Well, this ones going to be the most self-indulgent thing I've ever written – This is part of a fic trade that I'm taking part in which is… Months behind schedule. It came from me suggesting the idea on a Discord, and when I mentioned wanting to do trades, the person I did this trade with - DragonStoneH - said they wanted me to make this – So here it is – 40K and MHA merged into this monster of a fic, and went to being nearly 20K words because I just enjoyed the merging so much
So this should come with a disclaimer – I seriously suggest if you don't know 40K, read some lore. Just the main factions – The Imperium, the Orks, Tyranids, Tau, etc – It'll help make more sense of what the hell this fic goes on about, cause I sort of assume that people who read this are at least mildly aware of 40K lore – And if I were to explain everything about 40K lore, this fic would go on longer than that fucking Damocles Crusade (Google that one too) so yeah. I'll be going over a lot of complicated lore stuff which you might need a bit of 40K knowledge to get. If you read this without knowing 40K that's… Your call, but I'll be amazed if you understand anything I'm talking about.
Shipping is…. Barely present. And only mildly hinted – 40K romance would need…. A lot longer to flourish than anything I've got here. So just be informed romance is highly implied and was part of the trade fic terms. Anyway, disclaimers are now done.
This one really is just pure self-indulgence for me – So I hope you all do not mind me just nerding out this time around, and enjoy!
If you are reading this, then the chances are, you have been sent this by a member of the Water Caste. I hope by a Human member. I understand just as well as any Human how easy it is to fear the Xenos.
As I write this, I find myself wondering what must be going through your mind. Is it fear? The fear of the alien, ingrained into each and every one of us from the moment we're born? Is it caution? Do you want to see what will happen? Optimism?
If optimistic, I admire that you're even able to be so with the galaxy in the state that it's in.
I'm Human – Just like you are. My name is Izuku Midoriya. Well… That's a lie. Or maybe it isn't. If ever we get the chance to meet, I'll tell you the truth.
I said I understood the fear that you feel right now. And I do. Truly. I understand the Imperium just as well as anyone born as close to Holy Terra as I was. I understand what you must feel. What you must be thinking. It's a thought process I've had to go through myself.
My real name isn't important. And if it was, I will fully admit to fear of the consequences should my true identity be discovered. If I do, somehow, have loved ones back in the home system, I fear what would happen to them should the Inquisition find my name. If my name was found, I fear the banishment of the Imperial Cult. Deep down, perhaps it's the simple fact that I still fear the Imperium. And I fear that they can still get to me.
But this is why I was chosen to write this for you.
I wish to tell you the story of how I came to serve the Tau Empire, and the Greater Good. It's… My hope that if you do choose to join us, it won't be as bloody as the way I did. But I want to tell you how I came to be here. How I shouldn't be here, but against all odds, I am. I want to tell you how in spite of every fear I've ever had, I've been protected by the Tau Empire, and how they've treated me. I want to tell you about the last time I ever fought a battle for the Imperium of Man. I want to tell you why you should join us. Why I hope you'll join us.
How joining saved me. Why I believe the Tau will save the Imperium. And maybe even the Emperor.
So, for the duration of this story, I shall become he, Izuku Midoriya, and I shall tell you things as though I were a bird on my shoulder, or a scribe, following me through this journey – My hope is that this will make it harder for the Imperium to match my psychological profile and use it to capture me - I can assure you, this won't be something you'll need to fear if you chose to work alongside us. You will be protected.
I could embellish, and make up stories and lies about why you should join. It might be easier, and it might even convince you. Instead, I simply want to share with you. And let you make your own choice on if you believe in the Imperium, or what we can offer.
The events of this text took place more than twenty standard years ago. I've seen things that are difficult to describe, and even harder to comprehend. I've assisted just about every Caste in Tau society in one way or another, and I've been in plenty of battles. Of all of them though, I remember my recruitment the most clearly, like so many veterans will be able to tell you of their first combat incursion.
I might be a traitor. But I continue to serve the Imperium of Man. I hope to save it. I hope you do too.
May the Golden Throne watch over you. The Emperor Protects.
For the Greater Good.
Gue'vesa Auxiliary T'au'va Legion
Aloh'Doran was just like its namesake – A cold, frigid planet, yet one that was somehow rather peaceful. In that morbid way that Humanity had come to expect and understand the galaxy.
There was no life. Nothing naturally occurring here, anyway. Desolate mountains, and dust storms scattered the surface of the iron-tinted world. Dunes of dirt and sand scattered all around, leaving imprints like sand on a beach when the tide had gone in on a pleasure world. Whatever was in the atmosphere – Or what little of it there was – Turned the sky a purple-green shade, only accented by two suns, one far closer and larger, and the other further away, and looked more like a moon than a star.
Really, it was just a barren rock. The planet barely even had an atmosphere.
Had anyone ever come here? Or was this the first time that this empty, dead world had felt the warmth of flesh, the hum of machines, and the presence of life?
Certainly it was the first presence of Tau on the world, but what about outside that?
Maybe one or two Rouge Traders, but that seemed unlikely. Even if a Trader had come here before – Unlikely in of itself, especially when forces were so desperately needed elsewhere - They'd almost certainly be dead now. Even if they had the full backing of the Imperium, and all the resources it could muster, this place was too deep into Xenos territory for any rouge trader to get out without a Warp drive, a Gellar field, and skills unmatched by even the admiralty of the Imperial Navy.
Emperor have mercy on anyone who tried to get this far out even with all that equipment.
The most this world would have seen would have been probes. Probes which sent information and scans back to its point of origin, and informed its creators about the world it had found. And then the choice to colonize and terraform it had been made.
It was like Mars, Izuku thought to himself, before the Age of Strife, and before the Machine Cult had established itself.
He looked over this desolate world, and felt a pang of nostalgia and homesickness take over him. It was completely ridiculous – He hadn't ever even been to Mars. The Machine Cult never really let people outside the faith of the Machine God even set foot on its surface. Emperor damn it, he'd never even seen Mars in person. Only in documentation and recordings. He knew of Mars – But he didn't know Mars.
Perhaps because, in a way, it reminded him of Luna. Both were desolate, lifeless worlds without Humanity making them its own, and populating them into worlds to mirror that of ancient Terra, only for them to fall, and then rise up millennia later. Mars had a sky above it's head though. That was the key difference.
Luna had the stars above its head. Maybe that was why Izuku had dreamed of what life would be like outside the service he'd known – Even though such a thought might be heresy.
The word made him laugh a little bit these days. If only the Inquisition knew what he was doing now.
Izuku looked behind him, tearing himself away from the window of his hastily constructed home. It was spherical and large, to fit in as many people as possible from the Fire Warriors. There were no real risks, but sending a protective unit alongside Earth caste builders when colonizing a new world was standard procedure for the Tau Empire. It was away from the front lines anyway. A welcome break for those in the Gue'vesa Auxiliary T'au'va Legion.
In galactic measurements, Aloh'Doran wasn't that far away from the front lines. In an empire as small as the Tau's, nowhere was really too far from the front lines – Not when you compared it to the Imperium's sheer size, or an Ork WAAAGH. But it was away from the fighting.
It was designated to be a research world – Where scientists figured out the best ways to create, to innovate, and to better arm and prepare the Tau for the inevitable, continuous, never ending conflict that the galaxy would throw at them. An entire planet, dedicated to research, education, development and technology.
Earth Caste Tau were a sight to behold when they worked. Their complex machinery, and understanding of how it all worked, and the speed and skill with which they crafted and began to build and make and construct was enough to enrapture just about any servant of the Machine God. Indeed, some of the Skitarii that worked alongside the legion watched intensely, presumably with religious bliss entering every single nerve that they had left in their cyborg bodies.
Sitting on his bunk, Izuku looked around the building again. There were a couple of other Humans in there with him. A Kroot, who seemed to be scratching at the back of his quills. One of their Tau bunk-mates was affixing his helmet to his armor, and heading into the pressurization chamber, to head outside, and speak with the Commander about something or other.
Then there was the Xenosian. Who watched the building go on in silence.
For a moment, Izuku was tempted to call out to her, to speak to her. But he decided against it. She seemed more interested in the construction the Earth caste was taking part in. So he left her be.
It amazed him how different he was than he had been when he first arrived in the Tau Empire. How different this Empire had changed him. How even though he had, by all accounts, betrayed the God-Emperor, he had never felt more devoted to Him, and felt like he was carrying out His will. How even though he had turned against the Imperium, he was serving Humanity more.
He felt himself collapse onto his mattress, his hands behind his head. His eyes closed.
And he began to remember.
For ten thousand years, the Imperium of Man had stood. Reaching nearly every single corner of the galaxy, the Imperium was the dominant force of the Milky Way. For ten thousand years, it had been in a constant state of war, against Xenos, traitors, and heretics.
The God-Emperor of Man had reunited a divided Humanity after the Age of Strife, when interstellar travel became impossible. He united all worlds that had Human settlements, bringing prosperity to those who joined His empire, and obliterating those who turned their backs on their own Humanity. He conquered thousands of worlds for the Human Race, and brought hope back to a species that had nearly accepted its own extinction. And He sacrificed Himself to protect Humanity, Holy Terra, and the Imperium, until the very end. Even now, He continued to guide His children.
The Emperor was no man. He was a God incarnate. The one true God of Humanity.
It was in His name that Humanity continued to fight, to spread out, to war against the Xenos of the galaxy. It was in His name that the masses worked their brutal hours and shifts, to keep the wars going. It was in His name Humanity fought and died for generation after generation, for ten thousand years.
Izuku was a rare case in the Imperium of Man.
He was no Astartes – One of the revered super-soldiers hand-crafted by the God Emperor during the Great Crusade to reunite Humanity across the stars.
He was no high-born noble born on a Feudal World, able to command and possess power over people.
He was no Inquisitor, with immense power, tasked with purging heretics from the Imperial Cult, and keeping the masses in line with faith to the God Emperor.
He was no scribe. He was no pilot. He was no Trader. He was no…
…He was no one.
He was no one important. He wasn't someone who had a lot of worth – Though in the Imperium, that wasn't anything new. His life wasn't particularly important. He was just… Him. An organizer and conveyor – A Relayer, officially. Someone who followed orders, and did his best duty to keep his overseers happy. Someone who dedicated himself to his work at Port Luna, doing everything possible to make sure operations ran smoothly.
To do this, he needed to know things. He needed to know about the Imperium at large – about the Astartes, the Inquisition, what laid outside the small moon he knew. He needed to know about the body he served, about what made the Imperium. About the Xenos that threatened to wipe Humanity from its rightful place in the galaxy. About the various worlds Humanity inhabited. The history of the galaxy. He needed to know… Things.
Unlike so many in the Imperium, he needed to know more than the basics of his job in order to do it to the best of his ability.
He spent a lot of time with Scribes thanks to that, in the exceedingly few hours he had to spare. He asked them things, things that could help him with his job at first – Mostly to do with the most commonly seen Space Marine Chapters, like the Imperial Fists, or the Adeptus Custodes. He learned about Holy Terra, and the history of Luna. He learned about the Great Crusade. And about the Horus Heresy, in depth he'd never known before.
At first, that was all it was. Things to help him with his job. Information to help him make informed choices. Information to help him understand the needs of his betters. It became more than that though.
Eventually, he looked up information for information's sake – The knowledge of what existed outside of his home world. What the Imperium was up against, and what dangers lurked. Why he did what he did.
Why he committed to the work he did. Why it was that he had been made to work as a Relayer. Why the Imperium had to be this way.
Of course, it wasn't perfect information. After millennia, several records had faded away, and been lost to history. There was next to nothing he knew about the Age of Terra except the most basic of things. Much of the information he wanted was restricted and censored – And there was no way he intended to go digging behind the Inquisitions back. Those were rocks he was not going to overturn.
But it was weird. That information, what little he'd been able to come across about his Imperium's history, those little fragments of context, what little bits of…. Just, stuff he'd learned… Made him feel… Better. Better about his lot in life, and dedicated to the cause that was the ten-thousand-year long struggle Humanity had fought since the God-Emperor revealed himself to the rest of Mankind.
There were many days where no one would say it – But many lost all knowledge, all remembrance, or all illusion, of what the Imperium was. No one would say it – For fear the Ecclesiarchy would come and accuse them of heresy. And those were the same people who just couldn't access information – Even the unrestricted information.
Not Izuku though. With the context and knowledge of what he had learned, his faith wouldn't ever waver. What information as restricted, the High Lords had good reason for – He was sure. They spoke on behalf of the Emperor and His Golden Throne after all, and relayed His divine will. Izuku needed no more than that.
It had only been a short time since he left Luna. Maybe a few months. But it already felt like a lifetime ago.
"On your feet, Guardsman!"
His awakening was so sudden and vicious, for a moment, Izuku forgot exactly where he was or what he was even doing here. For a moment, he thought he was back at Port Luna, filling in service forms and directing Imperial Navy-men around, to and from their various destinations.
It wasn't long before he remembered that he was on the far side of the Damocles Gulf.
People began to shuffle and move, standing up on their feet and spilling out onto the planet they had just landed on. A fairly rocky world with just enough oxygen to support Human life. Certainly not optimal living conditions, but serviceable, and survivable. To the Imperium, that was good enough.
"Move it!" The same Commissar yelled, waving his arm as though it would force the guardsmen from the deployment ship. "The Xenos here aren't going to wait for you! Move – The Emperor demands it!"
By some miracle, Izuku had managed to fall asleep, to get the smallest bit of shut eye before the violent commands of the Commissars forced him back into the brutal reality of the galaxy he lived in. Joining the rest of his unit, he stood up, shook the sleep from his eyes, and followed suit, stepping out of the transport ship that brought them here.
He wished that he knew the name of this planet. Or at least what the Imperium had decided to call it. His job back at Port Luna had never really allowed him the luxury of ignorance – A rarity in the modern Imperium. He didn't like not knowing things about where he was, or what was going on around him. But that was not his job anymore. He was a Guardsman.
He didn't need to know anything except who to point his lasgun at.
With the rest of his unit, he marched towards the lines he was expected to hold. This planet had been the foothold for the troops here to hold onto. A point which had been defended to the death countless times in the last few years. The enemy was relentless – But they were up against Mankind. And Man never gave up an inch it didn't have to, not matter the cost or the causality.
A grim reminder of what Izuku's fate was now that he was here. Remembering that sober fact, he couldn't help but send a small prayer to the Emperor for protection.
The base was a series of trenches, choke-points, fortified bunkers, and defensive points. Like ancient warfare of the second millennium, and probably with the same conditions as those long-forgotten wars. Battalions from all over the galaxy-wide Empire of Man were here – An unusual mishmash for standard guardsman. But that was to be expected – Many of these mismatches came from the survivors of skirmishes prior.
Soldiers ran to and from various positions. In the distance, fighting could be heard, but it wasn't nearby – For now, anyway. Tech-Priests performed chants and burned incense, trying to appease the machinery and equipment that were the primary defences of this particular post. Wounded were being moved by field medics to the set-up tents nearby – For amputation, no doubt. Saving their limbs would take up too much time, and resources that this post was simply not equipped to spare.
Such a diverse collaboration was practically unheard of – Soldiers from virtually every different sort of world were here. The Death Korps of Kreig were around the place, numerous and certainly not an uncommon sight in the Imperium. Tallarn Desert Raiders were bunched up in their units, being corralled into planetary ships. The same could be said for the Vallhallan Ice Warriors, and the Catachan Jungle Fighters – Units who, by all known conventions, should be at one another's throats thanks to their insanely drastically opposing ideologies.
From this, Izuku got a lot of information – Wherever they were, not only was this world huge – It was continental. Like ancient Terra. Various biomes that required everything that the Imperium had the best of.
For such measures to be taken, this world had to be incredibly important, strategically. For whatever reason, who knew?
"Form up!" The Commissar yelled, and his regiment fell into line rapidly.
All the soldiers fell into line.
No words were spoken, but a quiet curiosity hung over all their heads. Each of them wondered deep down – What they were doing here. Who they were here to fight, and what their role would be in the fight to come. It had been nearly all anyone had been able to talk about on the trip to this corner of the galaxy.
Their Commissar inspected his troops, walking up and down the front line of men. As he looked over the men under his command, he yelled out only the most relevant information – Explanation in it's full was not necessary.
Most of them were going to be dead within a few days anyway.
"Listen up! This post is the only planetary dock that we hold on this world – Without it, it's impossible to send our forces elsewhere on this rock! The majority of the Imperial Navy is tasked elsewhere, so the damned Tau have air superiority! Our task here is to hold this outpost until we can gain reinforcements from the nearest Astartes Chapter!"
The Tau. That was the name of their enemy.
It made sense then that this was a ground invasion – Unlike many Xenos races, the Tau had technology that was beyond the Imperiums. It was fortunate that they were so small an Empire, or else Man could find themselves into an untenable war against them
"We'll be receiving backing from the Ultramarines in a few days – You have one order!" The Commissar yelled. "And that's to hold the line in the Emperors name! Am I understood?!"
"Yes sir!" Everyone loudly responded, clearly and crisply.
More than anyone there, Izuku understood his duty here.
Truly only the Emperor knew how many men were stationed at this post.
Getting new soldiers wasn't a difficult task for the Imperium. Thousands of worlds paid their tithes to the Imperium in the form of manpower – Like Kreig, and Tallarn. Many planets gave solders that were from less famous worlds throughout the galaxy, Like Myr, Somonor, and Dreer. Billions across the galaxy were born and killed, sent to and from various worlds, all for the glory of the Emperor and of Mankind.
Realistically though, they didn't have much hope of advancing this particular conflict any further. And nearly everyone knew this.
The fact was, Imperial weaponry given to guardsmen was not of high caliber. It wasn't the cutting-edge of tech, and it wasn't even particularly well maintained – The lasgun Izuku had been issued had been one that had been covered in dirt and mud. He'd had to clean it himself.
At least it was something to do while he waited in the ditch.
"Zero, one, zero, one, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, one…"
Not to mention his uniform. Izuku sighed as he took off his issued helmet. A dark green, with the sigil of the Astra Militarum on the front – The Human skull, and from it, a set of wings that extended out either side. The same symbol marked his shoulder, and the side of his Lasgun – Both he had a horrible feeling had been scavenged off of a fallen guardsman.
"Zero, one, one, zero, zero, zero, one, one, one, zero, zero, zero…"
Izuku sighed. But he held his tongue.
"One, one, zero, zero… One, one." His companion stood up.
"I don't suppose you plan on telling me what that means, Kirishima." Izuku asked, raising an eyebrow at the Mechanicus Skitarri.
"I won't. I don't intend to offend the Machine Spirit by informing someone not of the Cult Mechanicus of our cants."
"Fair enough, I guess."
The dugout Izuku and Kirishima both occupied was near the front. With guard forces so thinly spread, the two of them had been assigned to an automated artillery barrage, courtesy of the Mechanicus. They were there to defend it with their lives – This line would help hold back the Tau when they inevitably launched a counter assault.
Kirishima was a Skitarri – A Mechanicus solider. From Mars itself, according to him. For a Martian, Kirishima was certainly an oddity – Far more flesh and blood than he was machine. Izuku knew of the religion of the Machine God, and how its followers would ritualistically replace limbs with machinery in a holy event. Yet Kirishima's modifications weren't all that major for someone from the heart of their cult – Only his left arm, his right foot and shin, and right eye were replaced with machinery. His eye glowed red, like the cloak he wore, dirty though it might be.
For three days, the two of them had maintained the barrage. For three days, nothing had come their way, and every day, every few hours, Kirishima would fall to his knees, and pray to the weapon he was sent here to guard.
"Could you at least explain why you pray to it?" Izuku asked. "You're not a Tech Priest."
"No – But this is a holy object, nevertheless. If I can't give it the proper worship, showing my respect seems like the least I can do."
"Seriously, I don't think I'm ever going to understand your religion."
"Do we have to debate this topic again?" His voice strained slightly.
Somehow, Izuku managed to chuckle. He'd always assumed those in the Machine Cult would be emotionless drones. Some of them were of course, but Kirishima certainly wasn't. He had quite the personality, and hearing him sound as exasperated as he was made the Guardsman amused. "I guess not."
"Thank the Omnissiah." The Martian gently chuckled himself.
"Thank the Emperor."
The same thing, Izuku had learned from spending this much time with a Skitarri. Their God was the same – Sort of. Izuku believed the Emperor was the God of all Mankind. Kirishima believed the Emperor was the living incarnation of the Machine God. They worshiped the same being, so they shared a common faith in Him.
Back on Luna, it would be considered heresy. To an extent, Izuku still did believe it was. But there was something about being surrounded by an enemy, on a world far from home, that turned those thoughts to dust. Kirishima was no heretic. Nor was anyone from the Mechanicus.
Despite everything, Izuku found himself grateful that he got to learn about the Cult Mechanicus from someone first-hand. At least the trenches weren't boring.
"You fancy an MRE?" Izuku asked, reaching into his sachet at his waist and pulling out some gruel that would be his meal. The absolute bare minimum resource that came from the nearby Agri-world, he didn't doubt.
"I don't need food."
"Oh, right. Machinery, right?"
Shrugging, Izuku took a bite out of his MRE. It was better than he expected by miles – By which he meant that it had no taste or flavor whatsoever. He chewed for a few moments, before he swallowed. "Not bad, honestly."
"Say… You were born on Luna, weren't you?" Kirishima asked. As he asked, he did another inspection of his weapon, and performing some sort of ritual with his hands as he ran them over the surface of the gun.
"You ever see the Throneworld from there?"
"A few times. I had to run relays out to the Ring a few times. You get a better view from there than the Hive cities."
"Must've been quite a sight."
"It was. One time I saw Battlefleet Solar moving through the system at the same time I saw Terra. It was a few years ago, back when the Phalanx was still stationed there, before it had to go to… I don't remember. I think somewhere near the galactic north. Either way, It's… Probably the thing I miss most about home."
"Think you'll see it again?"
Realistically, no, Izuku knew. He knew what his likely fate was to be here. And even if he did survive, he wasn't a Relayer anymore. He was a cog in the Imperial war machine. He'd be sent wherever he was needed, to fight in the Emperors name, and on behalf of Humanity. This was his job now.
Silently though, he wouldn't mind admitting to that small slither of optimism.
Running his hands over the Aquila of his own lasgun, he looked at Kirishima, and gave him a simple answer.
"The Emperor Protects."
Kirishima then bolted upright. Still, and animatronic, like so many other of the Mechanicus. His eyes were wide open, his face completely clear of any and all expression.
His weapon slung into his arms, ready for combat.
"I hear it."
"The Machine Spirit."
For three seconds, nothing but silence.
And then all manner of hell broke loose.
From a further off treeline, the forest erupted in a sea of neon blue lighting, as plasma bolts began to fire from it seemed like everywhere. The sight was blinding, and the sound of plasma shooting through the air rippled through it. The heat it emitted was palpable – Far hotter than any number of hours stuck at a dugout
The entire forest line had exploded in a sea of fire – The Tau were here – And they had taken up offensive positions.
Based on pure instinct, Izuku threw himself to the ground to avoid a hailstorm of plasma bullets that had been aimed at taking his head off his shoulders. It took him a few moments to actually comprehend why he was on the ground, or indeed whatever was going on at this point. The ground was muddy and damp, even when the weather had been hot, and felt arid at times. It took a few seconds before he heard the rallying cries of those in further back dugouts, and the messages that they were under attack being fully relayed.
Crawling, and keeping his head down, Izuku backed up against the wall of the dugout, still laying on the ground, but now having flopped onto his back. Everything had erupted so quickly he was shaken, and struggled to comprehend where all this chaos had come from.
He looked around – To his side, He could see Kirishima, firing his weapon without hesitation, and with skill he'd never even believed that the Skitarri could possess. He seemed to jump from one target to another with every shot, like the Tau hidden in the trees were plain as day to him.
Beside him, the artillery barrage had begun to fire as well, shooting at the larger clusters of incoming fire. It moved from point to point fairly quickly, and made Izuku wonder if the Machine Spirit had really been listening to Kirishima's prayers and rituals.
The initial element of surprise was now over though – And now, Humanity bit back. Trenches around him began to fill up with Astra Militarum, and the red hue of lasgun fire returning against the treeline. Yelling and orders were being given, received, followed, and issues again, like a bucket chain of commands to each location on the defensive line.
Shock was still circulating throughout Izuku's body. His brain hadn't fully comprehended exactly what was going on, and his ears felt deafened by the sudden explosion of sound in the air. It all erupted at once, leaving him dazed and briefly confused. HE realized he didn't even have his lasgun in his hands. Where had that wound up?
To his side, he quickly discovered. He looked around briefly, and saw his weapon had landed not too far from him. He picked it up, and he looked at it. He was supposed to return fire, wasn't he?
Right. That was his job.
He looked around once more, and realized that Kirishima had disappeared completely. Where had had ended up, the Lunar-born had no idea. There was no body, so he wasn't dead. He has just vanished. How, where, and why, he couldn't answer. His brain couldn't process it.
"Take position! Defend the artillery!"
Imperial Guardsmen began to pour into the dugout that Izuku was in, taking up positions and returning fire. They paid him next to no mind. And Izuku paid them no real mind either.
His focus suddenly fell on the Astartes that had been commanding them.
Huge, covered head to toe in fine, resistant armour, armed with a sidearm that was almost the size of Izuku himself. Towering over the regular Humans like a walking deity among men. Izuku recognized the insignia – An Ultramarine. The warriors of Ultramar – A region of the Imperium not far from the Tau border, over five-hundred solar systems strong before the Emperor had discovered it as brought it into the Imperium.
The Ultramarine held up their Bolter – A pistol with explosive rounds, and was about the size of Izuku – And fired several shots into the treeline. Each shot fired echoed and the impact the rounds made shook the earth underneath them.
"On your feet, Guardsman." The Ultramarine ordered firmly, but not entirely hostility either. Izuku somehow heard him clearly over the sounds of war around them. "Do your duty."
Izuku had barely even realized that he hadn't moved in the last few minutes. He'd just been sat there, as his brain tried to absorb everything that was going on, and he had been somewhat overwhelmed. Part of him was amazed he hadn't been shot for dereliction of duty. Perhaps no one was really paying him that much attention.
He got onto his feet, and glanced over the trench. He scanned for traces of blue, hoping to catch sight of a Tau he could target. He found nothing, no clear target. So he focused on seeing where the blasts that were tearing into the Imperial forces were coming from.
Then he lined his sights, and opened fire.
Lasguns weren't particularly good solo weapons. The only reason they worked was because of either continued targeting on one enemy, or the use of a great many being used at the same time. The Imperium had the numbers to make the use of such weapons worthwhile. Izuku did what he could with what he had though. And he continued to fire.
From behind the lines, one of the Commissar's moved up to the front, yelling to make himself heard over the noises of war. "Prepare yourselves! We're going to charge the line and remind these Xeno's who they're fighting!"
The Commissar climbed atop the trenches, like he didn't even fear the incoming fire.
It turned out, that wasn't what he had needed to fear at all.
Behind him, as he turned to face his men, light shimmered behind him. No incoming fire from the Tau weapons was coming this way either, like they were avoiding this particular spot for some reason. It was only noticeable in that brief moment.
"Commissar!" Someone yelled.
As the Commissar turned however, his fate was sealed.
Among the other high-tech weapons in their arsenals, the Tau possessed full suit body mechs. Suits that the Tau would climb inside, and pilot from within. They were deadly machines, fully capable of meeting a Space Marine in hand-to-hand combat and besting them.
One of those was the Stealth Suit. A suit capable of turning invisible and moving towards enemy lines without issue.
Like one had done right now.
It raised its arm slowly, and Izuku could only look up at the contraption. It was huge. Enormous. It towered over any regular Human, and was wider than even a Space Marine. What one was doing here, Izuku had no idea. Were the Tau just that desperate to take the planet that they would use strategies they had no record of using for the element of surprise.
Well, it had worked.
That was the last thing Izuku was able to think before the arm came down, and everything went black for him.
"…al Guard…. Overrun… Basic Alpha… All Forces…"
For a moment, Izuku thought that he was dead. That whatever that Tau battle suit had been, it had sent him to the Emperors side.
He dismissed it the moment he thought it though – If he could question if he was alive, then he had to be alive.
Radio scratching pierced the darkness of his closed eyes, and forced them to twitch, and then open up, slowly and uncertainly. His vision was blurred, and it made it impossible to clearly define anything. His head throbbed, and all his bones felt like they were made of lead. He could already feel blood across his face, across the bridge of his nose, and spilling down his cheek.
"…Rally point… All troops…"
It wasn't his helmet making the noise, he realized. It was further away, intermittently patching out of reception. He had stirred around enough that the sound could reach his ears, so it woke him up. Outside that, he couldn't help but feel nothing. Hear nothing. Like the battle had ended.
That made his eyes open up.
The blur remained, so he rubbed them, quickly.
He found himself surrounded by bodies.
Just a sea of nameless bodies. Some had wounds that looked beaten in. Some had what looked like laser wounds or plasma burns. He should have felt more about what was around him, but he could only comprehend the throbbing in his head, and the sound of static he was hearing. Somehow, being alive didn't make him glad. Seeing the dead didn't either. It was hard to explain. But he'd known it would come to this the moment he was reassigned. That and the pain in his head stopped him from articulating his thoughts.
Be a good Imperial. Be worthy of the Imperium. Do your duty.
Push everything else aside.
Be worthy of Mankind.
Izuku repeated these thing sin his head over and over, while he slowly staggered towards the sound of the static. He recognized some of the bodies he moved past. Some he didn't. They were clean deaths. Painless. Or as painless as one could realistically get when it came to getting shot. Better than anything an Ork would grant them. Or an Eldar. Or anything else. Probably a small comfort to those who had fallen but it had to be something, right?
That sort of thinking was going to be the only thing keeping him sane.
The Luna born didn't even register the mans face, it had been bashed in so much. He tried not to pay it any attention – If he did, he was going to be sick, and he was somehow, miraculously, holding it together as it was. The static hummed from his body.
A radio. A transmitter – Some sort of portable com device the Guard got.
Kneeling down, Izuku patted the deceased officers body, up and down, searching for anything that felt like a portable vox system. Something that would give away what it was that his commanding officer had had on his person. What was making the sounds he had heard. He felt dizzy. He felt ill. He pushed it all aside.
Be worthy of Mankind.
He found it – A small device, in a pocket of the corpse's chest pocket. Compact. Functional. But easily damaged. Befitting the cheap equipment the guard received. He pressed the only button he could see on it.
"This…" What words did he use? He paused for a moment as he stared at the ground. "…This is Guardsman…. Mi… Midoriya." His words were careful. He didn't want to misspeak. "Front dugout… I uh… I need you to repeat… Your last…"
Redeployment? They were retreating?
"…All Guard… Rally…"
The Imperium was retreating? What was the plan – Turn this world to glass? Prevent the Tau from claiming it via exterminatus?
An hour. Was that how long he had to get to the rest?
"…The Emperor Protects."
The transmission cut out, and Izuku looked up. He had wanted to contemplate, to look at the sky for a brief moment, and think about what his next steps would be. Turned out, he wasn't even going to get that.
Some sort of drone was hovering only a few meters away from him. Some sort of contraption, device, complex machinery making it hover a couple of meters above the ground. A Tau device.
Armed with weapons.
A device to kill.
Why was it here? What was it doing?
Scanning for survivors? Was it left behind?
What did it matter?
If it saw him, Izuku was going to die.
Tau contraptions weren't going to be affected by something like the Imperial Guard's standard weapons. They were only effective in large numbers – And that wasn't going to be of any good to a long Guardsman. What could he do? Could he hide? Would it still notice him? Could he play dead? If he rushed it, could he take it down? Could he just run?
In the corner of his eye though, he spotted something.
A dead Astartes.
That in itself was something horrifying to see. Space Marines were the heads of the Imperium's army. They were those chosen to lead. Made of the Emperors own DNA. His own chosen.
And they were taken down just like that.
Right now though, it might help him.
Huge pistols. Weapons that only the Astartes wielded regularly, because the sheer size of the bulking behemoths. That would take down any sort of Tau drone. If it was loaded. And Izuku could hit it.
And if firing such a weapon didn't kill him.
The size of Bolters really were massive – Heavy, and powerful. Recoil from such a weapon fired by a regular human could batter the user.
Still… It was risk that, or definitely get slaughtered by a Tau drone.
Was that really a choice?
It was looking away right now, the drone – But Izuku knew that once he moved, it would pick up his movement, and he was going to have to move quick. He felt his hands tighten. He bit his lip.
Then he darted.
Some kind of beeping immediately started up behind him, but he didn't look behind for a single second. Whatever pain he might have been in, he no longer felt it. It took him only a few seconds to reach the fallen Astartes, and clamber over their body.
Several shots were fired over his head. He ducked down.
The Bolter was just in front of him. It needed both of his hands to even pick it up onto it's front. He lugged the device upwards.
Moving with a Bolter was suicide. He couldn't move fast with it. He had no choice but to wait.
To wait for the drone to come and try to kill him.
He needed his whole hand around the trigger to be able to fire.
Sweat ran down the side of his face, mixing with the mud and the blood and running down the skin of his face. He had to be sure. He ha to hit this thing. He had one shot, and just had to pray that this thing was loaded.
He had one shot.
"Emperor…" Izuku breathed as he waited, biting his lips. He paraphrased prayer, knowing he wouldn't get even halfway through it if he didn't. "Steel my hands… Guide my aim… Against those who would stand against us…"
The drone hovered above the corpse to lock in on Izuku.
The backlash, he felt instantly.
Good news – The weapon was loaded, and as though guided by the Emperors own hands, the Bolter round slammed straight into the hull of the drone. Immediately, it exploded, shattering into thousands of tiny pieces of metal and burning slag, falling to the ground below, devastated and destroyed. In that one moment, Izuku felt immense pleasure in knowing that if nothing else, he had at least mildly inconvenienced whatever Tau had assembled the thing, and rendered it useless to their expanding empire. The one good thing he had felt about this entire invasion.
Less than a second later though, the impact firing such a round made, he felt throughout his entire body. It was sharp and it was harsh, and utterly without mercy.
Said impact shot him back a few inches, even as he had laid down on the ground itself. He let out no cry of pain – He didn't have the air in his lungs to be capable of doing so.
Once his body was finished from recoiling, he immediately clutched his stomach like his life depended on it. He was no field medic, but he was a hundred-percent certain that Bolter recoil had broken at least two of his ribs – Like shards of glass had been jammed underneath his ribcage.
"Emperor's Mercy…" He breathlessly groaned without a single sound.
Despite himself though, he staggered onto his feet – A break because he was in pain wasn't acceptable back on Luna, and here, it would get him killed. That, and the deafening sound of the Bolter round would no doubt be attracting any Xenos around to his location. He had to get away, quickly, if he had any hope of survival. He was alive, out of sheer chance, and the protection of the Master of Mankind, and if he died now, he would have wasted the opportunity given to him.
His hands clung against his cracked ribs, like he was trying to hold them in place. He gritted his teeth, and looked around. Carrying the Bolter was completely out of the question, and even if he could, somehow he wasn't sure that the rest of the unit would just accept that he was using one – They were supposed to be an Astartes exclusive weapon after all. He'd only used one because he was desperate. He didn't really have a whole lot of choice when it came to his weapon.
Despite the pain, he knelt down, and picked up the nearest Lasgun he could find. And then, he began to make his way through the trenches, back to the outpost, and to get himself to hell off this planet.
It was impossible to tell just how long he had been unconscious. The day-night cycle on this planet was such a skewed one that the fact it seemed to be roughly the same time was meaningless. Some days had lasted for hours, some for what had felt like days onto themselves. Saying he had been on this planet for a few days was a meaningless term in reality. It could be anything from a standard week to a standard three days.
He could have been knocked out for just a few hours, or an entire rotation. Who knew at this point.
But as he moved throughout the trenches, it was clear that however long it had been, it had been long enough for the Tau to punch through their lines.
Finding a dugout that had no corpses was an impossibility. Plenty of people had fallen with their weapons in hand to stop the advancing enemy, only to be shot down. Wave after wave of men had been sent to reclaim lost land, only the be gunned down with ruthless efficiency.
There were Tau corpses. There were plenty… But compared to the losses of the Imperium, they were minor. Virtually unnoticeable.
Worse, some were alive.
They seemed to be patrolling, making sure they hadn't missed anyone, or were keeping lookout to make sure that no further Imperial forces could make attacks against their new territory. It made getting past them a nightmare, something Izuku had to be careful while doing.
He had to be quiet. Silent.
Lest the Xenos spot him, and gun him down without a second thought. No dead man could carry on serving the Imperium.
Trekking and evading, it took Izuku a long time to cover even the smallest of distances. He had to take every precaution, stopping dead in his tracks when he came within earshot of the Xenos, and doing his best to avoid being spotted by them at all. It made him far, far slower than he should have otherwise been.
And he was running out of time.
If he wasn't there soon, the navy would assume he was among the dead, and would leave him here. Then he truly would be left at the mercy of the Tau. There wouldn't be anything anyone could do to help him.
Izuku moved as quickly as he dared. The trenches were maze-like, and if he wished to avoid getting spotted, pocking his head over the top was out of the question. So, he had to rely on memory – And considering that he'd been stuck in a bunker for the last three cycles, he didn't exactly have the greatest layout of these trenches. A few false starts had led him to dead ends, and he'd had to double back the way he'd come.
Just as he began to wonder if he was even making any progress, over the tops of the trenches, he began to spot Imperial ships take to the skies.
Immediately, the sounds of war broke out again.
They had been going on around him for a while, but they had seemed more… Sparse than anything else. Like skirmishes. Not full on warfare. As the ships began to take off to get off the planet though, the Imperial ships took their shots at their attacks as they left, prompting the Tau to return fire.
The Guard was extracting.
But it told Izuku exactly where the rest of the Imperial Guard was.
Turned out that it wasn't all that far – Maybe a few dugouts and trenches away.
Yet they were taking off.
Caution be damned.
At this point, it didn't matter if the Tau saw him or not – Being left behind was just as much of a death sentence. Given options, he'd take a plasma shot to the back rather than let the Xenos take him alive.
Each dugout he ran past without even stopping to look around the place. Each corner and turn, he skidded right past, without even checking to see what was beyond them. That took time that he didn't have to spare.
One time, it worked against him.
A lone Tau had been moving throughout the final dugout, without their helmet on, for whatever reason. As Izuku ran past the corner, the Tau turned its head, and saw a lone Imperial Guardsman charging at it. It began to raise its weapon, yelling something in its Xeno tongue.
Izuku didn't have time to think about what he was doing as his legs kept moving him close and closer to the alien. He was already far too close to halt and run back behind cover, and this was the only way to get to the aircrafts in time. He moved on instinct, lowering his head, and readying his weapon.
Once in range, and just before the Tau could fire, Izuku's hands both gripped the shoulder pad of his lasgun, and swung it like a Warhammer. The full force of his physical strength slammed right into the Alien's jaw. Izuku turned with the weapon as it impacted the blue-skinned creature, and he watched it be flung right off its feet, and crash into the ground.
He didn't stop to see if he had knocked out or killed the alien – Though he doubted he'd killed it. The Tau might be physically weaker than a Human, but there was only so much force that he and a lasgun could send into the alien's jaw.
Apparently even that had been too much for his lasgun.
As he ran, he inspected his weapon – Striking the Xeno had damaged it. These weapons were cheap and dangerous enough to a Guardsman as it was – He decided that as far as combat went, his lasgun wasn't going to help him anymore. His combat knife would have to do. He threw the weapon aside in a trench, taking advantage of laving less to carry to try to move faster.
Skidding past the final dugout, Izuku finally found himself at the outpost. He saw the landing clearing.
He saw the final wave getting ready to leave.
Each one of them were already hovering, most already rising into the air to escape the war-torn world and redeploy their solders.
They were leaving.
On pure instinct, Izuku yelled out, and bolted right for the nearest troop carrier. The pilot couldn't see behind the ship – They had no idea that there was someone running to them. The doors hadn't even shut yet though.
The soldiers had seen the survivor though.
For the Imperium to even redeploy a unit before it had accomplished its objective. The sheer hostility of the ruthless galaxy required it to be a life of hardship and sacrifice. Life in the Guard was brutal. There were so many things that could get a Guardsman killed. Imperial life was cheap, and everyone involved in it knew it brutally well.
Perhaps that was something that, to a very minor extent, and some less than others, did invoke some semblance of empathy in their fellow Guardsmen.
Chariklo-class troop transports had manual overrides for the rear doors of the ship. They were an older model that was still used, but they were primarily cargo transports, re-purposed for this evacuation. One of the soldiers hit the retractor, causing the doors to stop folding up, and hang open.
The ship carried on rising though.
People were yelling for Izuku to run – to hurry, to get there before the ship took off and he was left behind.
Strength Izuku didn't even know he had surged into his legs. He ran.
The straps of his backpack were still slowing him down. The people in the carrier could see he hadn't abandoned his equipment like a coward. They saw it was maybe the only way he could get the additional speed he needed.
He undid the straps and let it fall behind him.
His arm reached out on instinct. The ship began to rise above his head.
One of the soldiers got onto his stomach, and held out their hand for him to grab – One final, desperate effort.
His hand clasped against the other Guardsman's. The carrier began to rise up higher from the ground.
Several other Guardsmen cheered – It was small, but it was possibly the closest thing to a victory over the Tau that they had come close to getting. Several others grabbed hold of the solider on the floor, trying to help him get to his feet, and by extension, get Izuku on board.
He'd made it.
"Hold on, mate!" Another soldier yelled, hanging onto the grip on the side of the carrier, and kneeling down to grab Izuku's other hand. "You're alright! Grab hold!"
Laughter was probably the last thing anyone in Izuku's position should have been doing, but he couldn't help himself. For the last hour he'd been convinced he was screwed. But he'd made it, somehow. Somehow, he had gotten home. He couldn't help it. He laughed.
Perhaps it was that arrogance, that sheer complacency, that belief he'd won that dictated what happened next. The belief that he had won. That he had survived. That the soldiers had saved him.
Had the Emperor been watching him? Had He guided His servant there, only to see the sheer arrogance on display? Had He been displeased that Izuku hadn't made sure that the Tau he'd run into had died?
Or was it just the hectic state of war? Pure chance? Bad luck?
Either way it didn't matter. Two things happened after Izuku laughed.
The first was the unleashing of another wall of Tau plasma fire in retribution for the payload of Imperial weapons that had just been launched from various craft – It was something that the Tau seemed to do unless they were shot at first, Izuku couldn't stop but notice, when it came to them firing on fleeing ships. Unless they were given reason to, the Tau would let them go. It had to be some sort of strategy in the alien mind that made no sense to anyone but them.
When fired upon though, they retaliated with ferocity. This was no exception.
The rounds that came to hit the carrier Izuku was hanging onto weren't intense. Not to start with, anyway. Some of them barely seemed to singe the steel of the craft. It wasn't until another one, from a higher calibre weapon, hit into the hull and shook the ship.
Second, the pain of his broken ribs shot up throughout his entire body again.
Until now, he'd just blocked it out the best that he could, focused far more on getting onto the ship. Now though, the sudden, violent jerking of the carrier sent all the pain he'd felt initially throughout him tenfold.
His body reacted on its own.
His hand opened.
He started to fall.
It all went in slow motion.
Izuku's eyed opened wider. He saw the soldiers reaching, trying to grab him.
He watched as the ship became smaller and smaller.
As the Guardsman climbed back in, and shut the door.
His means of escape leaving him behind on the Tau dominated world.
Landing wasn't a pleasant experience – His body slammed into the ground, but the kinetic energy that had picked up inside him wasn't close to being done. He bounced back up, spinning and skimming along the dirt for a solid distance before he finally came to a halt. The mud was wet – Water and blood. It was why he had somehow survived the fall.
Face up, he couldn't help but watch the ships just fly away without him. Leaving him here.
To his fate.
There was so much that went though his head. He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. He wanted to…. Do something, Anything. Something… There had to be some other way of getting off this planet, didn't there? There was no way he was just…. Left here.
He knew he was.
More than maybe anyone else in the entire Imperial Guard, he knew he was on his own. Each regiment had its own philosophies that hey abided by. Some regiments would believe even beyond all reason that they weren't alone. Some felt that the souls of their comrades were with them at all times. Some took comfort in those beliefs. Those ideologies.
Izuku knew though.
His knowledge. His job. His time as a Relayer. The time he spent learning. He knew the truth of the matter. He knew what the situation was now.
The Imperial Guard wouldn't send people to rescue one measly tithe-paid Guardsman. He didn't know what was going on either – For the Guard to leave in such a manner… He didn't even know what their plan was. Any possible chance that he might not be left behind faded very, very quickly.
He was alone. Left behind.
Above him, the ships disappeared into the clouds. He couldn't stop watching the retreat. He couldn't take his eyes away from it. He just… He couldn't. He'd been so close…
…What was he supposed to do now?
He wanted to cry, and wanted to scream – Loud enough that someone from orbit would hear him and send someone down to pick him up, if only to keep his quiet. He wanted to punch the dirt, as though to punish the planet itself for getting him into this situation in the first place by virtue of its mere existence. But he did none of those things. He got onto his knees, trying to pick himself up. Maybe… Maybe he could find a dugout somewhere. Hide for a while… Figure something out from there.
To be honest, he didn't know what to do. What came next. What… What he was supposed to do. The Guard hadn't done more than give him brief training, handed him a gun and told him to fight the enemies of Man. He didn't know the procedure. The advisement… But he wasn't done. He refused.
This wasn't the end.
It couldn't be.
He refused to let it be. He still….
He still had an Imperium to serve.
He heard the movement of the Xeno behind him.
He couldn't tell if he had acknowledge the creature behind him before now or if he was just now realizing that it was there. What he did know was that somehow, he wasn't even remotely surprised that it was here. He felt his teeth clamp down against each other.
This really was it, wasn't it?
Turning, he looked at the creature. He blinked a few times as he took in it's foul form. It wasn't a Tau.
Perhaps unique to them, the Tau Empire consolidated with other species, uniting them within its territory, and bringing them together to fight in the name of their ideology. What Izuku was looking at now wasn't a Tau, but one of those auxiliary forces. One Izuku didn't know.
Female. Humanoid. It had pink skin, and a set of horns jutting out of its skull. Black sclera. Outside of that, it looked almost completely Human, even down to the number of fingers. Still, it wore the uniform of the Tau military. It served them.
Which made it his enemy.
The Xeno didn't have its weapon held up in its hands. It was slung into its left hand, finger off of the trigger. Its helmet was off, dropped onto the ground as it looked down at the Human in front of it. Izuku couldn't see any real malice in the creature's stance of expression. He didn't know what he was looking at in the least.
It was alone though.
And it spoke.
"Gue'la." It said. "Do you intend to keep fighting?" It spoke perfect Low Gothic. Hearing the same language Izuku spoke come from an alien made his skin crawl.
All Izuku did was feel his breathing increase.
"Don't." It said. "I don't particularly want to fight you."
Izuku's fists balled up tight.
"There's no reason we have to fight any longer. Your people have left. Surrender, and you won't be harmed. I swear it on the Greater Good."
It offered its right hand.
Izuku looked at it.
The creature seemed to offer a small smile.
The Human attacked.
Many members of the Imperial Guard were issues melee weapons. The likelihood of getting into hand-to-hand combat was high in a galaxy which threw wave after wave of heretical aliens at their enemies, so melee weapons were some of the only ways to ensure that the Guard had any chance at being remotely efficient at their tasks. Some came in the form of bayonets. Some of the lucky ones got given Chainswords.
For his part, Izuku drew his serrated Trench Knife, and slashed at the Xeno.
It reacted quickly, jumping back, like it had expected such a violent reaction. The smile from it's face was gone, yet it didn't seem to exhibit any particular hostility still. Like it didn't give a damn. Izuku hated it.
His hands shook. His entire time on this planet, he hadn't managed to confirm a single kill against the Tau. He took down a drone, but they were replaceable. His bones ached as he remembered the recoil of the Bolt Pistol. He was one drone up, but no Xeno kills to speak of.
Perhaps that was why the Emperor had decided he stayed here. To kill at least one servant of the Tau Empire.
Left hand grabbed hold of the right one to try to steady the shaking, to little avail. Izuku's breath shook. The Xeno in front of him seemed to know that it was going to be a fight. It could have raised its weapon. It could have just shot him.
Instead it looked at the side of the weapon, frowned, and then tossed it aside. The plate that all Tau warriors had on their left shoulder – Izuku wasn't sure what purpose it served – Came off, and the Xeno equipped it into its own left hand. Like a shield it intended to fight him with.
Gripping his weapon tighter, Izuku did the only other thing he could think to do. He prayed.
"Almighty God Emperor…" He said, focusing on the words, the blade in his hands, and the alien in front of him. "Steel my hands and prepare me for war. Guide my actions, and grant me the strength to wipe out your enemies."
The Xeno just stood there, waiting for him to make the first move. As he spoke the prayer, he went through the three things one was supposed to do with aliens that the guard had beat into him.
Fear the Alien.
"In the holy Imperium that is your gift onto us, unworthy as we are for your blessing, grant me what I need to protect it from corruption… "
Hate the Alien.
"…And to cleanse the galaxy of your foes."
Kill the Alien.
Izuku lunged, slashing at the Xeno, aiming for its exposed head where he would be able to do the most damage. His attacks were uncoordinated, unspecific, and not at all difficult to read. The Xeno blocked each of his attacks with it's shield-plate, and the material it was made out of made his blade slide off like Luna butter.
Retaliation was swift – It struck the side of Izuku's head with it's shield, knocking him back and pushing him away, like it was trying to give itself distance from him.
"This is pointless, Gue'la!" It yelled at him. "Your leaders have left you here! There's no point in fighting still!"
It wasn't trying to kill him. Whatever it planned to do, it wanted him alive for it. Given the rumours of the Tau, how they fed their prisoners to their Kroot allies, let their Vespid subjects hunt them down for target practice – Izuku couldn't decide which was worse.
Lunging again, he repeated the same motions, desperate to land some sort of strike. With his free hand, he grabbed hold of the shield, flinging it outward to the creature's side, allowing him to lunge straight for its head.
The Xeno wasn't sought off guard by this though, and ducked to the side, evading the strike so all the Human slashed at was the air where it had used to be. It responded with a kick to Izuku's stomach, and by pushing him away again. This time with a lot more force. It had strength that exceeded the Tau, and Izuku's. Probably from a life spent in conflict the Human just did not have.
Following up, the Xeno charged him, swinging its shield towards him like a defensive Warhammer. Izuku has assumed that his head would have been the target, so he subconsciously moved around to defend his skull from the incoming strike which never actually came.
Instead, the Xeno struck at the Guardsman's hand, knocking the blade from his hand and sending it as far away as it could.
Briefly, Izuku panicked. Then he saw that the aliens guard was wide open.
He tackled it, attempting to knock it down onto the ground so he might have the advantage. The Xeno met his attempt head on though, grabbing hold of him and pushing back against his attempt. They wrestled one another, each attempting to punch and kick at the other until they found some kind of opening.
Izuku struck with his head, slamming his forehead against the Xenos jaw. Its teeth clashes against its lips, and blood jumped out.
He then struck with a left hook. The Xeno swung its shield around to block it. It was like punching a wall.
To do this though, it had to, however briefly, keep the shield away from Izuku's general direction, facing the incoming strike, rather than the opponent directly.
The Human rushed, using his hand to grab hold of the Xeno by the chest plate, and pushed himself off the ground, following through with his body-weight. He might be less weak, but he still had weight, and that was a weapon in of itself.
He got the jump on the Xeno with this. It was clear that it hadn't expected to suddenly deal with an increase in weight pushing down on them. It fell, and Izuku landed on top.
The Guardsman grabbed the nearest thing that he could – A rock – And raised it above his head.
Ready to strike.
"Gue'la! Mont'ela s'es, xes'ze s'ra!"
Sounds of movement and clattering quickly came followed. Izuku took his eyes off the pink alien and looked around. Tau. At least another five of them. Each of them aiming their weapons at him.
A few of them had their helmets off. Izuku could see the looks that they had. All were firm,
"Don't kill him!" The alien underneath him yelled at its comrades. "Al'aku ner'kera!"
A moment of absolute panic that ran through Izuku's head. The primal, basic, Human horror of being surrounded by enemies. His heart-rate increased. His blood ran hot, and his eyes jumped from Tau to Tau. Sweat ran down his brow, mixing in with the blood and dirt and other sweat which had piled up over the this entire battle. If ever there had been a chance for him to get away and preserve his life, it was long gone now. Lest the Emperor Himself come to defend him from the Xenos, this was where he was done. He was going to die here.
On this planet he didn't even know the name of. The one time the Guard actually decided to retreat, he had been left behind. And this…. This was what was going to happen to him?
After so many years of serving the Imperium back on Luna, next to the Throneworld…
This was how he died?
Izuku's breathing increased. He looked down at the Xeno beneath him. It didn't make any effort to move, even with its weapon in hands reach. It didn't flinch when he looked at it. It didn't budge. It didn't even look all that afraid of him. It looked like it was just waiting for him to move, to get off of it, and to put his hands up. Like it knew what was going to happen.
Izuku screamed. Then he swung.
Then one of the Tau fired.
And it all went black.
Somehow, Izuku knew, even with his eyes shut and his brain not receiving new information, that he wasn't dead. That just seemed to be a subconscious understanding that he had reached this time around. It didn't seem to matter though. He just… Was.
He dreamt. He was on another world. Cadia. A Fortress World. A famous one. Arguably the most famous one in the entire Imperium. He was there, in full Cadian regimental uniform, and armed with Cadian training. He was skilled in combat, even without the augmentation and blessings that the Space Marines had. Even they respected him.
In this world, he was a solider. He always had been. And he always would be.
A solider, worthy of respect. Of value. Of the Emperors peace, when the time came. And he didn't fear when that time came. He had been trained to accept that, as part of the plan that the Emperor had for all of Mankind, that he was just another cog in his plan. And that, he was… Fine with. It was simple. He understood.
There was an official coming to visit the world today. He wasn't sure who. All he knew was that it was someone who would no doubt bring new of the wider Imperium, and perhaps dole out assignments to the regiments. He was to be on parade, like the rest of the regiments in the area.
And so he was, right on time. Punctual, like a good solider. He watched as the spacecraft that brought down the important figure to the ground. He watched the figure come out of the ship.
The Xeno was pink.
Suddenly, everyone around him was blue.
All around him.
Talking in their alien language.
"Wake him up."
Electricity felt like it shot straight through all the blood of Izuku's body – It wasn't a painful sort, but it jolted right through him, and shot his eyelids right open. Immediately, they were in focus, his senses aware, instantly. There was no other way to describe it, other than a physical manifestation of going from zero-to-one-hundred in less than a second.
He jumped upright, and found himself in a room tinted with orange metallic walls, dim lights, and alien technology. It wasn't Imperial tech, and that much was evident before he'd even realized fact he was laying on some kind of metallic bed.
At his side, some sort of metallic arm was holding some sort of injector. Izuku only got a brief look at it though, before it folded itself up, and reinserted itself into it's casing on the wall.
'Patient is now awake.' A softly spoken, female voice seemed to originate from nowhere. Whatever it was, Izuku couldn't guess.
"Thank you, computer. Standby."
That voice, he did recognize.
"You really should leave this to the Water Caste, Shas'ui." Another voice. Far deeper than the first. "This isn't the job for the Fire Caste."
"I serve the Fire Warriors, not the Fire Caste. Besides, don't I outrank you, Shas'saal?"
"Of course. Forgive me, Shas'ui."
"Don't worry about it. I can't say I imagine the Water Caste'll be too happy about me doing their jobs for them anyway. Still…"
He stared at the only exit from the room he was in, only able to stand there and wait until the pink Xeno came into his vision. It did so out of the Tau military uniform, instead sporting what he could only assume to be customary for its kind – Some sort of half-vest half-combat padded vest with fur sewn in around the neck hole and the waist hole. Purple fur, against the blue vest.
They looked at one another for a few moments. The Xeno seemed to glance up and down at him, like it was assessing him for some kind of alien ritual. It seemed to focus on the many scars Izuku had all over his arms and hands, many a result of his working life on Luna, some from his recent combat with the Tau. For some reason, now, they didn't hurt as much.
"You're sealed in this room." It told him, factually. As though it had to prove it's point, the Xeno reached out, and moved her hand palm-first, like she intended to reach out to grab him. Instead, her hand was stopped, and a shimmer of light jumped out from the point her palm landed on, light cracking coming from it. "We've kept more dangerous species than you Gue'la in here. I can promise you you're not getting out of here."
Izuku stared down the Xeno. He had no intention of conversing with it.
It seemed to notice this. "You don't think you're the first Gue'la I've dealt with, do you? I've met a ton of your kind before." A pause. "You've already committed heresy by letting yourself be captured. I doubt the Emperor will care too much if you commit another crime against faith by talking to me."
"Don't you dare talk about the Emperor, Xeno!" Izuku spat, immediately regretting speaking to the alien. For a Xeno to even speak of the Emperor was a disgusting thought, but for them to dare to presume His intents and desires – There was no Human in the entire galaxy who wouldn't want to yell.
Clearly this Xeno understood that though. And used it against him easily, breaking down his stoic silence before he could even begin to mount that persona.
It was heresy to even speak to an alien. Anything less than kill on sight was an interaction the Inquisition could execute you on the spot for, lest you spread the alien's disturbed and warped ideology against Mankind.
The Xeno tilted its head. "Huh…. Usually it takes a little more than that at the very least. I had to at least poke to last guy before he tried to bite my head off. Literally. You guys have some weird people on the border."
"…What do you want." The Imperial Guardsman asked, defeated and sighing. As much as he wanted to fight back, he understood he was finished. He couldn't fight. He couldn't run. He didn't know even the first thing about Tau technology like this – He couldn't even begin to hazard a guess as to how to break anything within. He was trapped.
He was at their mercy. Whatever the Xeno wanted from him, he didn't have much of a choice but to go along with their whims, at least until they left him alone, or decided they were done with him.
That knowledge felt like a kick to the stomach.
"To talk, mostly." The Xeno said.
"I'm a Guardsman." Izuku explained, plainly. "I don't know even the first useful thing you people would want to know. I don't even know the name of the planet I was just on."
"In Low Gothic, Xeno."
"I don't know what your Imperium calls it."
"And nor do I. So, If I don't even know that, I'm not sure what else you think I'd know."
"I'm not interested in prying information out of you."
The Human let out a forced, bitter laugh. "You're just here for a chat then?"
"More or less."
"Is this some sort of Xeno game you play with the Humans you capture?"
The Xeno folded its arms and made direct eye contact with Izuku. Its black sclera made Izuku feel like he was looking into the void with only a single points of reference to go on. A piercing point of reference which made his guts shiver.
It took most of what little strength that he had not to look away – He refused to show any sort of weakness to this Xeno. If nothing else, he was going to make its life as difficult as possible. A petty, small form or revenge.
"You don't really want to be here, do you?" The Xeno asked. "In the Imperial Guard, I mean."
Izuku pulled his glare away immediately, looking instead at the ground intensely. "What… What I want is irrelevant. I have a duty to the God-Emperor and the Imperium. I don't have to explain anything else to you."
"Do all Humans have a duty like that?"
"Of course we do."
"Why don't I, then?"
This made Izuku look back, with another glare, but also a more a more quizzical look. "What in Holy Terra's name are you talking about?"
"Humanity is in just about every corner of the Galaxy. You're everywhere, and have been for millennia. Evolution doesn't let us stay the same though."
"…You're an Abhuman."
"Is this the part where you say I'm an affront to the God-Emperor's perfect form?" It asked, a hint of sarcasm in its tone. "He's my God, just as much as He is yours."
"You say that while you're fighting for the Xenos here."
"You're pretty vitriolic, aren't you?" The Xeno – The Abhuman noted, folding its arms. "Where exactly are you from? I'd say you're from the border worlds, but even they seem pretty reasonable in comparison."
"Ahhh…. You're from Terra's moon." The Abhuman nodded its head as this knowledge, like things began to make sense to it. "That explains it. You're not exactly used to seeing any aliens or Mutants, are you?"
"I worked as a Relayer, but I had access to the storage units and archives. I know enough." His eyes narrowed, and skimmed over the Abhumans person once more. "…I don't think I've seen any records of Abhumans like your kind."
"…" Izuku blinked at that name.
"My people have a sense of humour." The Xenosian clarified, like she had seen this reaction a lot of times. "The Imperium found us centuries ago. Didn't like that we 'strayed from the Emperor's form', but we're pretty good at building ships and using all planetary resources in a utilitarian way, so we were contracted by them for the time. The Tau found us, offered us a place in the Empire a few centuries ago, and we took it. So here I am. Decided to call ourselves Xenosians mostly to tick off the Imperium since they never treated us much better than aliens. Aside from letting us live, I suppose."
"So, you betrayed the Emperor." Izuku simplified.
"The Imperium betrayed us." The Abhuman argued. "I believe in Him. Most Xenosians do. We're just not pious enough to let ourselves be wiped off the face of the galaxy." Its eyebrows lowered. "Humans don't really give us a lot of choice. You were going to kill me, weren't you? Even after I offered you an out… Twice."
Izuku just shook his head. He turned and sat back down, keeping his gaze firmly on the metal ground beneath him. "…So, what happens now? This some sort of Tau or Xenosian ritual? Am I going to be dropped on some asteroid or jungle planet while your drones hunt me for sport? Or am I a victory execution?"
"You Imperials don't have a lot of cheer, do you." The Xenosian flatly noted. "First off, you realize you're not the only Human on this ship, right? Lots of your kind surrendered or got taken captive on Fio J'karra."
"How would I? I'm stuck in this cell."
"Fair point. Secondly, no, you're not being executed in some… Weird ritual. That's not how we do things."
"So what is happening?"
"We're taking you all to T'olku Sept. You'll meet with the Ethereal Caste and… Well, what happens after that will be up to you."
"…Tell me something." The Xenosian crouched down, so it could see Izuku's face. "What's the Imperium done to deserve your loyalty?"
Izuku glared back. "It's not about what the Imperium's done for me. The Imperium is a gift from the Emperor - To turn your back on it is heresy!"
"Anything less than a hundred percent fundamental belief is heretical?"
"It questions Mankind's destiny that's been set out before us."
"I was under the impression the Emperor wanted what was best for Humanity."
"And whats best for Humanity is a galaxy free of Xenos and traitors."
"Orks and Tyranids I can get."
"…Suppressing the facts from the masses. That's a great way to make sure everyone knows what to prepare for." Muttered the Xenosian. "I can get that who genocide thing with dangerous aliens that threaten Humanity – But I don't get what, say, the Tarellians did to you."
"So am I. The Tau are. But despite what your Imperium thinks, we've not come in, murdered every last one of you, and then moved onto the next world. We've let Humans go even when we could have crushed them. We've helped Humans when we've had to. We take prisoners and treat them well – Who do you think cleaned you up and took care of your wounds?"
For a moment, conversation paused as Izuku felt at his forehead and at his cheeks. He hadn't even thought to consider his physical state because he hadn't felt any pain at all to call attention to it. What was said was true – The cut he had sustained that had knocked him out the first time was gone. A small indent in his skin was present – A scar, most likely – But it was minor. No blood nor dirt covered him.
One hand pressed against his ribs gently, before he tested it more closely by hitting it with the same hand. No pain whatsoever – The Xenos had healed that too.
"Doesn't really seem like something evil Xenos would do, does it?" The Xenosian asked. Its tone had changed somewhat – It sounded more…
Not smug, and not condescending. But more… It was hard to describe.
"…Thanks. I suppose." Izuku muttered. "But that doesn't… Mean anything."
"You never did answer my question."
"I don't know how yours or Tau minds work."
"I meant about the Guard. You don't strike me as a solider." A paused. "Yet, anyway. You'd have potential if you were trained, but you don't seem like someone with a whole lot of military training."
"…Luna was overpopulated." Izuku explained. "They needed to reduce the number of people living there. Relayers are cheap to come by. So I got taken to a ship and ended up here."
"Given your interstellar travel technology, I guess it makes sense. Luna's far away but… Well, you're here. You seem to be able to get from one end of the galaxy to another pretty fast."
"I don't understand how it works. I was on a need-to-know basis. Most of the Imperial Guard is."
"For situations like this, I take it."
"I didn't need to know why I didn't need to know."
"But you didn't want to be a soldier?"
"…No." Izuku finally admitted. "Well, maybe. I would have liked to have trained. I met some Cadians once… They made it look like a good life. Maybe if I'd gotten the chance to train with them…"
"…Tell me about Luna." The Xenosian said. It sat down on the floor with crossed legs, and open, eager eyes. "Everyone on Xenosia's heard stories about the Throneworld, but never about Luna."
Initially, Izuku paused. He wasn't really sure why he was even talking to this Xeno – Abhuman – Whatever it was supposed to be. It kept asking, so he finally broke and talked to her – Perhaps because there was little else to do, and he was captive. He should have told her to go away, and refused to say anything more.
He didn't though. Instead, he let out a small sigh, and remembered things about his home Hive City.
However long it was he spent talking about Luna, Izuku didn't feel long. Maybe a few hours? He couldn't really say. Time moved differently behind a cell, he noticed.
He explained just about everything about his homeworld that he could think about – The over crowdedness, the cramped living conditions… But also the beautiful simplicity of it. The barren landscape one could see of the surface of Luna when in an above-surface section of the Hive. The star-lit sky, and the ships he could see and wonder where they were going and who was on them.
No lies were stated – Nothing he said would endanger anyone in the Imperium. And he did have fondness for his home. All peoples did.
The Xenosian did – Mina, it…
…Her, name was.
One thing did confuse him, and it wasn't until they were halfway through their conversation that he thought to ask.
"Why are you even talking to me?" He had asked. "I'm Human. I'm a prisoner. What do you even hope to gain from this?"
"…You remind me of me." The answer had come. "Being angry and afraid – I grew up during an Ork invasion in my home system. Lots of us were angry and scared… If it wasn't for the Greater Good, I don't think I'd be here."
"The Greater Good?"
"Everyone in the Tau Empire has a place. A valuable, vital place. We all had our own part to play, and the support fleet that came to help us had its own part to play. If we had fallen into self-service, I think the Orks would have killed all of us. We all had to find it… And when we did, we were able to beat back the invasion. We grew up scared until we found our place in the Empire."
"And I remind you of that?"
"Can't say I was… Particularly fond of aliens either. Kind of hard to be when you grow up under siege by Greenskins." Mina admitted. It sounded like something she was almost ashamed of. "It's not easy to disassociate yourself with that when it's all you've known."
"And you think that's applicable to me?"
That had made Izuku pause.
Tau society was divided into Five Castes, Izuku learned. The Fire Caste, the Earth Caste, the Air Caste, Water Caste, and the Ethereal Caste.
Less restrictive than the many worlds in the Imperium that had caste systems, though they were just as strict. Each caste had so many jobs and roles within it that most people in Tau society were going to be able to find something that they were good at or that they liked, and could contribute to in some way.
The Earth Caste were the builders and engineers, the Air Caste were the Navy and messengers, the Water Caste were the diplomats and negotiators, and the Fire Caste were the warriors – Those were the Tau Izuku had run into in the battlefield. The Fire Warriors.
Above them were the rulers, the Ethereal Caste. The ones who had propagated this 'Greater Good' ideology the Xenosian had spoken of. T'olku, he learned, was a world where the Ethereals had used the many castes work together to create something that showed off the best of their society.
It was hard to say that it hadn't succeeded.
Their allies – The Auxiliaries – Weren't subjected to such a system. In fact, they were granted the ability to retain their own culture and customs. So long as they didn't conflict with the Greater Good. And they had been of assistance on this planet, Izuku had been told.
The ship that he was on came equipped with panels that were connected to the outside of the ship. They slid down, to reveal a sturdy, transparent window, which showed off huge cities in orbit around the planet, some armed with weapons Izuku couldn't even conceive, and many that were there for little more than living space for the various Tau and their allies. Battleships patrolled around and between them, keeping the world safe. Enormous ships, and enormous stations.
Compared to Imperial ships, they were quite small, but they were titanic in their own right. Izuku got the feeling any one of these could give an Imperial cruiser a run for its money. With so many of those in orbit around Fio J'karra, it was no wonder the Imperial Navy couldn't provide more support. It was hard not to at the very least, give the Xenos credit for such a fleet.
As the ship lowered onto the world below, the sights of the temples of T'olku came into sight.
Enormous sprawling cities that spanned continent to continent encompassed the entirety of the world, huge temples towering over each one of them. Islands were built up into enormous elevators that reached into the orbit of their world, cities and structures surrounding them. No inch of this world was wasted. Yet it was also a tropical paradise – Like the old books said Terra used to be.
Greenery jumped off of nearly every building, adding a natural element to the urbanized world. This was the most evident on the enormous temples, where entire trees grew, like a miniature ecosystem atop an immense megastructure. The work of the Earth Caste, if Izuku understood Tau society correctly. Connected to each city was a series of Water Caste stations, like there would be countless communication stations in space to each world that the Tau owned.
Inside the temples, the Ethereal Caste would co-ordinate and optimize efficiency within this world – The Sept, Mina called it. From there, they would co-ordinate with other Septs to move their forces to where they were most needed.
It was a lot like how the Imperium did things. Only more organized.
And with far more advanced technology.
The ship began to land, and the buildings began to tower over the Human. He realized just how big they truly were. And how small he was compared to them.
"Alright." Mina said, once the pair of them felt the ship made contact with the solid rock below. She then hit a couple of buttons against the wall to Izuku's cell, and steps aside, to guide him where to go. Her sidearm was in her hand at all times. "Come on. The Ethereal and Water Caste's'll be meeting with you."
"What're they going to want?"
"You'll be given a few options. What you take is entirely up to you." Mina said plainly. "All I did was tell you a bit about the Tau Empire, and show you a few things the Imperium's wrong about. I just followed the Greater Good in my own way. What happens next is all you."
Anxiously, Izuku stepped out of his cell, and looked around. Mina nodded her head down a particular corridor, gesturing for him to head down it.
For a brief moment, he considered rushing her. It would be the right thing to do in terms of the Imperial Cult. He dismissed it quickly though – It wouldn't work. He'd be gunned down just about instantly, and even if he somehow wasn't, there was no way he was going to get off this planet.
Bedsides. Perhaps he was just tired more than anything… But he didn't particularly want to rush her. He felt no reason to. It wasn't necessary.
Not that he had a whole lot of other choices, but… He'd see where this went.
He turned, and went down the corridor he had been told to go.
"…Did you want to be a soldier?" He asked the Xenosian as they walked. He could feel that she had her sidearm aimed at him, in case he tried anything. It was strange, but he didn't feel any threat from her, like he just knew that she wasn't going to shoot unless he tried anything.
They walked through one of the doorframes into another corridor. Other prisoners were being led out, some putting up more of a fight, while some had to be dragged out because they refused to move. Many just went along with it. Izuku wondered if other Tau had been talking to them as the Xenosian had been to him.
"Not particularly." Mina admitted. "But I had to be given how I grew up. It's pretty much all I'm good at, so, I work with the Fire Warriors. Its about all I can think to contribute to the Greater Good."
Izuku scanned over the other Humans. He recognized a few faces – Not names, but faces. People who had been in his battalion. One person he recognized from the dropship that had landed him at Fio J'karra. The expressions on their faces varied, though most were clearly anxious and horrified at the prospect of what these Tau could do to them now that they were deep in their Empire.
"Say, why didn't you just stun me?" Izuku asked. He wasn't sure why he was talking or asking questions – At this point, it was the only thing he could think to do. He didn't want to be left to his thoughts as he was marched out.
"Didn't have a stun weapon." Mina plainly answered. "Would have done, but the assault was moved up. I just grabbed whatever was available."
"And... why can I understand all the alien languages?"
"Universal translators. You didn't think to ask this earlier?"
"Xeno'vesa." From ahead, a Tau in a dark green variation of the Fire Warriors battle armour stepped forward. It had a differed pattern on its shoulder pad than the one Mina wore. Izuku didn't understand why.
"Gue'vesa'ui." The Xenosian acknowledged, nodding and standing up a bit straighter.
"You have anything to report on this one?" It asked, pointing towards Izuku.
"I… Think he's suitable. If he's interested."
"Me?" Izuku asked, looking between Mina and the Tau.
"Which colony is he from? Anywhere nearby?"
"No. He's from Luna."
Said green-coloured tau looked at Izuku intensely, causing the Human to swallow a mouthful of spit he hadn't realized he had. He could feel the glare, even when all the face of a Tau's helmet showed off was a series of blinking lights.
The Tau then removed its headgear – And revealed it was no Tau at all.
It was a Human.
"You're from the Throneworlds moon?" They asked. A Male Human, with blonde hair.
Izuku blinked, and felt his eyes open up. "You're… Human."
The Human smiled, like he was glad to welcome a fellow Human. "Welcome to T'olku Sept."
That had been, in all likelihood, the most definitive hours of Izuku's life, from the moment he was captured on Fio J'karra, and the journey to the Sept world, and the conversation he had on the way.
All had a place in the Tau Empire.
There were few resources as valuable as life within the Tau Empire – Everyone had something that they had to contribute to the larger Tau society, regardless of caste, world, or species. Everyone had something to contribute, all across the cosmos. Every world had a part to play. Everyone, and everything.
All for the Greater Good.
A belief that working together, all peoples could benefit one another, and work towards prosperity. That working as a single entity, they could take on the entire galaxy, even in the face of all the dangers it exhibited, all the hostility that it emitted every single day. They could construct structures that dwarfed worlds and moons.
The contrast to the beliefs and attitudes of the Imperium were stark, to put it mildly.
How many worlds did the Imperium bother to terraform like this? To bring valued scientists to a world just to turn it into a lush paradise, carefully crafted to support an overflowing population? To build up an entire new culture, to contribute to the greater whole?
Izuku looked out at the lifeless rocks of Aloh'Doran. Soon each and every one of them would be covered in grass and water, genetically modified to suit this climate and provide for the people who would come to live here. In a few years, where he stood could be the foundations of a new Sept. It's moons, perhaps not terraformed, but sprawling with domes and secure passages, and in orbit around those, cities for habitation, and defensive networks to protect the world.
A part of him had initially been anxious about the possibility of joining the Tau Empire and the Greater Good. It was hard to deny the splendour and impressive feats that the T'olku Sept had achieved, but the Tau were Xenos. The enemy of Mankind – The enemy Izuku had fought.
But it had been the Ethereal Caste which had asked him how serving the current Imperium helped it to become better. How what he did helped it in any way. How he was of any use to anyone – Never mind his Emperor – When he was dead. How such a government could take someone who was good at their job near the Throneworld because they felt that he had no value.
People who didn't even begin to comprehend the will of the Emperor. If the Emperors will was for the betterment of Humanity, how did throwing so many lives away benefit it?
How did taking away valuable workers from any world and sending them to die light years from home help serve the Emperors will?
How did the Imperium benefit Mankind like it was?
Perhaps it was the knowledge that he had had, and the fact he was now, for the first time, being truly challenged on it, that he considered, and thought that really, he didn't have an answer to explain how it helped the Emperor. How it helped Mankind.
Maybe it was the knowledge he had acquired, or the combat that he'd seen, or the context of the knowledge now that he'd seen how the Imperium treated its soldiers in active conflict – As expendable pawns to be used and thrown away without regard. It was easy to justify and detach the billions and billions of lost lives, and lives sacrificed in the name of the wider Imperium when it came through stacks of paper, or through a screen. After living through it… Izuku couldn't detach himself anymore.
How did destroying entire Human settlements in the inner Imperium help Humanity survive?
How did leaving people behind help the wider Imperium?
How did treating life like a commodity benefit the Emperors goals?
How did it even obey His will?
As a Relayer, as a servant of the Imperium, Izuku had felt that knowing this had made him understand the truth face of the galaxy. But forced to question it when faced with Xenos who did what the Imperium was supposed to be, without the copious violence, destruction, and massive, grievous casualties, just to hold onto a few insignificant planets…
When those questions came, Izuku found there were no answers. Nothing he could think of that made this all okay – That could make him look the Xenos in the eye and tell them that death was preferable to being in their presence. But they brought up points he couldn't ignore.
He tried. But he couldn't. What they said made sense.
And told him that he could serve the Imperium better by serving the Greater Good.
By helping to liberate it from selfish people who had only themselves in mind. By helping to save those the Imperium deemed impure. By fighting the evil that they emitted. By fighting against those what had bastardized what the Emperor had wanted to create for Humanity.
It hadn't taken a lot to convince Izuku to join the Greater Good.
All with the belief that his actions might be antithetical to the Imperium, but would serve the goal of the Emperor better – To create a galaxy where Humanity could prosper without fear of eradication.
He wasn't the only one who had joined the Tau that day. There were many others who had joined their captors as new allies, inspired by their ideology, and feeling a sense of purpose here.
Even right now, Izuku watched Kirishima speak with the Earth Caste engineers – How he had survived the battle at Fio J'karra, Izuku had never fully understood. Kirishima was pious to the Machine God and the Omnissiah, and saw the Tau as being closer to the Machine God that the Mechanicus – He didn't explain any further – Izuku wasn't a member of the Machine Cult, so explaining to him would be an affront. The same excuse as back in the trenches. The Martian's religion was confusing and why he joined was a mystery, but it was good to see a friendly face after the battle. And Kirishima had embraced the Greater Good just as much.
It certainly helped that their worship of the God Emperor wasn't restricted in any way. The re-education for that had been overseen by Humans who had joined years before. As it turned out, it wasn't even all that hard to separate the xenophobic tendencies from the worship of the Emperor.
The Emperor's will dominated all in the Human race. That was one of the most fundamental beliefs that the Imperial Cult had – That what the Emperor willed, someone, somewhere, would do so. That the Emperor influenced all of Mankind, leading them down certain paths that would benefit their race. Every person born, every post assignment, every world any regiment landed on – It was all part of the Emperor's plan.
So, it had to be by His will Izuku had even ended up here, didn't it?
It was how he felt, the more he considered things. It was how so many Humans in the Empire began to feel – That they were here to carry out some sort of plan as ordained by the Master of Mankind.
His T'olku green armour protected him as he traveled with the Tau to various Septs – Se'cea, Dal'yth, Tau'n, and even the Tau home world, T'au Sept itself on occasion. Wearing it felt right, like it fit him, and was supposed to be his. He had met others, Human and Xeno, who sided with the Tau. He met Humans born into the Greater Good, and Xenos who adopted it as a righteous philosophy.
T'olku was a Sept that specialized in educating those ignorant to the Greater Good. The green armour he wore was a symbol of that, and representative of what he stood to do.
"What're you thinking about?"
Izuku opened his eyes to see the Xenosian girl looking towards him with a raised eyebrow and folded arms. Mina had been assigned to his Sept and his unit, citing an injury that needed her to take it easy for a while. She joined the Sept after she grew to adore its customs – And it wasn't like they fought against invaders less. Still they were called into battle, and still they served.
"Just… Home." Izuku answered.
"Y'mean Ter'neva?" Or T'olku?"
"No." Izuku shook his head. Ter'neva was the rouge planet that acted like a new home world for Gue'vesa – Human Helpers of the Tau Empire – That laid within the jurisdiction of the T'olku Sept. It was where he lived when not on duty, like many Gue'vesa. "I meant Luna. And everything back before I joined the Empire."
"Nah." Izuku smiled. "Just… Thinking how different things would have been if I'd ended up somewhere else."
"Well you wouldn't really be sat on a dead planet while the Earth Caste tries to figure out how to play God with the place."
The Human laughed. "True enough. But if I was still in the Imperium, I'd be living on a dead world, just hoping to the Emperor that the windows of seals don't crack and drag everyone in the Hive into space."
"Fair point." Mina agreed, nodding her head, and sitting next to him. She yawned. "How long d'you reckon it'll take them to figure out how to start with this place?"
"If I know the Earth Caste, not long. Then they'll have to go back to T'au to actually build whatever they need."
"That'll get annoying once we start getting further away from the capital."
"I think this place is supposed to be a research world. So we don't have to keep escorting them back."
"Good." The Xenosian glanced out the window to watch the Earth Caste go about their work. "We're gonna need to be able to move stuff quick, and get as many planets colonized soon."
"Nem'yar Atoll's deep in Imperium space." Izuku noted, nodding his head. "If it's habitable, the Imperium has a colony on it. We're already running out of already inhabitable worlds… Terraforming and space stations and worlds like this are going to be important as we cut deeper into the Imperium."
"Reckon we've got good odds?" Mina asked, looking back to him. "You lived there. You've gotta have an opinion."
The Imperium was vast – It nearly spanned the entire galaxy. Quadrillions upon quadrillions of Humans lived, fought, and died by the word of those in charge of the immense interstellar empire of Mankind. Something that size had so many resources, from every corner of the galaxy. People who were so deep into the Imperial Cult, they would fight and die, and kill and destroy in the name of the Emperor.
Izuku knew more than anyone that the Imperium was a force of absolute horror. They would be faced with a huge, immense war of attrition, for every single world they took, every fleet they encountered, and every regiment that they had to fight.
He wasn't under any illusions that the Imperium was going to fight the Tau Empire for as long as possible. That no matter how they went about it – No matter how many worlds they convinced to join them, no matter whatever else the Imperium was fighting, they were going to push them back.
But did he think they had a chance?
In the years Izuku had spent in the Tau Empire, he'd seen so much, and met so many people. People he had come to regard as friends – Human and Xenos. He'd seen them fight against the Imperium on the borders, and had watched as their technology improved, their battle doctrine evolved, and more and more people joining the Empire, Izuku had to admit.
He did think there was a shot.
It would be a harsh war, and would probably be something that took centuries before the Tau finally pushed the Imperium far enough to seek some sort of settlement. Even then, it wouldn't ever really be peace – The Imperium would fight and push until it was forced to change. Quite possibly until they were forced to accept the Greater Good.
Tau technology could – Maybe, just maybe - Save the Emperor though. And who knew what would happen if that happened.
It was possible. It would be a hard time, but it was possible.
And perhaps more than that… He felt obligated to fight for this possibility.
Finally separating himself from the emotions that he'd associated with the Imperium, and letting himself look at the wider picture, he knew that Mankind's Empire was destined to fall, to collapse, and that Humanity would fall along with it.
He loved the Imperium. He loved Humanity, and he loved the Emperor. His choice to because a traitor was routed in that belief. Because no one inside the Imperium was going to do it.
The Tau Empire was where he belonged. For the good of the Human race. For the Good of the Emperor.
Izuku nodded, and smiled. "For the Greater Good of the Imperium."
It's been a while since I wrote something this long – I had a lot of fun with the two franchises I've merged here, but my God this was an exhausting task which I really should have wrapped up months ago. So I apologize for the lack of other updates, but I've had this one on my mind and wanted to get it done before I lost track of it again.
I tried to be as close to the lore as I could, but given how fragmented lore is in the 41st Millennium, I've had to make up a few things and put in some of my own interpretations into the universe. I hope it works well
A big thank you has to go to DragonStoneH for giving me the excuse to write this goliath and self-indulgent thing, and for doing this trade with me – I don't expect anything to this gargantuan size for my part of the trade (Because you'd have to be insane to do something at this size for a fucking fic trade :D) but be sure to check out his work – He's done really neat Izumina stuff, like Dragon Age And Mass Effect crossovers which I enjoy very much (On Ao3)
If you did enjoy this, I have both a twitter and Tumblr - both under the name QuirkQuartz, as usual - I'm active on them both, and I usually post updates and links and promote stuff there
Thank you all for joining me on this look into the 40K universe, indulging me in this insanity, and I'll see you in whatever I do indeed decide to make next – See ya!