Chapter 1
The night sky over Kalator IX was bright with the densely packed stars of the Damocles Gulf. Shas’el Co’vare watched the stars with growing concern. Several of the glowing pricks of light in the darkness were not content to stay where they ought. Aided by the sophisticated sensors built into his Crisis Pattern Battlesuit, Co’vare watched the rebellious stars circle and dance around each other and then begin to drop towards the planet. Their strange actions only confirmed for him what the Air caste sensor technicians had told him a few hours before, the Imperium of Man had come and they meant to take Kalator 9 for themselves.
The Tau commander removed his focus from the sky and gazed at the land around him. His blacksun filter allowed him to observe the plains and rolling terrain as if it was noon and not the wee hours of the morning. He knew little about the art of agriculture, farming was the job of the Earth caste, but what he did know told him that the world he had fought to secure for the Tau Empire was a place that would feed billions. It was a jewel that was coveted by many. With a sigh Co’vare looked back up at the fiery streaks the Imperial drop pods were carving through the sky. They would hit their landing zones within half an hour and then the battle for Kalator IX would begin.
The Shas’el opened a vox-link between his battlesuit and those of his two bodyguards, “It is time to meet these Space Marines, my brothers. Ready the Cadre.”

Three kilometers from where Co’vare peacefully watched the skies, the Tau outpost was a bustling hive of activity. Earth caste mechanics ran final checks on the Hunter Cadre’s battlesuits and tanks. Fire caste warriors loaded up on grenades and extra power cells for their pulse weapons. Inside the base members of the Air caste monitored sensor equipment. Their viewscreens relayed to them information gathered by orbiting satellites. It had been three days since the same screens had revealed an Imperial vessel emerging from warp space into the Kalator system. As it had gotten closer the outpost computer had positively identified it as an Adeptus Astartes Battle Barge, an immensely powerful battleship carrying a complement of the Imperium’s greatest warriors.
Two friends stood on the outpost’s outer wall, literally above the chaos of an army preparing for war. They talked to each other as they watched their comrades ready themselves. One was tall, having nearly a sixty centimeter advantage over the other. He wore crisp fatigues, tall combat boots, and a heavy shoulder-pad on his left side carrying the crest of the Dal'yth sept. His slight companion was fully enclosed by the traditional armor of a Tau fire warrior. His helmeted head was turned upward as he listened to his companion. Unit insignia on his breast as well as the pulse carbine cradled in his arms marked him as a Pathfinder. But no matter their relative heights or manners of dress there was one fundamental difference between the two, one was Tau and the other was human.
“I can’t believe it!” Marcus said as he looked down at his friend. “I can’t believe that the Cadre is going out to fight the Astartes and the Shas’el is leaving us behind! What is it? Doesn’t he think humans are good enough? I knew my men weren’t going to get a fair deal with Co’vare.”
Naisa broke in over his comrade’s tirade, “Marcus! Mind your tone. You should not say such things about the Shas’el.”
“To hell with the -,” Marcus broke off and regained his composure. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I just feel like we’re being treated as if we’re not as good as the others.”
“I seriously doubt that the commander thinks so little of the Gue’vesa’la. He saw you fight the Tyranid when we took this planet did he not?”
Marcus nodded as he grudgingly acknowledged the Pathfinder’s point.
“Besides,” Naisa continued. “The outpost cannot be left unguarded. The other caste members cannot defend themselves.” Naisa suddenly paused cocked his head. After a moment he spoke again. “It’s time my friend. Shas’el Co’vare has given the order. I must assemble my team and get them aboard our devilfish.”
Marcus was still frustrated, but he swallowed his jealousy and held out his hand to the Tau. He began the traditional soldier’s farewell that his father and mother had taught to him as a small child, “Strength and courage.”
“Duty and honor,” Naisa finished as he took Marcus hand. After a moment he released the grip and turned away.
“Good luck.”
Naisa did not stop walking, but gave a response over his shoulder. “How many times do I have to tell you, Marcus? The Tau do not believe in luck.”
Marcus watched his friend leave then turned back to look out over the wall. There was not much to see. Below him, the outpost’s doors opened and the Hunter Cadre began to leave, heading off to face the best the Imperium of Man had to offer. It was maddening. Marcus knew that his men, his gue’vesa’la, had proven themselves against the Tyranids. Why should they be left behind? They had even out-preformed several of the fire warrior teams that would be fighting the Astartes.
The Astartes. Even thinking about the name of the Imperium’s greatest warriors made him shudder. He remembered late nights as a child, sitting around the cook fires with his eyes wide, as his father spun tales about the genetically engineered villains, encased in the strongest of armors and carrying weapons of frightful technology. But that had been before the Tau came. Spending the time since he was eight in the Tau culture had erased many of Marcus’ childhood fears. Now he hungered to meet the Marines in battle. The weapons of the Empire would show the Imperium a thing or two as pulse rifles and burst cannon overpowered boltguns and ceramite.
“Still pissed-off, boss?”
Marcus turned to see who had interrupted his fuming. It was Kathryn, his second in command of the gue’vesa’la. Her dark skin and clothing made her hard to see in the night, even with the lights from inside the courtyard below. She was a good-natured person and definitely the unit’s morale officer.
“Yeah, I’m still mad,” he finally replied. “We get left behind even when the Kroot are going out to fight the Astartes. The Astartes!” Marcus balled his fists and looked for something to pummel.
Kathryn’s easy grin never faded. “You’ve got to relax, chief.”
“I know, I’m sorry. It’s just that we’ve fought the bugs and the greenskins and we’ve proven ourselves time and again. Now the Space Marines show up and we get left out. And it’s not just that. It seems that after all those other enemies the Astartes just seem more…I don’t know.”
He nodded, “Exactly. They seem like a worthy enemy.”
“And it’s a chance to pay the Imperium back for what they did to our parents.”
Marcus looked up as his second in surprise. “How’d you read my mind?”
Her grin grew into a full-fledged smile. “No need to read that pile of rocks you call a brain,” she teased. “I just feel the same way you do. How could it be different for anyone who grew up in the 49th?”
Marcus could feel his anger and tension fading away. He was glad that Kathryn had found him and they were having this talk. “I don’t know. It’s just that we never talk about it, y’know. The only childhood we ever care to remember starts on Dal'yth, in the collective.”
“There are a lot of bad memories from before that. This could be our time to get even for some of those memories,”
Now the Gue’vesa’ui was curious. “If you feel that way, why aren’t you as angry as I am.”
Her smile faded and she responded in all seriousness, “Because it’s for the greater good. Shas’el Co’vare was put in charge of this outpost. He commands the Cadre. He has made his plans for battle. His decisions were made with the greater good in mind and as long as that is the chief end, then I am content.
“We all have to contribute to the greater good, or it fails. If sacrificing my need for vengeance fulfills my contribution, then I will gladly make that sacrifice.”
With that she turned and left and Marcus was alone, but he could no longer summon the rage he had been feeling before. He had a lot to think about.