The mood aboard the Nocturne Reaver was grim. The battle with the Tyranids had been fiercer than expected and the decks were crowded with wounded. Prince Huaren sat in the command chair and brooded over the situation. It was a minor setback – nothing more, and his warriors had certainly given as good as they got, but it still grated on him.
”Sir?” came the voice of the ship’s sensor operator.
”This had better be important.”
”Sir, I’ve got a reading that I do not recognize. It’s not Warp Space nor is it any sort of energy signature I’ve seen before. It’s on the long-range sensor now, but its speed…” Huaren sighed and walked over to look at the sensor operator’s screen. The signal was actually from a relay his ship had hacked into and was further off than the ship’s sensors would normally detect. Huaren looked at the pattern, then the speed it was showing. His eyes widened a moment and then he went back to his command chair.
”Alert the fleet. All vessels are to break to starboard and make best speed for the Port of Sorrows.”
Huaren’s second, the Sybarite of his Personal Guard, shot him an odd look. “Captain?”
”Now!” Huaren barked and the Dark Eldar jumped into motion. The fleet turned gracefully in the black and accelerated into the nearest webway portal without further delay.
Huaren muttered to himself. “The Tau. This sector of space is about to become a great deal more…boring.” With that, the pirates were gone.
In a remote part of deep space within the Badab Sector, over a dozen vessels suddenly manifested in the Black.
One of them was beyond massive, measuring millions of square miles in area. The rest were far smaller affairs, though the largest of them dwarfed its cousins. They did not stop there so much as appear. When they did, various lights began to appear along their hulls and the smaller ships activated engines that set them into motion at a far more regular pace. The largest of them bore the word “Endeavor” in the blocky language of the Tau Empire along its hull. It was a Custodian-class Carrier, the largest combat vessel in the Tau Starfleet and its commander was just then deciding he was not going to throw up.
Kor’O Vior’lan Kiruk Tayin stood up from the command chair and was relieved to discover that his knees did not buckle. “Well, the first extended use of Fio’El Bierre’s new freefall drive appears to be a great success. We opened 12 black holes in space and did not tear the galaxy apart.
The Ship’s Engineer sniffed slightly beside him. “I did say we would not destroy the Universe.”
O’Kiruk looked at his old friend with a dry expression. “I hope not to be around on the day you are wrong. But we are no doubt needed at the fortress now for final planning. Let’s be off.” The two Tau strode through the corridors of the massive vessel with purpose. Around them, naval personnel were dashing about in a manner that O’Kiruk had long considered “organized chaos.” El’Bierre broke up the Admiral’s thoughts.
“Did you get a chance to meet Shas’O Shakarys prior to departure?”
“I did.” The Admiral answered. “I’ve actually read a few of the papers he wrote while at the Vior’la Warfare Academy. Including the one on Mon’run’al.
“I understand the humans call it the Badab sector, for one of the star systems.”
“They do. The Badab system is the most well-developed in the sector and one of the wealthiest in this part of the galaxy. O’Shakarys’s war plans include breakdowns of most of the major forces seeking to lay claim to the territory. Make no mistake, Fio’El, we’ve come to quite the hot zone.”
The engineer nodded. “Strange that they would take a commander out of retirement for such an endeavor.” The two men boarded a shuttle and strapped in as the pilot went through pre-flight checks and lifted off towards the massive spacecraft at the heart of the fleet.
“Not that odd. We knew that Orks were here and long-range probes have sent back evidence of the Tyranids. The Tash’var Hunter Cadres have fought them in spades and O’Shakarys taught those tactics at the Academy. More importantly, I suspect Aun’lor wants a commander who will utilize each other caste to its greatest strength, rather that constantly seeking a military solution.”
“A reasonable precaution, though I think Por’O Sorik probably wishes we had brought a few less guns.”
“The Ambassador is who he is and his light contributes to us all.” The Admiral gave a wry grin. “If we all thought like military personnel, we’d have no allies whatsoever.”
The shuttle traversed the distance to the Stellar Fortress, Sanctuary, rapidly and vanished amidst the lights and ports in the side of the gigantic vessel. Coming to rest in a small docking bay, the shuttle opened and the two navy officers disembarked to be met by a hovering transport that whisked them into the heart of the ship. O’Kiruk looked at his friend and saw the engineer’s attention was totally seized by the size and complexity of the massive space station.
“7.6 million Tor’kan. Think of it, Tayin.” The engineer mumbled. O’Kiruk knew his friend was truly absorbed, for he rarely used such familiar address in public. “There are continents on Bor’kan not as large as this ship. It’s a wonder.”
“The wonder is how anyone gets anywhere on board.” The Admiral replied. As if in answer to the Admiral’s complaint, their transport pulled up next to what appeared to be a stand-alone building. Both men recognized it as a replica of the Hall of the Elements, a meeting structure for the castes that existed on every Sept World. The truth was that the fortress probably had dozens of these structures throughout the ship, but this one, they knew, was special. It was the personal hall of Aun’lor, the Ethereal who was the guiding light of this Great Leap Outward. It was also where the commander of the Mon’Run’Al Contingent was about to give a briefing on his initial battle plans. The two officers approached the hall, other Air Caste personnel saluting the Fleet Commander as he passed by.
They entered the hall and were, once again, impressed by the size of it. Each of the four most populous castes had several hundred seats and they were all nearly full. Each caste made a wedge that combined with its fellows to create a sense of an amphitheater. At the front, a dozen white seats marked the places for the Ethereal Council. The Admiral and his Chief Engineer walked down to the front of the Air Caste’s section and took their seats. A few minutes later, the lights dimmed in the hall and the Ethereal Council came out to take their seats in front of their people. As one, the Tau rose at the entry of the Ethereals. The Fire and Air Castes rendered salutes, while the Water and Earth Castes merely responded with respectful silence. When the white-robed Tau had found their seats, the one near the center of the line raised his hand.
“Be seated, servants of the Greater Good. We give thanks and praise to Fio’El Sa’Cea Bierre Kais for the contribution to the Greater Good of his new Freefall drive, without which this endeavor would not have been possible.” The applause was loud and sustained and the humble naval engineer colored at the attention.
The Ethereal continued. “Now I, Aun’lor, selected to serve as leader of this council, invite Shas’O Tash’Var Shakarys Mal’caor to address this body with his plan for how our brethren in the Fire Caste will bring peace to this unstable place in the galaxy, called Mon’run’al, for it is indeed a place of watchfulness over the death that may threaten us all. Shas’O, if you please.”
O’Kiruk looked over towards the Fire Caste warriors and saw that they all stood and saluted again for the slight figure approaching the Ethereal Council’s seats. He stepped onto a dais and pressed a button, summoning a holographic image of the sector.
“My brothers and sisters. It is my honor to present you with this briefing today. As I am keenly aware of how much interest you must all have in military matters, I shall endeavor to be brief.” This elicited a general chuckle.
“As the Ethereals have commanded and for the Greater Good of the Tau Empire, this is how I intend that we, as a team, shall conquer this sector…”