“I don’t trust them.”
Pathfinder Shas’ui R’jon shook his head as he spoke. He sat around the thermal unit that was casting long shadows around the courtyard. His Tau brethren sat with him, those not going through routine maintenance on their battlesuits.
“We offer support they can use right now,” said Shas’nel Neran. The Cadre Fireblade stared into the light of the chemical fire that warmed them. “My instincts tell me Hoeth can be trusted. Terran and Tau may have faced off in battle before, but the Astartes have honor. We require assistance off this planet. They can use the firepower and battlefield expertise we can offer.”
Shas’ui T’Hara didn’t vocalize what they were all thinking. Neran was following his instincts but none of them trusted their own. Having shaken off the previously unknown psionic control they had been under from their former leaders, the Ethereals, they were all questioning their instincts. T’Hara trusted Neran, but part of her would never trust anyone in authority ever again. A gue’la like the Space Marine Librarian Hoeth may have honor, but T’Hara would be sure to keep one eye open at all times.
“They seem fractured,” said R’jon. “The Astartes fight themselves. Nothing on this world makes sense. Chaos, Necrons, Tyranids, Terrans… and now Tau. This world is everything wrong with the universe all thrown together, some kind of demented melting pot.”
“Be that as it may,” said Neran, “We are Tau. Our skill and training will prevail and guide us through. We are under Ethereal yoke no more, but we are still the superior fighting force.”
They turned at the sound of steps as Librarian Hoeth approached. The massive Space Marine nodded his head as Neran rose to meet him.
“I trust you are comfortable,” said Hoeth. His tone did not carry the concern his words implied.
The Tau, now having adopted the collective name H’Av’Raj’Ikon, had encountered the Astartes seven days after planetfall on what they now knew was the planet Adrilles. A tense standoff had started when the two forces met, but cooler heads, namely Neran and Hoeth, prevailed. Both sides knew the other had honor and negotiations should occur. In this case, the Greater Good meant working together to survive the death world that was Adrilles and stop the plans of their opponents, whatever that entailed.
“We are,” said Neran, his armor’s translator working to convert the Tau tongue to Terran Standard. “You have our thanks, Librarian Hoeth.”
“I have something to show you,” said Hoeth, “If you are up to a small ride. We’ve found something that may be of interest.”
The Thunderhawk came down for a landing amidst the rocky terrain. As the rear hatch cycled open, Space Marines leapt out, bolters raised to ensure the area was secure. When the all-clear signal was given, Neran and T’Hara stepped out alongside Hoeth.
“Over here,” said Hoeth as he walked over a small rise. T’Hara saw the ground was overturned as if the rise was man-made. As she approached it, she saw it was the outer edges of an impact crater.
“By Puretide’s blood,” said T’Hara.
“Indeed,” said Neran.
Below them were the remains of a Tau Manta Escape Module. It had fared well in its planetary descent from all outward appearances.
“We identified the markings on it as Tau,” said Hoeth. “Security features are active, however. One of my men has yet to regain consciousness after trying the hatch.”
Neran began to slide down the embankment. T’Hara followed. As they approached the Module, part of the exterior hatch illuminated. Neran put his hand on the newly formed screen. Biometric readings scrolled down the screen beneath his touch. An instant later, the door opened. Neran entered, followed by T’Hara. Before she entirely entered, she looked back at Hoeth. He simply stood and watched, impassive.
“T’Hara,” said Neran, “The fates favor us… but this Module did not come from our Manta.”
T’Hara looked around the bay interior. Arrayed before them was their salvation. Crisis Battlesuits. Enforcer battlesuits. A Hammerhead Gunship. Two Piranhas. Broadside Battlesuits. Dozens of Drones. Weapons and ammunition. Somehow, this Module had been able to autopilot to the surface. It was a miracle… then she saw it.
Another battlesuit, but this one was different. It was the color of rust. A sword was maglocked to its arm. It had a symbol T’Hara had never seen before emblazoned on its shield generator…and the armor itself had Tau script etched on it.
“This is impossible,” said T’Hara as her hand traced the Tau letters. “Impossible!”
“What is it?” asked Neran as he approached her. Then his eyes bulged as he read the script.
“O’Shovah,” said T’Hara. “This module… this battlesuit… they belong to Commander Farsight… but how? And where is he?”
“I do not know,” said Neran. “But if O’Shovah is anywhere on this damned world, we will find him.”