Tag Archive: Imperial Guard


Vindicated – Chapter 3

E arlier this year, I put together a novel proposal for the Black Library’s open submission period. Per their requirements, I siphoned off a piece of my soul planning the entire story and writing the first three chapters. It was a fantastic first date. I wrapped my submission up and sent it off knowing this relationship was going to be ‘The One’. Unfortunately, just like any one-sided relationship, I possessed a completely different idea of what was going on between us since they never called me back. Therefore, I shall unleash my shame upon the entire Internet!

Behold! Chapter 3 of a rejected Tau Empire novel:

Chapter 1 in case you missed it

Chapter 2 in case you missed it

Tau XV25 Stealth Suit

Art by Luftwaffles


 

Vindicated – A Tau Empire Novel

by VigRoco

 

Chapter 3

 

Lord Commander Galvin Icross had commandeered the headquarters, or what passed for it, from Pangeus’ Planetary Defense Force. It was a single building inside the heart of the city. A utilitarian design, it housed a single war room with a few ancillary rooms to stage basic war operations should the need arise.

Outside, rays of light shot over the horizon, bringing warmth to the city. Galvin leaned against the building with Dagon at his side waiting on the arrival of the Tau military commander. Two guards from the Planetary Defense Force stood at either side of the entrance. They all turned their attention toward the approaching crunch of footsteps.

Shas O’Thul, the Tau commander, turned the corner escorted by two fully armored fire warriors. He wore a green tunic fastened at his waist by a black belt. Large boots were strapped up along his calves and contoured to his hooved feet. A short braid of black hair jutted out from the back of his head and stretched down to his right shoulder. His face bore many scars of battle and was highlighted by a large scar running from the inside corner of his right eye across the top of his bald skull.

Two unarmored Tau walked on either side of him and stayed a few paces behind. One was dressed similarly to him. The other was dressed in solid black with a black band wrapped around his head. They all carried a curious assortment of equipment hanging off their belts.

From the impressive martial display they had shown last night, Galvin expected them to be taller. As it were, O’Thul was the tallest among them at a few centimeters shorter than him. Dagon, however, towered over everyone. Galvin scrupulously analyzed the escort detail. O’Thul did the same. Once satisfied, Galvin offered a salute which was returned by O’Thul bowing his head while bringing his fist into his chest.

“Welcome to my base of operations, Commander O’Thul,” said Galvin.

“I welcome your addition to our hunt,” replied O’Thul, devoid of enthusiasm. “I have brought vital intelligence regarding the Gor’vie hiding within your jungle.”

Galvin turned around quickly and led the way inside. The two fire warriors remained outside by the door while their commander entered the building. They stood at attention next to the guards who passed a quick look at each other before resuming their posture.

Inside the war room several tables were pushed together and held a mixture of maps with military counters placed across them. The walls were covered in battle reports from their current campaign. The entire far wall was a battlefield simulator that had been hastily retrofitted when Galvin had commandeered the building. A hologram showing a birds-eye view of the city and surrounding plains floated a few centimeters out from it. Various blinking markers and colored lines were drawn across it.

The entire room seemed to shake with the flurry of activity that ran through it. A handful of strategic advisers and field commanders pored over their original battle plan trying to fit in the arrival of the xenos. They scrambled from the tables to the simulator hurriedly inputting data and checking its results against their hand calculations. They all snapped to attention when Galvin stepped into the room. He saluted.

“As you were,” he said while everyone regarded the xenos behind him. “I present Commander Shas’O’Thul from the Tau fleet.”

“I will be brief as we are short of time,” O’Thul said abruptly. “This is Shas’vre Liku Jul,” he motioned to the warrior beside him dressed as he was. “He is my closest adviser and carries our assessment of your planet.”

Galvin stepped aside to allow Liku Jul the floor. Everyone nervously shuffled around while giving him their attention. The Tau in black shot a curious glance at Dagon before turning back to Liku Jul.

Liku Jul grabbed a round instrument off his belt roughly the size of his palm and set it in the middle of the central table. He tapped a few key on its surface until it began to emit a slight whirring sound. A beam of green light pulsed up from it and created a hologram of Pangeus. The hologram slowly faded from solid green to a full color representation of the planet. The complete Tau fleet was visible as well as the remaining vessels in Galvin’s fleet.

“This is a real-time depiction of Pangeus,” Liku Jul said while pulling an ellipsoid off of his belt.

He swept his thumb across it and a control panel filled with alien symbols appeared in front of him. He moved his hands across a few of the virtual keys and the hologram began zooming in on the planet and stopped at an aerial view of the city and its surrounding plains that resembled the one on the far wall. The image stopped at the front edge of the jungle and floated about ten centimeters below eye level.

“This is what will be the last battlefield for the Gor’vie. Without proper cover, they have not been able to penetrate your city until they gathered enough strength. We believe they have been forced into a frontal assault due to the hardened bedrock that this plain sits on. They are not able to tunnel underneath you, and your guns have kept them out of the air.”

The image expanded its depth to show the bedrock he referenced. Massive, crystallized rock formations grew down from the bottom of the image.

“Last night they had finished growing the force they thought would break your last haven. However, they had not factored in our arrival. Take this as temporary security. We have known this particular strain to evolve quickly when it is backed into a corner.”

His fingers continued to fly across his control panel and the image zoomed out to show the supercontinent in its entirety. A yellow triangle indicated the placement of the city while the jungle was highlighted in bright-green and outlined in black. Other forests around the super-continent were also outlined in black and were highlighted in varying degrees of dark green to black.

“The highlighted portions show the infestation levels of the Gor’vie. Green represents vegetation strength and black represents devoured sections. In the time they have been on your planet, they should have consumed everything and left it devoid of life. Something is slowing their growth rates. Pangeus is indeed unique.”

The image zoomed in and showed the jungle as a whole. A few points were marked with red triangles while the area around them was traced out in yellow.

Liku Jul continued,”From our orbital scans, we have tracked them down to a small area of operation within this barrier. If we can get a positive mark on a specific target, we can destroy it from orbit. We had hoped to be able to pinpoint their exact location from orbit, but it seems your jungle is causing interference with our equipment.”

“Why haven’t you already bombarded this entire area?” asked Dagon, motioning to the encircled portion of the map.

“The recharge rate of our orbital guns will not allow us to cut down this entire area before they changed position. This must be a precise shot at the heart of the beast dealt with all the fury of the Mon’ka, the killing blow,” Liku Jul answered.

“We have tried assaulting the jungle. The borders are deceptively well-defended,” brought up one of the strategists.

“These beasts respond too quickly to brute force, as that is what they have used against you. Conversely, they cannot defend against what they cannot see,” Dagon instantly recognized the voice as belonging to the xeno that had surprised him in the alleyway.

“Shas’vre Sai’Kul speaks of our proposed strategy,” said Liku Jul motioning at the Tau dressed in black. “The targets marked in red are the highest probability of where Gor’vie have taken root. As we have alluded to, something is slowing them, so we must cut out their heart before they find a way through whatever barrier is holding them back and crush us all.

“We propose sending a combined stealth team to gather recon on these points and mark the correct target for orbital bombardment. Shas’vre Sai’Kul is the leader of our stealth detachment and has been chosen to join with your chosen warrior in seeking out this target. We do not know the land and must rely on your guidance on the ground.”

Silence fell on the room as everyone processed the information presented to them. Galvin looked intently into the detailed hologram before him and compared it to the simplistic battlefield generator across the room. Liku Jul’s overnight assessment had converged on the same conclusion that had taken them weeks to work out. He wondered whether or not they had been observing Pangeus before last night.

“I agree with your proposal. The Hammer of the Emperor may not have the force itself to smash the Tyranids, but sending in the scalpel will certainly pierce their skin,” Galvin said while looking at Dagon.

“Sir, with the combined weight of the Tau, we could break through in a frontal assault,” the same strategist said, challenging popular opinion. “I am forced to ask you, Liku Jul, why not attack with overwhelming force?”

Shas O’Thul looked at him with an impassive stare,”we are all here far from our homelands without the promise of reinforcements. A great loss of life will simultaneously result in a loss of the war. We bring a fresh perspective and caution against continuing along your failed path.”

“I will lead our part of the combined team,” said Dagon. He looked back at Sai’Kul and nodded.



The Por’Erai cut through the thickening clouds of Pangeus on its way to the surface. Its wings stretched out wide, covered in golden runes that shimmered off its green hull. Unlike the Imperial surface transports, it gracefully drifted downward, careful to not upset its civilian passengers. The noise from its engines was surprisingly quiet for a transport its size as it settled down gently on the city’s landing pad.

Ari’Tai unstrapped herself from her seat and headed toward the front exit. Following her was a full entourage of Tau that served a diverse array of functions she would need to win the minds of the people. She could see Acario waiting for her at the edge of the landing pad through the view panel above the exit port.

A section of the hull folded out away from her and let the dry air of Pangeus sweep across her face. A ramp extended from the deck running onto the black landing pad. She lead her entourage down and onto the world they intended to win for the Greater Good.

“The air is much drier than it should be,” remarked Fio’ Horgol, the senior Earth Caste member following closely behind her. His squat frame filled out his simple, rust-colored robes. A wide-brimmed, metallic hood adorned his head, shading him from the morning sunlight. “The Gor’vie are not far from taking this world.”

“That is why we are here,” replied Ari’Tai, looking down at him. They continued across the landing pad to where Acario stood with a small welcome party. As promised, he also included an escort of soldiers.

“Welcome to Pangeus,” said Acario while looking at the group following her. When hunched over onto his staff, they were almost the same height. “I trust we will discover common ground in the next few weeks.”

“That is my desire, Acario,” she replied.

“May I introduce Gabe Poliz and Cali Jardus. Gabe represents the civilian population. If you have any questions as to our culture, governmental structure, or societal organization, there is no one more qualified on Pangeus,” he said while turning to regard the tall man on his right.

“I will be glad to facilitate any diplomatic requests you may have,” added Gabe.

“And Cali represents our agricultural sector. Once these Tyranids have been purged, she will have her hands full with bringing growth back to our world,” said Acario, motioning to his other side.

Cali forced a smile and nodded at them. She grabbed at the sides of her wind-torn pants until the leather from her gloves stretched out taught over her fists. Her frizzled, brown hair danced around her shoulders in the wind.

“Thank you for allowing us this opportunity to share your world,” replied Ari’Tai, looking in to her eyes. “I assure you, we have solely come to provide assistance in your time of need.”



Lord Commander Icross sat across from Dagon in the commander’s office of the PDF headquarters. He reclined back in his chair, anchoring his feet upon the wooden desk in front of him. Papers and leaflets filled the walls with old news from the beginning of their struggle with the Tyranids. He twirled his laspistol around in his hand. Its magazine sat on top of his desk.

He began talking while staring into the ceiling,” I may not be as experienced as you, Dagon, but I know enough to share a portion of your concern about these xenos. I will not enter into any alliance with them blindly, regardless of what the council has to say. Besides, ultimately, I don’t even answer to them. It was only when I discovered I was going to die with them that I even began to care for their plight.

“After all my time at war, some shred of humanity still lives inside of me, and while that shred empathizes with them, it foremost remains devoted to the Emperor. We cannot win here without the Tau, but we must remain vigilant. Fortunately for Pangeus, there is no greater servant of the Emperor than yourself.”

“A life of servitude to him has shown me there is no other way for men to live than within his light. I have seen the darkness this galaxy has to offer and the destruction it causes. That is why I am wary of every xeno, especially one who purports to be my friend,” Dagon replied.

“We are agreed then,” Galvin said while a smile crept onto his face, “Your paranoia keeps us safe. This mission will require you to have more direct interaction with one of their key military units than anyone else in the Imperial force stationed here. You will be our primary intelligence line.”

“A role I am practiced in.”

“The Tau unit you will be joining operates much like what you are used to in war situations. They are given an incredible amount of flexibility from their commander to accomplish their mission objective. In truth, we don’t know exactly what they are after, so it will be up to you and your team to find this out without endangering the mission.

“Finding the main Tyranid root is your primary objective as it is central to our continued survival. Gaining intel into the Tau military is secondary, but still valuable. Shas’vre Sai’kul should be assembling his team as we speak. Get close to him and find out what he knows.”

“Done. And when this is over, I expect you to never tell anyone I was here.”

Galvin looked into his eyes. “You are paranoid, but not of these xenos.”


Sai’kul waited alone in the Tau base on the outskirts of the city facing the jungle. Rising up practically over night, temporary buildings extended from the city’s edge and housed the entire Tau military deployed to the ground. The center of the base was an open, grassy area perfect for dropships to continue deploying additional resources to the surface.

He watched the bloom of a dropship’s engines brighten as it descended toward him. Dust brushed across his face from the downward force it exerted. The rest of the base crawled with activity as the Tau army warmed up to full capacity. He remained fixed on the ship delivering his chosen team. The dropship floated down with its landing gear kicked out until it came to rest on the ground. Its wide, loading door folded open.

A Kroot Shaper bearing the name Farrack jumped out immediately and landed on the ground with his rucksack dangling from his shoulders. He stood up to his full height of nearly two and a half meters and stretched out his arms, flexing his sinewy muscles. His narrow head was anchored by a massive jaw of hardened bone that formed the bottom of his beak. A set of long, slightly curving spines decorated with a myriad of talismans protruded out from the back of his head.

He wore a tattered loincloth for basic presentation and proudly displayed the remainder of his body. Leather straps were wound tightly around his head with two slits cut out for his eyes to take in his initial sight of Pangeus. Two Kroot hounds followed down after him, spastically surveying Pangeus. They shoved their long, beaked snouts into the dirt as they acclimated to their new environment. Their dark brown hide matched Farack’s. Spines jutted out from their shoulders and were adorned with talismans similar to the ones Farrack wore.

The Tau warrior, Shas’ui Valai, worked his way down the loading ramp next wearing a black tunic. He had a control manacle clasped around his wrist leading a pair of lifter drones carrying a large equipment rack filled mostly with inactive sniper drones behind him. Two more warriors dressed in the same tunic, Shas’ui Mok’hikon and Shas’ui Silai, followed him down to present themselves to Sai’kul. Farrack and his hounds joined them.

Sai’kul unsheathed the sword from his back and held it out before him. Dried blood was caked along its blade. Mok’hikon and Silai each peeled back their tunics to reveal a scar running across their torso from their left shoulder to the opposite thigh. He slowly pulled back his tunic, revealing a similar scar. After a moment of silence, he sheathed his sword as they all refitted their tunics.

“My brothers, my blood warms to join you again on the battlefield. They have summoned the lone warriors for a specialized task to further the Greater Good,” he said solmenly before turning to include Farrack and Valai. “I have extended my team as this task requires your added talents.”

“I gladly accept your command, Shas’vre,” replied Valai while bringing his fist into his chest.

Farrack looked down upon the grouped warriors and cocked his head. “I bring my strength to add to your pool. My hounds are quite anxious to sink their claws into living flesh.”

“Shas’O’Thul has commanded us to join with one Dagon from the Imperium to seek out the root of the Gor’vie and mark it for eradication,” spoke Sai’kul. “We have minimal preparation time remaining as the Gor’vie are likely to attack again at nightfall. With our primary force distracting them, we will easily be able to slip into the jungle using the cover of darkness. Our most recent reports tell us that their numbers are severely diminished after their losses last night. We know this strain to evolve quickly when challenged, but we hope they have not exceeded our predictions.”


Four men sat with Dagon on top of a building overlooking the city. The streets flowed with citizens trying to reclaim their lives and begin rebuilding. Kara was among them and it was for her that he met with these men. He wanted to scale down the side of the building to find her, but the Imperium required another task of him.

“Ten years ago, you all heard the rumors about me and latched on to them as truth. Somewhere along the way one of you even convinced me to train all of you in my trade. Apparently the Planetary Defense Force of Pangeus was not excitement enough for you,” began Dagon garnering a few chuckles. “Reluctantly, I took you in as a set of inductees figuring I could weed you out, but none of you ever quit. And here we are…

“You have a chance to prove yourselves to the Imperium and see your planet through its darkest hour. Keep your faith resolute in the Emperor and you will succeed. After this is over, Lord Commander Icross can open the doors for those of you who wish to venture out into the darker portions of the galaxy.”

The men nodded in silent agreement. Directly across from him sat two brothers, Alexander and Xavier Kevscott. Alexander was the elder and lorded his massive frame over his younger brother. He had cropped black hair that sat atop his dark, chiseled face. Xavier was rail thin, but extremely agile. His grey eyes were set deep into his skull and his slightly longer hair spiked out from his head.

Koranth Erubel sat to Dagon’s right with sunlight shining off his golden hair. He played with a knife in his left hand and was the only one who still wore the standard green PDF battle uniform. Not much for change, he preferred to stay with the familiar. A simple, pale-blue stone attached to a silver chain hung around his neck.

On Dagon’s left was Normas Holith who sat leaning over with his forearms resting on his knees. He wore a black tank-top with dark-green pants. The harsh features of his face were mitigated by his weathered, bald head. The oldest member of the group, save for Dagon, he graciously assumed the role of second-in-command. He was the first to hear of Dagon and was the one who sought him out and presented the idea of the group to him.

Normas looked around the group before speaking, “Last night I was ready to sacrifice myself for the Imperium. Unfortunately I was not able to fulfill that pledge. I took that to be a gift and don’t want to misuse it. Be honest, Dagon. How will allying with the xenos benefit us if we fall to their cunning words? I would rather die than see Pangeus be taken from the Imperium.”

“We have been requested to perform a task from the Lord Commander and I intend to complete that task as a servant to the Emperor. We are the silent death; once released, we kill without mercy. That is our only creed. It is not for us to question our assignments, only obey,” Dagon replied.

“If the xenos remain after our alliance has been dissolved, I will see to it personally that they do not take our world,” added Alexander. “My family does not deserve to live under xeno rule.”

“True. I also find it strange that we ally with one group of xenos to save us from another,” said Xavier. “I have also heard that the council has re-formed and is opening diplomacy with them. Politics should have no place in war. We need to have a clear path laid before us to accomplish our task. After that they can argue amongst themselves over the spoils.”

“I have no love for politics myself,” said Dagon. “It has been my experience that politicians indulge themselves in their own illusion of self-importance instead of following the example of the Emperor. But again, that is not our place, for at the end of the war we do not answer to them. We will go on this mission at the request of the Lord Commander alone and nothing else. Remember that.”

Normas looked into Dagon’s eyes before asking,”In the light of our potentially fatal mission, may I ask the question that has been on all of our minds?”

Dagon narrowed his gaze in a twinge of sadness,”If you must.”

“Do you fear you have not fully escaped the Officio Assassinorum?” he asked in a whisper.

Dagon paused before answering,”More than any foe I have ever felled.”


Kara milled through the populated streets alone in the afternoon sun. She had already consumed her allotted food rations and had no particular place to be. This city was not her home and the thought of her true home destroyed by the beasts tempered the hope that ran through the city. Everywhere, she could tell people were grateful to be alive. None of them seemed to question whether or not Pangues will ever regain its prior splendor.

She was alone. Dagon was the only reason she had survived the initial attacks. Her parents and two younger sisters had all been killed weeks ago. Without him she would be completely lost, unable to rebuild her life. She could not think about losing him. He had already made incredible sacrifices in the campaign against the beasts.

She stepped off the street into an alleyway and sat down with tears slowly traveling down her cheeks. She pulled herself into a ball grabbing handfuls of her hair. Deep sobbing echoed through the alleyway. Her unbalanced emotions tore through her mind. A slight burst of wind moved her hair, followed by a pair of strong arms wrapping around her.

A wave of calm soothed her virulent heart. She lifted her head up and buried it against Dagon’s chest. “I can’t believe they are gone.”

“It’s okay. We are still alive and carry their legacy forward. This nightmare will soon be over.”

“Please tell me Galvin does not need you anymore. If you never come back I will live in a perpetual nightmare.”

“You are stronger than you know and I need you to tap into that strength now,” he said softly while gently shuffling around to look into her eyes. “You have let fear ravage you. Fear is anathema to the Emperor. Trust in his guidance and you will be free of it.”

She cycled through a few deep breaths before replying,”What more do you have to do?”

“I have to save us. Galvin has assigned me to a combined unit alongside the xenos. Together we intend to destroy the heart of the beasts and rid us of them forever. Soon, we will revisit the jungle without fear and enjoy Pangeus once again.”

“None of that will matter if you do not return.” Her hair had transformed into a tangled mess. She tried to smooth it out.

“The greatest gift you will ever receive is having your homeworld back. And right now, I am the only one who can secure that for you. I am doing this for the Emperor and for you. You need me here in this moment to carry this mission out.”

She forced herself to smile,”Then go. Save our future.”

Vindicated – Chapter 2

E arlier this year, I put together a novel proposal for the Black Library’s open submission period. Per their requirements, I siphoned off a piece of my soul planning the entire story and writing the first three chapters. It was a fantastic first date. I wrapped my submission up and sent it off knowing this relationship was going to be ‘The One’. Unfortunately, just like any one-sided relationship, I possessed a completely different idea of what was going on between us since they never called me back. Therefore, I shall unleash my shame upon the entire Internet!

Behold! Chapter 2 of a rejected Tau Empire novel:

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Tau Castes

 

Art by FaceInTheSand



Vindicated – A Tau Empire Novel

by VigRoco

 

Chapter 2


Acario’s commission as Planetary Governor of Pangeus had been an unofficial exile from the Administratium of Terra. His ambition had clashed with the egos of his peers and had drawn the lines of political feuding. In the end, he was cast out from the inner circle and forced into the eastern fringe of the galaxy where he could no longer interfere. He vowed to one day return.

The beasts’ arrival was his opportunity. They skulked throughout the rest of the galaxy and were a growing threat to the Imperium. If he could stop them on Pangeus, he would have bargaining posture to trade information for power. However, the Administratium had not been receptive to his requests for military resources to accomplish this. Desperation grew inside him along with the ferocity of the beasts’ attacks. He feared an exile’s death.

Fate called out to him now that the xenos had subsided the beasts’ onslaught. He stood in one of the cramped comunicae rooms of the city’s meager administrative palace. He was hunched over gripping tightly to his staff for support. Age had twisted his face into a permanent scowl. Long, white hair dropped down behind his shoulders and a wiry beard protruded out from his chin and touched his chest. He adorned himself in the finest administrator robes he could obtain in this part of the galaxy.

An operator sat at a terminal working out the communication link. An astropath, trying to reach out through the Warp, was strapped prostrate along a table. Acario began speaking after the operator confirmed the open connection to Terra.

“This is Planetary Governor Acario. We have been successful in halting the advancement of the Tyranids that have taken root on Pangeus. We still require reinforcements as a new xeno threat faces us. The Tau Empire has deployed a hunter-cadre here under the pretense of aide, but I am certain they will try to annex us the moment we have finished crushing the Tyranids.

“I know Space Marine detachments are patrolling near this sector. Pangeus will be lost to the Imperium if we do not receive aide. I am formally requesting these resources as a Governor within the Administratium. The light of the Emperor will grow dark in this sector unless immediate action is taken. “



Dagon rushed through the crowded tunnels running below the city with his sniper rifle still strapped to his back. The tunnels wound below ground to a series of large caverns that had been recently converted to refugee camps. Filled with people and dwindling rations, they contained the remaining known population on Pangeus. Fear swarmed over the refugees as news of their salvation had not yet made its way down.

Dagon slid through the wall of bodies, unable to return any answers to their questioning eyes. Several meters behind him, a messenger who had followed him down began delivering the official news of the outcome of their battle. Everyone turned to hear the messenger as Dagon pushed past them, nearly shoving a few people to the floor in his desperation.

Finally he saw Kara sitting on a rock next to an underground waterfall spilling into a shallow pool. She locked eyes with him and time slowed. He took off his sniper rifle and utility harness allowing both to drop to the ground as he approached her side. She smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled their lips together.

The crowds drifted away from them and gathered around the messenger. Kara pulled away and gently cupped Dagon’s face in her hands.

“I thought we were doomed, ” she said with tears tracing lines down her face.

“Apparently I was wrong this time, ” he replied as they both exchanged muted laughter.

“Did the Imperium answer our cries?”

“No. Xenos descended onto the battlefield and turned everything around. We are safe for now, but these xenos are not hear simply to help our cause. I fear they want our allegiance.”

Where is the Imperium?”

“I have to be that voice.”

The cavern shook with the joyful cries of the crowds after hearing the messenger’s words.


A Tau fleet consisting of a dozen ships orbited Pangeus. Most of them were long range transports carrying full compliments of dropships and planetary strikecraft. A few bombardment vessels rode in low orbit with their cannons still trained on the planet’s surface. They glided above the surface like a school of ravenous sharks hunting their prey.

Above these orbited the Aun Utulus, a large, circular vessel that dwarfed even the largest transports. It bore the markings of the Ethereal caste, the ruling caste of the Tau Empire. Two security details of spear-like frigates stood sentinel above and below it. Four evenly spaced spires jutted upward along the edge of the hull. Each spire housed a series of plasma engines at its base that provided all the momentum the ship needed.

Por’ Ari’Tai waited in a broadcast chair aboard the Aun Utulus while a vox link was opened to the surface of Pangeus. Wide black eyes focused on the holoscreen before her. The sterile light of the room reflected dully off her pale-blue skin. A single braid of black hair dropped from the back of her otherwise bald head down to the floor. She wore the dark blue robes of the Water Caste, the diplomatic and administrative arm of the Tau Empire, the edges of which were trimmed with ancient wisdom passed down for generations and written in original Tau script.

Using the clumsy communication methods of the Imperium always encumbered her. Patience was her key when dealing with humans as their fear of technology forced them to use archaic communication methods. She had always privately wondered what they feared. Her entire function within the Greater Good would be diminished without constant technological advancement.

The room around her was filled with other Water Caste members broadcasting communications throughout the fleet. They relayed news reports, orders, and operating procedures to keep the fleet focused on the Greater Good. Ari’Tai drew her taught, pale-blue face into her best approximation of a human smile as the holoscreen wound to life.

Pangeus is a beautiful world. We are grateful to share it with you during this critical time.”

“Your military presence was a welcome addition to our over-extended forces. I thank you on behalf of Pangeus, ” replied Acario in his scratchy voice. Static flickered through his image.

“We wish to catalyze its salvation with our military assistance. We have already offered what we believe to be a sign of good faith. If you allow, we would like to join you on the surface to see in what other areas you might require our assistance. We have with us a fleet equipped to fully rebuild your world. “

“I am grateful for your assistance, but any inter-planetary decision I make must be ratified by council vote. We will convene immediately to discuss this matter and consult with our personal advisers. ” He paused, narrowing his eyes. “I have received news that your military commander has already made contact with the Lord Commander. I trust you are not positioning a coup.”

“We would not insult the Imperium with such a crude gesture. We only wish to offer assistance here as a prelude to stronger diplomatic relations. The Tyranids seek to devour both of our empires. We must unite.”

“I will temporarily authorize you to send a single envoy until the council makes a final ruling on this matter. That is the most I am able to offer at this time. “

Ari Tai watched as he made the sign of the Aquila. She returned it and noted the surprise on his face. After he had severed their link, she tapped on the holoscreen and it dissipated.

“Their council is only their method of stalling the inevitable, ” said Por’ Gyme from behind her.

Ari’Tai spun around in her chair giving her full attention to her Pathos Guide. He wore robes similar to hers, but with the addition of metallic stripes at his collar. His splotchy skin showed his true age, but life still thrived within his mind. Many worlds had been brought into the Tau Empire due to his expert guidance. She was thankful to serve the Greater Good under such a prestigious mentor.

A group of young, apprenticed Water Caste members trailed behind him hanging on to his every word. She remembered following him from their perspective. It was like searching through the Knowledge Core and finding the exact slice of data you needed. In a galaxy populated with clashing ideals and technologies, drowning in the noise was too common. His experience gave force behind the oceans his apprentices swam in and guided them to the shores of effective diplomacy.

“I expect nothing less from them, ” she replied. “My words will bend their will into the Greater Good. Eventually they will abandon the Imperium just as it has abandoned them in these critical hours. “

“Never forget that the merits of the Greater Good must merely be revealed for someone to accept their truth. Pangeus is still full of Imperial citizens blinded by the light of their own emperor. Asking them to look away will be difficult, which is why I need you to lead the initial envoy to the surface. Exploit the shadows cast upon them from his light.”

“For the Greater Good, ” she whispered with a bowed head.


Acario stepped out of the communicae room and headed down the corridor toward the council chamber. The short walk was appalling. He remembered the winding labyrinths of the Administratium’s palaces on Terra. Throngs of people constantly filled their cavernous halls. Whenever a High Lord strode among them, they would make way with a reverent nod. He had thrived on bathing in their respect.

Pangeus’ population lost such traditions in favor of simple, rustic values. Now he had to fight to make it through the crowded hallways. He looked at the people he passed in the narrow corridor. Most of them did not even acknowledge him as they hurried by. Who did they think had the power to save their world? Without him the Tyranids would have already consumed them all.

He looked up at the twin doors to the council chamber. Only three meters high and devoid of inscriptions, they were a reminder of the haste with which the palace was built and forgotten. He even had to open the door himself, as most of the palace’s servitors had to be reassigned elsewhere.

The empty chamber was a modest space barely meeting the council’s needs. About 8 meters wide and 14 long, it held a long table chipped from years of use and a host of chairs gathered around it. He took his position at the head of the table and place his armful of parchments and battle reports before him. A pale light shined down from the ceiling, illuminating the room in a pale haze.

A few moments later, the doors creaked open, preceding the sounds of excited chatter. The rest of the planetary council filed in and took their places around the table. Even with everyone in attendance, it was only half full. Acario tried to neutralize their smiles with his scowl.

“Where is the Lord Commander?” asked Acario, getting directly to the business at hand.

“I believe he is with the xeno commander trying to fortify the city, my lord, ” said Gabe Poliz. His black hair and toned skin revealed his native heritage.

“I agree that the arrival of these xenos was fortuitous, but they oppose the Imperium and are thus equally as dangerous. We cannot leap blindly into an alliance. The costs must be weighed.”

“The costs have been weighed, ” replied Gabe as he looked around the room. “Earlier this very night, we all thought we were fighting a losing battle, but now we have hope. And since hope is all we have left, we should grip it tightly.”

“Where was the Imperium these past few weeks?” another voice added. It belonged to the oldest member of the council, Heregar who always insisted he be addressed by only one name. His dark, leathery head was completely shaven in support of some strange belief that no one could ever remember.

His wiry frame hardly seemed to support him as he stood up to continue addressing the council, “If the Imperium respected us, they would have sent more than a few young pups as rescue. Earlier tonight, I had accepted my fate and was sleeping soundly only to be shocked into consciousness by Gabe here saying something about xenos saving the city.

“None of us should be alive right now. Thus, we are dead…” Heregar let his voice trail off as he stared up at the lights, a wild spark forming in his eyes, “…and therefore, we should join these new xenos in a crusade against the insects. What do we have to fear now? The Emperor has forgotten us.”

The kernel of truth within his opinion resonated with Cali Jardus, who represented the planet’s agriculture guilds. She smiled slightly while nodding at him. She stood and motioned with her hands to quiet the rest of the murmuring council and nervously clasped her gloved hands together before speaking.

“It is dangerous to accuse the Emperor of abandonment. Without him we are lost and doomed to revert back to Old Night. What we have been given is a test of our own fortitude. Can we ally with these xenos, drive back the Tyranids, and still remain loyal to the Emperor through it all? That is the question we should internalize.

“To you I may appear to be a simple farmer, but it is our agriculture that forms the core on which all of Pangeus subsists on. We have forgotten that we ourselves subsist on the Imperium and the will of the Emperor. It was our abandonment of him that brought this plague to our planet. I have repented for my own personal abandonment, and you should do the same. “

“I am happy to see that the entire council has not lost their minds, ” Acario said after allowing a pregnant pause. “I am no fool. We must come to some treaty with the xenos, but as Jardus has implied, we cannot enter into any agreement lightly. I advise that we open diplomacy with them if only to stall long enough for our combined military strength to finish off the Tyranids.”

The chamber doors abruptly swung open and Galvin stormed into the room. All eyes snapped to him as he took an empty chair next to Heregar.

“Well, speak of the Nurgle, ” said Heregar.


Dagon sat pinned against the wall as his wife slept deeply with her head in his lap. He gently stroked her hair as exhaustion finally caught up to him. His entire body ached from pushing it for days without rest. The past month had felt like a constant battle. However, if war were easy, they would not need soldiers.

The cavern activity had died down as everyone drifted off into sleep without fear of attack. Their gentle, rhythmic breathing resembled the evening winds on Pangeus’ plains. He and his wife would often just lay underneath the purple sky with the winds lapping at their skin. He smiled at the recollection. Perhaps they would eventually return to the surface with such a carefree spirit.

Movement within the cavern instantly jolted him into the present. He watched a young, native teen crawl over the sleeping bodies heading in his direction. He released a frustrated sigh, knowing this was a messenger sent for him. He chuckled at the sight of the messenger stumbling along, accidentally waking up a few people.

Dagon looked up into his eyes as the teen delivered his message while fidgeting at his pant legs with his hands, “Sir, the Lord Commander requests your presence in the council chamber.”

Dagon looked back down at the beautiful creature laying at his feet in undisturbed peace.

“Thank you. I will join him soon, ” he replied with a whisper, waving him away.

When they were alone again, he bent down and kissed her forehead. He moved his hand to brush her face.

“Haven’t you done enough already?” She asked.

“Perhaps if I was as watchful as you, I would have.”

“Let them deal with this. The rank of ‘Lord Commander’ is not given to just anyone, ” she said while sitting upright. She snaked her hands around the back of his head. “I need you here. “

“If only it were that simple.”

“I have lived these past weeks in constant fear–fear of witnessing the death of my homeworld at the hands of these terrible creatures and fear of witnessing that death alone.” Tears arched down her face.

“I only leave you to quench the source of your fear. Trust in me. Trust in the Imperium. The Emperor lights our dark paths so that we can see there is nothing to fear but our own disillusionment. “

She laughed while drawing him into a parting kiss.

“Promise me you will work on your iterating skills after you have used your true talents to kill the beasts, ” she said while playfully slapping his cheek.

He helped ease her into a comfortable position on the padded mat she now occupied alone before standing up. He swiftly exited the room, silently snatching up his gear which had not been moved since he first came down into the caverns. Once in the hallway leading up to the city, he strapped his utility harness back on and pulled his full mask over his face.

Encased in black, he slid through the shadows of the city. IG soldiers patrolled the empty streets, watching for anyone breaking the curfew. He could tell from their vigilance that they had already quelled a few riots. No one wanted to stay down in the caverns when the city was effectively theirs again. Daylight would break in a few hours and release the eager mob to reclaim their city.

They ignorantly accepted the gift of life from the xenos with no attention to the cost. Whatever the council wanted with him was probably related to this. Pangeus had never tasted war before. They knew nothing of sacrifice or courage, only entitlement to their endangered land.

He had no misconceptions about Governor Acario, either. The condition of Pangeus was far from his mind as he plotted to regain his former position of High Lord. What prestigious member of the Administratium would ever seek out a rustic planet such as Pangeus to preside over? However, he was currently the planet’s governor, and as such wielded entirely too much power for an Imperial citizen.

“Governor Acario is simultaneously our key to life and imprisonment with these xenos, ” he whispered carelessly to the darkness.

“Is there more than the Hunt?” asked a deep, guttural voice.

Startled, Dagon drew out his laspistol and pressed himself against the side of the building to his immediate left. He was in an alleyway with an empty street before him. He had become sloppy during his time on Pangeus and should not have let down his guard enough to allow someone to surprise him.

“You are a warrior, yet you speak of politicians, ” said the voice, about three meters behind him. “Your politicians have left you defenseless and weak.”

Dagon turned to face the xeno voice. Only the dark alley lay before his searching eyes. A faint, red light floated where the voice should have been. The alley behind the light slowly writhed about like a conjured illusion.

“Show yourself! Only a xeno would hide from the Emperor behind such perverted technology.”

“It is our technology that has saved your world that your beloved Emperor allowed to become encumbered with political idealizing. It is they who are the true parasite here.”

“I am sure your politicians orbit us right now scheming how you will use us for your own advancement.”

“Scheming requires an initial trait of selfishness. I do not fight for myself. I fight for the Greater Good. Our politicians act on behalf of the Greater Good. Our functions differ greatly, but we both work to achieve the same purpose.

“Your politicians, however, work for themselves. Why do you fight, then? If it is not for them, then you both work against each other. Your division brought the beastial Gor’vie down upon you.”

“I fight for the Imperium, and defend the eternal light of the immortal Emperor, beloved by all!” He shouted into the night. Receiving no response, he was left alone with his thoughts. The red light had vanished. He continued toward his destination.

By the time he reached the council chamber, guilt pressed against his mind for leaving his wife’s side. With all his years of service to the Imperium, hadn’t he given enough to warrant a small reprieve? He doubted his abilities would even remain useful as Galvin should be handling the new military situation with the xenos.

He walked into the chamber. Worn expressions of debate stretched out across every face. Galvin, still adorned in his commander’s uniform, rose out of his chair and indicated he sit beside him. Instead, Dagon walked to the end of the table, crossed his arms, and cocked his head at Governor Acario. Silence filled the chamber.

“I appreciate your frankness, Dagon, ” remarked Acario. “We have brought you here at the request of Lord Commander Icross who has affirmed that we cannot save our world without the aid of these xenos. So, the council has allowed a interim treaty that will give the Lord Commander the power to converse with the xenos and formulate a combined military strategy to combat the Tyranids.

“You and he are to be a liaison for the council to the Tau military commander.” He looked over at Galvin. “Normally we would only require one military person to fulfill this role, but as the Lord Commander has stated, we are under a pressured timeframe and need the specialized guidance that you may be able to provide. Are you prepared to perform the duties asked of you by the Imperium?”

Dagon looked around the room. He did not have much of a choice as most of the looks cast his way were desperate pleas for salvation. None of them, save Acario’s, were forced. They all had built their lives here on Pangeus and needed to him to reclaim their future. At least in that sense, they fought for the same goals.

However, they still did not have the light of the Emperor illuminating their hearts. Their political idealizing had distracted them from the glory of the Imperium. That was how the Tyranids had been able to destroy them, through their own negligence to the Imperial Truth. The xeno was wrong.

“For the Emperor,” he said while looking into Acario’s veiled eyes.

The chamber emptied out quickly with everyone scurrying back to the caverns to get some sleep in the few remaining hours of the night. Galvin was the last to walk out with Acario. They exchanged a nod before diverting off to their respective places.

Acario headed directly for the communicae room to relay the council’s decision to the xenos. The room had been emptied after he sent out his long distance request to Terra. As with most things on Pangeus, he was forced to perform several menial tasks himself.

He brought the vox online and hailed the xenos orbiting above them. After a few beats, the xeno he knew as Ari’Tai appear on his screen. She wore the same forced smile as the first time he communicated with her. He could not overcome how strange it was that a narrow slit ran down her forehead where her nose should have been. He sighed in disgust before addressing her.

“The council has decided to provision an alliance between our military forces. Our Lord Commander will act as a liaison between the council and your military commander here on the ground. We are grateful for your aid. I apologize for the length of time taken to reach our decision, but the recent duress we have been under has rendered us distraught and receding to our safe, bureaucratic methods. “

“I will alert our commander to proceed with combined force protocol then. I am glad to be moving forward in our mutual relationship, ” she replied.

“As far as planetary diplomacy is concerned, I was not able to secure more than what I have already stated in our previous conversation. You are free to send a single envoy and must station it within an embassy we have set up here in the city. Once you are on the surface, we can commence deeper diplomatic discussions on the future of our two interests.

“I am uploading the landing coordinates to you as we speak. Our city has only a single point of landing, therefore I must have you escorted by a military detail from the landing site to your embassy. Do not take this as hostility, but rather as our way of protecting our limited assets. You must not over-step these boundaries or you will break the council’s trust.”

“I accept your provisional limits to our envoy. I will be personally leading it to the surface when dawn breaks over the city. I look forward to meeting you in person.”

“As do I, ” Acario said while making the sign of the Aquilia, which she again reciprocated.

Vindicated – Chapter 1

E arlier this year, I put together a novel proposal for the Black Library’s open submission period. Per their requirements, I siphoned off a piece of my soul planning the entire story and writing the first three chapters. It was a fantastic first date. I wrapped my submission up and sent it off knowing this relationship was going to be ‘The One’. Unfortunately, just like any one-sided relationship, I possessed a completely different idea of what was going on between us since they never called me back. Therefore, I shall unleash my shame upon the entire Internet!

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Behold! Chapter 1 of a rejected Tau Empire novel:

Tau

Vindicated – A Tau Empire Novel

by VigRoco


 

Chapter 1


Pangeus stood in the galaxy’s eastern fringe as a testament to the Imperium’s great reach. Named for its single, massive supercontinent, it was a veritable paradise hidden away from the scourging touch of Imperial industry. A lush jungle spanned nearly the entire length of the supercontinent along the equator. Diversified wildlife thrived underneath the canopy of its gigantic bio-trees.

The bio-trees could be seen by the naked eye when orbiting the planet. Barely ten meters in diameter, they stretched up impossibly high, pairing off and curving around each other in double helix formations. An invisible force enabled their breath-taking ascent, bootstrapping and preventing them from bending back down to the surface. Their bark was smooth like glass and undisturbed by any branches. During the day, they were a monotone yellow, but at night they bled into the night sky, transforming the faint drops of starlight into dancing beams.

The rest of the continent was a series of plains, mountains, and forests that desperately held on to their connection to the jungle by the winding rivers flowing to it. The fertile plains supported the majority of the planet’s population while the mountains sustained a few pockets of more adventurous communities. Without the advantage of proper reshaping equipment, settlements cropped up around major terrain features.

Colonized and brought into service of the Emperor millennia ago, the resident population barely remembered they were a part of a greater whole. Living in stale cities, they were content to exist within the safety of their own meaningless obscurity. Their sight had drifted away from the Imperium and onto the paradise it had won them. They had completely forgotten just how far they were from the watchful eye of Terra, until the beasts came.

Descending upon the planet in grotesque hues of reds and oranges, the beasts took root in the jungle. A race of enormous insectoids, they needed to consume biomass in order to grow a siege army. Launching out from this foothold, they began overtaking everything. Cities went dark as reports of their swarms spread throughout the rest of the planet. All nearby Imperial Guard forces had been brought in to join with the local planetary defense force, but they could not hold back the growing hordes.

The surviving population cried out to their Emperor to save them as they repented for their prior lack of fervor. Terra gave no answer to their pleas, leaving them to cower in fear with prayers on their lips. The beasts drove them back into a single remaining city that sat on a plain not far from the jungle. As if for some nefarious purpose, they had saved this morsel until the end.

The city’s original name had been forgotten in the scrambling influx of survivors. They latched onto it as a final bastion of hope and began calling it Zion after memories of ancient lore began spreading. The beasts attacked them relentlessly from the jungle only to be crushed beneath the remaining fortified weapons of the Imperial Guard. They continued, however, until the city began to slowly wear down under the constant assault. Eventually, it would fall.

A lone tower projected upward from the crumbling city rising high above the remaining buildings. Dagon looked out from its apex trying to survey the horizon in the dusk. He knew the moment the sun retreated, they would meet the beasts in what was to become their last stand. He would not die without releasing the lifetime of fury he carried.

Overlayed with a utility harness, his black outfit hugged his toned frame. Various grenades, knives, and magazines were clasped down each side of the harness from his shoulders to his waist. His belt held other assortments of utensils needed to bring down his enemies. Grey hair crept down to his shoulders. His aging face was locked in stone as his black, enhanced eyes sought targets along the edge of twilight. He felt the air slowly begin to shift and knew the city did not have long to live.

 

When he saw the red clouds taint the sky weeks ago, he knew their doom had come. Already at a low point for the normal shuttle cycle, no outbound shuttles were to be found. The entire population was trapped on the surface. Of course, the beasts spread so rapidly that their social fabric had broken down too far to even attempt a proper evacuation.

The arrival of the Imperial Guard changed nothing. They were too focused on waging a campaign with their limited resources to pay attention to the needs of civilians. The Lord Commander leading the force completely ignored the planet’s administration. Even if they could have released their ships for shuttle use, they could not have converted them in time. The beasts were too quick. At that point, only Terra could save them.

Thoughts of his wife Kara hiding below the city ran through his mind. It seemed like ages ago that he first arrived on Pangeus and met her. Like most of the residents she was a native, a descendant of the first colonizing population. Her wavy, black hair flowed down along her back like untamed rivers. Green eyes reflected a source of unending youth from her smooth face. Years of living under Pangeus’ golden sun had cultivated her skin into a dark olive.

The spark of romance between them shocked him. He came here to live out his final days in peace, but their past decade together had brought new meaning to his life. Much younger than him, she rekindled his adventurous spirit and had engaged him in an ambitious quest to unveil all Pangeus’ beauty. Its various landscapes were all the more captivating when seen through her eyes. Living an entire lifetime’s worth of experiences in the past decade was equal parts adventure and exhaustion.

He tried to push the thoughts of her far from his mind. The sun fell further in the sky leaving only a few rays of their last day and he needed all of his faculties available to him. He snatched up his sniper rifle and loaded a new round into its chamber. He had specially designed the round to chew through the thick hide of the insectoid beasts and release an acid that would liquidate the internal organs in seconds.

Darkness fell over the city. He could now see the horizon springing to life with hordes of beasts running out from the jungle at full speed. The smallest ones ran in front, acting as a shield for the monstrous creatures following behind. The ground shook under the weight of their advance. He wondered if the city would even hold together until they reached its outskirts. He looked down into the streets below watching the IG forces prepare to begin launching artillery shells.

Lord Commander Galvin Icross stood with the remnants of his personal guard on the second level of a demolished building. The entire front wall of the building had been blown out in a previous fight. Conveniently, it afforded him the best vantage point to issue orders to the forces that still protected the city. They had all consigned themselves to death and fought with added tenacity.

A young commander, Galvin, had been performing routine drills around this galactic sector when he was alerted to the threat facing Pangeus. Rushing in as the official Imperial response, this would be his first and last conflict as a Lord Commander. Throughout his career he had been able to rise quickly through the ranks while retaining his jet-black hair. Fire burned in his eyes and he intended to expend all the remaining youth he possessed in repelling their enemies.

His remaining soldiers dug into the front edge of the city, preparing for the attack. They positioned themselves in ruined buildings, makeshift battlements, or behind any other object they could use for cover. They were supported by various tanks and heavy weapons teams similarly fortified. The massive cannons of Basilisks pointed upward, ready to deliver their deadly rounds of artillery.

The rumblings of the ground below him would determine when to release a volley of artillery fire. The beasts may have thought attacking at night would afford them an advantage, but their brute force gave away their position far more accurately than a visual cue. They were nearly in range. He glanced back at the sniper tower.

Vox silence had been enacted, but Dagon knew Galvin was waiting on him to fire the first shot. He leaned into the scope on his rifle. It filtered the darkness, showing him the massive swarm approaching the city. He pushed out with what little psyker ability he possessed and targeted a huge creature hulking in the background.

Its chitinous, segmented body sprouted an assortment of appendages that formed into claws and bio-cannons. It stumbled forward and hunched over onto its front claws for support. Its head was a massive maw of razor teeth that salivated as it stepped closer to its prey. Dagon could feel the psychic control it wielded over its smaller cousins that ran before it. He breathed deeply as he lined up the killing shot.

The beast seemed to smirk at him through his scope. He returned a cold stare as he squeezed the trigger. A loud crack reverberated throughout the city as the bullet entered the beast’s maw and delivered its poison. Suddenly blinding, white light engulfed it, unmaking it as it struggled onward.

Dagon shielded his eyes as the light intensified. He looked down into the city to see Galvin halting the firing of the first wave of artillery fire. The light bathed the city in a glow resembling the early hours of dawn. As it gradually died down, they all looked up to see a large group of the smaller beasts beginning to scatter as their masters were disintegrated into ash and released their psychic grip.

The scream of dropship engines pierced the night air. The entire city looked up into the heavens to see their saviors. Terra had finally answered their desperate cries. Hope rekindled in Dagon’s heart. He welcomed the sight of a Thunderhawk racing to the surface. Several dropships lowered below the clouds, following a vertical, downward line.

Their lines of descent did not follow conventional Imperial tactics. He squinted up into the sky now full of dropships creating a perimeter around the front of city. They were equally as large as a Thunderhawk, but condensed into a flat, wide design. Four engines attached to their corners pushed against the gravity of Pangeus. Each ship came to rest about 20 meters off the ground as their engines quieted to a pale yellow.

The symbol of a circle inlaid with a rectangle holding up a smaller circle adorned their hulls. Dagon reloaded his rifle as they opened up to release their payloads. Several tanks and transports dropped down to hover above the ground, each bearing the same uniform symbol as the dropships. They all followed a symmetrical, wedge-shaped design that narrowed into a definitive nose. A pair of engines were mounted on either side of the rear while winged platforms stretched out from either side of the nose.

A group of the tanks began strafing the beasts. Each was equipped with a pair of gatling guns in their forward platforms and a flat, top-mounted cannon running nearly its entire length. Their front guns spun to life, tearing into the small beasts as they ran around chaotically. Their large cannons began targeting some of the remaining monstrous beasts that turned toward them.

The larger beasts sought to bring control back to their horde. Dagon guessed about ten of them remained. Another group of tanks outfitted with sensory equipment in their forward platforms and a top-mounted missile rack moved to support the first tank group. Pale beams of light shone out from their sensors onto the larger beasts. Dagon was certain he was the only one with vision acute enough to see the red beams.

What he assumed were transports moved away in the opposite direction of the two tank groups to fortify against the edge of the city. They formed a long line, angling their light weaponry towards the beasts. A lone gatling gun was mounted underneath each transport’s nose. Disc-shaped gun mounts with an antenna sprouting from the top sat cradled in their forward platforms. Twin guns hung from each mount.

Their rear doors fell downward as orderly lines of soldiers poured out and jumped down. The soldiers wore bulky armor that gave weight to their small stature. Each carried a long rifle. They quickly lined up behind the transports and prepared to fire at the beasts under the hovering transports. The transports’ front guns began firing to split their enemies’ attention.

With all their payloads released, the dropships flew back up into the sky and rested over the city. The Imperial Guard soldiers within the city now saw the altered battlefield.

“By the Throne! We are saved!” A soldier’s jubilant cry broke the vox silence.

Lord Commander Galvin took this as an invitation to begin their artillery strikes.

“For the Imperium!” His stoic voice followed over the vox as he gave the signal to begin firing.

The plain lit up as artillery rounds launched out from the city into the night. Death rained down upon the beasts as the xeno tank companies let loose their weapons. Hyper-charged particles coupled with missile barrages hammered into the hulking monsters. The first wave reduced three of them to ash. The xeno tanks were surprisingly agile and kept increasing the distance between them.

Imperial Guard and xeno soldiers began firing their weapons at mutual enemies. Dagon looked on as the xenos tended to hit their targets more frequently than the Imperial soldiers. The beasts, still determined to chase down the tanks, pushed through the soldiers’ fire.

Dagon shook his head as he lined up another shot on the closest beast. It faced away from him, so he would have to slip the bullet between the chitinous plates on its back. He could barely hear his rifle’s discharge over the erupting battlefield below him. He slammed his fist onto the tower’s ledge as he saw his shot miss its mark and lodge itself in the creature’s massive back plates. Acid leaked out of the round, melting away a few layers of its armor, but doing nothing truly damaging.

Another combined volley from Galvin’s artillery and the xeno tanks cut down more of the enormous beasts. Dagon noticed his target was among the survivors. He slammed another round into the chamber and fired off a shot through the weak point his previous one had created. The beast shuddered before collapsing onto the ground as its internal organs liquefied and poured out from its massive carapace.

Only two of the monstrous beasts remained. They let loose a return volley of charged, green venom from their bio-cannons at the xeno tanks. Globs of the vicious venom began eating through the tanks’ thick frontal armor. The tanks did not give them another chance to fire before perforating them with the particles launched from their cannons in a stream of brilliant light. The beasts crashed into the ground fully spent.

Without their taskmasters, the smaller beasts became ravenous. Their front line lunged wildly at the tanks even though they were unable to pierce their hulls. The back line broke off and ran back toward the jungle. Others ran toward the city, directly into the gunfire from the soldiers fortified within.

Dagon watched as the xeno soldiers and tanks meticulously eradicated the frenzied swarms. It was not long until the entire horde laid strewn out before the city. The smell of stagnant water and seared flesh wafted into his nose. However repugnant, it was the smell of victory this night. They had survived their last stand. Hope had visited them at last.

He wondered about the futility of that hope as they had really only exchanged one xeno threat for another. Dagon was relieved that his wife was safe, but apprehension clutched at his heart. The beasts may have grown into a force powerful enough to crush Pangeus, but he refused to allow that to happen again. These new xenos would not take away what they had returned to him.

He sent a direct vox to Galvin, “What just happened here?”

“Can’t you just appreciate we are still alive?” Galvin replied with renewed vigor.

“I appreciate the xenos for returning my life. I am in their debt, but I will not become their slave.”

“I think they want something else in return for our lives.”

Dagon cut off the transmission and watched the xeno soldiers holster their rifles on their backpacks and walk into the city resplendent with pride. They already walk as if they have conquered us, he thought. Above him, one of the dropships opened up and a handful of xeno forms floated down into the city.

They were bipedal machines nearly as tall as a Space Marine Dreadnought, but not as bulky. Each carried a differing array of weapons and equipment mounted to their arms and shoulders. Jetpacks gracefully carried them down to the ground as they glided in a V pattern with the xeno Dagon took to be their military commander at its peak. The ones following the commander were painted in uniform colors of dark and light shades of green trimmed with tan. The commander stood out in black with angular green shapes crawling over him.

They came to rest in the middle of the street near the base of the building Galvin was climbing down from with his guard. Both command units hesitated before mutually approaching. The xenos’ faces were hidden, but Galvin wore a firm, cautious expression to mask his excitement. The xeno machines towered over the humans with even more superiority than Space Marines.

Galvin spoke first, “I am Lord Commander Galvin Icross of the Imperial Guard regiment stationed on Pangeus. Deploying military forces to an Imperial world without prior authorization is cause for immediate retaliation. Considering the circumstances, however,” Galvin gestured around at the city, “I offer negotiation instead.”

“We are skeptical of negotiation, ” the commander said through his impassive speakers. “The Imperium believes only in its own selfish manifest destiny, which renders your negotiations moot. I am not here to wrestle your world away from your emperor. We are here to offer assistance on behalf of the Greater Good. I am Commander Shas’O’Thul, embodying the Fire Caste of the Tau Empire.”