a little groggy, but Kegit was looking pale and wan, her bandages soaked red with blood.

'Benidicto, I don't think Billie can go on much further. What do we do now?'

'Well, Divisional HQ is south-east from here. Umm, and General Toragawa and the main force are in the city; which may be surrounded shortly?' replied Cumberland as the pain from the burns on his face began to throb. 'Ugh, that hurts.'

'Begging your pardon sir, but the tau will take a surrender won't they? I mean you were once a P.O.W. of theirs yourself weren't you? I mean to say they're humane aren't they sir?' Crispin looked worried as she was helping Kegit to sit down on the ground. 'Oh damn Billie almost fainted! What do we do now?'

'Deely, stay with Kegit,' ordered Cumberland.

'Yes, sir.'

Taking the Lieutenant to the other side of a commode Cumberland turned and said, 'Marta, I don't think we can surrender to these tau?'

'What?'

'There are ten or twelve...maybe fifteen bodies up top that were beheaded. They were all on their knees with their hands bound or tied behind them. Whoever these tau are, they sure as hell don't like us gue'la,' said Cumberland.

'Bloody-hell Bendicto!'

'Roland, you can call me Roland,' said Cumberland wiping his face with the one dry corner of his red sash, not covered in sewage. 'Marta all my friends call me Roland.

'Oh, thank you...I'm Marta by the way. My mother calls me Marta. So does my sister and my dad...'

The Commissar shook his head and slapped the Lieutenant on the shoulder, 'Alright Marta...Didn't know that was your name?' Now looking over at the other two guardsmen he asked, 'What do we do with Kegit?'


'Look sir the bluey's helmet turned black,' said Deely looking intently at the long curved Pathfinder helmet. He was now sitting between two of the latrines with Kegit's head in his lap.

'What?' asked Cumberland taking helmet.

'All their armour has turned black. Do all bluey armour do that sir? I mean, turn colours after they're dead?'

'No. This must be that tau version of a cameleoline camouflage again,' replied the Commissar. 'Hmm, black's most likely just the armour's base colour,' he said tossing away the helmet.

'They're-not-going-to-drop-on-top-of-us-are-they-Com-com-missar?' asked Kegit pointing weakly at the sky.

'You mean the tau battle suits? No Kegit, they'll all land west of here. Probably close to the river. How are you doing?' asked Cumberland checking her pulse.

'Not-good...feel like a pile of squig sh-t.'

'She's sweaty and pale. Rolan- I mean sir, she's going into shock!' said Crispin wiping the soldier's face.

'Correct, and her pulse is high too. We've got to find a safe place where we can get an IV into her.' Then looking around Cumberland said, 'Alright lets head back down the north-west trench. There's a dugout where we can find a large aid kit...well there should be one there any way. Here Deely help get Kegit on my back...'

And with Deely's help Cumberland hoisted Private Kegit on to his back.

'Bibbitty-pop and off we go Billie!' and with that Cumberland carried Kegit pig-a-back down trenchline from whence they had just come.

With Private Deely on point leading and Lieutenant Crispin as rear guard, they picked their way carefully over the fallen firewarrior and guardsmen. Making their way to where the communication trench separated into a two different forks, they turned left scurried up the north trench. The Communications dugout turned out not where Cumberland thought it was on the immediate right after the fork, but instead was much farther up on the left.

The skies had become cluttered with smaller tau aircraft picking off the remaining Imperial fighters.

'What's the identification of tau aircraft Deely? Razorshark or Sunshark?' asked the Commissar.

'Unable to confirm identity sir,' answered Deely.

'Wrong answer private,' yelled Crispin.

'What is the correct answer then Lieutenant,' asked Cumberland turning about to arch an eyebrow at Crispin.

'NFC - "No Frakking Clue", sir!' answered Crispin shouting from behind.

Then somewhere above them a Valkyrie’s luck ran out and exploding in a spectacular fireball threw flaming bits of debris across the sky. The flaming bits then stared coming down like fiery comets all about them. The four scurrying even faster up the trenchline.

Reaching the dugout, Cumberland and the semi-conscious Kegit had to wait a fearsome couple of minutes, while Deely and Crispin removed the bodies of Comm team and Tech Priest. A big chunk of wing slammed onto the top of the dugout, just as Cumberland with Kegit cleared the blast door and Deely slammed it shut. Shutting the door activated the automatic light source or ALS, which flickered a moment before staying on.

The pre-fab dugout had been hit by a photon grenade, and except for the Tech Priest whose throat had been slashed, there was little of any spilled blood. The large voxcaster unit had taken a direct hit from a pulse pistol and was still smouldering when they entered. Additionally the field voxphone had been smashed and its wires cut.

'Damn blueys sure knew what they were doing,' remarked Cumberland as Crispin helped him put Kegit down on the lower cot of the dugout's single bunk bed.

'Ma'am I located the medi kit,' said Deely.

'Slide it over here and I'll get an IV line started on Billie. Get the blankets and pillows off the top bunk and prop her feet up. But Deadman first get her boots off.'

'Deadman?' said Cumberland emptying out a satchel bag a putting his peaked hat into it.

'Oh, that's my lucky name sir! I'll catch shrapnel, take a round, or twist an ankle, but I don't get killed. I've come through more engagement unscathed than I can remember. Oh I get bruised up, but I always walk away. Sir, I once walked away from an assault by Mega Nobs, the only one left live out of a platoon of fifty. Been called "Deadman" ever since,' said Deely tossing aside Kegit's boots.

'Let me guess someone said, "You should be dead man Deely!” right?' said Cumberland strapping on a carapace chest piece.

"Yes sir that's it!'

'Here Deely help me hang the IV bag, got the catheter in and the line going,' said Crispin kneeling down next to the bed as she taped down the IV line. 'He does walk away from the worst scraps Roland! What are you doing?' asked Crispin turning to see Cumberland adjust the liner on a plastisteel helmet before putting it on and snapping together the chin strap.

'Getting ready to make a break out to Divisional HQ. So who's going with?' replied Cumberland now re-buckling his sword and pistol belt.

'Well, who do you want to go with you?' asked Crispin.

'Hmm, well Kegit can't go...'

'Roland, I just gave Billie an injection of morpha, so I'll stay here with her...' said the Lieutenant.

'No, ma'am I'll stay back. No use in us both sitting here waiting to be picked off by the blueys. And 'sides, the blueys ain't taken prisoners these days are they ma'am? Saw 'em kill those guard what had their hands up...'

'No, well I suppose not Deadman,' said Crispin. 'Are you sure?'

'Yes ma'am.'

'Well, you’re with me then Marta! Now let's see if we can't scare up some hot tanna, eh?'

'Oh, the pot's over there, if the blueys didn't nail it when they shot the voxcaster,' threw in Deely.

'Ah, right you are Private, and it's unscathed too!' said Cumberland starting to scrounge around for cups and condiments.

'How'd you know where it was Deely?' asked Crispin taking a hot cup of tanna from Cumberland. 'Two lumps of sucrose please...'

'Unreconsituted dairy product?'

'No, thank you.'

'Um, Wireless Operator Phillips was a mate of mine ma'am. Uh, he and I shared a cup 'fore I went on duty this morning,' said Deely with more than a little sadness in his face. Looking up he said, 'None for me sir. I'm a recaf man myself.'

'You just said you shared a cup with Phillips this morning?' said Cumberland dropping a lump of sucrose and a heaping spoonful of unreconsituted dairy product into his cup of tanna.

'It's a metaphor sir,' answered Deely looking Cumberland in the eye.

'Ah, well yes a metaphor.'

'How about cracking open a box of V-rations then? I know it's well past luncheon,' asked the Lieutenant.

'Well, guess I should remove my plastisteel and make myself comfortable, if I'm staying for luncheon,' said Cumberland grinning.

And with that they broke open the box of standard V-rations and dug into the tins of passed for food in the Astra Militarum. Once they'd eaten, they finished by mashing the empty tins and storing them in the proper waste container. The Lieutenant and the Commissar then got up and readied themselves for the journey.

Cumberland checked all the field maps that were still intact and available; while Crispin loaded herself with as many las clips, grenades, and individual medi kits as she could carry.

'So you’re alright staying then Deely,' asked Cumberland looking over a map.

'Yes, sir. And I know the drill if it looks like the blueys are going get us.'

'And what drill would that be Deadman,' asks Crispin loading up a medi pack.

'You know the usual, "One - put the frag grenade to the chest. Two - pull pin, allowing safety handle to fly clear. Three - lay down on top of the patient so that the denotation kills self and the patient." Right sir?'

'You sound like you're a real pro at this Deely. How many times have you done it, may I ask?' said the Commissar folding up the map.

'Oh, I don't rightly know sir? Um, twenty or twenty-five time maybe?' replied Deely, but then looking embarrassed he added, 'Well, alright sir, maybe it's more like a dozen times, well...at least five or six times for sure.'

The Lieutenant and the Commissar both looked at each other and then back at Private Deely.

'I died each time though. Killed myself and the patient each and every time!' he said confidently.

The Lieutenant and the Commissar both broke out in laughter.

'Why are you laughing? Don't think I killed myself all those five times?' laughed Deely unable to keep a straight face.

'Ready Commissar?' asked Crispin.

'Ready,' replied Cumberland strapping on his plastisteel. 'Take good care of our Private Kegit will you Deadman?' he said shaking Deely's hand.

'Yes, thanks for looking after her Deadman,' said Crispin also shaking the private's hand.

'May the Light of the Emperor be you! ma'am, sir,' said Deely.

'And may the Light of Emperor be with you! Deadman,' said Cumberland and Crispin together.


Deely stood by the door, while Cumberland and the Lieutenant readied their lasrifles, Deely then grabs the handle and flings open the door. The Commissar pops his head out scans the trenchline in both directions. 'Let us then skedaddle forthwith Lieutenant,' says Cumberland with a nod to Crispin, who nods back. They both rush the door, turning left and move fast up the trenchline. Deely slams shut the blast door behind them.

Moving quickly they came to a junction where the trench turned right, they stop at the access ladder in the corner. Taking hold of the access ladder, Cumber turns to Crispin and asks, 'Ready?'

'Ready,' she says and both of them go over the top.


That’s when the munitions dump exploded.


There was an incredible sound, like a hundred steel drums being simultaneously struck at once with a hundred sledge hammers. The shock wave hit Crispin and Cumberland hard, and even though they are low to the ground they're knocked off of their feet. They cowered between a burned out entrenching servitor and the destroyed number two flak battery. A vast column of smoke and flame raced skyward forming an immense mushroom cloud.

'BY-THE-THRONE!' cried Crispin.

'BLOODY DOUBLE DAMN!' shouted Cumberland.

'HEAD BACK TO THE DUGOUT?' yelled Crispin into Cumberland's ear.

'NO POINT! MUNITIONS ARE BLOWN,' yelled back the Commissar. 'MIGHT AS WELL GO ON, EH?' he shouted.

Then scrambling to their feet, they rushed to destroyed flak emplacement, only to drop down again, as unexploded Earthshaker rounds began to drop all about them. They huddle together as the falling rounds start tearing up the earth, the trenchline, and wrecked vehicles alike. Sometimes the falling round was an Earthshaker, sometimes a Hellfire missile, and once several mortar rounds fell all together at once. Great geysers of earth shoot up all around them, and the air is filled with the heavy scent of cordite; which mingles with the acrid scent of promethium. A few white phosphorous incendiary rounds fell nearby, creating white anemone like explosions, the ends of which burn with a purple-white radiance.

'How far do you think we got Roland?' shouts Crispin her face next to Cumberland's.

'One hundred to one hundred and twenty metres maybe?'

Another tremendous explosion, and the two huddle even closer together.

'Sorry about Sergeant Freeman.'

'What? You knew about Martinez and me?'

'Of course I did. You loved him didn't you?'

'Yes. Yes I did,' said Cumberland with pain on his face. 'Sorry about Private Huxley.'

'Roland how did you know about Albert and me?'

'Really Marta? The same way...'

An explosion threw giant clods of earth on them.

'…The same way you knew about Sergeant Freeman and me!'

'Oh, well alright then.'

'I need to say something Marta. If I don't survive today...' shouted Cumberland taking Crispin's hand in his and looking into her eyes.

'Yes Roland,' she shouted back.

'Marta, I never in all my life have I loved anyone more than Martinez! None one ever! I never loved a man more…in all my entire life!' shouted Cumberland his ice blue eyes tearing up.

'Ah…alright sir?' returned Crispin.

'About you Marta? Did you love Albert?'

She paused as another explosion went off nearby.

'Um, well...maybe I just loved his Roboute Guilliman?'

'What?'

'His Roboute Guilliman! You know what I mean? For boy his age he was...you know!'

Another explosion.

'WHAT? We're about to die, so I tell you how much I loved Martinez. And all you can say is how much you loved Albert’s willie!' yelled Cumberland.

'YES ROLAND, YES!' shouted Crispin angrily.

'HE WAS JUST SEVENTEEN MARTA!' he shouted back.

Yet another explosion covered them in dirt and grass.

'That's a charge of sexual exploitation of a minor, a charge of fraternization with a subordinate, not to mention an abuse of your authority...'

And still yet another explosion.

'...As an Imperial officer in the Astra Militarum!'

'Sorry, I just loved his willie! Maybe Roland I just don't have the moral backbone you do!'

‘Never trust a ginger is what I always say!’

‘Aggh!’

The two officers then turned their backs to each other and huddled separately.


Then silence.


'I think it's over Roland?'

'Been five minutes since the last falling shell...hmm? Better have a lookie-lookie then?'

Cumberland crept up and looked over the sandbags, but saw no more falling munitions; though the munitions dump was still burning fiercely and there was still the occasional explosion.

'All clear Lieutenant. Righty-oh shall be on our way then?' said the Commissar sliding down next to Crispin.

There was a change of light as if someone's shadow fell over them, and a loud voice said, 'Hoi, Hoi snae'ta gue'la!'

Then both them felt a crushing weight on their backs, as something slammed their heads down into the earth.

'Ahh…By-the-Throne!' groaned Crispin.

'Bloody…double damn!' grimaced Cumberland.

Err…what’s that’s on my back?’ asked Crispin wincing.

‘Looks like…arrgh…a large hoof…perhaps,’ grunted Cumberland. 'And me?'

‘You too…Roland,’ said Crispin through gritted teeth.

‘What’s…ugh…got-my-head?’ asked Cumberland in pain.

‘Looks like a…burst cannon.’

‘You’ve got…one as well.’

'Snae'ta, ui’ts’e, alag’ki d'gue'la!’ said the voice even louder.
I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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28 Dec 2015, 18:23 #5

PART IV: Emerald Eyed Monster

Without warning the burst cannons and hooves came off, but not before Crispin and Cumberland were disarmed of every weapon or potential weapon. Their hands were bound behind their backs, then they were hoisted up on to their feet, and turned around. Standing before them were five or six tau Pathfinders in charcoal black armour, each carrying a long single edged sword or single edged knife. Cumberland and Crispin had the backs of their legs kicked hard, which dropped them to their knees. Lieutenant Crispin fell face first, but then was jerked up so hard, that she almost went over backwards. Commissar Cumberland leaned forward, only just managing to keep upright. The tallest of the firewarriors now came forward and yanked off each of their helmets. Two firewarriors behind them, then grab each of them by the hair, put a knee in their backs, and a long knife to their throats.

The tall firewarrior was an inscrutable alien menace staring at them through his helmet's tandem lenses. But to Cumberland he was a xenos wonder, who is every a bit as tall as the Commissar himself, and considerably wider! The tall firewarrior then and began pacing back and forth, cutting figure-eight patterns in the air in with his sword. He grunted under his breath, ‘Snae’ta alagi’ki gue'la!

It is at this point the Commissar realizes that his was the voice that they heard earlier, while lying on the ground. Meanwhile the tall firewarrior is still pacing and slashing, his cuts becoming wider and wilder, until suddenly he stops; and turning around, points his sword first at Crispin and then at Cumberland. The firewarrior's hand is trembling so badly that the point of his sword is shaking wildly. Quickly he raises his blade high as if to strike and yells, ‘Snae’ta alagi’ki gue'la!’

Cumberland shuts his eyes in anticipation of his imminent death, but the blade never strikes. Opening his eyes, Cumberland looks up to see the tall firewarrior is screaming and shaking his sword in Crispin's face. The tall Pathfinder's breathing has become so heavy that the two Imperial officers can hear it through the speakers of his helmet. Then he steps back kicking and stomping the earth with his hooves, throwing big clods of dirt at Cumberland and Crispin. Continuing to scream and shout, he finally he flings the sword straight into the earth. The Pathfinder stands there with his entire body trembling and his hands twitching. And then reaching down with his hands still shaking, he calmly pulls the sword from the earth. His trembling hands now remove a red cloth from his belt, and he carefully wipes down the blade. Then slowly and reverently he sheaths his sword.

The tall Pathfinder now removes his long curved helmet and shakes free his pink-blonde beard. Then, while adjusting the black bandanna that covers his full head of pink-blonde hair, there falls out two small braids. The braids fall down on either side of his deep blue face, one has two narrow bands of gold, and the other has three small blue-green beads at the very end. Turning around to face the Imperial officers, he stares at them with the most amazing crystalline turquoise eyes.

‘Blueys with hair and beards?’ whispers Crispin in shock.

‘Apparently so Lieutenant, and with eyes like a Necron scarab beetle,’ whispers back Cumberland.

Other Pathfinders are now busy going through the officer's belongings, dumping everything onto the ground and then inspecting it carefully. Lasrifles, laspistols, Cumberland's powersword, energy magazines, and grenades were all thrown to one side in a heap. A female Pathfinder with four thin braids and a single tuft of black hair on her forehead, discovers the peaked hat in the satchel bag.

'Hoi, hoi, hoi! T'a, ea'snae'ta gue'la kom'miz'zaar!' she yells, holding up high the peaked hat for all to see.

The tall blond firewarrior takes the hat and shoves it in Cumberland's face yelling, 'Gue'la kom'miz'zaar?'

‘Cumberland, Benidicto Roland, Commissar, serial number 1916-0056832, of his Divine Imperial Majesty’s Astra Militarum,’ replies Cumberland struggling against the knife.

‘Crispin, Marta Wu, First Lieutenant, serial number 45-55108375 of his Divine Imperial Majesty’s Astr…’ Crispin tries to answer, but is cut short when the tall blond firewarrior first kicks her, and then Cumberland in the stomach.

'M'yio'ea snae’ta gue’la!' he says rolling his turquoise eyes and nodding his head.

The firewarriors holding knives to their throats now let them go, and they hit the ground like sacks of reconstituted potato starch. The tall blond Pathfinder looks down at the two Imperial officers and slowly nodding, bangs his closed fist against his forehead. The tall blonde firewarrior turns around, and throwing wide his arms, shouts to the wild blue sky: ‘Neg co’t'sabu’ro ea'snae’ta gue’la!'

More Pathfinders, all wearing the same charcoal black colour amour, keep arriving and then gather around in a mob before the Commissar and the Lieutenant. All were either carrying a long knife or sword on their belts, in addition to their pulse carbines; but some also carried trophies of war. Some carried an ornamental Imperial Aquila, a regimental flag, a bolt pistol, or the occasional peaked hat of an Imperial officer. Some even carried severed human heads tied to their belts. Here and there smoky apparitions flitted back and forth, only to finally solidify into XV-15 stealth suits. Two much larger stealth suits suddenly materialized right in front of the mob of tau, their large curving bodies the colour of midnight.

‘Look Marta...XV-95 Ghost Keels!’ said Cumberland gasping for air.

'Seriously...don't...care...Roland,' wheezes Crispin curled up in a ball.

Then as if by an inaudible command, all the tau Pathfinders and stealth suits split into two separate mobs, and then turn their heads towards the gap and waited. Meanwhile the firewarriors behind Crispin and Cumberland, snatch up the two and get them back on their knees.


And sudenly there blinks into existence three tau stealth suits.


All the stealth suits were of the same charcoal black colour as the Pathfinder's armour, and all carried twin burst cannons. The middle of the three suits breaks away and moves towards the two Imperial officers.

‘Marta those...are XV-22...Advanced Stealth Suits!’ grunts Cumberland excitedly.

'For frakks sake Roland!...I...don't...care!' replied Crispin angrily.

The tall blonde firewarrior draws his sword and pointing it at the two kneeling Imperial officers asks, 'Shas'El Kinot'erra, h'mont'ka d'gue'la?'

The tau in the stealth suits ignores the question, rather he raises his burst cannons and two Pathfinders come forward. As the tau in the battle suit releases the weapons, the two firewarriors ease them onto the ground. Crispin and Cumberland are now yanked up on to their feet, and the long knives are again put to their throats.

'H'mont'ka kom'miz'zaar co'ge lef'ten'ant?' asks the tall blonde Pathfinder. Then gesticulating with both his sword and his other hand he asks once more, 'Co'ge h'mont'ka d'gue'la?!'

But again the tau Commander, for that's what Cumberland has assumed him to be, doesn't answer the question. Instead he stops to allow three long narrow banners to be attached to the back of his XV-22 Stealth suit. The three black narrow banners, each carry the same white heraldry of a large bonding knife broken in the middle. A number of fiery red sept stripes denoting the rank of the bearer, run diagonally below the heraldry. The other members of the Commander's stealth team each received two similar narrow black banners apiece, with the banner carrying the same white heraldry, but each having a different number of red stripes.

'Shas'Nel Upt'erra h'ky anda'ta'lissera, mu'ka d'gue'la. Ea'sav'mont'ka...,' says the Commander while gently sweeping away the tall Pathfinder's sword.

The Commander moved closer to the Commissar and the Lieutenant, the sensor array in his high collared, swept back helmet, tracking back and forth between the two of them. The large lens with its two smaller companion lens gave the sensor array an arachnid like feel.

Cumberland's eye are continually searching, trying to pick out everything, heretofore over looked in chaos of the last few minutes. He tries to take in every possible detail of the scene before him, the various kinds of tau stealth suits, their pilots, the Pathfinders and their surroundings. He notes that the XV-22 is slimmer than an XV-25, but bulkier than a XV-15. The advanced stealth once had been a prototype weapon system of the Tau Empire, but now it appears it's become a frontline line system. Cumberland also notices the same number of red sept stripes ran over each of the Commander's large shoulder pauldrons, as there are on the three black narrow banners. It is then his eyes were naturally drawn to the sept signil emblazoned on the Commander's chest.


Cumberland recognizes the signil and feels his heart leap in his chest.


Immediately he scans the other tau to see if they too wore the same distinctive signil on their chests, and unfortunately they do. Cumberland then notices the signil is even on the tops all the Commander's narrow black banners , and thinks to himself, 'How could I have missed that?'

‘Ahh…’ he said closing his eyes.

‘What? What is it Roland?’ asked Crispin.

‘Look at the device on his breast plate Marta.’

The Lieutenant looked at the chest of the tau Commander and sees what appears to be a circle with a black ‘T’ shape against a white background, above which was a single red circle, like a setting sun. ‘What is that signil device Roland?’

The tall blonde firewarrior however, sees what she's looking at and points at his Commander's chest. ‘Hoi, gue’la onu tos’t’shas? Lef'ten'ant onu tos't'shas, t'e?’ he asks.

The Commander leans close to Cumberland, his sensor array silently rotating side-to-side to encompass Cumberland's face.‘Ya onu tos’t’shas kom'miz'zaar?’ he asks, his voice a melodious series of changing of tones.

‘I-don’t-know-what-you’re-saying sir,’ said Cumberland barely able to speak, the knife being pressed to his throat even harder.

The Commander stands up and makes a slight gesture with his gauntlet, and the knives suddenly came off their throats. The seal of the helmet cracks open with a hiss, and then the helmet lifts up and slides back. Staring at the two officers is a tau firewarrrior even more exotic than the tall blond Pathfinder. Across his blue face were several lines and swirls in a deep red colour, which accentuated his dark glittering emerald eyes. Though his head was shaved in the traditional manner of the fire caste, his long queue of golden-brown hair didn't fall to one side, but instead fell down the front of his face. On the queue there were three gold bands, with four small turquoise beads at its terminus. His nasal slit was a long and wide ‘Y’ shape; which set off the most stunning feature of the Commander's face, his long golden-brown moustache. The moustache hung down well below his chin and was decorated with small gold bands at each end.


A green fire blazes in the Commander's eyes, and he asks in his lilting tau accent, 'Did ya attack the wrong tau Kom-miz-zar?'

'Yes,' answered Cumberland swallowing hard.

The Commander now strokes one side of his golden moustache and then the other, and then suddenly seizes the Commissar's face in his armoured fist and says, ‘Did ya then kill the wrong tau Kom-miz-zar?’

‘Yes, we attacked…we killed, the wrong tau,’ answers Cumberland with resignation in his voice.

‘What is he talking about Roland? We killed who? Who are the wrong tau?’ asked Crispin in a panic.

‘They're the wrong tau Marta!' answers Cumberland glancing at Crispin from the corner of his eye. 'They’re not from the Tau Empire, but renegades belonging to the rebel Commander Farsight.'

'What?'

‘Ay, Kom-miz-zar ya killed the wrong tau!' said the Commander, and with that he raises up an armoured fist and he bringing it down swiftly, sends Commissar Benidicto R. Cumberland to an early nightfall.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hope you are enjoying the story so far...It's getting darker, oh so much darker, and yet it will get darker still! (Will post again in 2016 - Merry Candlemas! Emperor's Birthday! And a Happy New Year!)
I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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TauMan
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28 Jan 2016, 23:38 #6

PART V: Rain and Fire

The rain fell and the black city burned.

Across the river the dying light edged the jagged skyline in crimson, as vast clouds of dark smoke filled in the air between the buildings with flaming embers. Purple tracer rounds arced skywards answered by blue-white pulse fire. In the same dying light missiles contrails became orange, and explosions ripped apart the spark laden air. The tallest black building burned, its flaming debris falling like wax dripping from a candle.

And unimpeded by the rain the city continued to burn.

Commissar Benidictio R. Cumberland slogged on in the rain side-by-side with his fellow prisoners. Black clad Pathfinders led the motley group northwards, up a wooded track that followed the west bank of the river. Twenty-four hours earlier this had been the staging areas for the river crossing, and the remnants of destroyed pontoon bridges still clung to the shore. The prisoners walked on until stopping at the wreck of a Chimera fighting vehicle, the guards allowed the prisoners to drink from their water bottles.

'How's your neck?' asked Lieutenant Crispin taking a drink and then offering her canteen.

'There's no pain thanks,' replied Cumberland taking the water bottle.

Then there was a loud booming crash and everyone turned to see the tall building implode and sink down in a fiery mass of flame and smoke.

'It was so beautiful,' said a female officer sniffling.

'It truly was beautiful,' said Crispin wiping away the tears.

'Bloody shame is what it is,' said a male officer choking up a bit.

'A black pearl nestled down in a bed of sea green foam,' said the Commissar quietly.

Murmurs and faint crying were heard from some of the other prisoners, but their mourning was soon silenced by the Black Pathfinders, who forced them to trek on.

The eleven prisoners stumbled along on in the darkness, their way lit only by the dim light of the torches that hung from the belts of the Pathfinders. One stocky male officer came alongside Cumberland.

'Commissar Cumberland is it?' he whispered trying hard to see the Commissar's face.

'Correct Cumberland,' whispered Roland leaning in close to the officer.

' I'm Flight Captain Tomas Vikroy and this my co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Jordan Baker,' he motioned to another figure walking alongside him in the darkness. 'So I hear these blueys aren't really from the Tau Empire? And their leader is some kind of renegade or rebel?'

'Yes, Shas'O'Shova or Commander Farsight'

A Pathfinder turned his head and Cumberland grabbed the Captain's arm to signal silence. They continued to walk for a little while longer, when Lieutenant Baker, the other shadow walking alongside the Captain whispered, 'But wait wasn't that fellow Farsight supposed to be on the other side of the Damocles Gulf?'

'Well in answer to your question, yes he was supposed to be on our side of the Damocles Gulf,' replied Cumberland keeping his head down, but then he said, 'However intelligence also said that Marsupial-4 was a military outpost on the edge of the Tau Empire. Which was to have only scant naval facilities and maybe an orbital station, with few if any, military installations planetside. And certainly not a full blown city; which if you think about it would have been a tip-off right? "Whoa there's a city where one shouldn't be!”

'So what about this Farsight character?' asked Vikroy.

'Hang on' whispered Cumberland.

The Pathfinders now led them further up the trail and around a bend in the river. As they rounded the bend they overtook another group of seven or eight Imperial Guard prisoners, also escorted by black clad Pathfinders. The guards halted the prisoners, and then both sets of prisoners were herded together. A Pathfinder from the second group then set a small device on the ground, and a glowing orange field slowly engulfed the prisoners. The glowing energy field then faded and became an almost transparent tau detention pod. Another Pathfinder released a tiny illumination drone, which hovered directly over their heads, bathing them in a soft orange light.

'Commissar you started to tell us about the rebel tau commander...Farsight I believe?' asked Captain Vikroy.

'Like I said, he was said to have gone renegade. Uh, let's see what else...Ah, he hates Orks with a passion. Mm...found this relic weapon on Arthas Moloch called The Dawn Blade that eats souls...'
'He sounds like an agent of Chaos if you ask me,' said Lieutenant Baker.

'So I've heard, but now the word is he and Aun'Va the tau supreme leader are kissy-kissy again? Don't really know what's what when the propaganda keeps changing out of the Departmento Propaganda.’

'"When the propaganda keeps changing…" That's sounds like heresy to me Commissar?' said Crispin cheekily.

'Oh, please are we questioning my loyalty again Lieutenant?' said Cumberland glaring at Crispin.

'It was just a joke? Didn't know it would be such a sore point with you Commissar?' she replied angrily.

'Oh, heresy my favourite topic of humour!'

Their fellow prisoners suddenly fell quiet as the two officers argued in the darkness; no one being quite sure if it was friendly banter between the two or something worse.

'What were they arguing about Tomas?' asked Lieutenant Baker.

'I have no idea,' replied Captain Vikroy.

There came a loud drumming sound from the north, like the hoof beats of an approaching animal herd. Every one of the prisoners craned their necks trying to see what was coming down the path. There did seem to be figures moving towards them, but it was difficult to tell who or what they were, as they moved in and out of the light cast by the burning city.

'Damn are those horses?' shouted Captain Vikroy.

'By-the-Throne, I think they are horses!' yelled Lieutenant Baker.

Finally as the figures drew closer and it became apparent they were in fact some kind of mounted cavalry. Cumberland and his fellow prisoners now watched in fascination as a troop of mounted tau Pathfinders in red armour rode past them, on what might of been terran horses, but obviously weren't. The troop wore no helmets and their wild long flowing un-tau like hair flowed behind them. The Pathfinders each carried a pulse carbine slung across their backs and a long curved sword by their sides. Anything else about the tau horsemen was hard to tell in the dim light, but having passed the prisoners watched them ride off into the darkness.

'Oh, those were moose eh?' said a prisoner from the other group.

'Take off hoser! Those were caribou eh?' answered a second prisoner in the group.

'Moose!'

'Caribou!'

'Moose!'

'Caribou!'

'Bob, Doug, shut-up!'

'Yes, Sergeant Green,' replied the two prisoners in unison.

'I swear the two of you together are worse than my nephew Harold!'

Captain Vikroy scratched his chin and said to Cumberland, 'Hmm, Commissar it sounds like those two are from one of the Nova Saskatchewan regiments.'

'Like I couldn't tell eh?' replied Cumberland the shadows hiding his grin, but then seriously added, 'When did any tau army ever have mounted cavalry?'

After the momentary excitement of the tau cavalry had passed away, some of the other prisoners lay their ponchos down on the wet grass and sat down. Crispin took off hers and shared it with the Commissar, who had no poncho. Every one sat in quietly in the detention pod drinking from their canteens and eating whatever little bits of food hadn't been confiscated by their captors. Rain continued to fall as it had done all night, and although no water got in, it still made tear dropped shaped dimples in the orange energy field. To Cumberland the gossamer-like energy field felt almost non- existent, as if he could push straight through it. But he pressed too far with a pinkie finger and received a nasty electric shock for his troubles.

The night grew long and the waiting prisoners began dozing off. Eventually Cumberland himself succumbed to fatigue, and wrapping his arms around his legs, rested his head on his knees and dozed off. The entire detention pod then fell quiet, allowing the black city to burn all unmolested from their sad human eyes. Then from the other side of the pod came a whispered conversation that Cumberland tried to ignore.

'Oh like when did you ever see a caribou eh?' whispered Doug.

'Like lots of times eh! Like when we were kids and the caribou use to come...and eat the loganberries outta Mrs Crumbine's backyard eh,' whispered Bob.

Take off eh! Those were moose that ate Mrs Crumbine’s loganberries!’

Are you two at it again?’ whisper their gravelly voiced sergeant.

Sorry Sergeant Green!’

Sorry Sergeant Green!’


Cumberland had been asleep for who knows how long, when an elbow jostled him. Startled he turned around looked at the orange shadow sitting closest to him.

'You're still mad about Albert and me aren't you Roland?' whispered Lieutenant Crispin.

'Do you mind Marta, I was asleep? But what does being mad at you, have to do with you insulating that I'm a heretic?' he whispered back.

'So what I can't even make a joke with you? You pompous hypocritical ass!'

'Hypocritical? Sergeant Freeman and I were almost the same age! And if you don't remember Lieutenant, I loved him for more than just the length of his lasrifle!'

'Bite me Commissar!' hissed Crispin.

'Stuff it Miz Ginger!' spat Cumberland.

'HOI, D'GUE'LA MU'FRI'K! D'NIAA'T!' shouted a Pathfinder from outside of the detention pod.

This woke up all the other prisoners and looking around they saw the Pathfinder levelling his pulse carbine at Cumberland and Crispin. Everyone then moved quickly away, leaving the two of them to stare down the barbell of the pulse carbine. The Pathfinder made a gesture for the two of them to stand up, which they both did immediately. The roof of the energy field came down behind them, creating around them a separate orange bubble. No sooner than this happened than it dissipated, leaving Crispin and Cumberland standing alone outside the detention pod.

'Well here's another fine mess you got me into Miz Ginger!'

'ME? What did I...'

'D'snae'ta gue'la niaa't!' said a second firewarrior pointing his pulse carbine at them.

There were six Pathfinders in all, two pairs on either side of them and a pair in front of them. The two in front pointed their weapons at the prisoners, while the other four simply stood there at the ready. Lit only by the orange light of the burning city the black firewarriors were almost as dark as night itself. Their long swept back helmets with their tandem lens giving them a crustacean look. To Cumberland the sight of these xenos soldiers never seemed so strange and alien as it did at that moment. He wondered whether if they were going to beat, torture, or simply shoot the two of them. The two imperial officers waited for some time without anything happening. Then the first Pathfinder now forced both of them down onto their knees by shoving the barrel of her carbine into each of their faces. The second Pathfinder then bound their hands behind their back.

Crispin started getting nervous started to say something, but Cumberland hearing this whispered to her, ‘Lef’ten’ant niaa't! Niaa’t! Be quite Lieutenant!'

Crispin gasped, but the first firewarrior stepped forward and kneeling down onto one knee, pulled off her helmet attached it to her belt. Staring at Cumberland, her black eyes flashed with a ruby light. The firewarrior then curled back her upper lip in what Cumberland knew to be a tau ‘smile; and drawing a long knife, put the point under Cumberland’s chin.

The female Pathfinder had shaved head with two small tufts of hair on either side of her face, but her queue was pulled back into a tight topknot. Like the other Pathfinders, her face was covered in red swirls and lines that looked black in the dim light.

‘Ya’mar tau’sia kom'miz’zaar?’ she asked.

‘Ki shisa. Uh…ki shisa tau’sia…shisa tau'sia,’ he replied staring back into her dark ruby eyes.
‘Oh, now you let me know you speak tau? You wanker Roland!’ whined Crispin.

‘Niaa’t Left’ten’ant Kris’peen!’ grunted the top knotted female putting the point of the blade at her throat.

The Lieutenant jumped a bit, but shut her mouth tight.

The top knotted Pathfinder now drew another smaller dagger from a sheath on her armoured sleeve and put it at Cumberland’s throat.

‘Ya’mar tau’sia…Ki qy e’xuloi’ka, kom'miz’zaar,’ she said smiling again at Cumberland.

There was a little choking sound from the Commissar.

What did she say Roland?’ asked a panicked Crispin.

Really Marta? Do you need me to translate that?’ hissed Cumberland.

Still looking at Cumberland the top knotted Pathfinder withdrew both her blades, and standing up began to twirl them between the fingers of her hands. Then as if in time to a song that only she could hear, the top knotted firewarrior began swaying back and forth in sharp and distinctive motions. The blades danced before the faces of the two imperial officers and in time with the ‘music’. From the corner of his eyes Cumberland could see the other firewarriors begin to sway in time with the ‘music’. The knives danced in the top knotted firewarrior’s hands. First they flashed across Cumberland’s face and then across Crispin’s face. She moved so fast that the blades appeared only as orange flashes in front of their eyes. As the knife dance continued, the firewarrior’s sharp movements grew faster and faster, until the blades seemed to disappeared altogether. The blades were so sharp, that neither officer felt a thing when she sliced open their faces.


They hardly felt a thing until the blood started flowing down their faces.
I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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22 Apr 2016, 18:39 #7

PART VI: Unexpected Rescue and an Unexpected Result

Mounted red firewarriors bore down on the top-knotted pathfinder and her two prisoners, the hooves of their animals beating the damp ground like drums. Sabres flashed coppery-gold in the light of the burning city, while blue-white pulse fire struck the ground all around the Commissar and the Lieutenant.

‘Get down Marta!’ yelled Cumberland and threw himself on top of the Lieutenant, the two of them tumbling into the wet grass. Just in time, as a red horseman and his mount, sailed directly over them yelling and firing. The mounted firewarrior sent the top-knotted pathfinder crashing into the second pathfinder, as the other tau horsemen scattered to the remaining pathfinders. The two on the right were knocked to the ground, while the two on the left were sent flying backwards into the detention pod, where the gossamer orange energy field paralyzed them.

It was over and before the Commissar and the Lieutenant really knew what had happened. Two of the riders dismounted and pulled both of them to their feet. The two red firewarriors, one male and the other female, now peppered the Commissar and the Lieutenant with a barrage of questions; but they spoke so fast that Cumberland couldn’t understand either of them.

‘Shas’fann…m'lthe qy. M'lthe qy…’ he said looking at the two of them befuddled. Looking over the male firewarrior’s shoulder, Cumberland saw the top-knotted Pathfinder was back up on her hooves again, and she was aiming her pulse carbine at their heads.

‘Hoi shas’fann!’ shouted Cumberland.

The male firewarrior turned and seeing the top-knotted pathfinder, gave her a swift forward kick to the stomach. The firewarrior drew his pulse pistol and shoving it in her face yelling, ‘Ya snae’ta dras’fann! Snae’ta ynege’kir alag’ki!’

Meanwhile the firewarrior who had led the charge, now spun his mount about, and was pointing his sabre at the top knotted Pathfinder. Manoeuvring his 'horse', he put the animal between her and the prisoners; while the dismounted firewarrior stepped back. This allowed the rider to then pin the Pathfinder to the ground, when his mount to planted a multi-toed hoof in the centre of her chest. The red firewarrior now began shouting at the pathfinder; with the mount following his lead with snorts and grunts of its own. Finally the firewarrior backed off his 'horse' allowing the top-knotted Pathfinder to stand up.

‘Are you alright Lieutenant?’ asked Cumberland holding the transparent sponge to his forehead.

‘I-I-I th-think so. I'm bleeding a bit, but otherwise I’m alright,’ she replied wiping blood out of her eyes.

‘Is that you Commissar Cumberland?’ shouted a woman's voice from behind them.

Cumberland turned around and was shocked to see a column of two hundred or more Imperial Guard Prisoners of War. The column stretched out along the trail to the south, and they were guarded by several mounted red firewarriors. Cumberland struggled to see who was talking, but he was certain he knew the voice.

‘Chem Dawg?’ he shouted.

'It’s me Sergeant Sallyport, but is that really you Commissar?’ yelled the woman again.

‘Tis himself and Lieutenant Crispin as well!’ yelled Cumberland smiling wearily. 'Where are you?'

'Right here, I guess you can't see me uh?'

‘Ma’am it's me Corporal Noir!’ shouted another prisoner in the column.

‘Is that you C.E.?’ shouted Crispin still sopping up blood.

'Yes Ma'am it's me!'

Out the crowd of prisoners stepped a muscular female soldier with short cropped blonde hair, Sergeant Pinot Sallyport, a.k.a. "Chem Dawg". One step behind her was a lanky darker haired female guardsmen, Corporal Alice Noir, a.k.a. “Chemically Enhanced" or "C.E." for short. Both soldiers wore chem masks around their necks and each had the tell-tale signs of stim addiction, dark circles under the eyes, missing teeth, and the general appearance of being years older than their actual age.

'In the "pink" Commissar?' asked Chem Dawg making a triangle with two forefingers and thumbs.

'In the "pink" Sergeant!' replied Cumberland making the same finger triangle.

'Why was that bluey carving you up like that?' asked C.E. helping the Lieutenant stem the bleeding.

'Torture maybe? With these blue b******s who knows?' replied Crispin patting the C.E on the arm.

'Actually they were showing off a little blade work before the killing us,' answered Cumberland as he tried to stop his facial bleeding.

'Oh, FYI our Commissar Cumberland speaks tau!' said Crispin.

'Really Commissar?' asked C.E.

'I've always thought you were a bit dodgy for a Commissar Roland?' laughed Chem Dawg.

'And that's coming from the most dodgy of Imperial Guardsmen!' said C.E.

'I'll take it as a compliment then,' said Cumberland.

'Anyway we're glad we arrived just in the nick of time! While we was marchin' our guards tried talkin' to us in broken Gothic about these firewarriors in black. I think they were trying to warn us about them? And I can see why now! When our guards saw what they was doin' to the two of you, they tore out after them. Couldn't believe any blue xenos would do anything like that! Torture and mutilation yes, but then trying to put a stop to torture? Whew, that I couldn't believe it! Who are these tau anyway?' said Chem Dawg.

'The ones in black?' asked Cumberland. 'No idea, except that both them and the tau in red are both part of Farsight's mob.'

'Well, for my money the ones in red are real ladies and gentlemen that's for sure!' threw in C.E.


The mounted red firewarriors now herded together their black clad brethren, and began dressing them down with much gesticulating and a lot of loud words. A couple of red earth caste medics appeared and took the Lieutenant and the Commissar each by the arm. They hurried them over to what looked like a jury-rigged ambulance, a large pallet drone as long an Astra Militarum lorry only a bit wider. Piled on the drone were several wounded imperial guardsmen either sitting or lying on cots, attended by a couple more earth caste medics. The Commissar and the Lieutenant were seated on the edge of the pallet, where their wounds attended to beneath the brilliant white-blue light of an illumination drone.

The Lieutenant and the Commissar first found the blooded being daubed up and then the wounds cleansed. The tau medics then ran a wand-like instrument over the long gashes. From the pain at least, it felt like the wounds were being cauterized; but Cumberland soon realized that the wand-like instrument was healing the wounds, rather than just cauterizing them.


'Bloody damn good to see you Commissar Cumberland! Never thought I'd see you alive again?'
'Who’s that talking, I can't turn around?' said Cumberland waiting for the tau apothecary to finish with his face.

'You'll see in a minute Commissar.'

When the tau apothecary released his face, Cumberland turned around and saw that lying directly behind him was Brigadier General Ghodi Beauchamps. The Brigadier had both of her legs, and her right arm in full length splits, while most of her face was covered in transparent bandages. I.V. lines ran from a central 'pump station' into her good left arm.

'Ma'am, I see who survived the attack,' said Cumberland reaching over to take her good hand.

'Well Benidicto I was lucky enough not to have been in the regimental HQ when those damn flying demo charges hit us. No one in the command post survived.'

'I know what you’re talking about, saw two pillow boxes taken out by them. Deadly little blighters.'

'So I suppose you know by now the whole invasion was cock-up don't you? Seems we invaded the wrong bloody damn xenos. The wrong damn blue xenos any ways!'

'Yes ma'am I know.'

'Well then let me share something you probably don't know. The Black Templars were supposed to have taken out the all planetary defence centres, but they buggered it all up! Apparently on their final insertion, the drop pods came down right on top of a hunter cadre guarding the last command centre. And all of them were mowed down....right down to the last space marine! That meant their terminators couldn't teleport down directly to the command centre entrance, so they instead ended up landing outside in amongst the drop pods. Of course they ended up sharing the same fate as their brethren. Just one big shagging cock-up Benidicto!'

Cumberland looking puzzled and started to say something.

'Oh, I know you're wondering why then didn't the xenos shoot the hell out of our landing? Those blue xenos scum decided they wait for us to get planetside, just so they could surprise us with a counter-attack. They let us think all of the planetary defences were taken out, and activated them again only when their attack began. That's why those big xenos drop ships of theirs –– Mantas or whatever the hell they're called, weren't blow from the sky. The result is that now we’re cut off from our naval forces.'

'Ambush means it was a Kau'yon – Patient Hunter operation, but that's not a favoured tactic of Farsight?'

'Pbfttt! It appears that he's gone and changed his skin at night...like a filthy Hrud!'

'Ah, but he's crafty old goat that one, never sticks to same tactic, but keeps changing it up to confuse his enemies. Well, that's what the recent intelligence briefings said anyway.

'You meant to say crafty blue goat didn't you Benidicto?'

'Yes Brigadier...a crafty old blue goat!'

'Oi, over 'ere sir! What didn't recognize me did ya sir?' said a wounded soldier lying next to the Brigadier.

'Billie is that you? I mean...Private Kegit?' said Cumberland holding up his hat to shade his face from the illumination drone.

'It's me alright and I'm a damn sight better than when you left me! The blueys fixed me up proper like...'cept they want to keep me lying still on the account I don't rupture the wounds. And they 'ave me and the Brigadier all loaded up with so much fluid. Sir, I've got to pee so bad it hurts!'

'What no high-tech tau bed pans for you Kegit?' laughed Cumberland.

'My Commissar aren't you the cheery one for having survived the attack, and then having been taken prisoner, and then almost being sliced to pieces?' said the Brigadier half-grimacing and half-smiling at the Commissar.

'Ma'am you've no idea how many times we’ve been close to death in the last twenty-four hours. Isn't that right Kegit?'

'He's telling the truth ma'am!' answered Billie.

'Ma'am war is just too damn serious a thing...to take seriously!' added Cumberland with a weary laugh.

'And I can attest to that as well Brigadier!' said someone else standing next to Cumberland.

Crispin hit Cumberland on the arm and pointed, but the Commissar didn't need to turn around to know who it was.

'Ah, I'd know that voice anywhere! Should have guessed that if Kegit were here, Deadman wouldn't be too far away!'

'Private Deely guilty as charged sir!'

'Alright so what happened Deely forget to pull the pin on the grenade?'

'No sir, an earthshaker round from the exploding munitions dump hit the bombproof, and knocked me out cold. The tau apothecaries woke me up when they pulled us out. Those tau apothecaries, these ones in red any way, are right nice fellows...' said Deely smiling. Then losing his smile he added, '...But these ones in black are bloody scary! We're not being given over to them are we Commissar?'

'Don't know the answer to that one private? Can you Brigadier?'

'Sorry I can't answer that one either, but they can,' said the general pointing towards the south.

The prisoners seated on the pallet drone turned and saw several fast moving black spots heading up the trail towards them. In the light of the burning city Cumberland immediately picked out the largest black spot as a tau Piranha skimmer, but he didn’t recognized the smaller objects. "Drones?" he thought.

All of a sudden there were silent black streaks of tearing over their heads. The piranha and its constellation of smaller escorts then made a sharp 180 degree turn, and setted down in front of the prisoners, coming to an eerie silent stop. The escorts weren't drones after all, but sleek black grav-bikes, each manned by a tau pathfinder in black armour. One grav-bike stopped less than a metre from Cumberland's knees.

From the Piranha there stepped out a water caste man, followed by the water caste woman pilot. Both wore black pathfinder armour with their black conical pol hats. The water caste man was taller by a head than the woman, but neither was as tall as the fire caste pathfinders. Cumberland noted that both of them wore pulse pistols in shoulder holsters, and had short blades held horizontally at their waists. Their pathfinder escorts leapt deftly from their techno-mounts, and the three of them rushed the grav-drone ambulance. Heedless of the earth caste apothecaries, they grabbed Cumberland and Crispin and shoved them off the pallet drone. One of the tau apothecaries tried to intervene, and for his effort, got the butt of pulse pistol upside his head.

'Good morning Brigadier General Beauchamps!' said the water caste man speaking with an impeccable Gothic received pronunciation. Both he and his female companion then gave sharp Astra Miltarum bows, rather than deeper tau water caste bows.

'Stuff up you pie hole you slimy pile of grootox s***e! Some diplomat you are Por'Vre Tash'elro to have wounded officers thrown to the ground!' shouted the general pointing with her good hand at the water caste man.

'Xhmm...I apologize Brigadier Beauchamps if I gave you the idea I was a diplomat. I don't believe I ever introduced myself to you as such?' replied Tash'elro. Then turning to Cumberland, he made a motion with his hands and the pathfinders hoisted Cumberland and Crispin to their feet. Like the other Enclave tau Cumberland had seen, Tash'elro had rather un-tau facial hair, his happened to be a ruddy brown goatee. The non-diplomat water caste man stared at him with dark ruby eyes.

'Commissar I don't really want to complain, but doesn't it seem we're always getting shoved around by these blueys?' said the Crispin with a smile.

'You noticed that too, have you Lieutenant?' he replied winking, but then bowing to the tau he quipped, 'Excuse me Por'vre, I forgot tau can't "wink"!'

'T'ahh no worries Commissar, for us a wink would be, "a tug of the chin whiskers and the clack-clack of the teethplates",' answered Tash'elro striking Cumberland so hard and so fast that he never saw or felt it. But before Cumberland's body hit the ground, Por'Vre Tashe'elro turned, and made a lightning fast elbow-back fist combo strike to Crispin's face.


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When the tau apothecary revived Cumberland, he was once more on his back lying next to Crispin, who unfortunately, was still incapacitated. As he woke up when he thought he heard someone talking to him.

'Did you catch any of that Commissar?' asked the general looking at him concerned.

'Caught bloody-damn-all...it appears...Brigadier. Don't know...what you were saying...' he answered groggily.

'The cease-fire? Did you hear Adjutant Por'Vre Tash'elro tell me the cease-fire has been announced? And that discussions have begun on a prisoner exchange?'

'We took prisoners? I mean...we took prisoners to exchange with the tau?' he said but then got a panic look in his eyes, when he saw that Tash'elro was standing next to the general.

'Apparently you did Commissar. And can tell you that I am as surprised about it as you are. When did the Imperium of Man ever take a xeno prisoner? I thought the policy of the gue'la was to "shoot-every-xeno-on-sight"?' said Por'Vre Tash'elro both smiling and nodding in the human-fashion at the Commissar.

'Wait come again? A cease-fire? Prisoner exchange?' asked Cumberland as the tau njected him with a pain-killer.

'Come here Benidicto,' asked the general waving with her good hand.

Cumberland started to leaned over, but was violently grabbed from behind and pushed towards the general. His head was has shoved so far down that his face was only centimetres from the general's.

'Is this absolutely necessary Adjutant Tash'elro?' shouted Beauchamps.

Tash'elro did or said something, and the pathfinder holding Cumberland's head released his grip.

'Sorry about that Benidicto...,' frowned the general.

'I'm alright ma'am.'

'Listen good and don't interrupt Commissar. A joint cease-fire declaration has just been announced by the Fire Caste High Command and the EFC – Expeditionary Forces Command. In addition there is to be arranged a prisoner exchange, but no telling when that will happen. Field Marshall Toragawa and most of his forces are still surrounded at the edge of the city, and are now hunkered down in place. All the remaining forces are either destroyed or have been taken prisoner. None of our naval air forces on the planet have survived. We're completely cut off from any kind of evacuation Benidicto. So right now the tau are negotiating with Toragawa to vacate his position in the city and join the rest of us here. The thing is, I don't even know the total number of our people being held, or where they all are. I don't even know ranks of those captured here, or even how many of what branch have been captured. Furthermore we're now being classified as "detainees" and not "prisoners of war", but I don't think that distinction means very much.

Commissar as of this moment I am putting you in charge of all Imperial detainees, as I am still incapacitated. Hold on Benidicto...I know what you're thinking! I know you want to object on the grounds that that someone here possibly out ranks you. And that may very well be, but I don't know the names and ranks of all of us held here. Furthermore, let me remind you that as a Commissar, you have the equivalent rank of Captain in the Imperial Guard. Also as you are a member of the Commissariat, you effectively have authority over all of us anyways. Not to mention the fact that at the same time, you're also outside the chain-of-command. You see Benidicto I want someone who is above any inter-service rivalry. We certainly don't need any bickering and fighting between the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Guard! I need someone who can be above all that. Well that's about it any questions?'

'Do I have command authority? That is until you're well enough to take over?'

'Yes. And shoot any idiot you think is necessary to keep order! You'll have that in writing as soon as I can get it for you. Which reminds me...you need to work closely with Tash'elro, but watch your step about it!'

The general motioned for Cumberland to get very close, and then in a whisper said, 'These b****** tau in black asked to be our guards, just so they can get the chance to kill more of us. They shot two prisoners while you were knocked out!'

Cumberland's face was grave, but he nodded his understanding and said, 'I'll do my best Brigadier.'

'One more thing you Por'Vre Tash'elro and his associate Por’Ui Eldi'sia are to be called "adjutants".

'Adjutant?'

'That's they're call, so I'm going with it Benidicto.'

Now turning towards the water caste tau man the general said, 'There you go Adjutant Tash'elro, I've turned over the authority for all Imperial detainees to Commissar Benidicto R. Cumberland. He speaks for me until such time as I can take command.'

'Very good Brigadier Beauchamps. Please come with me Commissar,' said the water caste man this time bowing deeply in the tau manner.


The tau 'adjutant' and his female companion walked with Cumberland into the middle of what now appeared to be a blossoming detention centre. Eleven more orange bubble detention pods were being set up, in a layout shaped like a curved horse shoe. Descending from the sky were Orca dropships, not silent like other tau vehicles, they were nonetheless quieter than an Imperial Navy Valkyrie. One Orca had slung beneath it rows of portable latrines, or port-a-juans. Another had already landed and the earth caste flight crew were busy unloading crates of Imperial rations and medical supplies.

'As you can see Commissar we are doing everything to make this detention centre as comfortable as possible for you and your fellow soldiers. In front of us to the right will be the pods for the mess facility and the sick-bay. All of the others in the circle will be for housing or dormitory pods. To your left, in the centre, will be the washing and toilet facilities, graciously provided by your own Imperial Navy. We judged those of the Imperial Guard to be sub-standard,' said Tash'elro smiling his human smile as he looked at Cumberland from of the corner of his eye.

'Quite correct Adjutant, the Imperial Navy always has the best of everything,' answered Cumberland stone faced.

'Por’Ui Eldi'sia please give the Commissar his materials,' asked Tash'elro turning to his companion.

The water caste woman handed Cumberland an Imperial data slate and a small packet. The data slate activated when Cumberland entered his Commissariat pass code. Then opening his packet, he inserted the first of the tau data crystals into the slate and a list of prisoners appeared.

'Everything is there on your detainees Commissar. Numbers of detainees, rank, age and service branch. That includes a list of who is wounded and who needs further medical treatment. Also you'll find a complete inventory of all food and medical supplies, as well as a request form for any additional items that you may need. As it is "summer time" here, you won't need any cold weather clothing. Not yet anyways.

Now you'll see on your list that there are a total of two-hundred and ten detainees...wait correction... two-hundred and eight detainees. Seems two detainees died only a few minutes ago.'

'Yes I understand, the two were...'

'Not now Commissar,' said Tash'elro lifting a hand. 'Let me point to you out that protective energy fence is being installed around the perimeter. You will not be able to access the area outside unless we allow it; however you'll be able to enter and leave any of the detention pods at your will. One of the data packets has the access codes and the instructions on how to use them. Now Ui'Eldi'sia would you please give the Commissar his last item.'

The tau woman now handed a red holster bearing a single gold skull, the signil of the Imperial Commissariat.

'Wha...' gasped Cumberland as he opened the holster and drew out a Commissar's bolt pistol.

'Please take a moment to check the serial number, so as to ensure the bolt pistol is yours. We really do pride ourselves on our efficiency and thoroughness.'

Cumberland checked the serial number on the pistol and said, 'Yes it's mine.'

'Sorry, we can't give your power sword yet. We're working on the...authorization.'

The Commissar replaced the bolt pistol in its holster and stared incredulously up into the night sky as another Orca dropship descended into the detention centre.


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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sorry for the delay in posting the story was suppose to be wrapped by the end of March, but other commitments got in the way. WAIT there's still more to come...
I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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TauMan
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TauMan
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Joined: 12 Aug 2014, 01:31

10 May 2016, 17:53 #8

PART SEVEN: Descent Into Darkness

Commissar Cumberland watched as the Orca now hung in the air, lit only by its blue navigation lights and the orange light of the burning city. The Orca's black hull blotted out the blazing white stars above, like some monstrous black dragon, when the rear hatch opened. Suddenly there appeared in the blue black out light three black XV-95 Ghost Keels; followed in quick succession by six, seven, or eight more XV-22 Stealth suits. Cumberland couldn't tell the exact number. Like black wraiths escaping from a tomb, the tau suits fell through the night sky in an eerie and silent macabre dance. Grav-bikes, like black hell-bats, streaked silently overhead; while Piranhas swooped to the ground like so many black carrion birds. To Cumberland there seemed to be one black Orca, or one black Devilfish after another, descending from the star borne sky. Many of them landing just outside the detention centre perimeter. The water caste adjutant took notice of Cumberland and said, 'The cadre will be encamping around the detention centre to help maintain security.'

Cumberland looked over at Tash'elro and took stock of his holstered pulse pistol, and the short sword on his belt. And remembering the pain in his jaw from being struck he asked, 'So you're not in the diplomatic corps Adjutant Tash'elro, but you're underarms? What service to The Greater Good requires a member of the water caste to ever carry a weapon?'

"Hmm..." he said making a very human sounding expletive. '...Let us just say Commissar that the Por'ui and I are members of the Vior'los Intelligence Service. And thus our duty to the Tau'va requires us to carry arms,' answered Tash'elro his ruby eyes flashing with a blood red gleam.

Cumberland paused before again speaking, 'I take it then Adjutant that you're spies?'

'Espionage is one of our duties yes; but so is sabotage, and the gathering field intelligence. Commissar, in the parlance of the Astra Militarum, you might call us a special forces unit, or commandos.

'Water caste commandos?!' said Cumberland.

'Yes Commissar, we water caste of the Intelligence Service follow a tradition thousands of tau'cyrs old; a tradition that stretches back well before the mont'au. But If you have never heard of us, that is by design.' Tash'elro turned towards Cumberland his hands at his chest but hidden in his sleeves. 'You see Commissar we're really not supposed to exist at all. We 'invisible warriors', as we call ourselves, are nothing more than myth and legend. We have never existed, and we still don't exist, even to this day.'

Cumberland rolled his shoulders in a shrug, but then began to search his pockets, 'An incredible story, Adjutant.'

'Thank you Commissar it was meant to be...' Tash'elro now turned around to face the detention centre. 'The Tau Empire of course has their own invisible warriors, as we share the same tradition after all; but they're even more secretive than we are.'

Cumberland, who was now fumbling frantically through the pockets of his jacket, then asked, 'Oh, and by the way you wouldn't happen to have my cigarillos and lighter would you? Actually anybody's fags or tabac sticks would do. If you don't have a lighter, then flint and iron would be just fine.'

'So sorry Commissar, but if we wanted to kill you, we would do it in a much more efficient manner. You do know that tabac sticks contain the toxin nicotine, as well as a host of carcinogenic substances?' asked Tash'elro pulling a small palm length object out of his sleeve and tossing it to the Commissar.

'Yes Adjutant, I am well aware of the dangers of tabac,' he said snatching the object out of the air.

Cumberland thought he was catching his lighter and his smokes, but only discovered that what was in his hand was a fully loaded bolter clip. Disappointed he looked up to see that the female adjutant was now handing him two full ammo pouches.

'One can't be a true Commissar without a loaded bolt pistol; now can we Commissar Benidicito R. Cumberland,' she said giving him a very 'human' looking smile.

'No we cannot Adjutant Ui'Eldi'sia,' he replied loading the clip into his bolt pistol.

Adjutant Tash'elro turned back around, and with a sweeping flourish pointed to Cumberland's data slate, 'Commissar Cumberland from here on out you and staff will be responsible for the day-to-day care of the detainees. We will be of course providing everything your people will need; but the distribution of food, medical care, and the organization of recreational activities, will be your responsibility. Internal security will be your responsibility as well, hence the bolt pistol. We of course will provide the external security, and any transportation that maybe needed. The detention may need to be expanded or even moved, so always be aware of the need to pack quickly, and disembark on a short notice.

'Now I mentioned staff, who you pick to be your staff is entirely your decision. However, once you've decided on which personnel you want, let Ui'Eldi'sia or myself know; and we will provide each of them with a sidearm. I believe we have all the las and bolter pistols of the officers captured, but I don't know if that is the case for the non-commissioned officers. We will provide all of your staff with a sidearm in any case.

'Lastly, after you've picked your staff, and things have been sorted out with the detainees; I will give them an address about the present situation, the cease fire, and their status as detainees. Afterwards, I will turn over control of the detention centre to you. Tomorrow at noontime, or thereabouts you will assemble the detainees; and I will give your group an update on the situation. Any questions so far Commissar?'

'Sorry Adjutant Vre'Tash'elro but my brain is serious need of food, recaf, and a toxin called nicotine. No questions at the moment sir.'

'Very well then, I'll let you get to work Commissar,' and with that both Tash'elro and Eldi'sia put their hands in their sleeves and bowed to Cumberland. When they lifted their heads both of them smiled in the human fashion; except for Tash'elro, who flashed an even bigger toothy-plate smile at Cumberland.

Cumberland give a little jerk.

He watched the two water caste walk away, when a female Navy Lieutenant stepped up and asked, 'Commissar what a 'big smile' he gave you. Whatever did you do to deserve that kind of appreciation?'

'Nothing. That wasn't a smile Lieutenant,' said Cumberland looking over at her. 'Many of the water caste practice 'smiling' like humans; but that wasn't anywhere close to being a human smile. Baker isn't it?'

'Yes sir, Flight Lieutenant Jordan Baker.'

'Lieutenant Baker that was him showing aggression. A 'human smile' is really a 'tau grimace'; and he knew that I would know the difference. Bloody blue b******!' Cumberland shook his head and pondered what the tau had meant by his 'smile'. But thinking about it only left a queasy feeling in Cumberland's gut.


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Commissar Cumberland now found himself at the centre of a swirling maelstrom of activity. Lieutenant Jordan Baker was joined by Flight Captain Tomas Vikroy, and few more Imperial officers. The column of bedraggled and weary imperial detainees staggered forwards into the detention centre. At the head of the column was the pallet drone ambulance carrying the wounded guardsmen, including Brigadier General Beauchamps. First Lieutenant Marta Crispin, still nursing a bruised face, jumped off the moving pallet drone; pulling with her another female officer.

'Commissar Cumberland that tau woman told us all officers had to report to you. This is tank commander Second Lieutenant Tima Ojakangas,' said Crispin saluting.

'Thank Lieutenant Crispin. Alright everyone, I am Commissar Benidicto Cumberland and as of twenty minutes ago, General Beauchamps put me in charge of all detainees held here. Right let's get started shall we. Captain Vickoy as of this moment you are my executive officer, and you will be also be in charge of the detention billet number one. That's the one we're all staying in by the way.'

'Yes sir,' replied Vickroy.

'Next all you will need to see either one of the tau adjutants, Adjutant Tash'elro or Adjutant Eldi'sia for a data slate and a sidearm.'

'Sidearm?!' exclaimed Crispin.

'Yes, and a data slate,' said Cumberland slapping his holstered bolter.

A short gold skinned veteran sergeant joined the group and saluted, 'Sir, Colour Sergeant Tobias Chu, reporting.'

'Ah, Colour Sergeant Chu!...' said Cumberland returning the salute. '...I was looking for you.' Then marking off the sergeant's name on his data slate he said, 'As of this moment you are the senior NCO of the Detention Centre, and you will report directly to me.'

'Yes Commissar.'

Cumberland rubbed his forehead and looked all around, and then behind him pointing said, 'Everyone look this way.'

At that moment a female guardsmen ran at full speed straight into the group of officers and NCO shouting, 'Commissar Cumberland! Commissar Cumberland!' She ran right up to Cumberland and thrust a large parchment into his hands.

'Where's your salute Private Kegit?' asked Cumberland taking the parchment.

'Sorry for not saluting sir! And sorry for running off so quickly like; but I've got to piss like a Vostroyan race horse!' and with that Kegit torn out for the latrines.

'Sounds like a personal problem to me soldier!' shouted Cumberland as he opened the parchment.

Scanning it quickly he then held it up for all to see saying, 'Ah, my authorization from the Brigadier to 'shoot-idiots-on-sight'. Signed and delivered. This written authorization to shoot covers all of us by the way!'

Captain Vickroy looked at Cumberland with his mouth agape.

'What? You were expecting me to shoot Private Kegit?'

'W-w-well I guess...I did,' mumbled Vickroy.

'Captain I maybe a Commissar, but the Brigadier only authorized me to shoot 'idiots'; and not guardsmen with an extreme urge to urinate!'

Cumberland turned around and pointing again said, 'At this time I want everyone to look over there to the north-west corner where that tau woman is standing...sorry I mean south-west corner.'

'She's the adjutant sir?' asked Lieutenant Ojakangas.

'Yes that's her. Now go and see her about getting a sidearm and data slate. Well, hopefully she'll have a data slate for everyone anyways. Go ahead and do that now....that is everyone except for Sergeant Chu.'

Cumberland took the stout Colour Sergeant by the arm and asked, 'Sergeant Chu do you see that orange pod to the left of where the tau ambulance...or lorry thing...or whatever it is, is?' The sergeant nodded his head. 'Well that's our supply stores. Alright then, first what I want you to do is this: get all of our people into the detention centre. No stragglers left behind, and no one on the wrong side of the wire...or in our case energy field. Second, have them either stand or take a seat on the ground in the centre of the compound. You can let them use the latrine, but keep them out of the detention billets until we assign them pods.'

'Do we have food to feed them? I know my people haven't eaten since early this morning.'

'Ah, that was the next item. Once everyone is sitting down...sorry I know the ground is still wet...Then go to the supply stores and break out some ready-to-eat meals and bottled water. Pull together a detail together from whoever you can lay your hands on. However Sergeant, just one meal and one water for each guardsmen. Remember to keep track of what cases you break open, and how many meals you distribute. Afterwards go and see the tau adjutant for a sidearm. Got that?'

'Yes Commissar, but just one question. What are the Navy guys going to do for food? We're not feeding them too are we?'

Cumberland stared down at the much shorter sergeant, but then the colour sergeant started to chuckle.

'Yes, Sergeant Chu, we have to feed them too!' laughed Cumberland as Chu headed off.

Two guardsmen approached Cumberland and saluted. 'Commissar sir, Apothecary Medics Lu and Pendragon reporting,' said the taller of the two.

'Yes, and what can do for the two of you?' replied Cumberland arching an eyebrow as he returned their salute.

'Sir, we were told you were in charge here. So I guess...the question is what can we do for you?'

Cumberland looked at the pair, first at the taller black male sergeant, and then at the shorter brown female private. Next he looked at their red and white apothecary patches on the sleeves. 'Apothecaries?' he said cocking his head to one side, but then excitedly said, 'APOTHECARIES! Oh yes right Apothecaries! Yes, yes, yes! Sergeant, what was your name again?'

'Sergeant Lu sir.'

'Sergeant Lu do see the detention pod in the far south-east corner, where they're off loading the wounded from that tau ambulance lorry...kind-of-a-thingy?'

'Yes sir.'

'That's your Aid Station!' said Cumberland looking him in the eye and poking him in his chest. 'You're in charge. They're all your patients and all your responsibility. And if you're not already aware of it, Brigadier General Beauchamps is among the wounded.'

'Crikey, I didn't know that sir!' said Sergeant Lu wided eyed.

'Ah, well you do now Sergeant! So get over there and see what the damn blueys have doing to treat her, and the rest of the wounded. Then once you've got things in hand, go to the pod right next door; which is our supply stores by the way, and get each of your patients a ready-to-eat meal and some water. That's also where our medical supplies are supposed to be. It goes without saying that you need to keep track of whatever you use; and a make a list of what addition medical supplies you might need. Also the Aid Station is where you'll be billeting.'

'Yes, sir. To whom do we give you the medical requisition chits?'

'Give them to me or Colour Sergeant Chu....wait forget that...On second thought give them to First Lieutenant Crispin here, she's our Quarter Master officer-in-charge,' said Cumberland pointing to Crispin as she walked up.

'What Roland, did just go and make me the supply officer?' whined Crispin as she snapped her holstered laspistol onto her web gear.

'Yes-I-did! And thank you very much for volunteering Lieutenant!' he said with a big grin.

'This is payback isn't it...for this morning?' said Crispin making a face at him.

'No, it's because you were in arms reach, and because I saw you had a data slate. Now if you'd rather, I can make you the officer-in-charge of the latrines and showers. Which-I-can-still-do if you like?' said Cumberland with his stylus hovering menacingly over his data slate.

'No, Commissar. I've already volunteered to be the supply officer!'

'Off you go then Lieutenant! Keep a good track of all the supplies you use. Oh, and take these two Apothecary medics with you why don't you?' replied Cumberland returning to his data slate.

'Yes sir,' answered Crispin with a salute and a smirk.

'Saw that Lieutenant.'

'Bugger off Commissar...' said Crispin under her breath, and the louder to the apothecaries, '...C’mon you two!'

'Did she just say 'bugger off' to a Commissar,' whispered Private Pendragon to Sergeant Lu.

'Yes, I did private, and if I were I you, I'd keep that on the q-t! Come along now!'

Above the detention centre there now hovered a series of small illumination drones, much like those Cumberland and Crispin had seen earlier. These drones gave off a different white-greenish light, and illuminated only the area within the detention compound. Their illumination however was barely sufficient, and the detention centre seemed bathed in a greenish-white twilight.

Cumberland looked over the detention centre and saw that Sergeant Chu with two groups of guardsmen as they were distributing meals to the detainees. They moved through the large group of guardsmen handing out meals ready-to-eat, water bottles, and ponchos. Most of the guardsmen were spread out across the centre's quadrangle in small clumps; but many weren't eating or drinking anything. Those not eating simply slept where they lay, having dropped to the ground as soon as they arrived. Those that were awake enough to eat something; did so in a slow, mindless, “walking dead”, kind of a way.

Sergeant Chu came towards Cumberland and the small group of officers pulling some kind of tau anti-grav pallet. As he walked up he said, 'Commissar Cumberland found you some military policeman. This is Staff Sergeant Krojacky and Lance Corporal Haddad.'

'Thank Colour Sergeant, hope you marked them on your list of detainees?'

'Already done sir,' said Chu as he directed the MPs to pull the trolley in front of the group of officers. 'Come a get a ready-to-eat meal and a bottle water...' said Chu as the tau trolley slowly lowered itself to the ground. '...And while you’re at it, grab yourselves an Imperial Navy poncho.'

As officers and NCOs gathered around, Sergeant Chu tossed Cumberland a meal ready-to-eat saying, 'Lieutenant Crispin said this was one of your favourites!'

Cumberland read the label and chirped, 'Ah-ha, it is one of my favourites! "Corned beef hash and potatoes with tomato sauce and...and an orange citrus fruit drink". Sergeant Chu, when you see our lovely ginger haired Supply Officer, please thank her for me will you!'

'Yes, sir,' said Sergeant Chu handed Cumberland a bottle of water and a poncho saying, 'Go ahead and have a seat on the pallet Commissar. At least you won't have to sit on the ground.'

'Is this thing a 'bot' Sergeant?' asked the Commissar sitting down and tearing into his meal ready-to-eat.

'No, it's like pallet jack, but with an anti-gravity motor instead of wheels. It's got no propulsion power, so you have to push it, or pull it to make it move,' answered Chu sitting down next to Cumberland.

Cumberland now ripped open his orange citrus drink packet and poured it into his bottle of water, something everyone else was doing as well. Shaking up the bottle, he then took a long drink from it saying, 'Damn that's good! Most of the time this stuff tastes like squig piss, but this is delicious!'

'That's because Commissar, it's from an Imperial Navy ready-to-eat meal,' said Vickroy pointing a fork full of food at Cumberland.

'Ah, and so it is,' said Cumberland looking at his meal's blue-grey packaging. 'By the way Captain your also the Imperial Navy's representative for the Detention Centre. Unless of course you want to delegate the position.'

'Delegated,' said Vickroy pointing his thumb at Lieutenant Baker.

'Thanks Tomas,' said Baker with face buried in her meal packet.

'Why does no one want a little responsibility? Lieutenant Crisipin had kittens when I asked her to be the supply officer?' laughed Cumberland wearily, but then in almost a whisper he said to Chu, 'I didn't know how tired I was until I sat down....'

'Commissar...' asked Chu.

'Roland, it's not my first name, but it's what I go by,' said Cumberland shaking Chu's hand.

'Roland...' he said shaking Cumberland's hand. '...You can call me Tobias if you like. Have you looked around lately?'

Cumberland shook his head, but then he looked up. At first he was confused, but then he was appalled at what he saw. Overhead the sky was full of tau vehicles moving about in what seemed organized chaos. Everything that had landed since their arrival at the compound, now seemed to be on the move again. The tau vehicles were lifting off, and criss-crossing back-and-forth overhead, only to then land somewhere else. Behind them, towards the south and the city, the Orcas were settling down. The large tau transports were in two staggered rows, their rear hatches all open and facing towards the detention centre. To the north, beyond the compound energy barrier, the Devilfish were making two long rows of vehicles. The Devilfish in each row facing its opposite number in the opposite row. To the left, towards the west, the Piranhas were also settling down into two staggered rows. But to the East, there appeared several large smooth black domes that looked very much like the orange detention pods. These Cumberland assumed must be the billets for the firewarriors, but their presence was only revealed by the reflection of the orange light from the city. And it was there among the black domes that the parked grav-bikes made nearly invisible long black lines.

Cumberland looked at Chu who only shook his head, but then pointed to the East and a line of dark shadows moving slowing high above the encampment. These turned out to be heavy gun drones, each sporting twin-linked burst cannons underneath their wide circular bodies. The heavy gun drones sank silently down to earth, just beyond the now completed energy field; which shimmered with an iridescent blue fairy light. Chu pointed out that at the south-east and south-west corners there was now stationed a XV-95 Ghost Keel; and that directly to the north, there sat yet another XV-95. Two the heavy gun drones moved into the positions with each of the XV-95s, one on either side of the large battlesuits.

Cumberland had difficulty eating, but stopped eating completely when he looked up and saw a single Devilfish hanging in the air above their heads. It was difficult to see the transport, as the light from the illuminations drones partially obscured it. Cumberland looked over at Chu, but the Colour Sergeant could only shrug his shoulders. Then, as the two men watched, the Devilfish began releasing its cargo of gun drones. Twenty-four drones in all were released, which then hovered in a perfect square formation high above the detention centre compound.

'Harbinger,' said Chu taking a drink from his bottle.

'Yeah, a Harbinger,' said Cumberland with sigh before returning to his meal.

'Well so much for being "detainees" Roland,' said Chu kicking the sod in front of him. 'By the way how do you spell P-O-W in tau?'

Cumberland had no answer for that question, but then setting down his meal packet, he looked over at Sergeant Chu and asked his own question, 'How the hell did we get here Tobias? Just how the hell did we get here?'


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I come in peace ... SHOOT TO KILL!
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