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The Governor's Mansion
Mal'caor took cover behind the hedgerows overlooking the trenches that crisscrossed the lawn leading to the ruins of what had been the governor's mansion. Orders had come down from high command, the primary mission had changed from reconnaissance to retrieval of a certain Dr. Moreau. The bio weapons facility was his lab, and the infected civilians were somehow linked to it. Whether he created the disease or was trying to combat it was up for debate. But either way, the ethereals needed him or his knowledge. Kel'shan's security was at stake.
Kais formed up next to him as they surveyed the lawn, around a dozen of the infected civilians were milling about aimlessly. Their gazes were completely blank and their jaws hung open, a black ooze dripping from the corners of their mouths and from the exposed wounds on their bodies.
"Kais," He motioned to the nearest human, "purge procedures. Conserve your ammo" Kovash was ordering the same from the adjacent hedgerow. Mal'caor sighted down his pulse rifle but saw something else moving in the shadows beyond. Something with claws and far too many appendages to be a human. Genestealers.
"Contact!" He bellowed across the comms, "Stealers on the lawn!" The report of pulse fire echoed across the mansion grounds. The first volleys were disorganized as the shas fired at anything that moved but between Kovash and Mal'caor, they steadied the line and the shots found their marks.
"Right flank, broodlord closing in," Shoh radioed as he engaged his jet pack to counter the great beast. Mont'yr screamed before his comm cut out and Mal'caor saw him fly from the bunker he had been holding, crashing to the ground in a heap.
The left flank was holding but if the Broodlord turned the right then they were sure to be slaughtered. The supplies were too critical to abandon to the hive. Mal'caor and Kais ran from their position and formed up behind Shoh's battlesuit to take firing positions into the bunker. Shadows obscured their vision but the fires burning throughout the grounds gave enough reflection off the beast's chitin to provide a target. The three warriors opened fire, rounds hitting off the armored exoskeleton of the Broodlord.
It stalked out from the shadows of the bunker, it's eyes never leaving them. Shoh stepped in front of them, aiming his two plasma rifles at the beast's chest. It bellowed, and charged the crisis suit. Shoh let loose a volley of plasma shots, scoring hits that punched through his armor, but on he came. Kais yelled and ran forward in a moment of incredible bravery, his pulse rifle firing away. One of his rounds hit the beast in the head, causing it to stumble and crash to the earth motionless.
"See! They aren't that tough!" Kais ran forward and leveled his rifle at the Broodlord's head, but before he could pull the trigger the beast lashed out with the last of its strength. His scything arm caught Kais across his chest and flung the warrior back about 30 feet. He hit hard and lay motionless on the ferrocrete. Mal'caor fired another shot into the beast and it lay still finally.
He turned to Kais' body and was relieved to see movement. The fire warrior sat up disoriented. "This is why you stay away from tyranids." He patted his friend on the helmet and moved into the bunker. Lar was inside covered in debris but otherwise uninjured. Shoh returned a moment later holding Mont'yr, who was swearing to hell and back about the worthless Pathfinders who had left him out to dry. Mal'caor smiled to himself and radioed Kovash, "roughed up but no casualties."
"Excellent," the team leader replied. "It appears the former governor was among the genestealers. They have a forward infestation group present on the planet apparently."
"Is that the cause of the disease among the civilians?"
"Unlikely, the stealers were ripping them apart as well. It appears there may be two infestations present. Secure the perimeter then setup positions inside the mansion."
Ghosts of Battles Past
Eur'ii unleashed a volley of missile across the lawn as the genestealers advanced. He had just arrived planet side from the fleet, his experience fighting against Hivefleet Gorgon made him a valuable asset to the Rangers as they moved through the ruined city. He just didn't expect this many genestealers to be inhabiting the ruins of the mansion.
His first launcher emptied it's last missile as a fusillade from the humans pounded his position. Even in his Crisis suit he instinctively hit the ground, the armor piercing rounds would reduce him to slag if he wasn't careful. His radio clicked on, it was Mal'caor. "Heads up! You have one coming over the top!"
Eur'ii rolled and flared his jet pack. The stealer jumped and he fired his rockets. The first went wide but the second caught the genestealer in the chest, viscera showering the Crisis carapace. Eur'ii reset his guidance systems and stood, no rockets remaining.
"I'm empty, falling back to the mansion for resupply."
Shas'ui Kovash then broadcast over the comms, "Negative, we've gained new intelligence. We have a Devilfish inbound and orders to return to the bioweapon facility."
Almost before he finished speaking, a modified devilfish landed in the ruined motorcade. The fire warriors piled in and the skimmer lifted off and moved to the east. Eur'ii was about to activate his jet pack when an FIF tag beeped nearby. Scanning the area he noticed the faint red light of a drone blinking in its standby mode. KV-2 buried under the charred husks of several genestealers still smoking from the pulse fire.
Eur'ii smiled to himself, tough little drone indeed. He lifted the drone free and lifted into the sky leaving the smoldering mansion behind.
The Hunt Begins
The Orca descended into the ruined square, a tight descent but nothing too difficult for a seasoned air caste pilot like Maren. Compared to the actual insertion, this part was easy. A flight of barracudas had escorted his ship from orbit and would rendezvous after their own attack run was complete. With several factions vying for control of the planet, the air caste were kept busy.
This was a resupply mission for an old friend, a shas'nel and his Forward Insertion Team operating deep behind enemy lines. Well supplies and three new team members. They hadn't spoken much and knowing the nature of Kovash's previous duties as a part of the Kel'shan military, they were sure to be classified anyways. It wasn't his place to ask questions. Aun'ti had come to him personally with the mission, citing his impeccable record of service. The kor'ui could not have been honored more by the ethereal and would not fail him.
As Maren touched down in the ruined square, Kovash stepped forth from the rubble. He was followed by two fire warriors supporting a third between them, bandaged and bloodied. Maren motioned the ship medics who relieved the cloaked warriors of their comrade and carried him into the ship. The three pathfinders stepped off the ramp and followed Kovash's directions into the building behind him.
"I'm not sure if Acaya will make it," Kovash said somberly, "do what you can for him."
"These medics have seen worse, we'll get him to the ship and see what can be done."
Kovash nodded and turned to leave but stopped short as if remembering something. He pulled a data stick from his pack and handed it to Maren.
"See that this reaches Aun'ti. Should our mission fail..." He trailed off.
"You haven't failed yet shas'nel, don't see why you would start now." He took the data stick and retreated up the ramp. The door hissed shut and his copilot lifted for space.
His comms cracked on and he heard Kovash's voice again.
"Quiet, everyone listen up." He was on the team feed for some reason, that was strange but before he could sever the feed Kovash spoke again, and Maren realized this was meant for him as well.
"You three are here because you're hunters, I know what you accomplished on Shad'draig and I need your abilities. Dr. Moreau has been captured by forces loyal to the Eldar, we do not know their purpose but our mission is to retrieve the doctor at all costs. The city is overrun with these creatures and Protocol Black Star has been authorized should containment prove impossible." Murmurs went through the squad, evidently they had never heard of this protocol. Maren had. It was a nuclear purge of an infected area, to be carried out immediately upon break of containment. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Intelligence tells us our target is to the northeast. If the data we have gleaned is any indication, there is still time.
Let's go hunting."
All for the Greater Good
Mal'caor fired through the floor as the massive green beast tore through the bottom floor. For a creature of its size, if was fast...otherworldly fast, even a marksman of Mal'caor's caliber couldn't follow him. Kir'qath had a better vantage point but had no better luck with his incendiary rounds, a line of small fires follows the creature's advance.
"Shas'nel! From behind!" Mal'caor screamed as the creature broke through the wall where Kovash was laying down suppression fire. The old veteran turned in time to see the creature swing his mace. He ducked under the first swing and brought his rifle to bear on the spawn. He snapped two shots into its chest but the spawn hardly seemed to notice. The spawn let out a bestial cry and unleashed a flurry of attacks.
Kovash couldn't avoid these.
The first hit drove him to the ground.
The second shattered his shoulder guard.
The third penetrated his chest plate.
The spawn hurled Kovash's broken body through the opening before leaping to the second story.
Leath attempted to block the mace with his carbine but the swing shattered it, taking part of his left hand with it. The force of the blow lifted Leath off his feet, following to the ground below. The spawn likely would have jumped down to finish him too but Ka'Vral finally managed to draw a bead and landed two shots to the creature. It bounded off in search of other prey.
Mal'caor ran to where his compatriots had fallen. He fell to his knees when he reached Kovash, his old friend lay motionless with his limbed sprawled at odd angles. Blood pooled beneath him and his eyes stared into space, unseeing.
Shoh came over the radio, "Enemy is falling back. We have secured the forward objectives and are moving to rendezvous."
Mal'caor keyed his comm, "Rendezvous on my position Shas'ui. Second out"
As the ranking member of the team, it fell to Shoh to report to high command. To his surprise, Aun'ti himself received the communication.
"Shas'ui, I'm curious as to why it is you and not Shas'nel Kovash I'm speaking with. Particularly in light of his last communication."
"Your eminence, it is with deep sadness that I must report that Kovash was killed in an engagement with one of the human renegade warbands."
The line went quiet for several seconds before the ethereal continued, sadness in his voice, "That is most regrettable. He was a fine soldier and a good man. The Empire has lost a hero today. The Greater Good often demands the highest of sacrifices."
He paused again.
"Shas'ui this mission is of the utmost importance to the Empire. We cannot fail. In light of recent events and given your unshakeable dedication to duty in the service of the Tau Empire and the Sept of Kel'shan, I'm giving you a battlefield commission to Shas'vre effectively immediately. The Forward Infiltration Team is under your command. I am transmitting all pertinent Intel to your crisis suit. Hopefully you will be able to intercept the Eldar before they escape the city."
"Kovash was a friend, he saved my life on Shad'draig. We were the last ship to evacuate before the Tyranids overran it. His team saved thousands of lives that day, including my own. Remember why you are fighting Shoh, I know that Kovash never forgot."
Vral sighted down the scope of his rail rifle as another of the warp spiders materialized. The Eldar vanished as he pulled the trigger but this time the aspect warrior never reappeared. Vral shifted his gaze as another of the jetbikes flew past, he snapped off two shots and the bike went careening into the embankment.
The sounds of battle were dying out, the Eldar had surprised the Rangers and a few of their jet pack equipped troops had made it through the lines. The rest hadn't been so lucky. The prong that had attacked the left flank had been completely routed while the attackers on the right had been forced to pull back. The Tau had sustained several wounded warriors but had ultimately held their position.
Vral rose from the improvised barricade that served as his sniper's nest and advanced to the forward barriers where the rest of his pathfinders had set up. D'Pel had pulled a medical kit out and was frantically trying to stop the bleeding of another pathfinder, Kunas. Vral knelt beside him and applied pressure to the wound, but blood poured from another shuriken wound. The small blades had ripped him apart, only a surgeon would be able to save him now and their rendezvous ship wasn't schedule for another three days.
A wild look passed over Kunas' face and with his last strength he gripped Vral's armor and pulled him close. "The Eldar...Leath...they took...Leath..."
He released Vral and started to cough violently, spitting blood with each spasm. D'Pel grabbed a hypospray from the kit and pressed it to Kunas' neck. The spasms stopped almost immediately, his breathing slowed and finally expired. The poison was painless and quick, a final gift for those beyond help.
Vral radioed Shoh, "Shas'vre, the area is secure and the Eldar have been driven back. Kunas is dead and Leath has been taken captive."
"Copy," Shoh replied, "we are tracking their retreat to the north. I'm sending the Devilfish to your position. Prepare for pursuit, we aren't losing anyone else to these Eldar Raiders. They'll pay for what they did here today."
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