Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chaos in the Deeps

As 03.010M42 continued, General Veers was keen to begin the conquest, or destruction of Chaos planets in the Perseus Deeps. There was some disagreement however between the various factions of the campaign leadership, as to the best way to proceed. The Space Marine commanders attached to the battlegroup, were keen on quick decisive action, while admiral Dreyer, commanding the fleet, wanted to ensure space superiority before setting off on any new conquests. Veers meanwhile was looking for "soft targets". In the end, a compromise action was decided upon, one which ended with rather unsatisfactory results.

The Battlegroup would attack Sentinell, a Chaos world where, it was reported, dangerous rituals were now taking place, threatening to turn the world into a hellish daemonworld as had already happened on Yaasha and Sulidaan. The Imperial navy was favourably disposed to this mission, as the damnation of Sentinell would threaten traffic through the Perseus run, but the Space Marines felt this attack too minor for their attentions and left the fighting to the Imperial Guard. Meanwhile Dreyer, after escorting the invasion force, would leave Sentinell and establish space superiority around the systems near to Corticant, hoping to lure out a smaller force of Chaos ships and destroy them, before the might of Thok, Traegen or Shaidar Haran can join in.

This meant that once the Imperial force landed on windswept Sentinell, unopposed, should the Chaos forces on the world respond in force they three Guard regiments could not count on support from the fleet. After a week of chasing shadows on Sentinell the Imperial force had found very little, until, on 1203.010M42 the daemons appeared.

Hellish fiends and all manner of capering blasphmies fell upon the surprised Imperial invasion force, with the Prozan airborne cavarlytaking the heaviest casualties. The versatile, mobile Prozans were thrown in everywhere the daemons attacked to try and prevent a total massacre. However the daemonic hordes were too fast and too numerous. By 1503.010M42 a hasty evacuation of the Imperium back onto their transports was conducted. the Prozan regiment was sacrficed.

The Imperial invasion of Sentinell had ended in disaster, but the Imperium could not have known that a stronger force may have carried the day. The Chaos forces encountered were nearly all daemonic, while strong land forces had not been found on the planet. This was in fact because a major clash was occuring on Blight, previously Yaasha, where the Claws of Lorek had assembled a large force of some 100,000 men (including an entire legion of traitor marines) to crush the Anticross - if they would not submit.

Despite being the more powerful faction the Claws of Lorek found to their displeasure that the Anticross too had formidable force. While the Claws deployed as much force as they felt necessary to teach the Anticross a lesson, it was insufficient. In an exceptionally bloody fight the Anticross succeeded in forcing a withdrawal from the daemonworld of Blight by their adversaries. The Anticross remained unbowed, although the Claws remained the pre-eminent faction. This action however had meant the Claws drawing troops from somewhere, and it had been Sentinell. The Imperium had missed a golden opportunity.

Meanwhile Admiral Dreyer was pursuing his goals in deep space. He had been informed by Jellicoe that a new force under Admiral Cornellius would be arriving in the Aleph Sector within a month, to replace the fleet under Doenitz which had been redeployed to Valitane. While technically a straight swap, Cornellius' had sixteen capital ships under his command to Doenitz's seven, so his arrival signalled a significant increase in naval power in the region.

The reason for this was simple, the Imperial Navy's strategy to equal or exceed in power the sum of the next two navies combined. With the ever increasing strength of Chaos and the Tau, the navy had to increase the number of capital vessels in the Aleph sector. In a catastrophic failure of Imperial intelligence, the Federal fleet - of Admiral Haskell's Federacy - had not been taken into account.

The Federacy had been largely inactive since the fall of the Aleph sector almost two years previously, but on 1403.010M42 the first fleet battle between the Imperium and UFP (Federacy) occurred in the Consel system. Admiral Dreyer, either oblivious or uncaring about political matters (the position of the UFP was still confused despite its wars with the Imperium), continued on into Federacy claimed space until he met a quite unexpected force, a Federacy battlefleet comparable in size to his own.

The Imperial fleet was given a short message by the UFP admiral Travitt. LEave UFP space or face battle. Dreyer, afronted, and in no mood to show weakness to an enemy, refused, and the two fleets prepared their lines for battle. Six Imperial capital vessels closed wit the UFP force, comprising of five cruisers and the battleship Haskell. The fighting began with long ranged Nova Cannon fire, but the Federal fleet soon closed the range. In the short range melee which followed the UFP suffered badly from Dreyer's ships' accurate fire, losing two cruisers hulked and sustaining severe damage to the battleship Haskell. The Imperial ship Cressy suffered major damage, but otherwise Dreyer had won a conclusive victory, the first over the UFP in years.

Battle at Consel: Dreyer vs. UFP (Travitt) - 8pts renown solid victory

Haskell - Retribution (crippled)
Provident Venture - Armageddon (hulked)
Spirit of the Republic - Tyrant (hulked)
Peacemaker - Dominator
Enterprise - Dictator
Spectre - Dictator

Iron Duke - Emperor
Glorious - Mars
Cressy - Gothic (crippled)
Black Prince - Dominator
Repulse - Dominator
Indomitable - Gothic

There was little time to celebrate. While Dreyer's ships needlessly fought a battle with a power which had no intention of starting a war with the Imperium, the battle on Sentinell had been lost. In addition, while transferring his ships to the Aleph sector, Admiral Cornellius was ambushed by eldar, losing a battlecruiser and suffering severe damage to two others. To his credit, Cornellius managed to destroy one eldar cruiser, but it is arguable that had Dreyer been on station at Corticant and in range to respond, the eldar may never have attacked.

Admiral Jellicoe was furious with Dreyer. He had blundered into UFP territory and risked Imperial ships and all out war with the Federacy. Fortunately contact with the rebellious planets had been maintained by Inquisitor Huron, and thanks to some urgent secretive communications, the peace was maintained. Even the Tallaxian news agency was convinced not to carry the news of the battle on its network. To all outside the two fleets, the battle at Consel never happened.

Despite his fury at Dreyer, he had won a signature victory over the Federacy, and intelligence showed that in the two years since the end of the war the UFP had gained three new ships, two dictator class carriers and an "armageddon" pattern refitted Lunar class. This information was passed to Inquisitor Huron for later analysis. After receiving admonishment from Jellicoe, admiral Dreyer was promoted to subsector commander, Battlefleet Perseus, attached to General Veers' Battlegroup Apocalypse. From now on however, clashes with the UFP were to be avoided, and the prosecution of the war in the Perseus Deeps should be co-ordinated, not peacemeal.

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