In the Wake of War

Shas'o T'au Kais looked over the reeducation camp, his face set in a grim line. The planet—once known as Kronus, now called Tau'va'ro'cha—looked strange without the filters of his stealth suit; the natural light still looked a little too orange to him, when compared to the yellower sun of T'au. The heat was comforting, at least; here in the desert, he felt like the simple armor he wore provided just the right amount of warmth. That was why the camp had been placed this far from a major settlement—if the gue'la had to be forced out of their homes, they could at least be in a comfortable environment. O'Kais still was not sure why the humans clustered so much in the cooler areas of the planet.

A voice came from O'Kais' right. "Something troubles you, my friend. It is clear in your face."

O'Kais turned to meet the gaze of Aun'el T'au Shi'ores, the Ethereal who had supported him so much on the long campaign to reclaim the planet; O'Kais almost felt like Shi'ores was a friend, or as much a friend as one of the Ethereals could be to one of the elemental castes. "Forgive me, but you speak the truth. I remain… uneasy about what will happen on this world."

Shi'ores watched the Fire warrior steadily, face and voice remaining carefully neutral. "You refer to our plans for the population of this world? As I recall, you came up with at least some of them."

O'Kais sucked air in sharply—a gesture he had picked up from some of the human auxiliaries, he distantly recalled. "Yes, I did—I believe the reeducation camps are a requirement for our continued sovereignty on Tau'va'ro'cha. You know as well as I how many supposedly-loyal humans fled into the arms of our enemies when we were invaded. Loyalists to the Imperium were bad enough, but the mont'au'gue'la..."

The Ethereal raised a hand to pause O'Kais. "I agree completely, old companion; I saw the same ravages that you did. It will take many generations to cleanse the Deimos peninsula—and before you start," he continued, overriding the statement O'Kais had been about to make, "I still refuse to bombard it from orbit. As much as I trust your judgment, I simply cannot allow that much destruction for so little gain. The nicassar will purge the peninsula, not the Air caste. Just be glad that they will do the same to the Eres Badlands, as you asked."

O'Kais gave a small nod to the Ethereal, still clearly disappointed by the decision. "No good will come of that place. But to return to my true concerns, I agree that the reeducation camps are a necessity. I also have no objection to the immigration of kroot and tau—this world will serve the Empire well, and the kroot deserve some reward for their good service during the war. But must we restrict reproduction in the human population?"

Shi'ores was silent for a time, leaning heavily on his staff of office. "As you said, I know as well as you do how many of the humans fled to our foes during the war. Their treason cost many citizens of the empire their lives. It raises questions about how much those humans under our rule can be trusted; many seem enthusiastic in adopting the Greater Good, but when presented with the brutal ways of their Imperium, or the selfish beliefs of Chaos, they regress into their old barbarity. The events of the war raise questions throughout the empire; I can only answer those that apply to this world. It is my belief that if we wish to keep Tau'va'ro'cha for ourselves, we must be willing to accept that its human population must be made negligible. It will not be made nonexistent—those gue'vesa who remained loyal to us will not be affected. They will remain free of the single-sex camps, and they will not be subject to sterilization. Humans will continue to live here, but it will only be the most loyal of them, and they will be surrounded by members of the Empire whose credentials and loyalties are undisputable. Do you see a flaw in my reasoning?"

O'Kais' reply was slow in coming. "No, Aun'el, I see no flaw. It simply seems… extreme. It does not seem like the way of the Greater Good."

Shi'ores nodded sympathetically, reaching out to place a hand on his friend's shoulder. "The Greater Good calls for sacrifices—sacrifices that I know you have been able to make, however little it may please you. This is my sacrifice; I must bear the guilt of my decision here for the rest of my days. I take comfort, however, in the knowledge that the sacrifice will not be in vain—and so, too, should you, Shas'o Kais Mont'ka'va."

O'Kais grimaced at the new name the troops had given him sometime during the campaign. "I do not deserve that name."

"You do, my friend. It suits you well; you know to strike swiftly and strike hard, to bring your troops to victory. Now, however, it is time to think about the slow pace of things—the long time we hope to rule this world. While I mean you no offense, friend, I believe that this is not a matter to which your skills can best apply."

A slight chill had entered the Ethereal's voice, and O'Kais simply nodded, not wishing to push the matter further. The two looked out over the reeducation camp, where it seemed the detainees were performing exercises; human males of all ages ran around the edge of the compound. To O'Kais, they looked disconcertingly similar to the Imperial Guardsmen of Victory Bay, who had charged at his troops in the last desperate minutes of the battle with fire in their eyes and a warcry on their lips.

Aun'el Shi'ores broke the silence first. "I had hoped for a more auspicious time to give you the news, but this seems as good a time as any. I have recommended to my superiors that you be assigned to further offensive operations on the Empire's frontlines; your talents are wasted on police work and garrisons. Your cadre will receive its allotted free time; after that, you will be sent to a new world to continue applying the Mont'ka to our foes. I expect you to present me with the name of your successor in that time."

O'Kais was slow to reply, his mind busy processing the news. "I see. Thank you, Aun'el; I will name my replacement shortly. If we are finished…?"

"Of course, you are a busy person. It has been good working with you, O'Kais." Shi'ores clenched his fist and brought it to his chest in the Fire caste's gesture of salute. O'Kais did the same in kind, then bowed, before turning and making his way back to the small speeder that had brought him to this area from his cadre's headquarters in Pavonis. The Ethereal went to his own, much more ostentatious vehicle, which would return to Or'es Tash'n.

As the Fire caste warrior left, he threw one last look at the reeducation camp. The men had been divided into groups, and were now playing some sort of team sport that involved a tiny speck of white (presumably some kind of ball) getting kicked about. With the Etheral out of hearing range, O'Kais spoke softly to himself. "I came to this world to save you from yourselves, gue'la. So many brave warriors fell for your sake. Have I led the force that will be your extinction?"

With that question left hanging in the desert air, Shas'o T'au Kais Mont'ka'va climbed into his vehicle and started it before speeding off, followed by the ghosts that had been created by this detestable world of Kronus.