Saturday, 6 December 2014

Flying stands

God I HATE flying stands.

Well ok maybe that's a bit too much of a generalisation. I only really hate having to deal with them for Battlefleet Gothic.

Anyway, I finished my second Emissary class starship, the Charlotte Wessels.









 Fun fact, I actually did ALL of the highlighting in one go, over the course of an entire night... and eventually staying up until 4:00 in the morning as a result (though, in my defence, that was largely due discovering a very long youtube series and attempting to watch it all in one fell swoop. I highlighted the model while waiting for the videos to load). I can be kind of hardcore like that sometimes.

This is, however old news. I would have posted about it much, much sooner, but as you might be able to guess from my introduction, I was waylaid by having to deal with the arch-nemesis of Battlefleet Gothic enthusiasts everywhere - flying stands. While cleaning the base of my non-flagship Merchant, the 'Kakapo Kross' (a conversion I invented consisting of four long metal pieces glued to the top of the flying stand's stem to stabilise the model on it) broke off, and I decided to use this opportunity to use a new technique I had learnt to stabilise the ship, cutting off the upper tip of the stem of the flying stand. The holes of a lot of Battlefleet Gothic capital ships (or at least the Tau ones) are too big for a normal unaltered flying stand to fit in, but cutting off the stand's upper tip and using the (much thicker) stem itself provides a much tighter fit. This works well enough for the Kor'O'vesh style ships, but ended up leading to the opposite problem on the Merchant - now it's hole was too small for the flying stem to fit at all. The solution I came up with was to simply shave the top of the stem down until it was the right size, but on my first attempt I ended up removing too much of the stem. You see, the Merchant class starship is a very back-heavy model - the Emissary class starships are too for that matter, but being made of resin they're light enough that it's not really much of a problem (a little bit of liquid green-stuff to the top of the stem is all it takes to solve it). The Merchant, however, is solid metal, and thus much heavier, so while it now fit on the reduced flying stand, it unerringly leaned upwards on it. After a long and frustrating series of see-sawing amounts of green-stuff, both solid and liquid, to try and rectify this, I eventually gave up and started over on a new flying stand, this time being lucky enough to only whittle off just the right amount to keep the ship level. So here she is, the first Merchant class starship I got (well technically second, the first one was badly miscast and this was the replacement), the Tantive IV. And just in time for the newly-released Star Wars trailer (and it's ridiculous new lightsaber), no less!

Kor'vattra Fleet K-42 


T'au'Il'fannor'V'ral'Myr'J'Kar'tyr 






Ship Name: T'au'Il'fannor'Vral'Myr'J'Kar'tyr
Gue'la Imperial Designation: Tantive IV
Class: Il'fannor (Merchant)
Configuration: Kel'shan standard
Mission Role: General-purpose Utility, Tactical engagement, Transport, Command and Control, Communications, Diplomatic Emissary, Blockade Runner
Serial Designation Code: T1316K47847O16
Sept of Origin: T'au
Notable Deployments:

- Smuggling of Hermia and Lysander Goshawk, along with their household attendants, following their defection to the Tau Empire
- Transport of clandestine weapons shipments to pro-Tau'va rebels in the Helveitios Cluster.
- Raid on Imperial port Sierra Aleph. 1 confirmed kill on enemy shipping, 3 unconfirmed, all mission objectives completed.
- Retrieval of design blueprints and technical specifications for Imperial Ramilies class starforts and research data on 'Blackstone' fortresses from Adeptus Mechanicus world Imperator Palatine
- Raid on Imperial convoy in the Locken sector. 2 confirmed kills on enemy shipping, 4 confirmed kills on cargo transports.
- Guidammerg relief operation (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Relief of Guidammerg)
- Ufa'Li'Sun'yi incident (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Ufa'Li'Sun'yi disaster, Ufa'Li'Sun'yi reconstruction program)
- Escort of convoy V-03 (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, V-03 incident, Y'he, Y'he Vanguard Swarm, Y'he activity, Zone of Silence, Eldar, Eldar pirate activity)
- Fleet action in Thespa system. 3 confirmed kills on enemy shipping, 9 unconfrimed (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Battle of Thespa, Thespa system, Grand Thespian Armada, Mont'au Gue'la, Mont'au Gue'la activity, Marc Baeth, Eldar, Eldar pirate activity)
- Re-enforcement of Fio'da (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Necron, Necron activity, Tomb World)
- First ATT Station incursion (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Shas'O'T'au Kais'ka'Eoro Da'Anuk, 42nd T'au Guards Cadre/Hunter Cadre Kais'Da'Anuk, ATT, Mont'au Gue'la, Mont'au entity, Etheric anomaly, Tzchael, Change incident, Embrace Change)
- Edge Expedition
- Defence of Tan'is. 1 confirmed kill on enemy shipping, 3 unconfirmed (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Gue'la, Gue'la fleet activity, Gue'la fleet actions, Destruction of Tan'is)
- Fleet action around Celestial Moon. 1 confirmed kill on enemy shipping, 4 unconfirmed (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Gue'la, Gue'la fleet activity, Gue'la Fleet actions, Battle of Celestial Moon, V-47)
- Second ATT Station incursion (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Shas'O'T'au Kais'ka'Eoro Da'Anuk, 42nd T'au Guards Cadre/Hunter Cadre Kais'Da'Anuk, ATT, Gue'la, Gue'la terror activity, Gue'la Inquisition, Jotunheim, Jotunheim raid, Vanaheimr, Taleghan, The Emperor Calls Turn Not Away Lest Ye Be Judged)

First Commander: Kor'el'T'au'Vral'Myr
Current Commander: Kor'el'T'au'J'Kar'tyr
Crew: 6,000 Kor, 3,000 Fio, 200 Por, 6 Shipboard Security Cadres, numerous assorted Kor'vessa
Powerplant: Hybrid Fusion/Nova system (4 Fusion reactors, 2 Nova reactors)
Propulsion: Standard Fusion Drive/Gravitic Field hybrid system
Defences: Class 2 multi-tier close-in point defence grid, including 4 mass drivers. Class 1 gravitic shield
Armament: Three light railcannon batteries (Total armament composition: 18 heavy railcannons in 6 2-railcannon turrets, 2 single railcannon turrets and 2 2-railcannon casemates in prow)
Docking Capacity: 2 Gravitic Hooks
Compliment: 2 Kass'l (Orca) class gunships
Status: Deployed to Warzone following extensive repairs

Overview: 

"Gue'la warship Athena this is the T'au'I'lfannor'Vral'Myr. We are a civilian merchant freighter transporting a standard shipment of ores, there is no cause for alarm. We have full authorisation from your authorities to be flying this trade route, and are currently departing Imperial space and entering an officially sanctioned non-militarised neutral zone as established by accords between our two peoples. We pose no threat to you. I respectfully request that you call off your pursuit, there is no need to board this ship for inspection. I repeat, there is no need to come aboard.

[closes communications channel]

Right, navigation prepare to plot an Etheric dive, try and get us closer to Tau space, but put us on a tangent vector, don't make it a linear transit, and make sure it's hard to track. Propulsion, get ready to divert all power into the Ether-drive, black-out the lights if you have to. Make it subtle though, don't tip off their sensors. Helm, prepare for Etheric translation on my mark. Fire control, prepare to target the cruiser, don't lock on or bring any turrets to bare, just plot some firing solutions, charge capacitors, and load the railcannons. Again, make sure they don't notice. Por'vre, if they come aboard stall them for as long as you can, and keep them away from the cargo hold at all costs. All Shipboard Security Cadres to standby positions, things could get violent. All hands prepare to jettison the cargo if needbe, if they find out what we're really carrying none of us will ever see the Empire again!"

- Kor'el'T'au'Vral'Myr, upon being hailed by the Imperial cruiser Athena 

First commanded by the Air Caste captain Kor'el'T'au'Vral'Myr, legendary for his cunning, deviousness and ability to complete even the most daring of missions, the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr, or Tantive IV as it is commonly identified as, has an infamous reputation amongst Imperial authorities on the Eastern Fringe for being a notorious blockade runner. Since it was first launched from the T'au shipyards the vessel has been a constant thorn in the side of the Imperium, regularly slipping into human controlled space and performing all manner of clandestine missions, including secret trade exchanges, smuggling operations, extraction of key defectors from hostile areas, discrete long-range observation, transmission of propaganda, transporting stolen technology or information and even raids and strikes on military targets, all before quietly making it's way back to the Tau Empire. Over the span of it's service history the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr and the crews serving aboard it have been accused of over 100 instances of illicit activity by Imperial authorities and suspected of numerous more (although little conclusive evidence has ever been found and thus most remain baseless), and on 35 occasions the ship has been pursued by Imperial Navy warships, but has managed to escape capture or destruction every time, albeit with varying amounts of damage.

The innocuous nature of the Il'fannor class starship often works to the advantage of the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr in it's escapades. The ship class tends to be remembered more as a cargo freighter than a warship, especially with the introduction of the Kor'O'vesh series of vessels and the widespread phasing out of Kor'vattra ships from active combat duty, and so inexperienced commanders are likely to believe that the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr genuinely is on a mundane civilian voyage, and can even cause those who are old hands to the Eastern Fringe to have a moment of hesitation that can mean the difference between escape and failure. Even if the ship is fully identified, the reputation Il'fannor class starships have for being under-gunned can make pursuers underestimate the weaponry the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr carries, although Imperial captains and admirals are quick to learn that it is the clever tricks and ploys that the ship's crew invariably proves to be adept at that are a greater strength of the vessel than it's firepower. The ubiquitousness of the Il'fannor in civilian merchant fleets also allows the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr to blend in seamlessly with nearby convoys or docked station traffic if it manages to give pursuers the slip, and the vessel carries a wide selection of alternate ident codes and identification signals to aid in such instances.

At the same time, the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr also possesses an impressive array of internal alterations. While it is by no means uncommon for Il'fannors to obtain a number of subtle alterations to their internal structure, this is especially pronounced in the case of the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr, and the ship's interior is thoroughly riddled with a mind-boggling number of hidden weapon and supply caches, concealed causeways, conduits and other passages, camouflaged entryways, secret compartments, covert observation systems and other such clandestine features. Many of them date back to the early Tau'cyr of the ship's service under Vral'Myr, but every subsequent commander has added their own set of secrets over their tenure. These alterations never cease to prove useful in the sort of missions the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr is often sent on, whether by giving the Shipboard Security Cadres on board a decisive edge in boarding actions or, much more commonly, allowing cargo or passengers to be hidden during inspections - after all, there is no need to risk the ship in a costly struggle if the enemy never finds out about it's true mission in the first place. Many of these features are further hidden through the use of various countermeasures and sensor-baffling materials, some of Tau manufacture and others obtained from alien sources.

The frequent incursions undertaken by the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr ensure that it's crew inevitably come to possess a wealth of knowledge regarding Imperial space around the Tau Empire, as well as an abundance of insight into Imperial fleet tactics and the capabilities of Imperial warships. This has made the ship an invaluable asset in the ongoing conflict with the Imperium, where such knowledge has proven decisive in several fleet engagements, but is even more useful outside of open battle. The crew's experience with the Gue'la has lead Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh to place the ship at the head of K-42's recently expanded raiding operations against the Imperial offensive, ranging deep into Imperial-held territory to strike at vulnerable supply convoys, fleet bases and other critical infrastructure. These actions have had an extraordinary impact, rendering many Imperial battlegroups unfit for combat or incapable of action due to a lack of supplies or maintenance and delayed or even halted repair efforts on a number of crippled ships and salvaged hulks, and has taken a considerable amount of pressure off the hard pressed Kor'vattra fleet in the face of the seemingly inexhaustible numbers of the Imperial Navy.

But the successes of the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr have not come without cost. The ship has recently been out of action for a considerable amount of time after it was nearly completely destroyed during an engagement with an Imperial fleet. Long range gunfire from Imperial capital ships inflicted immense damage on the vessel, which only barely managed to limp home, with little more than it's basic drives and navigation functional and the overwhelming majority of it's crew killed or injured. Such an instance illustrates a new shift in the tactical doctrine being employed by the Imperial fleets arrayed against K-42, with an increasing emphasis being placed on long-range gunnery after suffering heavy losses to the superior ordinance capabilities of the Tau. It remains to be seen how this will be effectively countered.

Nonetheless, the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr is once again fully operational, including an upgraded navigation system and grav-stabilisers, and the ship's crew has been re-enforced, the new additions being watched over by the hardened core of veteran survivors. With a combination of luck, cunning and skill, the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr should continue to confound the Imperium for some time yet. 

Crew Profiles: Key personnel 


Captain: Kor'el'T'au'J'Kar'tyr 

Throughout its history the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr has been commanded by captains with a reputation for being sly, and this tradition is more than maintained with the ship's latest captain, Kor'el'T'au'J'Kar'tyr. A quiet and reserved individual by nature, she has nonetheless proven to be an extremely intelligent and capable captain, having commanded the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr on a long string of successful sorties into Imperial space, and is widely regarded to be the most brilliant commander the ship has had since it was first commanded by Kor'el'T'au'Vral'Myr himself. Interestingly, it has been noted that while Vral'Myr's skill and cunning was always centred primarily around clever manoeuvres and devious ploys with the vessel itself, J'Kar'tyr's greatest ability is argued by many to instead be her talent for exploiting trade and diplomatic agreements, and any loopholes they may contain, as well as astute negotiations and diplomatic posturing - in these areas J'Kar'tyr's skill rivals that of many Por'ui and even some Por'vre. She is still fully able to make shrewd use of the ship under her command, as evidenced by both managing to slip the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr past nearly the entirety of Battlegroup Ventrue following an incursion into the Venetaris sub-sector, and her masterminding of the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr's brilliant escape from the Imperial capital ship Decimator above the desert world Tathicon IV.

While usually non-confrontational, and indeed somewhat elusive, Kor'el'T'au'J'Kar'tyr has been known at times to display a very different temprament. There have been a number of instances where the Kor'el has shown herself to be highly stubborn and opinionated, especially when confronted with moral dilemmas where she believes the appropriate course of action is not being taken. This has lead to conflicts between her and commanding officers in the past, and it is widely believed that this is one of the primary reasons that she was assigned a more prestigious posting on a Kor'O'vesh vessel despite her proven abilities. Nonetheless, command of the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr has proven to be the ideal role for her, and the more idealistic nature and pronounced moral compass of Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh means that such instances of conflict are kept to a minimum (indeed reported incidents of critical dispute under Kais's command are lower than with any other admiral that she has served under), although this is helped considerably by the somewhat greater degree of autonomy J'Kar'tyr is often given being commander of a vessel traditionally employed as a blockade runner. As the missions she is usually assigned are often dangerous and frequently require her ship to operate deep in hostile territory away from any support besides the two Orca class gunships that the T’au’Il’fannor’Vral’Myr’J’Kar’tyr can transport, Kor'el'T'au'J'Kar'tyr has also come to be considerably more proficient at direct combat than many other Kor, frequently wielding a pulse carbine rather than the usual pulse pistol when required to use a personal weapon, and is by all accounts an excellent shot with it. Perhaps the most notable demonstration of this was when she engaged in a firefight with a boarding party of elite Tempestus Scions when they managed to uncover her location during a boarding action. While only inflicting a single casualty, J'Kar'tyr was able to keep the Imperial troops tied up long enough for a Shipboard Security Firewarrior team to properly eliminate them. 

Right then, now to paint up that Custodian I have. It is a magnificent model indeed, and painting it will easily be one of the greatest hobby challenges I have yet faced. Here goes...

Friday, 17 October 2014

More Battlefleet Gothic

Oh my goody god I totally forgot to update this! It's been left frozen in time while the rest of the world has developed around it, like Ripley in Aliens. So, where to start...

First Games Workshop started releasing the End of Times series. It was a bold, ambitious new attempt to revitalise their Warhammer Fantasy setting, and everyone loved it....

... except me. I myself want nothing to do with it. Where everyone else seems to adore it, and where it's brought them back into Warhammer Fantasy, or drawn them to start it, I've had the exact opposite reaction - I don't like it one bit, and it's all but destroyed my enthusiasm for Warhammer Fantasy. You see, when I first started up Warhammer Fantasy, so many moons ago (well ok just under two years), I began to create the background for my Wood Elf army and it's allies and enemies with the assumption that the official parts of the Warhammer setting would remain largely static. Sure, some things would be changed or retconed, but the overall setting, including the point of time that was it's present would remain largely the same. And that's how I liked it. Because it left me with the freedom to take that setting anywhere I wanted. And I did - I created an entire miniature world within a world, a rich extensive backstory filled with characters and factions and events.. and it's own future end-state. And, in short, that end-state is fundamentally incompatible with the End Times series. So now all my background, which I greatly prefer to the official material from the End Times, has now had it's validity seriously compromised. And no, I'm not going to change mine, partially because I'm a stubborn old soul, but mostly because it's largely complete in my head, background is extremely important to me, and, like I said before, I like my background more than the latest official one.

I think a lot of my frustration with it is from the End Times series' popularity - if there were more like-minded individuals out there who rejected the End Times backstory and were happy to go on as if it never existed, then I'd probably feel a lot better about it, but as it stands it seems to me that in an rare occurrence the silent majority and the vocal minority are in unanimous total agreement that the End Times background material is the best thing since coca-cola, which leaves me all by myself in my background vision, with no-one to share it with (which isn't too bad, it was after all written for me first and for others second, but it's still nice to share it with others and have them like it), and leaving me feeling kind of alone in a crowd.

I think I might now know how fans of the Old World of Darkness felt when White Wolf rolled out the Time of Judgement and the New World of Darkness.

Anyway, this post isn't really about ranting and bellowing out to the heavens in outrage. Because (again, in what seems like the total opposite of the general trend in the Warhammer/40k community at the moment) while my interest in Fantasy is almost dead, my interest in Warhammer 40,000 has skyrocketed, and I've been very busy with my beloved Battlefleet Gothic. Since last posting, I've finished up my squadron of Tau Castellan class escorts, Lacuna Squadron.




And more recently an Emissary class starship, the Sharon Den Adel.





And I wrote up some background on Tau Orbitals and my fleet's flagship. Enjoy!


Vessels of the Kor'vattra 


Part 8: Orbitals 





For almost all of its history, the cornerstone of the Tau Empire's space capability has been its Orbitals. Indeed, some argue that the network of Orbitals that honeycombs the Tau Empire are the true backbone of the Tau fleet and indeed even the empire itself more than any starship. The tried and true SX-8 modular Orbital station remains the most common of these and, despite being an aging design and no longer as well known as newer forms of orbital stations and platforms, continues to be a vital link in Tau supply chains and communications relays. Much like the Kor'vattra series capital ships that are of the same vintage, the SX-8 owes much of its success to the versatility and simplicity of its modular design. The Orbital core and ancillary modules are easily transported via a Gal'leath or Il'fannor class starship, and can be quickly set up in a variety of configurations, ranging from habitat stations to defence platforms to docking hubs and anything in between. Indeed, SX-8 Orbitals can be found across the Tau Empire fulfilling almost any role imaginable, including defence stations, habitats, manufacturing plants, trading posts, communications centres, engineering bays, dockyards, medical aid-stations, science and research facilities, observation posts, command centres, starbases and much more besides. The modular nature of the SX-8 also enables them to be quickly and easily dismantled, either for redeployment to a new location, or to withdraw the orbital in the face of an imminent overwhelming attack.

As well as providing all the main command, communication and sensor facilities and systems for the Orbital, along with the Orbital's primary power-plant and habitation for all its core staff, the core module for an SX-8 Orbital array also incorporates a standard long range deep-space communications suite, featuring all the communications systems, computer networks, communications transponders and transmission broadcast relay antennae needed to relay messages across the Tau Empire, forwarding them onto other stations, ships or even Sept Worlds as required, although dedicated communications stations will often have additional communications equipment. The SX-8 Orbital system is also fully capable of operations in both deep-space and planetary orbit. An SX-8's habitat modules, while somewhat Spartan compared to those in an Air Caste orbital city or Fortress Station, are nonetheless comfortable enough and can hold an astonishingly large number of inhabitants, and SX-8 Orbitals outfitted as habitat stations house a considerably large portion of the Tau Empire's citizens, especially the Air Caste. Indeed, those citizens that are Orbital based are more likely to live on an SX-8 than the more well known Orbital Cities, which are usually only built around the most established and developed Sept Worlds and are thus comparatively rare.

Without the need for forward thrust, an Orbital does not need to power immense fusion drives like those commonly found on starships, and so instead the extra energy can be used to improve the performance of the various systems and equipment on the Orbital, especially any weaponry or defence systems, where the additional energy can be used to give extra-drive to auto-loaders and rapidly charge capacitors, allowing railcannon turrets on an Orbital to achieve a massive rate of fire, firing far faster than those mounted on a starship, which lets Orbitals lay down a vicious hail of fire far greater than what would be thought possible of their comparatively few anti-ship weapons. Such barrages surprised Imperial fleets on numerous occasions during the Damocles Gulf Crusade, most notably during the famous ambush over Pra'yen where Orbital fire crippled a number of Imperial capital ships and destroyed numerous escorts. SX-8 Orbital arrays are still able to deliver more firepower than newer purpose-built Security Orbitals, with their multiple hardpoints allowing for a larger number of weaponry, though even the most heavily armed SX-8 Orbital possesses a far lighter armament than that of the massive Ta'Shiro Fortress Stations. SX-8 Orbitals also often feature more extensive hanger bays than Orbital Cities, being able to hold, deploy and support naval fighter and interceptor wings as well as Manta strike wings.

Finally, the SX-8 modular Orbital station system is also used as the basis for the majority of the deep-space Waystations that can be found liberally scattered across the Tau Empire. Arguably even more important than full-scale Orbitals, Waystations are small outpost stations, usually consisting of little more than a core module and a single defensive security module, positioned in deep space between Septs and colonies, and perform essential functions for passing ships, including repair, resupply, medical treatment and acting as a cargo delivery and transfer point, as well as relaying long-distance communications between Septs. Much like the crews of Kir'qath class starships, the small, tight-knit group of staff manning a lonely Waystation is an endearing and iconic image in the Tau Empire, and has given rise to a number of Tau media products, including a popular text publication series and an unrelated but equally popular video broadcast series.

Though older and less glamorous than newer designs such as the Air Caste Security Orbitals, Orbital Cities and Fortress Stations, the reliable SX-8 modular Orbital station remains at the heart of the Tau Empire's space-based infrastructure, and like the Kor'vattra vessels that are its close relatives, it will continue to serve alongside its newer counterparts for many Tau'cyr yet. 

Common Orbital Configurations 


Class 1 Orbital: habitat stations consisting of a core module and four habitat modules. These are the most common Tau Orbitals, providing additional living space for the citizens of the Tau Empire.

Class 2 Orbital: an orbital or deep space defence platform consisting of a core module and four security modules with gunnery weapons systems, either railcannons or ion cannons in any combination. Later examples of these Orbitals are often highly automated, featuring only a small detachment of Shipboard Security Firewarriors and a skeleton crew needed to oversee, monitor and direct the various drone controlled systems onboard.

Class 3 Orbital: a general purpose Orbital consisting of a core module, at least one habitat module, at least one security module, and at least one capital-scale docking port including a grav-hook. This configuration lacks some of the advanced systems and extensive docking facilities of the Class 4 Orbital, but is more economical to produce and maintain, and as such is a widespread configuration, especially on fringes and backwaters of the Tau Empire where resources are not quite as plentiful as other areas.

Class 4 Orbital: a general purpose Orbital consisting of a core module, one security module with gunnery weapons systems, one manufacturing and research module, one capital-scale docking port including a grav-hook and one docking facility and launch bay for small craft. This is considered the standard Orbital configuration template, able to fulfil a wide range of roles, and many can be found throughout Tau space.

Class 5 Orbital: a heavy-duty port for capital and escort ships, consisting of a core module and four capital-scale docking ports including grav-hooks. These are commonly found in orbit around Tau Sept worlds and colonies to facilitate the transfer of cargo and personnel between starships and the planet surface, but can also be found in deep space where they act as resupply points for starships, as well as cargo transfer points. These can also be used as trading posts.

Class 6 Orbital: a starbase for small craft up to Manta class, consisting of a core module and four docking facilities and launch bays for small craft. These are most common in orbit above Sept Worlds and colonies to accommodate small craft assets and facilitate the transfer of cargo between starships and the planet surface using small transport craft. They are less common in deep space, as it is unusual for small craft to travel that far independently of a larger carrier ship. These can also be used as trading posts.

Class 7 Orbital: a production site consisting of a core module and a combination of habitat modules and manufacturing and research modules, often including a docking port and grav-hook or docking facility and launch bay. These are industrial and scientific stations, often acting as manufacturing plants, research laboratories or even shipyards, and can be found in equal numbers around worlds and in deep space. This class also includes dedicated Orbital medical centres and aid stations.

Class 8 Orbital: a messenger station consisting of a core module and advanced communications centres and facilities or observation and surveillance equipment and long-range sensor arrays. These Orbitals are used to relay communications across Tau space, to observe distant locations or as an early warning station against enemy invasion. 


Kor'vattra Fleet K-42 


T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh ('Serenity') 





Ship name: T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh
Gue'la Imperial designation: Serenity
Class: Il'fannor (Merchant)
Configuration: Kel'shan standard
Mission role: Flagship
Serial designation code: T356K448446O42
Sept of origin: T'au
Notable deployments:

- Exploration of the O'leath asteroid belt
- Discovery of artefact world Y-19
- Evacuation of Du'vr'Da colony
- First contact with Caityrakan protectorate (NOTE: contact lost with this species at later date. Current status of allied power unknown)
- Transport of first trade shipment to Gue'la world Monarch's Haven
- Fleet engagement in defence against Gue'la Imperial aggression around the Vash'Tor Sound. 2 confirmed kills on enemy shipping, 1 unconfirmed
- Guidammerg relief operation (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Relief of Guidammerg)
- Ufa'Li'Sun'yi incident (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Ufa'Li'Sun'yi disaster, Ufa'Li'Sun'yi reconstruction program)
- Escort of convoy V-03 (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, V-03 incident, Y'he, Y'he Vanguard Swarm, Y'he activity, Zone of Silence, Eldar, Eldar pirate activity)
- Fleet action in Thespa system. 7 confirmed kills on enemy shipping, 20 unconfrimed (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Battle of Thespa, Thespa system, Grand Thespian Armada, Mont'au Gue'la, Mont'au Gue'la activity, Marc Baeth, Eldar, Eldar pirate activity)
- Re-enforcement of Fio'da (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Necron, Necron activity, Tomb World)
- First ATT Station incursion (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Shas'O'T'au Kais'ka'Eoro Da'Anuk, 42nd T'au Guards Cadre/Hunter Cadre Kais'Da'Anuk, ATT, Mont'au Gue'la, Mont'au entity, Etheric anomaly, Tzchael, Change incident, Embrace Change)
- Edge Expedition
- Defence of Tan'is. 3 confirmed kills on enemy shipping, 1 unconfirmed (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Gue'la, Gue'la fleet activity, Gue'la fleet actions, Destruction of Tan'is)
- Fleet action around Celestial Moon. 2 confirmed kills on enemy shipping, 3 unconfirmed (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Gue'la, Gue'la fleet activity, Gue'la Fleet actions, Battle of Celestial Moon, V-47)
- Second ATT Station incursion (Cross-reference: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, K-42, Shas'O'T'au Kais'ka'Eoro Da'Anuk, 42nd T'au Guards Cadre/Hunter Cadre Kais'Da'Anuk, ATT, Gue'la, Gue'la terror activity, Gue'la Inquisition, Jotunheim, Jotunheim raid, Vanaheimr, Taleghan, The Emperor Calls Turn Not Away Lest Ye Be Judged)

First Commander: Kor'el'T'au B'Kyse
Current Commander: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh
Crew: 6,000 Kor, 3,000 Fio, 200 Por, 1 Aun (attached to fleet), 6 Shipboard Security Cadres, numerous assorted Kor'vessa
Powerplant: Hybrid Fusion/Nova system (4 Fusion reactors, 2 Nova reactors)
Propulsion: Standard Fusion Drive/Gravitic Field hybrid system
Defences: Class 2 multi-tier close-in point defence grid, including 4 mass drivers. Class 1 gravitic shield
Armament: Three light railcannon batteries (Total armament composition: 18 heavy railcannons in 6 2-railcannon turrets, 2 single railcannon turrets and 2 2-railcannon casemates in prow)
Docking Capacity: 2 Gravitic Hooks
Compliment: 2 Kass'l (Orca) class gunships
Status: Active in Warzone 

Overview: 

The first ship Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh was given command over upon his promotion to Kor'el, the Merchant class starship T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, more commonly known by it's reporting name of Serenity, may at first seem an unusual choice for the flagship of a fleet. While many other flagships are often extremely large capital ships such as grand cruisers or battleships, and Tau flagships are frequently lavishly equipped with numerous additional command systems and experimental equipment, the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh has neither of these qualities - aside from the re-enforced hull structure common to later model Merchants, it is a completely standard Il'fannor.

Despite this, the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh has had an illustrious history in numerous guises under a long line of captains. In it's first mission after launching from the T'au shipyards the vessel pioneered the exploration of the O'leath belt, almost single-handedly charting the vast expanse of asteroids over the course of several years, an achievement that earned it's first commander their namesake. The ship also played a major role in the evacuation of Du'vr'Da after the colony was threatened by dangerous celestial phenomena, saving the lives of countless thousands of colonists. The T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh was the first ship to make contact with a number of alien powers, and was instrumental in a number of significant trading exchanges. She served as the secret refuge for Aun'El'T'au Li’Sun’yi when the Ethereal was targeted by Imperial agents, and it was fire support from her railcannons that broke the back of the Ork horde assaulting D'Upt, turning the battle there from an almost certain defeat into a decisive victory.

But it has been in recent times that the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh has made her largest mark on history, participating in a rapid string of major actions and being instrumental in numerous major victories. Twice now the ship has commanded Kor'vattra fleet K-42 in the defence of one of the Tau Empire's most prestigious military academies and science and engineering facilities, the famous ATT orbital, during significant attacks on it, each time relaying important information and delivering support to the Fire Caste hunter cadres fighting against incredible odds, and overseeing evacuation operations and re-enforcement delivery, and both times have ended in victories for the Tau forces. Even now it acts as the nerve centre for K-42 as it fights in the defence of Tau space against an enormous Imperial offensive. Indeed, as K-42 is at present the only combat-effective fleet in the immediate region it is located in, the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh effectively acts as the command centre for the defence of an entire sector.

The general consensus among analysts is that the key to the success of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, in recent times at least, is two-fold. In part it is due to the very nature of the ship's lack of modification, as it's standard systems are, typical of all Kor'vattra vessels, extremely reliable, and without the experimental or customised equipment commonly mounted on other flagships, there is no risk of such comparatively exotic additions failing when needed most - the command and communication systems onboard the vessel are much less likely to malfunction, and it's targeting systems rarely deviate too far off target. The simplicity and familiarity of the ship's systems also allows them to be quickly and easily repaired in the event of damage. The vessel's greatest strength, however, is undoubtedly that of the personnel that man it, and it's commander Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh himself. Kais is an exceptionally gifted admiral, known for his creative thinking, and his crew are extremely close to each other and the ship, each fully aware of his or her fellow crew-members' abilities and limitations, as well as those of the ship itself - indeed a number of them have occasionally boasted that they know the ship better than the Fio that built it. It was this combination that enabled the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh to evade and thoroughly outwit the fleets opposing it in naval wargame exercises, and after these feats earned Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh command of the ship the skills and tactics learned during them were tested to the limit in a baptism of fire when, during it's first mission with Kais commanding it, the vessel and it's two escorts were cut off from the rest of the Tau fleet and left stranded in hostile territory pursued by Task Force Vandal of the Imperial Navy. Over several grueling months Kais and his crew led the Imperial fleet on a cat-and-mouse chase across an enormous tract of space before finally slipping past the Gue'la and making their way back to Tau territory. This would be followed by a long string of cunning ploys and masterful gambits, ranging from successfully running the immense Ork blockade of Nars'Yanoi and delivering vital re-enforcements and supplies to the embattled Tau forces on the surface to the destruction of the heavy cruiser Crucius Imperator by luring it into a black hole.

As an interesting note, upon it's initial construction the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh possessed a small but critical defect that somehow managed to evade quality control. While usually the viewports of any starship are made to be extremely durable, with immense amounts of re-enforcement and armouring to ensure they will not easily rupture and thus form a hull breach, the central main viewport of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh was somehow left much thinner and fragile than usual, enough so that it could be broken through with concentrated fire from high-powered heavy weapons. This fault was quickly discovered early on in the ship's service, but was never rectified, and nearly all of the Kor that served aboard the vessel feared at one point or another that it would spell their doom. As it transpired, the faulty viewport ultimately proved to be the salvation of the ship and it's crew during the first incursion of the ATT orbital station. During the conflict a large host of Mont'au creatures materialised on the bridge of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, but the Shipboard Security units stationed on the bridge at the time were able to concentrate their weaponry onto the weakened viewport, breaking it and flushing the entire Mont'au force into space with the resulting decompression while a quick evacuation of the bridge beforehand and the sealed environments of Fire Caste combat armour and battlesuits issued to Shipboard Security cadres resulted in no Tau losses (although the bridge was left out of action for some time afterwards). In the aftermath of the battle the viewport was repaired and brought up to standard strength.

Whether eluding pursuit in a high-stakes mission or directing an engagement at the heart of an entire battlefleet, Serenity, the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh is a testament to the age old truth that it is not a vessel's power or equipment that makes it a worthy flagship - it's the crew commanding it that does. 


Crew Profiles: Key personnel 



Captain: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh

"Unidentified Gue'la vessel, this is Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh commanding Kor'vattra fleet K-42. You are in direct violation of Tau space during a time of war, and are hereby ordered to stand down and surrender your ship. Lower your shielding, power down your weapons and main drives and prepare to be boarded for inspection. Failure to comply to these terms or resistance to inspection will force us to open fire on your ship."

- Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh contacting the Imperial cruiser Terra Unbound, prior to it's engagement and destruction



Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh has had plenty of experience with the darker, malevolent side of the galaxy over his lifetime. Much of his early life was spent as a Kor'la serving aboard the T'au'Gal'leath'Savon'Taal'Fann, an Explorer class starship assigned as a hospital ship in support of Fire Caste campaigns on numerous worlds, giving the young Kais a brutal introduction to the horrors of total galactic war - severed limbs, mutilating scars, gruesome infections and casualties torn and mangled beyond almost all recognition screaming for aid, loved ones, the Tau'va or just in sheer pain were but a few of the sights he witnessed making his rounds on the ship. Eventually the T'au'Gal'leath'Savon'Taal'Fann was boarded and stormed by Ork pirates and Kais got a glimpse of but one of the sources for such misery as he and the rest of the vessel's crew desperately fled the invaders in a frantic race to the escape pods that resulted in just over half the ship's crew reaching safety. Later as a Kor'ui he spent a hellish Kai'rotaa stranded in the ruined derelict of the T'au'Il'fannor'Ko'Eoro'Cea'Cha after it was stormed by Chaos-aligned humans, never quite being sure that his nightmarish tormentors had left, until a Tau salvage team rescued him. Later Kais served on a ship that formed part of an evacuation convoy for a colony recently consumed by the Tyranids, and he and the rest of the crew were constantly accompanied by the bloodcurdling sounds that spilled out over communications channels from those ships unfortunate enough to be caught by the pursuing splinter fleet. Perhaps the two most crushing blows of all dealt to him, however, were the death of the Ethereal Aun'vre'T'au Ko'Ta under his watch when their ship was boarded, and the loss of his beloved companion Kor'vre'T'au Or'Ro, who was swept away by pirates later identified as Dark Eldar and never seen again.

It is perhaps surprising then that despite all this, Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh remains as bright and idealistic as the Tau that first expanded into the stars, and indeed has been described as "A relic of the First Sphere" by his peers. Where recent history has led many Tau, particularly amongst the Fire Caste, to adopt a mindset that might perhaps be described as 'cynical', Kais remains as optimistic as ever about the future and the Tau'va, and genuinely believes in the best of both the universe in general and the various species and powers that reside within it, remaining staunchly so even in the face of a galaxy seemingly determined to break him. While many critics might consider this to be naivety, it cannot be questioned that such a positive influence has proved beneficial to the Kor of K-42, who are reported to be well-motivated and highly diligent as a result. Kais is also known to be somewhat eccentric by Tau standards and is often prone to sentimental or romantic feelings. This has never been considered extreme enough to warrant corrective action however, and he is still fully able to contribute to the Tau Empire in a productive manner, which has meant that he has always been accepted but never been especially popular with the Kor'ar'tol. It is believed by many that this is a key reason for his assignment to the command of K-42 rather than a more prominent Kor'O'vesh posting.

It should be noted, however, that with the recent appearance of Dark Eldar raiders in the regions near K-42, Many of Kais's closest peers and friends have claimed to have noticed a slight, yet unmistakable change in his mindset and behaviour. The ageing Kor'O seems to have become more determined, more relentless in combat and less compromising to both enemies and those under his command, though this is only noticed by those who have served with him for an extremely long time. This change is not officially noted by Water Caste psych-analysists, who claim that his thought-processes are no different to the past and that his aforementioned compatriots are simply over-reacting to the fatigue and stresses near-constant combat action inevitably has. Those who claim to have noticed the change however remain unconvinced and quite concerned..

Fleet Advisor: Aun'O'T'au Ret'Sav'cyr

It is common practice for Tau fleets to have an Ethereal attached to them in order to provide guidance for the fleet and inspire ship crews to operate to the absolute best of their ability. For the Kor'vattra fleet K-42 this role is performed by Aun'O'T'au Ret'Sav'cyr. Despite his prestigious rank the enigmatic Ethereal is little-known within what constitutes the Tau political landscape, having far less of a public profile than the likes of Aun'va, Aun'Shi or even the late Aun'vre that accompanied the T'ros expedition. Instead Ret'Sav'cyr prefers to lead from the background, allowing others large amounts of autonomy and only giving occasional subtle suggestions and advice. An idealist despite his senior rank, he has extremely strong moral convictions and holds a firm belief that for every problem and dilemma there is a solution and there is a correct solution, and strongly advocates the need to do the morally right thing at all times. By his own account the Aun'O specifically requested his current posting after growing tired of greater Tau politics and the High Council's dabbling in questionable actions.

Aun'O'T'au Ret'Sav'cyr has travelled to much of the Tau Empire over his lifetime, helping to resolve a number of diplomatic disputes and monitoring numerous important research and development projects, such as the current development initiative for greater numbers of high-precision fleet support weaponry and options begun after combat experience during the first ATT station incursion highlighted a deficiency in this area. He has also been involved in a considerable number of military conflicts, including both fleet engagements and ground campaigns with Fire Caste Hunter Cadres, perhaps most notably accompanying the renowned Hunter Cadre Kais'Da'Anuk, otherwise known as the 42nd T'au Guards Cadre, in several battles. In following with his indirect approach to guidance, he will often remain neutral in major decisions, especially during fleet actions, but if he does issue a directive it will be considered sacrosanct and carried out to the utmost ability of the fleet, as is typical of all directions and orders given by members of the Ethereal Caste.

Over the course of his time spent in K-42, Aun'O'T'au Ret'Sav'cyr has come to thoroughly enjoy his fleet posting, sharing many of Kais's views and ideals and showing great acceptance of and even fascination with the various eccentricities and quirks of the fleet's personalities, and it is unlikely that he would ever want to return to the great domes and towers of T'au any time in the foreseeable future. It is perhaps interesting to note, however, that many who have encountered the Aun'O claim to have felt as though he knows a great deal more about a given subject, or indeed the nature of the galaxy itself, than he makes immediately apparent, and there have even been occasional reports that he has successfully predicted events or actions before they occur. What to make of this, however, none are certain...

Chief Officer: Kor'El'T'au M'yen'Cha

Though in practice the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh is commanded by Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh himself, the ship's technical captain is currently Kor'El'T'au M'yen'Cha, whose responsibilities include command of the ship should Kais be incapacitated or otherwise rendered incapable of leading, as well as helping in administrative work, informing the Kor'O of current developments, ensuring the Kor'O's orders are carried out and in general acting as a second in command. He has an excellent record, being a veteran captain of both civilian and military missions, including one of the last voyages of a T'au Merchant class starship outside of K-42, and a masterful ship defence against Ork pirates that earned him his current posting.

Kor'El'T'au M'yen'Cha is the newest addition to the crew of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, having been assigned to it after Kais's promotion to Kor'O. This means that he has not had the same amount of time the ship's crew has had to grow accustomed to each other, and as a result he is at times something of an outsider amongst the crew. Although he has since quickly started to adapt to the crew's own particular characteristics and idiosyncrasies this disconnect can at times lead to tension amongst the crew. While undoubtedly a capable officer, M'yen'Cha still lacks some of the experience and command skill of Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, as well as the latter's ability to think outside the box, and his knowledge is slightly more based in academic studies and theory. While this is not usually a problem when in his typical role or when in command of a single ship, it does result in a greater tendency to make critical errors in judgement, especially when placed in situations or duties outside of his main areas of expertise. This was perhaps most prominently illustrated during the first ATT Station incursion, when after relieving Kais of his command M'yen'Cha's lack of direction when giving the order to disengage from the main battle and commence deep space anti-shipping patrols, to prevent enemy reinforcement from outside the orbital station, resulted in the loss of four entire wings of Mantas after they were hijacked by internal saboteurs and turned against Tau forces. Although not severely reprimanded for this mistake, Kais is still yet to truly forgive him for it..

Chief Engineer: Fio'El'T'au D'Yan

"Red sector team 5, reinforce that bulkhead now! If it pops the entire 3 decks next-door go with it! Don't worry about the causeway team 8, just focus on the oxygen feeds, the Juntas gun crews need air more than they need to get to the docking port. Team 2 black sector, what's the status on the number 3 reactor? What do you mean you don't know what to do with it!? To'tau'va, you've been on this metal brick for how long and you're telling me you don't know how to handle a fluctuating reactor!? What does the emission indicator look like!? Then get over and replace the containment unit regulator circuit, it's not plotting an etheric dive! Noo, kna, the spare one is in the passenger quarters, what else do you think would be in a compartment labelled 'Reserve containment circuit', use your head for Aun's sake! Klkn, if I have to go back there and fix it myself you're going to wish that last hit to the engine room had gotten through the hull plating!"

- Fio'El'T'au D'yan, during an encounter with two cruisers from Task Force Vandal during the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh's escape from the Kindjal system


From her earliest days as a Fio'la working alongside Air Caste ground crews to service and repair Mantas, Fio'El'T'au has displayed an extraordinary affinity for machines and exceptional talent for understanding their workings. Such a gift quickly saw her promoted to higher duties in a highly promising career cumulating in the position of chief engineer on a Custodian class battleship. Eventually however, her renown gave way to discontent as her superiors grew increasingly aware of her character. Whatever the reason for it may be, D'yan has a long-standing history and reputation for being notoriously sardonic and derisive, as well as being extremely strong-willed and fiercely stubborn, and has been known to make frequent use of morbid or black humour. While early in her rise to fame such traits were ignored due to a combination of her immense technical skills and a belief that wisdom and experience would see them phased out of her, eventually such a personality proved too much for such a prominent position, and D'yan was transferred to the much less glamorous role of chief engineer aboard the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh when the ship was placed under command of Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh (at the time only a Kor'El). It was thought that placing D'yan on an old Kor'vattra vessel meant to only perform mundane tasks in the quiet corners of the Tau Empire would be the ideal way of getting her out of the way and keeping her busy until she finally learnt more 'proper' conduct.

As it transpired this would turn out to be a stroke of genius. D'yan found the rugged, simple mechanical systems of the Merchant class starship to be an absolute joy to work on, and Kais, himself more than a little unorthodox, proved more than willing to turn a blind eye to her snarking - indeed, Kais would prove to be one of the few individuals of authority that D'yan treated with considerable respect, with the two quickly becoming good friends. Now more motivated than ever, D'yan would go on to prove her worth time and again. During the fateful first voyage of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh under Kais's command her careful monitoring and direction of the engines of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh while the ship was on silent running was instrumental in evading Imperial patrols, while her exquisite command of the ship's engineering teams enabled swift repairs that kept the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh fully operational during the Battle of Thespa despite being targeted multiple times by enemy capital ships.

As the crew of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh has grown closer over time, Fio'El'T'au D'yen has grown to be extremely protective of her shipmates, and will not hesitate to retaliate against visitors that she feels have insulted the crew in some way, making her very popular with a number of the ship's crew members. Her derisive and often dark sense of humour also often makes her popular with Gue'vessa being transported aboard the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, providing them with a source of relate-able amusement on what might otherwise be an uneventful voyage.

Chief Science Officer: Fio'vre'T'au Gal'T'koreth

Not all of the major crew members of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh were placed there by the ar'tols of T'au to hide their quirks. Indeed, Fio'vre'T'au Gal'T'koreth is considered by many to be a model citizen of the Tau Empire, a renowned scientific mind well known for his dynamic enthusiasm and utmost belief in the Tau'va, and is something of a 'rising star' in the Tau scientific community, rapidly establishing a reputation as one of the Tau Empire's leading experts in the field of astronomy. It was because of this extensive knowledge base that Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh personally requested Gal'T'koreth's posting on the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, believing that his expertise could prove highly useful for deep space missions. Gal'T'koreth himself was happy to comply, reasoning that being stationed aboard the ship would be an ideal way to study the mysteries of the cosmos without being likely to be frequently exposed to dangerous combat.

Fio'vre'T'au Gal'T'koreth would swiftly find out he was incorrect in his assessment, as the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, but Kais would be greatly vindicated in his judgement, with Gal'Tkoreth's insights proving invaluable on several occasions. It was his knowledge of celestial phenomena that allowed the crew of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh to lay the fateful trap that doomed the Crucius Imperator, and to escape pursuit from Eldar pirates in the Hydrapses System, using the movements of the system's celestial bodies to mask the ship's course and taking advantage of the local solar winds to hinder the aliens. In return, the various journeys and missions K-42 and the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh have undertaken have lead Gal'T'koreth to all manner of exciting new discoveries and breakthroughs.

But Fio'vre'T'au Gal'T'koreth is not just learned in material space features. He is also a leading authority on Etheric or warp-based events and developments, a subject of immeasurable importance in interstellar travel. Gal'T'koreth's insights have allowed the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh to successfully navigate several minor warp storms, as well as successfully avoiding a number of small warp rifts, and during the first ATT station incursion it was Gal'T'koreth's analysis of the etheric breach in the orbital's Upper Concourse section that allowed the fleet's engineers to jurry-rig several 'etheric polarity reversal charges' that succeeded in sealing the rift, cutting off a key source of enemy reinforcements. Once again this arrangement is mutually beneficial, as the travels of K-42 and the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh frequently bring Gal'Tkoreth into contact with new and unusual etheric anomalies to study, observe and categorise, further expanding the collective knowledge of the Tau Empire.

Chief Security Officer: Shas'El'T'au B'kais

All Tau vessels maintain a Fire Caste shipboard security force of some description, ranging from just one or two Firewarrior teams on an escort to an entire contingent of Shipboard Security Cadres stationed on a capital ship. These forces are functionally analogous to marines or naval armsmen, acting as an internal security force to defend the ship in boarding actions, police any disputes that occur between the occupants of the vessel, and in general act to ensure the safety of all on board the ship. While the Tau are usually loathe to initiate boarding actions against a hostile ship themselves, Shipboard Security forces nonetheless also conduct the task of securing enemy ships that have surrendered to Tau forces, disarming the crew and ensuring they pose no danger, as well as confiscating any illegal contraband the vessel may be carrying.

In the case of capital ships where multiple cadres are present, one of the Fire Caste commanders present will be appointed an overall commander of the entire shipboard security force, in a similar manner to being appointed overall commander of a Contingent or Battle during ground warfare, however unlike terrestrial multi-cadre groupings that are almost entirely temporary in nature, the long-term nature of most deep-space missions and ship crew postings mean that the position of overall commander of a shipboard security force is for all practical purposes a permanent one, lasting until the Fire Caste commander in question is either killed or assigned a new mission. These overall commanders or Chief Security Officers then report directly to the ship's captain, as well as the fleet admiral if applicable, and are not only responsible for organising and directing the vessel's Shipboard Security Contingent, but also for the safety of the ship's commander, effectively acting as a bodyguard for the Kor'El or Kor'O. Hunter Cadres assigned Shipboard Security duty are often met with mixed feelings by other Fire Caste forces, as while they frequently see much less combat than terrestrially-bound Fire Caste units, what combat they do see is invariably extremely dangerous, as the tight confines of a starship interior often place severe limits on the amount and variety of heavy equipment and weaponry that can be deployed, and leaves Tau forces highly vulnerable to close assault. Victory in such circumstances usually comes down to cunning tactical ploys and clever use of the ship's layout, and consequently veteran shipboard security commanders often have a reputation for being devious and underhanded.

The current chief security officer in command of the shipboard security forces aboard the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, Shas'El'T'au B'kais is relatively new to the position, having been promoted to Shas'El for her valorous actions during the first ATT Station incursion, where she played a key role in fighting off the Mont'au forces' assault on the ship's bridge, and then given the role of chief security officer after it's previous holder was killed protecting Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh from an assault by a boarding party of Gue'ron'sha heavy infantry that teleported directly into the interior of the T'au'Il'fannor'B'Kyse'Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh. Nonetheless B'kais has a considerable amount of leadership experience despite her relatively new posting, having commanded small forces of Shipboard Security Firewarriors in several boarding actions during her time as a Shas'vre - a common occurrence among shipboard security forces due to the frequently chaotic nature of fighting in the confines of a starship, which often sees force elements cut off from main command channels. She has already displayed an impressive aptitude for the unique challenges of starship interior combat, and her tactical approaches and thinking on the subject are beginning to revolutionise the way such battles are fought, having already been adopted by many of the other shipboard security forces in K-42, and are even starting to diffuse to other Tau fleets.

As for Shas'El'T'au B'kais herself, she is soft-spoken and will often prefer to speak through actions rather than words, and is reputed to be highly honourable in battle, in contrast to the common stereotype of shipboard security commanders. Tall and powerful even by Fire Caste standards, she often presents an intimidating sight, and is extensively trained in combat and leadership both from within and without a battlesuit, a requirement for shipboard security commanders due to the restrictive nature of many starship interiors. Despite this imposing presence, she is often surprisingly compassionate, and frequently acts as a comforting presence in times of stress. 


And that people, is how you cram in 3 post's worth of new developments and material into just one. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Daybreak

Fjeldir faltered and braced against a tree, panting heavily. He fought to calm the raging tempest his mind had become, and regain order to his thoughts. The Beastmen! His mind stood in sharp focus now, centred on the knowledge that the Children of Chaos must be exterminated. In a single fluid movement Fjeldir drew and notched an arrow to his sturdy longbow, and singled out a target amongst the maelstrom of battle that raged in the forest around him. Effortlessly the elf let fly and landed the bodkin straight through the vile creature's eye. The screaming howl the creature let out as it fell to the leaf-strewn ground was brief, but nonetheless filled Fjeldir with a deep, base satisfaction. He shuddered. This feeling was not right, it seemed... unnatural somehow. Fjeldir was an Asrai of the Meadows of Heaven, he was a being of compassion as much as vengeance. All life was precious, and there should be no joy in murder. And yet at the same time it was a compelling sensation, one that implored him to relish in it again, to feed it....

He felt disconnected from the world, as if he were in a dream or watching things from afar. All around him in the forest his fellow Asrai fought with the Warherd of Belphegor, a mortal enemy of the Meadows of Heaven, close enough that he could potentially travel a few paces and reach out and touch one of the combatants, and yet everything seemed distant. The air was filled with howls and screams and cries from the countless warriors fighting, as well as the metallic pangs and clinks of their weapons and ghostly whistling songs of arrows as they sped through the air. In the background horns both savage and regal rang out as musicians on either side relayed signals to their comrades. Yet all these sounds were faint to Fjeldir's ears, as if he were underwater or was listening with them blocked. Fjeldir felt hot. The whole world around him seemed sweltering, the air felt suffocating. Colours somehow seemed darker. At the same time however the efl's reflexes and perception sharpened immensely when focused on death and killing. And all the while that dark and terrible feeling, the sensation of revelling in slaughter, pulled at his mind and called out to his soul, begging to be satiated.

As Fjeldir dashed across to retrieve the arrow he had loosed, for he would certainly have need for it soon, A marauding Gor, cloven-hoofed and bristling with ruddy matted fur, leapt behind him and bellowed a challenge, froth spraying from the beast's fanged maw. In one massive fist it held a large worn axe, while the other was empty. Presumably the creature had carried a shield that had been lost in the fighting. It mattered not, Fjeldir was well-trained in the art of death, and while his Elven reflexes were not as developed as those of Asrai from other parts of Athel Loren, in this instance they were more than enough. In a blur the Wood Elf ducked down to avoid the wild swing of the Gor's axe, then swung around and slashed the creature's ankle tendon with his combat dagger. Fjeldir swerved aside as the hulking brute toppled backwards, and then plunged his combat dagger into its throat. The Gor swung around with its axe, and Fjeldir twisted out of its way before losing an arrow point-blank into the top of its mouth. The sensation of the kill set Fjeldir's nerves on fire. Retrieving the dagger and the arrow caused tainted blood to well out of the creatures mouth and pool on either side of it. Blood was everywhere now. It stained the forest floor like paint. Dark Beastman blood mixed brighter crimson blood from Fjeldir's fallen kin. Its vapours filled Fjeldir's nostrils, the scent was... intoxicating. Fjeldir felt a tug deep within his conscience, a primal base urge to see more blood, to shed it and revel in its spilling. Rage at the deaths of his Asrai kin mingled with the thrill of the hunt.

Finally he retrieved the arrow he had sent into the first child of Chaos. As he did so, Fjeldir took the time to look around him and admire the savage beauty of the slaughter. He saw countless other Elven archers, Glade Guard like himself, slaying beast after beast. He saw Warhawk Riders swooping in and out of combat, tearing an adversary apart and then climbing upwards into the sky out of harm's reach. He saw Treekin smashing their way through a regiment of Bestigors. He saw Wardancers twirling and pirouetting, whirlwinds of death swirling like leaves in a gust around the heart of the Elven battleline, the renowned Defenders of the Glade of Poppies, with the Wishmaster himself at its head. Next to him was his King's Executioner Gaerielle. She held aloft the royal horn of the Meadows of Heaven, and as she unwound it Fjeldir blinked in disbelief. The note that sounded from it was the signal for a withdrawal. Retreat? Now? But they were surely massacring the horde, it would almost certainly break at any minute! Yet even now the phalanx was moving back, away from the fighting, towards Aneaeth Ollissin, the premier Spellweaver of the Meadows of Heaven who had joined the Wishmaster for this battle. She seemed locked in a clash of will with a cabal of gibbering whispering Bray Shamans deep within the Beastmen horde. At once Fjeldir saw one of the twisted bestial priests spasm and lurch down to the ground, a long arrow protruding from its chest where some unseen Waywatcher must have sent it. Such was their accuracy that the creature was dead before it hit the ground, its blackened heart skewered by the bodkin. As it died the air seemed to pulse and ripple, and suddenly Fjeldir felt clearer of mind. He realised, for the first time, that he was out of rank. In fact almost all of the Elves fighting in formation had forsaken their ranks. Thoughts came to him of his foe.

Beast became man and man became beast.

And slowly, surely, like dawn illuminating night, Fjeldir began to realise the true scope of what was happening. A trap!

The feelings he was experiencing were not his own. Every urge of violence and bloodlust, every thought driving him to kill more, the invigorating scent of blood, even the hellish heat of the forest, it was all the result of some elaborate spell, some new feat of sorcery performed by the beasts of Belphegor's warherd. A dark enchantment to drive the Asrai into a bestial berserk killing frenzy, such that they would be so lost in their desire for carnage that they would be driven apart, separate, alone and divided, and oblivious to the doom approaching them. Only those with the greatest will, such as the Wishmaster, Aneaeth and the Defenders of the Glade of Poppies had been unaffected by the trickery, and had realised the true danger. Those they had slain were but a small fraction of the greater force, and Fjeldir began to see that the entire Wood now teemed with more of the Children of Chaos, a titanic horde that had been clouded from sight until moments ago.

As Aneaeth progressed in undoing the deception, more and more of the Elves began to take note of their impediment, and heed the call to withdraw. They began to regroup into their kinbands and formations, and take up new positions, preparing for the new threat. Fjeldir joined them, retaking his place in his own kinband of archers.

Now the true fighting would begin in earnest...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Return to Battlefleet Gothic

So I'm taking a break from my Wood Elves at the moment and getting back to my big tabletop gaming love - Battlefleet Gothic. Last year for Christmas I showed off the first one of the Kor'O'vesh series of Tau ships I have that I painted, a Warden class gunship. The other day I finished painting up the other three of them. Now they stand complete as Cristina Squadron.





And here's also some pictures of my Messenger class starships, with a side order of background. Like the rest of the Kor'vattra series of Tau ships I have, I painted these ones a while ago, but have only just recently gotten around to photographing them.

Skether'qan class starship 






The smallest starship in Tau space capable of independent faster than light travel (though considerably larger than the Kass'l), the Skether'qan or Messenger class starship is rarely seen by observers and spacecraft enthusiasts, or indeed much of the Tau Empire's population not directly related to the operation of one. They are mostly found in deep space in the depths of the Empire between Septs, where they regulate and monitor data remotely and keep watch over shipping routes, and commonly act as a 'mobile waystation' relaying communications between Sept worlds. The class was originally designed to patrol the space around Sept worlds, guiding shipping or intercepting smugglers, and so while perhaps no longer common within its intended habitat, the Skether'qan does nonetheless excel at such roles commonly assigned to it.

Possessing only standard armoured hull plating and shielding for its size, the Skether'qan is not particularly intimidating by itself militarily. Its trio of light railcannons, which when combined are roughly equal in power to the deck guns of an Imperial Cobra class destroyer, are paltry for the primary armament of even an escort sized vessel, though the Skether'qan does possess a formidable close in point defence armament for a ship of its size. The Skether'qan, however, is not intended for direct ship-to-ship combat. The vessel's real strengths lie in its electronics and phenomenal speed. Much of the Skether'qan's mass is given over to the vessel's large and extremely powerful engines and gravitic drive, which makes the Skether'qan the fastest starship operated by the Tau - only Barracuda space superiority fighters can match a Skether'qan's top speed. The ship's gravitic drive, a development on the older model used in the Kir'qath, allows the vessel to travel immense distances for much longer periods of time without needing to recharge, giving the Skether'qan excellent operating range. The Skether'qan is also the only Tau vessel to possess advanced tracking systems, an extensive suite of sophisticated and state-of-the-art sensors, tracking equipment, communications centres, supercomputers and data storage and processing facilities normally only seen on orbital stations. These tracking systems are extremely valuable in fleet engagements, where they can be used to route this data to nearby Tau ships in the form of a direct data feed to the ships' turrets and weapon systems, making both their long-range railcannon fire and their close-in defence systems unerringly accurate, much to the shock of many Imperial admirals and captains facing Tau fleets with Skether'qan support. These tracking systems, placed on the highly mobile platform of the Skether'qan, also afford a Kor'O an immense wealth of situational awareness information, and a combination of the Skether'qan's speed, tracking systems, sensor suites and extended supply stores make it an excellent scout, with Skether'qans acting as the eyes and ears of the Kor'vattra in military actions. Indeed, it was a small flotilla of Skther'qans that first identified and then tracked and shadowed the Imperial response force to Nimbosa during the Tau annexation of that world, relaying the Gue'la fleet's progress to the Tau leadership, information that proved invaluable during the initial negotiations with the Imperium. The Skether'qan is also fast enough to intercept small fast shipping, and has enough firepower to at least threaten small light craft such as merchant transports, allowing the vessel to be used, in a pinch, as a commerce raider. A number of Skether'qans were used in this way to inflict significant losses on supply convoys during an Imperial incursion into the abandoned artefact world of Arthas Moloch.

There is, finally another, perhaps more sinister use for the Skether'qan class. Skether'qans are frequently used by the Tau Empire for covert insertion missions into hostile territory. While most of the Skether'qan's internal space is taken up by its engines and gravitic drive, tracking systems and the other necessities of a starship such as a bridge, stores for supplies and tools and living quarters for the 7 Kor, 2 Fio and 6 Shipboard Security Firewarriors that make up the vessel's crew (along with numerous drones of varying kinds), the Skether'qan does possess a modest cargo hold, enough to carry roughly 24 personnel and 2 vehicles of Devilfish size, allowing it to transport small forces across interstellar distances. Once near the destination, the Skether'qan is able to use its advanced tracking systems to detect holes in enemy patrol patterns and sensor grids, which the ship can then use its speed and small size to exploit. The Skether'qan's small size also enables it to land on planets if need-be, allowing it to touch down on the surface of a world to deliver its passengers, though they are more commonly deployed in a high-altitude pass using grav vehicles or jetpacks to allow the Skether'qan to escape more easilly. Such operations are commonly used to insert advance Pathfinder teams onto a world targeted for invasion so that they can reconnoitre potential landing sites, enemy concentrations, and other features and points of interest, but they are also used to deliver Stealth Teams and infiltration cadres, and it is rumoured they are used to deploy even more covert elements.

Like other Kor'vattra escorts such as the Kass'l and Kir'qath, Skether'qans and their crews are greatly respected by the Fire Caste, who often refer to the Messenger class as the Stealthsuit of the Kor'vattra, though vehicle crews will often instead liken them to the Tetra. There is much joking and friendly debate as to which comparison is 'correct'.

Much like the Air Caste itself in the greater Tau Empire, the Skether'qan class starship is an often unseen, but nonetheless vital, component in the Tau armada. 

Tau Covert Ops: Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams and the Saer'loq



While much of the Tau Empire's direct military might is well-known across the Eastern Fringe, much less is known about the various covert elements used by the Tau Empire. Two of the more common of these secretive special units are the Fire Caste Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams and the alien Saer'loq bounty hunters.

Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams

Not all veterans and heroes of the Tau Fire Caste go on to become battlesuit pilots and commanders. Many of the most skilled and experienced Firewarriors instead go on to become part of the Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams. A joint initiative between the Air and Fire Castes both working together for the Greater Good, Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams are one of the premier special forces units in the Tau Empire, consisting of small teams of exceptionally well-trained, highly-motivated and battle hardened Firewarriors outfitted with some of the best weaponry and equipment the empire can provide. In addition to the combat armour, photon and EMP grenades and pulse weaponry common to line Firewarrior teams, Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams have access to a mind-boggling number of special equipment including flamer attachments, flechette or frag grenades, decoy projectors, longshot pulse rifles, rail rifles, ion rifles, hard-wired support systems, personal shield generators, enhanced scopes and targeting systems, target priority programs, bionics, blacksun filters and even advanced infantry armour such as the XV-12, and much more besides. Team members will also often receive additional specialist training, ranging from standard training courses such as endurance or medical training, to more esoteric training such as advanced computer hacking or the study of alien technology and artefacts. Finally, Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams are also given cutting edge experimental equipment to field-test, such as anti-shield 'screen breaker' rail-rifle ammunition or immensely destructive nova charges.

Rather than being attached to Fire Caste formations, Special Insertion Thread Containment Teams are instead attached to Air Caste fleets, which provide transportation to their missions, which range from assassination and sabotage work, to support of indigenous movements sympathetic to the Tau'va, to abduction of key enemy personalities, retrieval of important objects or information, escort and protection of important personnel, counter-insurgency operations, and many more tasks besides. Once deployed, a Special Insertion Threat Containment Team can count on no additional support, their only link to the Tau Empire being a small number of secret communications channels known only to them and the fleet they're attached to - Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams are expected to complete their missions on their own, using a combination of skill, teamwork, cunning and high-tech weaponry and equipment to overcome whatever obstacles they encounter.

Overall the Special Insertion Threat Containment Team program has proven to be highly successful, managing to accomplish a number of high-stakes assignments. Special Insertion Teams dispatched to the world of New Hael managed to destroy a series of key military infrastructure targets without ever drawing attention to themselves, allowing human rebels wishing to join the Tau Empire to overthrow the Imperial regime and bring the system into the fold of the Greater Good. It was a Special Insertion Team that infiltrated into the Ork Infested world of August's Folly and landed the fatal shot on the Warlord Murguk, ending a potentially devastating WAAAAAGH before it began. When Hive Fleet Gorgon swept through the region now known as the Zone of Silence, a Special Insertion Team made planetfall on one of the worlds being consumed, before making their way through the endless swarms of Tyranids to collect and retrieve genetic samples and research data on Tyranid behaviour, before successfully extracting to deliver the information to the greater empire where it proved invaluable to Earth Caste science efforts. Perhaps even more notably, a number of Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams attached to Kor'vattra fleet K-42 served with distinction during the defence of one of the Tau Empire's most renowned academy stations against a number of assaults. In the aftermath of the second of these battles, instigated by Gue'la Imperial agents, a pair of Special Insertion Threat Containment Teams pursued the withdrawing Imperial forces and managed to infiltrate the damaged battlecruiser Jotunheim as it lay in dry-dock, before destroying all traces of the advanced shielding technology it had been outfitted with and erasing any information about it from the Imperial databases, ensuring that the technology could never be disseminated across the Imperium. Following this both teams managed to make their escapes in the saviour pods of the battlecruiser and the station it was docked with, before exfiltrating Imperial space and successfully returning to the Tau Empire.

Saer'loq Bounty Hunters

The Saer'loq are one of the many minor alien races and factions dotted across the Eastern Fringe. They control little territory, barely a couple of systems, but their technology is highly advanced. Saer'loq society is extremely individualistic, with most honour and credit going only into individual achievements, and Saer'loq warriors are fiercely competitive. As a result most Saer'loq military technology is geared towards the enhancement of single infantry, and includes advanced powered exoskeletons, advanced optics and targeting gear, personal jump-jets and a staggeringly wide range of both kinetic and energy weapons, and a large number of advanced close combat equipment. It is said that a single Saer'loq fighter fully equipped for combat is comparable to a soldier equipped with a battlesuit, and can face down small armies single-handedly. This is fortunate for the Saer'loq, as their population is small and grows slowly, and they have historically been surrounded by enemy powers, making such odds a necessity.

Because of the individualistic nature of Saer'loq culture, their initial response to first contact with the Tau was hostility, as the concept of working for the greater good of the collective at the expense of the individual was an alien concept to them, and shortly afterwards a short but highly violent war was fought between the Tau and the Saer'loq. Initially the Saer'loq did well, scoring decisive victories in a number of early battles, and quickly proved to be formidable adversaries to the Fire Caste. Saer'loq equipment and weaponry proved to be a close match for Tau technology, and Saer'loq warriors proved to be adept at hit-and-run raids, guerrilla attacks and brutal ambushes. However, the Saer'loq's own emphasis on individual achievement and thinking ultimately proved to be their undoing, leading them to have a tendency to win battles but loose the greater war. The collaborative thinking of experienced Tau commanders and a greater sense of larger overall schemes, the result of a lifetime spent serving the Greater Good, enabled Tau forces to gain considerable strategic advantages that eventually allowed them to win the war with the Saer'loq. Tau naval power proved decisive in this conflict, with Saer'loq space forces being severely underdeveloped and limited to little more than raiding actions with small ships, which were ultimately ineffective at stopping the supporting Tau fleets from blockading Saer'loq worlds and providing invaluable support to forces on the ground.

After their defeat, the Saer'loq were sufficiently impressed with the power the Tau had demonstrated and were quietly integrated into the empire, in exchange for military aid against many of their historical enemies. While Saer'loq fighters, or bounty hunters as they are more commonly called, are known to perform mercenary work for a number of powers on the Eastern Fringe, ever since their defeat they have served the Tau Empire as covert operatives, a task that makes the best use of their limited numbers, individual focus and high technology. Saer'loq strike cells are frequently smuggled onto worlds opposing the Tau, where they conduct a wide range of secret missions, and are reputed to be highly competent at performing them. They are particularly popular amongst many Tau leaders as they cannot be immediately traced back to the Tau Empire, especially due to their frequent mercenary contracts, thus allowing the Tau Empire to conduct clandestine operations while still maintaining an attractive image to other powers.