Sunday, January 02, 2011

Tales of the Rancid Blade: Part thirty six: Static

Loose static. Images in digital green came together and became clearer. Obolis’ looked at the communication screen within his suit. A communications signal was forming. He couldn’t see what it was yet. The data stream was struggling to form a clear link. The tau commander looked for his tap bar. He tried to boost the reception. While in his suit it was as if he were floating in a warm darkness. When inside the suit a warrior had the distinct feeling of levitation. The grasp of the motion actuators, that sent signals to the suit itself, was so slight that he couldn’t feel them~ even though they held him firmly. He just felt the sensation of floating. All about him, or so it appeared to him, were digital screens and monitors and control pads. They too were suspended in the warm darkness as if floating and as he needed them he would draw them in close or conversely move them to a less direct view when they were less important. He had dimmed the circular view screen that surrounded his head. Normally it showed the perspective he might have seen had he been able to see through his armor to the outside. It was background now.

He had been focusing on several incoming data feeds from the many Pathfinder and Stealth teams in the field. Three video images played in the background. He brought them to the fore and shuffled them like pieces of paper, viewing them each in time. The first was an image of several Devilfish APCs advancing on a burned out agricultural dormitory in the middle of a field. There was little opposition. The next image was from an advance stealth team. The grainy strange image of an eldrich gate. He could see its dark spires guarded by the cold forms of Space Marines. He looked closer at this one and pondered it. He had sent the stealth team to that remote location at the request of the Etherial himself. He dared not question the Etherial’s orders again. The partnership between the Dark Eldar of the Rancid Blade and the Etherial (and therefore him), forged at New Boston last year, persisted. The idea that the noble fire warriors were risking their lives in aid of the Dark Eldar was abhorrent to him. However, his words stating such had relegated him to obscurity (for now). He frowned, noting the data feeds from the Southern front. The dark warriors’ (as they called themselves) lightning attacks had opened an entirely new front in the southern part of the country. There was some good, he guessed, in their razor sharp speed sweeping across miles of territory while teams of Fire Warriors followed behind securing the critical assets. Perhaps the Etherial had been right, he pondered. The southern front had pulled away many of the vast resources that the Spaces Marines were directing to halting the Cemephon Expansion. He shuffled the image to the back. The third picture was an image of a large Imperial transport landing at the city sized space port close to the eldar advance. He could see the huge insignia of an Imperial Guard regiment on the side of the lander. He checked the scale. The lander was eight city blocks long. More Imperial reinforcements. He frowned again. Perhaps another foe for the Dark Eldar to deal with.

He set the vids to repeat and then pushed them to the background. Several scrolls of text passed by to his left. He kept an eye on them also. They were repeating data feeds from the two fonts of this war. He pulled close another screen that had been pushed to one side. It was a medical report. His friend Maturn had been in critical condition for several days. The real time report showed his condition unchanged.

He looked again to the incoming data feed. It was slowly taking shape. It became clearer and solidified. It was another video feed. This one was live. The Imperials were advancing again on the Garison on the northern front. The outer pathfinders were relaying the images from their hidden positions. Several weeks ago, in the opening stages of the war, he had moved to secure an old Imperial Garrison on the outskirts of the Maximilian Hive city. He had been concerned at having such a large Imperial garrison on the doorstep of the hives cities that he controlled. The Garrison was yielded with virtually no resistance. The troops within had apparently been neglected by their masters because they had not put up any sort of a fight. He had secured the humans in their bunkers and the Water Caste had begun the process of indoctrination to the greater way. They reported similarly light resistance from the humans in this matter. Like the populations of the hive cities, the humans in the garrisons seemed to welcome the hope that the Water Caste presented to them. Hope seemed like a commodity the humans rarely saw. The Water Caste had it in ample supply.

The garrison had become a key asset in the war. Perhaps because of the efforts of the Water Caste the Space Marines seemed intent on securing it. Last week Anemos, the leader of the Cemephon expansion, had lead the successful defence of the Imperial Garrison when the Space Marines had sought to retake it. Now it appeared that the Marines were moving in to try again. He noted from the data feeds that gave narrative to the videos that a second advance into the dry hills to the west of the garrison and the hive was also occurring. The humans were widening the front of the war. They were trying to stretch and then break his lines. He looked toward a tactical display that showed his deployment of resources surrounding the massive city of Hive Maximillian. There were few resources to the west. He considered the twin advancing columns of the human forces. Repelling both the columns at the same time would be difficult. He tapped a control pad and selected several options. It sent a signal to the other commanders in the field and to Anemos seeking a council of war to discus the widening front. As the signal was sent he saw that several others of the commanders had requested the conference also.

A second video feed arrived from the same Pathfinder team as the first image. Obolis’ eyes grew wide as he saw the image. At the heart of the Imperial advance on the Garrison was the form of a massive war machine. A gigantic tracked weapon moved slowly along with the squads of Space Marines. It’s massive gun barrels swayed and turned as though the heads of a massive beast looking for targets. The scale of this machine dwarfed any resources he had. It’s presence could change the fortunes of the war. He zoomed into the image, concern showing on his brow. The widening font and the presence of this machine was cause for concern indeed. The Imperials had upped the anti. He closed out several of the other screens clearing the palate so he could focus on the changes of the northern front. This machine had to be stopped.

Then, like the turn of a ship on a tack his mind changed direction. He considered an opportunity. If this war machine broke through the tau lines at the Garrison it would roll right into Hive Maximillion with little resistance. The front would collapse. He considered the forces available to him. Many of his Fire Warriors were spread out securing a wide area of the region. Perhaps, however, there was a tool that he might use. He would have to pick well the location and his forces well to blunt this attack. He might even have to cede ground to the humans as he mustered his defences. The key would be stopping this behemoth and then moving the bolster the rest of the lines. He also considered that were he to stop this advance, were he to repel or even destroy this war machine he would at the same time be repelling the criticism that had been leveled against him. It would be difficult for Anemos and Tanthus to criticize him given such an achievement. He noted that several of the others were responding to his request for audience~ they too had seen the video feeds. He hit the key and immediately the images of the other commanders arrived, their faces seemingly in the warm dark with him. He saw that they had seen the video... but had they seen the opportunity?

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