Consequences

Pain was everything. Her existence was a red haze scattered with stars. Voices sounded around her, but they were unintelligible, reduced to the background as white noise. A keening wail sounded over the voices. If she had been capable of coherent thought, she would have realized it was her own screams.

The Bloodletters charged toward her, blades slashing. She turned to face them, grinning as they got closer… Closer… Closer… She activated the Repulsor Impact Field of her Arrakon Class Battlesuit. Bloodletters were thrown back by the energy web before being explosively torn apart. It was one of many nasty surprises this Crisis suit had within it. Much like Neran’s Farsight Crisis suit, it had been modified with extra offensive and defensive systems not found in a standard issue battlesuit. T’Hara prepared for the next wave of enemy forces. Despite the tricks of her suit, she was aware her and her allies’ forces were in danger of being imminently overrun.

Her heads-up display showed the disposition of the forces of the battlefield. Necron ground forces were a good distance away but the scythe-like fighters above were deadly as they struck. The XV88 Broadside suit exploded from an enemy strike, its impressive armor still not enough to withstand the combined Necron/Chaos/Tyranid forces.

R’jon stood atop a wrecked transport, firing his twin-linked fusion blasters into Tyranid Biovores. He had managed to escape the enemy’s attacks using clever hit and run tactics, much like she had done until the Chaos and Tyranid ground forces overran her position.

She moved her cyclic ion blaster to take aim at the Chaos daemons that were renewing their assault. The creatures seemed to defy physical logic, moving faster than they seemed. They would run like a trooper then suddenly be on her in an instant. They slashed at her armor, sparks flying as control systems failed. Her Impact Field was unresponsive. Flailing her arms, she tried to keep them at bay until one of her weapon systems could activate, but it was too late. They swarmed her, filling her field of vision. Sudden pain on her left side wracked her as she heard the battlesuit’s systems speak.

“SURVIVAL PROTOCOLS ACTIVATED…”

****

T’Hara slowly opened her eyes. It took several seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dim light. As the world came into focus, she saw she was in a makeshift camp, not unlike the ones they had been in since their arrival on this death world. She was lying on a pallet, a battlefield medical kit set up around her. An intravenous bag was hung beside her, the line reaching into her right arm. She felt no pain, in fact she felt quite good. Around her, others were being administered care. Tau and Jager Corps both. Some of them were beyond help, approaching their final moments. Others slept. Beyond the medical stations, she could see damaged Crisis battlesuits, some beyond repair. Space Marine armor was being repaired by technicians. The camp was bustling, but even the small part visible to T’Hara was enough for her to know they had lost a good many soldiers.

She tried to sit up but a gentle yet firm hand pushed her back to rest. It was Pathfinder R’Jon.

“Rest,” he said. “For now, we’re safe. We have patrols established on the perimeter.”

“We lost,” said T’Hara.

“Yes,” said R’Jon, “But the enemy paid dearly for it.”

T’Hara looked into the night sky. “Our forces?”

“We lost good men and women,” said R’Jon. “But we have learned much. Every battle we learn more of their tactics. Even the Chaos creatures and Tyranids exhibit tactics that can be calculated and predicted, if a little more haphazardly than say, Space Marines.”

“We’ll need the drones to conduct a full battlefield analysis,” said T’Hara, “Have you uploaded the collective footage?”

“It’s being done now,” said R’Jon. “You need to focus on resting.”

“I feel fine,” said T’Hara, “More than fine, actually.”

“That’s the painkillers,” said R’Jon. “You needed them… We had to perform surgery.”

“Surgery?” Asked T’Hara. She looked down at herself. Everything looked fine… She could feel her legs, arm… Only one arm. Her left arm was gone.

“You barely escaped,” said R’Jon. “The battlesuit jumped away, but not before the Chaos creatures had taken your arm.”

T’Hara looked away. “Neran?”

“Dead,” said R’Jon.

T’Hara closed her eyes. She wanted to sleep and never wake up.

****

Days passed and the combined Jager and Tau forces mourned their dead and regrouped their forces. Repairs were made as well as could be done. The battle had been lost, but the war continued.

T’Hara stood facing the Farsight Crisis suit that had been worn by Neran. It was surprisingly unblemished, the technicians doing an impressive job of undoing the battle damage.

She flexed her cybernetic arm. It still felt odd, but in other ways felt better. It had some surprises built into it that the Tau and Space Marine weapons techs had devised after reviewing the battlefield data. In particular, a sigil etched into it that was also now on every soldier and battlesuit. The next time they faced Chaos, they would not go down so easily.

Next time, the battle would be on their terms. They couldn’t change their forces… But they could change the battlefield.

“Shas’nel T’Hara,” said R’Jon as he ran up to her. He was out of breath. “Librarian Hoeth needs us. He says he’s received a message.”

Now that Neran was dead, command had fallen to T’Hara. “From who?”

R’Jon led T’Hara to the Jager Communications Shelter. “It came from deep space. From someone calling himself Trazyn.”

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