Saturday, 8 March 2014

Baptism of Fire

Shas'la'Kel'shan'Mont'yr'Ta Darted across the alleyway and lunged into the shadow of a nearby building, pressing close to the towering wall and ensuring there was as little chance of him being targeted as possible. Snipers were known to be operating in the area, and he did not intend to be one of their kills today. Despite this supposedly being a relatively calm sector, Mont'yr'Ta could nonetheless dimly hear the sound of heavy automatic weapons fire, making it's way across the dusty air over the buildings from some other block of the city.

A series of ominously deep bass explosions echoed from distant artillery fire as the young Tau paused to take stock of the situation. He was deep within an enormous city, a key strategic location on the planet his hunter cadre was currently deployed on, and all around him were colossal towers and spires, titanic peaks of alloys and concrete that lanced upwards into the sky. It was late in the afternoon, and the world's setting sun cast long finger-like rays of light through the buildings while they stood as defiant silhouettes in it's amber  radiance, casting grim foreboding shadows across the urban forest. Motes of dust and the occasional bright ember drifted through the air. Behind La'Mont'yr'Ta, the main street was illuminated with a flickering glow emanating from the burning wreckage of his team's Devilfish troop carrier, downed by a Gue'la lascannon nest further up ahead. Cycling through the vision modes on his helmet display showed no nearby enemies. Mont'yr'Ta checked his communications channels, and found they were still being jammed. He checked the power cell in his pulse carbine - it was at 75% capacity from the bursts of fire he'd laid down at the Gue'la position while running to the alleyway- and quickly moved up to where the rest of his team were.

There were seven other Firewarriors active at the team's position, including the Shas'ui team leader, who was pondering on a piece of debris. Another four were propped against a wall, they'd been injured when the Devilfish crashed. The Shas'ui looked up as Mont'yr'Ta stopped next to him.

"Good, you made it. We'll need as many of the team as possible if we're going to press onward to the objective. Did you see the others?" he inquired.

"No Shas'ui. I think they must be on the other side of the street. Are the drones from the Devilfish still available? Perhaps we could use them to cover them while they link up with us?"

"According to my tactical display the Drones are still functional, and have taken shelter behind the Devilfish wreckage. If they move past it they'll be easy pickings for the Gue'la's heavy weapons. We're going to clear them off the road before regrouping with the Drones and the other Shas'la, assuming of course they're still alive."

"We're going to storm them? They have a prepared position, that does not seem like a wise course of action to me Shas'ui."

"We're not charging straight in. From the quick look I had as I was getting out of the street I noticed they don't seem to have any troops inside the buildings around their heavy weapons. We can slip in through the back door on one of them, get to a higher level and rain fire down on the Gue'la from there."

"What about the injured?"

The Shas'ui looked down for a moment, as if thinking. "We'll leave two here to guard them while a six-strong fire team makes the attack. Do I have any volunteers to stay here?" He asked the team. Three Firewarriors promptly raised their hands. The Shas'ui pointed at two of them. "You, and you. Everyone else is with me."

A string of mortar rounds impacted just a few dozen metres away from the them. "Right then. Let's move," said the Shas'ui.

Mont'yr'Ta was given point. The Gue'la position was not far, though between the slinking from cover to cover, and moving slowly and carefully to make sure they remained undetected, it seemed to take an unnerving amount of time. Eventually they reached their intended destination, a tall building adjacent to where the humans had set up. It had had several large holes blown in it, but was intact enough that the Tau would be able to move around in it without being seen if they kept away from the lower windows. Mont'yr'Ta felt giddy and on-edge. Although he'd been well trained in the Kel'shan battledome, and had performed admirably in the exercises there, this was his first combat deployment, and all at once he felt that the stakes were much, much higher. These were alien soldiers shooting at him, with lethal force, not training drones and mockups armed with stun-weaponry. In addition, the exercises had been just that - exercises, simulations. They had definitely played a big part in his own life, as well as his Team's, but in the greater scheme of things they had little real impact. Here, an entire world hung in the balance. And perhaps more; Mont'ry'Ta had studied the history of the Fire Caste. He had learnt about the Damocles Crusade, and how the Gue'la had waged near genocide against his people. He'd learnt of the Gue'la assaults on his homeworld of Kel'shan, and how the Gue'la there had only stopped their relentless attack when faced with an even greater alien threat, and he knew they'd almost certainly try again if they weren't stopped.

But that wasn't the main thing motivating Mont'yr'Ta. No, he was driven by the fact that they'd just tried to kill his team. His friends. And if there was one thing that Mony'yr'Ta did not abide, it was those who tried to hurt his friends.

The six Firewarriors slipped into the building and made their way up to the upper floors. Once they reached the desired elevation, the Shas'ui halted them. As one, they crept up to the building's windows that faced towards the street, taking care to keep out of sight. Mont'yr'Ta looked out and down through the window from the side. Below, the Gue'la were still looking towards the Devilfish, likely waiting for the gun drones or the other two Tau to show themselves. Or perhaps they were just ordered to concentrate on that approach.

"Alright Shas," The Shas'ui said as quietly as he could, "On three. One.... two.... "

Mont'yr'Ta moved his finger over the trigger of his pulse carbine.


In unison, the Firewarriors levelled their weapons out and downwards towards, aimed, and fired. The Gue'la were taken by complete surprise, and most were quickly struck down in the storm of plasma pulse bursts. The Tau made sure to target the small-arms equipped infantry first, those manning the lascannons were not as much of an immediate threat. A few searing beams of lasgun fire shot out in response, most hitting the building's walls. One hit a Shas'la, but did little more than scorch their armour. One of the Gue'la took off up the road. Mont'yr'Ta trained his pulse carbine on the human and dropped them in a single burst. The Gue'la command post and it's jamming equipment, which the team had been sent to neutralise, could not be informed of an imminent attack. They would have doubtless been contacted by these troops, but was likely that the Tau had been reported as eliminated. It was best kept that way.

"Good shooting Shas'la," Said the Shas'ui, "I'm setting a waypoint path for the Drones now. Let's get back to the others, if they're still there to get back to."

As they were making their way back out of the building, one of the Shas'la approached Mont'yr'Ta. All of the team were in full combat armour, including the standard Firewarrior helmet, and as such all looked almost identical besides the Shas'ui and his coloured helmet, but by the way this one approached Mont'yr'Ta he knew it had to be her. Of all his team, Mont'yr'Ta was closest to her. "Nice work with the runner back there," she said, "I'm glad to see you made it out of the ambush."

"I appreciate it," Mont'yr'Ta replied, "I'm just as gladdened to see you made it out uninjured."

"It'll take more than some hot light to keep me down." Mont'yr'Ta liked hearing that. He did not want to loose her just yet. "You and me shas'la, we're going a long way together."

"Perhaps one day I'll be your close protection officer when you're a commander." she said.

Beneath his helmet, Mont'yr'Ta smiled at this.

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