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Librarium

Blue skies over Thrymr


The ambassador led her, not unkindly, to the viewing window, an immense curved sheet of some clear material that stretched for metres, exposing the bridge to the openness of space. Debris from the space battle tumbled, glittering like dawn frost as it caught the wan light from the sun, Frigia. She saw elegant alien craft sail past, their bone and blue superstructures seeming to fracture and coalesce as they moved. Occasional beams of energy lanced out as the remaining Imperial ships struggled to shield the evacuating civilian craft and retreating military shuttles. Sibley was reminded of a grox corral, though her face and stance revealed nothing beyond stoicism.

The starsail of the nearest alien craft dipped – in mocking salute? – towards the viewing window as the ship swept past the bulk of the Tau fleet. Immense, it seemed to continue forever, the hull swelling as more blister-turrets revealed themselves; before tapering away as it sped past. The Tau ships themselves moved like a shoal of fish, keeping a respectful distance from the Imperials. Like their Eldar allies, their weapons only flashed when Imperial ships moved beyond the safe line of retreat; or when a particularly impetuous Captain made an aggressive move.
The blue-skinned being next to her spoke, in flawless High Gothic, 'You see; Commander. It is inevitable.'

There was a pause before she spoke. 'Nevertheless.' The ambassador hid his displeasure well, but Sibley Veradecthis had a lifetime of diplomatic negotation herself. Her spirits were so low, she took no satisfaction from the observation.

'You speak untruthfully, ma'am; it is quite within your power. You are the highest authority on Thrymr.' The Tau called Frigia Prime by its old, pre-Imperial name, perhaps seeking to evoke some further leverage. 'You can – and must – give your statement. Accept the Protectorate's offer of aid. You will see that it is for the Greater Good of your people. For all the people of the world.'

Sibley looked out again at the panorama. The planet loomed large, like an immense pearl. It was quite beautiful. From here, the huge hive-ravines, home to billions, were little more than tiny pits; beauty spots on the face of the world. All else was dramatic sky-scraping mountain ranges; immense iceplains and slate-grey seas. It was her world.

She had never felt quite so alone. In accepting the help of the Tau, was she betraying her people? Her Emperor? Was it brave to condemn the people of the system to the creeping malaise of the world-hungry tyranids, simply to deny the alien; or was it monstrous? The Tau and their strange allies could at least be negotiated with. She bent her head down, suddenly overcome with a pain in her head to match her heart.
The door opened with a smooth swish, and the ambassador turned. His robes crinkled as he inclined his head respectfully.

'Felicitous greetings, Shas'O Nadir'ra. Has word yet reached us of the honoured O'Nan?' Nadir'ra waved his hand irritably. His face was swollen and bruised; a deep cut on his temple had been quickly held together with something that reminded Sibley of butterfly stitches. His eyes remained bright, and his voice was surprisingly deep and sonorous; lacking the sibilance of the Water Caste.

'Governor,' he greeted her simply. Unsure of how to address him, she resorted to the nearest translation she could think of for the title she had heard.
'War-leader.'
He winced. There was no artifice in his deep, black eyes. He stepped close. Shorter than Sibley, but broad, the Tau commander looked at her plainly.
'Governor, I come to you with a simple plea. My comrades have fought, and died, on this planet, merely to rescue you. We believe you to be this world's best hope. The y'he –' he paused, then began again, stumbling over the words ' – the tyranids – are implacable. They will not be removed without a concerted effort. They will grow. They will draw more of their kind here.'

The ambassador looked aghast at Nadir'ra's openness. The warrior's voice was rough. He was clearly suffering from his wounds. He was tired. None of this entered his voice or coloured his eyes. They remained bright, optimistic. 'Accepting our offer of aid; allying your forces to ours. This is the only way to save your world. Frigia is at the edge of the Imperium's reach. Your Emperor can not help you. Your finest warriors have been bested, and even now flee.' He gestured curtly to the viewing window, then leaned in.

'I say this not as a threat. I say this because time is short. Even now; even with the might of our other allies alongside ours, even with the might of the whole Protectorate turned here, even with all this, it is far from certain we will prevail against such a terrible foe. I say this because it is my fervent belief that all sapient beings can work together. It is only this belief that allows me to wage such wars – to fight against those I believe I will someday trust enough to fight besides. Your world is bleeding. Your armies are exposed, the blades of enemies at their neck.' He paused, allowing his words to sink in.

'...and yet, we will not strike you. We extend our hand to you. This world, like few others, is inhabitable. It can hold life; and that is worth preserving. It is only through alliance that this planet will prevail as a cradle for life. I will ask you once; for time is short. Even now, the dead eyes of the tyranid turn to this world. I believe it is worth saving. I believe your people are worth saving. I believe it is for the greater good of all that Frigia lives.' His eyes bored into hers, devoid of trickery; tired, but hopeful. 'Will you accept our protectorship?'

She saw the truth of the matter. This soldier was tired. She understood exactly how he felt. Wordlessly, she took his hand, and gave a curt nod.