======FOR INQUISITORIAL EYES ONLY=====
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From the Records of Inquisitor John Finn, Ordo Xenos
On the Disposition of the Shadow Colony of the Tau, Called Uon’tas or Mercy’s Fall
Following the events of the Damocles Crusade, the greater body of Tau personnel in the colony had been eliminated; estimates after the fact, taking into account the extraordinary expansion rates the Tau are known for, place the total population at a level of no more than 1.5 billion individuals, with the Fire Caste in particular being particularly underrepresented due to casualties during the Crusade. Documents obtained by agent [REDACTED] from internal communiques indicate battlesuit pilot casualties nearing 80% of the active force, including those effectively lost to long-term injuries, missing in action, or desserted. Other branches of the Fire Caste, while suffering somewhat lower rates of attrition (as battlesuits often formed the spearhead of many deployments and enacted the most dangerous of operations during the Crusade’s course) still ranged above 60% in all cases.
The crisis was not, of course, limited to the Fire Caste as the cyclonic torpedoes had caused immeasurable damage to the planet’s ecology and only emergency rationing and cohesive efforts to cultivate alternate food sources and methods saved the planet from mass starvation. In light of this fact, plus the colony’s newfound isolation from the Tau homeworlds, a rapid expansion of the population and training program was simply out of the question. Though the agricultural industries were pushed to the brink of their ability just to maintain the status quo, Uon’tas’s heavy industry was not so afflicted- much of it was based in the system’s two asteroid belts or otherwise spacebound and it had suffered little in the conflicts, for the Iron Hands could spare no forces to strike at targets of opportunity while they were so heavily occupied prosecuting a war in the main theatre of the conflict. Thus it was that Uon’tas embraced the mechanization and automation of as much of its defenses as possible; new doctrines emphasized rapid strikes from Devilfish transports and Crisis spearheads supported by other fast-moving elements; never again would Uon’tas deploy cadres of troops on foot to meet the enemy, as it simply lacked the manpower to force such a strategy.
This insufficiency of manpower manifested itself in another radical change in Tau doctrine: the integration of military branches. Several times during the conflict the division between elements of the Tau “army” (i.e. the Fire Caste) and “navy” (i.e. Air Caste) had caused delays in information, widespread miscommunication, and inter-service bickering that resulted in costly defeats. Moreover, the pilots of the Air Caste were simply better-suited to certain sorts of tasks and showed a natural aptitude for the piloting of low-to-medium altitude skimmers thanks to their exceptional spatial cognition and awareness as well as their resistance to G-forces and nausea resulting from disorientation. This was not a truly revolutionary tactic, as the Air Caste had been piloting skyborne vehicles in support of the Fire Caste’s war efforts since the very beginning of the Tau expansion, but under the orders of Shas’o Y’vasre the program was expanded to include many of the Tau’s light- and medium-weight skimmer vehicles as well as select duties in battlesuit piloting. The latter, an otherwise-unthinkable move, was prompted by Y’vasre’s experiences fighting alongside members of the Air Caste during the brutal battles in orbit around the planet to cripple the Strike Cruisers and other planetary assault vessels holding in close proximity. Having seen the bravery, dedication, and aptitude of the other castes with her own eyes- and lacking enough personnel to make use of the the full industrial output of the factories that were churning back to life- Y’vasre chose to take a combined-arms approach to rebuilding her cadres and had a select handful of personally-chosen members of the Air Caste that had distinguished themselves during the Crusade rushed through an improvised “retraining” course to give them the basics of battlesuit operation in as short a time as possible.
Orbital Strike 1st Cadre, Command and Special Actions Section
The 1st Cadre of Uon’tas’s planetary defense forces is most commonly organized to be a first-strike/expeditionary group, used to hit enemies before they have even come within sight of the colony and cripple them prior to reaching orbit (ref. MMJ834888339057340-001, “Waaagh Grimtrukka”). All suits in the cadre have been modified for aerial and orbital combat and are usually deployed via close flybys from sensor-baffled Air Caste support vessels to strike directly at the heart of the enemy, crippling them with a volley of fire as they land and quickly sweeping through the confused and dispersed remnants.
SHAS’O UON’TAS PER’DA Y’VASRE
The Commander of the 1st Cadre and currently one of the highest-ranking officers remaining in the Fire Caste following the debacle at Paradise City, Y’vasre (roughly translated: “piercing eye”) is an aggressive and daring leader and is most often found in the thick of battle commanding her troops, as she is still uncomfortable with being thrust into a a position of rank and disdains most of the formalized titles and honors of someone of her station. Where some Tau officers use strategies of ambush or luring, Y’vasre practices a more unusual style; her experiences fighting the great masses of the Imperium’s war machine have taught her a dear lesson- that Uon’tas cannot hope to win any fight in which her cadres trade materiel for materiel with the enemy. Though such a strategy might win a battle, or even a war, it can only result in eventual defeat as the Tau forces are ground to dust beneath a relentless tide of wave upon wave of Imperial reinforcements. Thus Y’vasre aims to best the enemy not at the tactical but at the strategic level; by striking at support elements, blunting or avoiding attacks, and slowly bleeding the foe’s capacity to make war until it simply collapses under its own weight. Her knack for striking at vulnerable targets- hence the moniker- aids her greatly in this, as she has an uncanny talent for finding the vulnerable places, the equipment in shortest supply, and the limiting factors in an enemy’s war plan and cutting them out from under him.
As part of the Orbital Strike Cadre, Y’vasre pilots an experimental XV8 Crisis unit modified for extraplanetary combat. Though Uon’tas is cut off from direct contact with the Tau Empire as a whole, its hyperspace relay networks are still relatively intact and thus new discoveries and technologies can be shared with the homeworlds, though Uon’tas must often rely on the improvisational genius of its Earth Caste members to provide substitutes for parts that the colony cannot produce on its own. The “Coldstar” model battlesuit, however, has been quite successful so far, allowing Y’vasre to race across the battlefield to coordinate attacks from different elements of her forces as well as seek safety in high-altitude flight when necessary.
One of the first Air Caste pilots inducted into the battlesuit training program, Shaskar’s (roughly translated: “Shadowscar”) aggressive and violent nature has made many wonder if he had some Fire Caste blood in him all along. Shaskar was a novice pilot at the start of the Iron Hands invasion but quickly proved himself, gaining field promotions to his current rank (and later made permanent) for his close-support strafing runs against both ground targets and orbital engagements. Shaskar shows a notable preference for energy weapons and especially plasma-induction varieties; his Barracuda was refitted during the war to use a massive pulsed plasma device salvaged off an Imperial war machine and his missile racks were similarly replaced with additional capacitors and plasma generators. When commanding a battlesuit Shaskar often vaporizes whole squads of enemy infantry even as his Crisis suit is still in descent, raking the ground in a bizarre approximation of his aircraft’s strafing run that often leaves nothing more than morbid black “shadows” burned into the ground where his foes once stood.
In contrast to Shaskar, the Air Caste pilot known most commonly by the moniker of “Voidcutter” is surprisingly mellow and laid-back. He most often spends his off hours in long meditation sessions in one of the isolation domes facing the relentless snows of Uon’tas’s new climate or in a training simulator simply wandering through an empty region of space devoid of the usual automated practice opponents. However, to take this placid good-naturedness as a sign of weakness is a grave mistake- in battle, Vash’au is a deadly opponent, well on his way to mastering the techniques of the Mont’ka. Vash’au was the first of the Air Caste pilots to be put in control of a battlesuit during an emergency scramble, though rumors persist that he must have been illicitly training in their use prior to that to attain such a level of control so quickly. Regardless, Vash’au’s performance in his first sortie vindicated every hope of his commander as a daring assault on the engines of a Destroyer-class imperial vehicle by he and three of his bond-mates (who sadly perished during the raid) succeeded in breaching the fields that contained the monstrous energies within and caused the entire ship to go up in a spectacular fireball that even damaged several other vessels in its proximity. The twinned Fusion Blasters have been his constant weapons ever since and it is said that he can use them with such precision that he can cut open a transport without harming a hair on the men inside- if he so wishes.
The newest of Y’vasre’s bodyguards and special agents, Mir’turas (roughly translated: “Whitestorm”) is part of the newest generation of warriors from Uon’tas, those trained in the years following the events of the Damocles Crusade. Though she has seen only a small handful of direct actions so far, Mir’turas seems to have a bright future ahead of her as a pilot and protege of the commander, as she shows all the signs of having the same sort of flexible tactical thinking and battle instincts. Her name springs from an incident during her training where she displayed the most impressive of her talents by piloting her suit out of a raging hurricane-blizard with all sensor systems shut completely down and guiding herself only by terrain maps and the suit’s proprioceptive internal monitors. Her almost-supernatural awareness of the field around her allows her to find the perfect spot to ambush from as well as often predict the enemy’s movements towards superior terrain during a battle- should her talents continue to grow in this direction, she may find herself quickly promoted to Kor’vre or even Kor’el within a few short years.
FIRE TEAM EIGHT-ONE
Although the Orbital Strike Cadre is intended to be a fast-hitting and fast-acting force to cripple the enemy before they are even aware they are fighting a battle, even such a cadre is in need of the sort of heavy support elements that can provide firepower unavailable to the lighter elements of the Tau arsenal. Thus does it include two XV-88-5 variants of the common Broadside battlesuit, equipped with onboard maneuvering thrusters and gravitic stabilization systems. Though still not as quick-moving as their Crisis counterparts, the Shas’la in these suits can still move with surprising rapidity for their type and in microgravity environments. Though their loadout varies, both members of the team are highly proficient in destroying medium-to-heavy targets like enemy tanks and armored infantry as well as the biological monstrosities that can be found in many parts of the galaxy. As they are some of the most experienced members of the Fire Caste that could be spared to Y’vasre’s use, they are given command of the local drone network and command a small team of slaved automata themselves, the better to enhance their firepower.
Arguably one of the most proficient members of the cadre, but also one of the most problematic, Suka (roughly translated: Flameheart) goes beyond even the willfulness and aggression that is often tolerated amongst members of the Fire Caste- on many occasions she has been actively insubordinate or rebellious and has even sortied without orders from her superior officer. As a result, she has been given countless demerits and even several demotions, having been on the verge of promotion to Shas’el at one point but now only barely allowed to retain the use of her battlesuit. In fact, the only reason she has not had the use of the priceless XV104 suit stripped from her is that the modified power and control suite systems the Uon’tas engineers have managed to cobble together from specifications beamed to them simply will not respond to most pilots- perhaps one in a hundred Shas can get any reaction from the device at all, and of those none come anywhere near Suka’s effortless control of the machine. So, despite her temper, her defiance, and the other multitude of problems she remains the cadre’s best choice for piloting battlesuit into combat. Suka is all too aware of this and it only feeds her considerable ego- she has gone so far as to have the whole contraption painted a blazing red in honor of herself, confident that its nanocrystalline armor and force fields will allow her to shrug off any attention this might draw from the enemy.