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Tales of the Tigers

Traveller of Both Time and Space: Episode 12 
Synopsis:  Relieved of his duty as commander of half of the Fighting Tigers Space Marines, Shamshir Talatra has been marooned on a desolate planet near the Maelstrom. In battle against a bizarre invisible alien lifeform, Shamshir Talatra has fallen into a fissure.

The mouth of the fissure was narrow, and as he fell, Shamshir Talatra stuck out his arms, grabbing at the sides. He jerked to a halt, a scream of pain ripping from him. He hung there for one heartbeat, then another, legs kicking to find something, anything, solid to stand on. And then his right hand lost its grip and he was falling again.

“Gobara!” he swore.

He crashed off the sides of the rocky fissure as he fell, each blow like a bolter round. Sparks flew from his armor as he hit, fell, hit, fell, hit, fell even further. With a WHUFF, he slammed onto the floor of the fissure. 

“Auggggggggh—gods DAMN it!” he bellowed, his echoes mocking him.

He lay for a long time, body aching, limbs trembling, skin burning from the poisoned spines of the alien he had killed. Finally, the pain subsided and he was able to sit and look up.

The sky was a small white gash far overhead. 

He pulled off his helmet and wiped his face with the back of his gauntlet. When he pulled his ceramite-covered hand away, there was a thick red smear across the brown striped pattern. He took off his gauntlet and felt his face, his scalp. His inspection revealed a broken nose from the battle with the alien and a deep cut, just over his left ear, from the fall. 

He gingerly patted his trunk, his arms, his legs. All right, he told himself. Cuts and bruises, maybe. Nothing bad. Nothing broken. I’ll heal. I’ll heal.

Something behind him went schnurff.

Ignoring the pain that lanced through him, Shamshir Talatra grabbed his bolter and scrambled to his feet. He snapped on the shoulder light of his armor, revealing an opening to another cave. Standing in the mouth the cave, blinking in the piercing white light, was a tiger. 

Not a Fighting Tiger of Veda Space Marine, but an actual tiger: a big Ghuyarashtran, with tawny mustard fur and brown stripes, like the color and pattern of Shamshir Talatra’s armor.

The tiger—the ruff around its neck showed it was an older male—sniffed again: schnurff. Then growled softly.

“You’re not supposed to be down here,” Shamshir Talatra said.

Something moved behind the tiger. “He’s with me,” a man said. A Fighting Tiger of Veda, in armor similar to Shamshir Talatra’s, stepped into the light.

“I’m Raja Sabeer Ansari,” the man said. “Varman Kumar asked me to meet you here. He said you would recognize his name.”

Shamshir Talatra said nothing.

“You are Shamshir Talatra, are you not?” the Marine asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “and if you’re really Raja Ansari, then you’ve been dead for almost sixty years.”

“Obviously, I am not dead. Nor are you a seven-year old boy, as my personnel files indicate.”

“Obviously,” Shamshir Talatra replied.

“So,” Sabeer Ansari continued, “either one of us is not who we claim to be, or we are actually who we say we are and have come from different times: you from my future, me from your past. Is that possible?”

“After all I’ve been through so far today,” Shamshir Talatra said, “it wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

“Kumar asked me to show you something,” Sabeer Ansari said. “Come this way.” He pointed into the tunnel. 

“How did you get down here?” Shamshir Talatra asked. “How did you even get to this planet? And to this time?”

Sabeer Ansari smirked. “I walked, of course.” He turned, switched on his shoulder light, and moved off into the tunnel. “Come. I’ll show you.”

Shamshir Talatra stayed where he was. The tiger looked up at him.

“Are you coming, or do you wish to spend the rest of your days at the bottom of a hole?” Sabeer Ansari called.

“I’m coming,” Shamshir Talatra replied. “I take it your friend walked here, too?”

“Of course. His name is Panja. Be careful. He bites.”

The tunnel was narrow and low—the Marines had to stoop—but after about 50 yards, it opened into a cave. The cave was a huge round place, with a high, arching ceiling of stone. Silvery grey flecks shimmered in much of the rock walls.

“Impressive, don’t you think?” Sabeer said.

“Where do those lead?” Shamshir Talatra asked, pointing to the four tunnels going out of the cave.

“Aren’t you the pragmatist?” Sabeer asked. “As for where they go: that depends. We’re going this way,” he said, heading towards the second closest tunnel.

They wound their way through the narrow, twisting tunnel, Panja first, then Sabeer Ansari, then Shamshir Talatra. Usually, the floor was dry and the ceiling high enough that the men could walk erect. Sometimes the floor dipped into pools of icy water that they had to wade through, or the ceiling lowered so that the men had to stoop. In many places, side tunnels branched off. Panja and Sabeer ignored them. 

After more than an hour of walking, Shamshir Talatra asked, “What is this place? Where exactly are we going?”

Panja turned down a side tunnel.

“This way,” Sabeer Ansari said, pointing the way Panja had gone. 

“We’re following him?” Shamshir Talatra asked.

“Obviously.”

“How does he know where he’s going?”

“Smell.”

“Smell?”

“Yes, his sense of smell is guiding him,” Sabeer Ansari said. “Don’t you know anything about animals?”

“No,” Shamshir Talatra replied. “Why should I?”

“You need to know as much as you can about as much as you can,” Sabeer Ansari said.

“I’ll accept that,” Shamshir Talatra said. “So, why don’t you tell me what’s going on here?”

“In a minute, I think you’ll understand.”

“What do you mean?”

“It should be just around this turn. No, wait—it must be the next one.”

They rounded the turn, went straight about 30 more yards, then came to another bend. Sabeer Ansari stopped and trailed his light across the ceiling. Gleaming blue and silver was the painted rune of the Fighting Tigers’ arch-enemies. 

“The Kabal of the Ozone Scorpions,” Shamshir Talatra said.

“These tunnels are part of a webway that they used to travel among worlds,” Sabeer Ansari said. “Kumar showed me where they are.  And where they go. This way, please,” Sabeer Ansari said. “Follow Panja: he knows the way.”

They rounded another turn, and climbed out of the end of the tunnel, into the hot, white sunlight, and a wide expanse of high, waving grass. In the distance loomed a lush, green jungle.

“Welcome home, Shamshir Talatra,” Sabeer Ansari said.

It was Veda. 
 
 

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Related Pages
Fighting Tigers Glossary and Pronunciation Guide

Posted April  2007

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle