Monday, March 29, 2010
No sooner had the war on Alphe been relegated by ASMOC to "unimportant" pending the return of Moonface, like a bad smell the capricious chaos warlord appeared again, this time in the Perseus Deeps, far from his main area of influence around Grimlock and the Rim Worlds, and no where near the Catechism's stalled war on Alphe.
Imperial intelligence, led by Inquisitor Huron, picked up his trail and found that on 2603.010M42 Catechism forces, possibly led by Moonface himself, had used their blasphemous "device" to land on Malius, where the Claws of Lorek and the Dark Angels had both previously tried to establish a base, or some modicum of control over the planet.
The Catechism had no more luck than the previous insertion forces as once again the Necrons of Malius were awoken from their slumber. Something had drawn the forces of Chaos to the world, twice now, and twice the Necrons had been unwilling to yield their secrets. The Catechism were ignominiously beaten by the Necron forces and some of the readings Huron's intelligence team picked up were deeply disturbing. This was something new. The necrons, a dead and cold race of metallic warriors, had not been the only thing fighting the Catechism before Moonface's army was forced to flee. Something new, and something incomparably ancient and powerful. Huron made notes, and kept his fears to himself.
With the newly created (or at least named) ASMOC determining that Tarsis Major was of tertiary significance, General Cunningham did not expect any significant reinforcement, and Imperial Tacticae predicted the fall of the northern front in under a year, without intervention, whatever strategy Cunningham put in place, so long as the Tau would accept the cost. While Cunningham and his advisors debated their plans and attempted to inflict the highest possible losses on the advancing enemy, there was an astonishing arrival.
On 2203.010M42 a single strike cruiser of the Space Wolves chapter entered the Tarsis system and, finding no Tau fleet immediately present, moved swiftly in system. Four days later they launched a full company from their vessel, taking the Tau defences completely by surprise and gaining a foothold on the massive orbital docks which stood silent above Tarsis Major's azure blue western ocean.
The Space marines now had to move quickly to secure the base before the Tau could deploy overwhelming force against them, and move quickly they did. The docks, built on one of Tarsis Majors' two irregular moons, allowed for the deployment of modified, if conventional forces. Attacking across the rocky ground in their rhinos, the space wolves soon encountered stiff resistance from the Tau huntre cadre stationed on the Docks.
In the first few minutes of the engagement Tau hammerheads, guided to their targets by pathfinder teams, made short work of the rhinos, but soon the Tau found that once out of their vehicles, the space wolves were no less dangerous. The destruction of on of the Astartes dreadnoughts did little to stop the space wolf advance, and the deployment of mobile fire warrior units in close firefights only hastened the xenos warriors' demise.
Even so the Astartes captain was growing worried. He knew that if the battle wasn't fought to a conclusion soon, the Tau would be able to scramble reinforcements. The loss of his vehicles had slown his advance, and his vanguard forces were now behind schedule. The heroes of the hour however were the assault troops. Despite taking heavy casualties the wolf brothers and their jump packs cleaved through the Tau forces, taking down first fire warriors, then crisis suits, then the heart of the Tau defence at the centre of the orbital compound. This one squad did much to capture the docks, although it would be unfair to attribute the ultimate Space Wolf success to just one unit.
In just a few short hours, a very relieved captain of the company reported that all Tau resistance had been wiped out. None had survived. The Tau had put u a brave and determined fight, but had been unable to deal with the marines' ruggedness, and frequently got too close to the jump troops, allowing the elite warriors to destroy each Tau squad in turn. A close run thing had eventually turned into a massacre, and the Imperium had retaken one of the two critical system objectives. The Tau on Tarsis Minor were put on full alert, and Strongspear urgently requested the support of the fleet. It may only be of tertiary significance to ASMOC, but to the Astartes it seemed, this was the Emperor's world, and would not be abandonned.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
By 2503.010M42 the Aleph sector high command, a committee with representatives from the Imperial Guard, navy, adeptus mechanicus, inquisition and other important Imperial factions, was receiving criticism from its lack of direction in prosecuting the campaign in the sector. Some (including the commander of ground forces on Tarsis Major, general Cunningham) suggested that their relocation to Vastrid, relatively far from the front line, had dulled their instincts. General Percival on Alphe even called them "ineffectual Buffoons" to a trusted aide.
The committee did realise that some guidance in the prosecution of the war was necessary and consulted at length. Following a day long conference they then conferred their new strategy to their major commanders, and re-allocated naval and military resources to various theatres. For some it would mean much needed reinforcements, for others, a stagnation of their campaign, or worse, defeat. They also renamed themselves Aleph Sector Military Operations Command (ASMOC) and hoped that this "decisive" action would also help direct Astartes deployment, or at least influence it. More cynical observers suggested it also might stave of the imminent appointment of an Aleph Sector Warmaster, and the commensurate loss of power to the leadership committee's members...
The prioritisation ran as follows:
PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: HIVE FLEET NEMESIS. All forces to be deployed to meet the tyranid threat. Admiral Jellicoe was ordered to muster a fleet to escort a significant deployment of resources to Betor and it was hoped the Adeptus Astartes would also lend forces to defeat the tyranid threat.
SECONDARY OBJECTIVE: PERSEUS DEEPS CRUSADE. Although not getting the primary status he craved, General Veers was pleased by his battlegroup's secondary status. It meant constant reinforcement to the base at Corticant, and an increase in naval strength around the base. The defeat of chaos in the Deeps could now begin in earnest.
TERTIARY OBJECTIVE: TARSIS MAJOR. This came as no surprise to the beleagured commander of Imperial forces facing the Tau on Tarsis. It meant no change. The war on Tarsis would be waged with few reinforcements and little support from Jellicoe's navy. Cunningham didn't even bother to protest.
All other campaigns were considered as low priortity. This had immediate effects in the command structure in the Zadoc subsector. While General Percival on Alphe kept his job and his forces, he would receive no reinforcements "until such time as the Catechism is percieved to be an emergent threat". In other words, until Moonface seized the initiative. In the Mabb nebula, General Alexander was not so fortunate. His battlegroup in the Shadow Worlds was broken up. The orks it seemed were no longer intent on conquering further worlds and the Tau showed no signs of attacking Imperial bases and other assets in the nebula. Alexander himself was reassigned to a command position on Zadoc. While technically a sideways move everyone understood that his lack of aggression in the Mabb Nebula, in contrast to General Veers, had damaged his reputation. The Navy Battlegroup was immediately redirected to Betor by Jellicoe.
With the Imperial priorities now spelt out, General Roover and Admiral Bova hoped they would turn the tide of loss in the Aleph sector, and perhaps, keep their jobs...
03.010M42 saw Hive Fleet Nemesis spread its tendrils far and wide across the Aleph Sector. While Betor remained the major target, the vanguard forces of the tyranids reached Valboris, a major chaos frontier world in the Zadoc subsector, where they managed to secure a foothold, infesting Frontiersville and providing the forces of chaos with a quite unwelcome distraction.
In the Perseus Deeps the world of Enaloth had seen fighting between the Necrons, awakened from their slumber on the minor tomb world by the arrival of the extra-galactic aliens. After several battles the Necrons mysteriously disappeared, presumably using their advanced technology to remove themselves to safer locations while the tyranids began the systematic consumation of the world's natural resources.
After the loss of Hauzenberg in early 03.010M42 worse was to follow on Betor. The Tyranids now infested much of the far eastern coast of the main Betor continent and threatened to cut off a large force of Imperial troops north of the Beileigend Sea. General Dempsey, in overall military command, ordered the Corellian Storm Guard stationed towards the northern steppes to push immediately eastward to relieve the 141st Librian regiment and Betor PDF defending the coastal settlements around Schenebruck.
Once again however the Tyranid menace outwitted the human defenders. En route to relieve their comrades the Corellians met a substantial force of Tyranids. Despite their best efforts the Corellians were unable to breakthrough and to the fury of Dempsey withdrew south east. This left the Librians and PDF units vulnerable. Hemmed in on all sides the Librians lost contact with the PDF guarding Schenebruck as tyranid creatures broke out of the landscape all around them. What followed was utter carnage. The Librian 141st was wiped out to a man, and the PDF in the coastal townships fared no better. By 1603.010M42 contact was lost with Schenebruck.
Thousands of refuges fled across the Achen straits to the Island town of Achenheim, but if they thought that meant excape from the alien menace two days later they realised their error. From tunnels underground and from spores raining from the sky the Tyranids came on, slaughtering and consuming the population of Achenheim. General Dempsey implored the Astartes to intervene but there were none available. Inquisitor Huron urgently requested aid from high command. Betor was being consumed rapidly.
In the southern sector of the Betor war the Porphyrians were also facing a renewed Tyranid offensive. There was little they could do to prevent the fall of Lindesberg, its defenders cut off from all aid. An Imperial Navy airdrop was attempted but of the 100 aircraft which took to the sky only two returned, the rest succumbing to Tyranid ariel spore mines. Worse still, on landing, one of the aircraft proved to be infested with tiny tyranid creatures. In panic the crew of the second craft were slain by their comrades and the airfield at Renestein was out of action when the Tyranids attacked again.
Coming from the south in waves the alien creatures fell upon the Porphyrians defending Renestein. Despite valiant resistance the Porphyrian regiments were unable to halt their enemy, falling back or being slaughtered in their positions. Renestein fell on 1803.010M42 and the Mittel plain was reached for the first time.
By now General Dempsey was becoming desperate and threw in his reserves. The veteran 33rd Librian regiment was deployed around Langenhofen and ordered to hold the line against the hordes of creatures now pushing south from the northern zone. If Dempesy could hold the line then maybe Inquisitor Hathek would be able to summon more reinforcements as he had done in the first Tyranid infestation in 009M42.
The Librians held their position around Langenhofen for seven days, facing wave upon wave of tyranid attacks. The aliens were slaughtered by the thousand, but gradually the overwhelming numbers began to tell. Despite heroic resistance it became obvious to Dempsey on 2603.010M42 that the Librians, though holding their ground stoically, would be lost entirely if they were not ordered to immediately withdraw. Realising that he could not afford to lose any more troops, Dempsey ordered the Librians to retreat. There was dismay on the ground as the Librians gave up the territory so many of their comrades had died protecting. In vain though it was their struggle had been heroic, and the defence of Langenhofen went down in the Betor campaign, and librian legend. With the Imperium in full retreat in the north and the south, many wondered how long before the defence of Betor would have to be given up entirely. Only the elite forces of the Adeptus Astartes could now halt the tide of loss.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Since the battle of Alphe system in 10.009M42 admiral Thok's fleet had left the Alphe system and periodically raided Imperial convoys using the Farport passage, making the warp lane extremely dangerous to use. By 01.010M42 Thok was destroying one in four of all ships passing along the vital warp lane to the Zadoc subsector, making the task of battlegroup Apocalypse in the Perseus Deeps all the more difficult. Despite the urgings of sector Fleet Lord Bova Magnus, Sector admiral Jellicoe knew there was little he could do against Thok's marauding vessels. The Farport passage threads its way through a vast area of space, and finding Thok would mean tying down a force of at least five capital ships, something the Imperium could not afford. One more reason Magnus transferred Admiral Cornelius' force of sixteen capital ships to the Vastrid subsector in early 010M42.
Instead of searching for Thok's fleet in deep space, Jellicoe preferred to maintain the protection of the closer warp lanes, from his bases at Caitlen station, Corticant, Coronus (New Cerberex) and Farport. From here the Imperial fleet could project its powerover the Zadoc subsector and the whole of the Perseus Deeps, allowing vessels to use the slower, but shorter upper Perseus Reach for transferring vital goods. By 03.010M42 this strategy was working, with Admiral Dreyer, despite the clash with the UFP, preventing major raids on Imperial shipping through the Deeps. Even the Tau avoided confrontation with the Imperium.
On 0403.010M42, Jellicoe moved a substantial force under Admiral Beattie, his first command since his release from a Federacy detention camp in 007M42, to blockade the chaos system of Mordecai. Mordecai was home to Thok's dockyards, and protected by formidable system defences, so Jellicoe ordered a "distant blockade" with the specific aim of preventing Thok's new ships from joining up with the rest of his marauding fleet. Imperial intelligence knew of three new capital vessels which would be ready by 03.010M42 and when reports of anomalous readings from the Mordecai system came flooding in, Jellicoe set up his blockade.
On 2003.010M42 the chaos vessels, the devastation class Hyrrokin, acheron class Rheintochter and carnage class Baldr attempted to reach the jump point in the Mordecai system. Beatty had been forced to spread his powerful fleet up to counter all the possible avenues of escape, but as soon as the chaos vessels were detected, Beatty rushed to reform his fleet and destroy Thok's new warships with overwhelming numbers.
Beatty had a mighty warfleet. Aboard his flagship, the Invincible class fast battleship Tiger, the admiral could see the bulk of his fleet. a few hundred kilometres to port, the dictator class Audacious stood ready, escorted by five firestorm and three sword class frigates. Ahead, near a rogue rocky planet caught in Mordecai's star's gravity well, the dauntless class Ajax and tyrant class Intrepid were powering up their engines. Even further ahead, almost beyond sensor range, the venerable vengeance class Canopus, escorted by two cobra destroyes, led the patrol sweep at the outer reaches of the system.
When the chaos ships appeared it was clear that they were attempting to slip behind the Imperial battle line as it completed its sweep. Immediately Beatty ordered his escorts to lie in wait behind an asteroid field, while ordering the rest of the fleet to turn hard to port and sweep back round to intercept the chaos cruisers. The fleet manouevre went well. As the three chaos vessels approached, screened by three infidel class escorts, Tiger and Audacious heaved around in space, with Beatty planning to cut behind the chaos vessels and pummel them as they tried to escape. Further ahead Intrepid and Ajaz used the rogue planet's gravity well to turn rapidly, with Ajax racing ahead to reach Tiger's position and the tyrant class vessel turning even further, hoping to cut off the chaos fleet's escape route. Commodore Grant on Canopus meanwhile knew that he would be lucky to take part in the engagement. Even so he pushed his crew and ancient vessel to the limit, straining her engines as she came about then putting every once of energy into reaching the fight.
The chaos vessels continued their approach, with the carnage class Baldr closest to the Imperial fleet. As the infidels made a run at the Imperial vessels the first shots were fired at 18:10 local time, although Audacious' shields were up to the task of preventing damage to the vessel itself. Invincible then opened up as Audacious launched a wave of attack craft. Despite the awesome firepower being levelled at Baldr, the early engagement was characterised by poor accuracy from the invincible class, and the chaos vessels wethered the storm.
At 18:17 the Ajax, having raced to the scene, now accompanied by Canopus' escort corbas, unleashed her firepower on the Baldr, but accurate fire from the other two chaos vessels forced her to take evasive action. Once again Baldr's shields flared and minor damage to the superstructure was achieved, but the chaos warship escaped serious damage from Ajax's lance batteries. Meanwhile the infidels, despite facing Audacious' guns and her bomber waves, would not die easily, and the Imperial fleet was forced to divert significant firepower to finally destroy the escort threat, allowing the chaos cruisers even more time to flee the trap.
At 18:40, while Canopus still remained too far to open fire, Intrepid and the sword class escorts moved into a position to cut off the escape of Thok's new ships. However it became increasibly clear that the Intrepid would never get there in time, unless the chaos vessels could be slowed down. Repeated broadsides from Tiger straddled Baldr, slowing her, but salvo after salvo of torpedoes from the cobra escorts either failed to acquire their targets or simply exploded in plasma clouds created by the Baldr's shields overloading from the impact of Imperial ordnance.
By 18:50 Beatty was becoming frustrated. The Rheintochter and Hyrrokin, unmolested by fire as the Imperial ships concentrated on trying to destroy their consort, were unimpeded in their own fire. The firestorms took a storm of battery and lance fire, destroying three of five and forcing the escort squadron to take evasive action. Eventually the broadsides of Tiger and Audacious managed to score some success, with the Baldr taking heavy damage and slowing down, plasma and atmosphere venting from several large holes in her hull.
At 19:08 the chaos vessels had passed the Imperial fleet and Beatty's flagship, now finally joined by Canopus, were able to rake the stern of the chaos ships. By now, Intrepid had also joined in the fray, though the Imperial escorts had suffered more losses, with one sword wrecked and both cobras blown apart by Rheintochter and Hyyrokin (though the swords themselves had managed to pass between the two chaos cruisers at point blank range and somehow avoid annihilation). Baldr by this time was somehow still intact and moving, despite facing the combined fire of four Imperial capital ships. Her continued survival saw the chance for an Imperial victory slip away. Gradually the faster chaos ships extended the range, though at the last minute and at extreme range, a final salvo from Canopus exploded in Baldr's crippled hull, destroying her engines and hulking one of Thok's brand new ships.
By 19:30 admiral Beatty realised he could not catch the remaining two cruisers, who had by now reached the warp jump point. the Rheintochter and Hyrrokin had escaped the blockade and were now at large, able to join up with Thok's main battlefleet, somewhere in the Deeps.
Jellicoe was disappointed with the result. Beatty had outnumbered and outgunned the enemy fleet and yet only one of the three cruisers had been destroyed. The battle should have seen Thok's new vessels reduced to drifting debris, but the Imperial fleet, thanks largely to ineffective ordnance, poor shooting and effective evasive manouvring on the part of their adversaries, had missed a golden opportunity. Now Jellicoe feared that Thok, Shaidar Haran and Lord Traegan's vessels may all join forces and launch an assault on either Corticant or Caitlen Station. Either way he determined, the Imperial fleet would be ready.
Tiger - Invincible
Canopus - Vengeance
Intrepid - Dictator
Audacious - Tyrant
Ajax - Dauntless
Omega Sqn - Swords (1 destroyed)
2x Cobras (destoyed)
5 firestorms (3 destroyed)
Rheintochter - Acheron
Hyrrokin - Devastation
Baldr - Carnage (hulked)
Valkyries - 3x infidels (destroyed)
Thok: 490VPs (8)
Jellicoe (Beatty): 310VPs (2)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
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.
Following the failure of operation salvation Cunningham prepared for the inevitable counter attack from Strongspear's forces. Now in control of two-thirds of Tarsis' industry, the Tau had plenty of supplies and were even able to build their own skimmers and military equipment by converting Imperial industry to Tau production. Although Sartano remained Imperial, Tau dominance in the air meant shipping supplies to the northern front was hazardous in the extreme, and only the industry in Coldside, fed by the Grenton mines, kept the northern front in the war.
Cunningham felt sure the next offensive would come across the Downstone desert and attempt to push across the South Ridge mountains and drive on Grenton. It seemed obvious as the next Tau target, so the Imperial General mustered his best forces, the remaining Corellians, Prozans and Librian 101st, as well as several hundred thousand PDF, in this area. To the north he deployed the remainder of III Corps, including the untried Groznian 1504th. Unfortunately for Cunningham, the Tau had no intention of following his battle plan.
Early on 1103.010M42 hundreds of Tau Mantas took to the air in a truly awesome display of military power. At dawn the whole Tau army in north Tuva was on the move, Hammerheads and crisis suits pounding the northern front line ocross the rolling north Tuva plain, while a huge force evaded anti-aircraft fire and landed well behind the Imperial front lines where the plain melted into savannah on the Calder Peninsular.
Panic gripped the Imperial forces in the north as the Tau appeared on the horizon. In the centre of the push the Groznians stood waiting for the attack, but word had got to them that massive Tau forces had landed behind their lines and they were surrounded. As the elite Tau forces send submunitions and smart missiles into the tightly packed ranks of Groznian infantry, the knowledge that they had no line of retreat cracked their resolve. En masse, sometimes units at a time the Groznians simply fled, or surrendered, despite the threats and executions carried out by regimental commissars. Often the commissars were simply murdered by the troops as discipline in the Groznian ranks collapsed.
General Cunningham was horrified at the reports as they flooded in, telling of the wholescale rout of his forces in the north. Desperately he scrambled for reinforcements but the Groznian collapse precipitated a general panic. Whole PDF regiments surrendered rather than attempt to fight their way out of encirclement, and by the end of the first day the Tau had netted the astonish haul of 300,000 men, almost a third of Cunningham's forces in the north. In a week Cunningham had re-established a front line, on the edge of the Calder peninsular, but without outside help, he knew the end on Tarsis was a certainty.
Imperial high command was furious at the defeat and insisted Cunningham restore the original front line. After hours of arguing General Roover, Cunningham's superior, accepted this was impossible, and the Imperial General on Tarsis avoided the unfortunate fate of execution. He was however, told in no uncertain terms, that he would eventually retake Tarsis, or die there.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The narrow Imperial salient to the east of the Downslope mountains was looking increasingly precarious in early 03.010M42 as powerful Tau forces began mobilising between the desert and the Central mountains, moving south and west to meet the new offensive. General Cunningham favoured withdrawal to defensible positions, but was under pressure from General Roover to "get moving", despite repeated requests for reinforcements.
To counter the claim that he was not providing Cunningham with adequate resources, the Prozan 7th Cavalry (airborne) were transferred to the Tarsis theatre during 02.010M42. This was technically reinforcement, though Cunningham despaired at the small number of troops being sent his way. Never-the-less, General Stonewall, commander of all Prozan units in the sector, sent one of his most able and daring commanders to Tarsis with the 7th, and as soon as they arrived they were itching to get at the Tau.
Cunningham, giving in to pressures from above and below, sanctioned the use of this new, highly flexible and mobile force against the Tau immediately, planning to destroy them as they moved towards the Corellian units in the narrow Tuvan salient. On 0303.010M42 the Prozan 7th threw themselves into battle ferociously, moving swiftly, deploying by air in the Tuvan plains.
The first part of the operation went well and the Prozan infantry established a wider perimeter around the Corellian units, waiting for the Tau to attack, as they surely must, before unleashing their airborne reserves. The Tau, led by Strongspear, attacked predictably yet this time effectively, causing havoc within the infantry units dug in at the front line. As the battle developed the Prozan commander committed his airborne reserves, the Vulture gunships, mounting fearsome punisher cannons, having an immediate impact. The Valkyrie borne infantry reserves however faced problems in their deployment, arriving not in one wave but sporadically, allowing Strongspear's forces to face and defeat one arriving unit before turning to the next.
The battle became very bloody as the Prozan guard refused to give up without a fight. Several bitter hand to hand confrontations developed on the Tuva plain as the two sides became intermixed in a battle with no clear front line. Over the next three days it looked certain from hour to hour that the Prozan units would break en masse, allowing the Tau to mount a breakthrough counter attack. Cunningham even withdrew the Corellian units and was considering a wholesale retreat with the Prozans, but somehow they tenaciously held on.
On 0803.010M42 the Tau, frustrated in the extreme and suffering a high level of casualties, had still failed to break the Prozans and the Imperial commander begged for reinforcements to break the deadlock. There were none. Cunningham had no strategic reserves to speak of thanks to the "winding down" of the campaign. Strongspear on the other hand had Tau and human units behind the front waiting for the right time to break out - a time which wouldn't come. Cunningham saw the risk however and was forced to issue the order to withdraw. After a week of heavy fighting this came as a bitter blow to the new Prozan force as by 1003.010M42 the Imperium had lost all the ground captured in the recent offensive - named operation salvation by Imperial high command.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Inquisitor Huron, now working from fort Bastion, though learning much about the ancient Necron civilisation, was far more interested in the activities of the Chaos factions. Since Farport the power of the Catechism had been waning, but worryingly the Claws of Lorek's influence had been growing. Already two worlds had been forever altered - turned into apocalyptic daemon worlds by the Claws - and named Carnage in deference of the god Khorne, and Blight in the name of Nurgle. Now the traitor legion seemed intent on landing more troops and cultists on more worlds. Huron intended to see them stopped.
Huron had discovered that the Claws had based themselves on bastion, and seemed to be intent on turning four worlds into daemon worlds, one for each of the major powers. Why, he did not know, and some worlds seemed to be merely used as bases or production worlds. Although Huron did not understand the true purpose of the Claws' methods, it became obvious that the next two worlds to be targetted by the Claws would be Ares and Sentinel. If these worlds were to be turned into Daemonworlds the Perseus Run would be cut for good. Worse still, if the same happened to Eris - already under the thrall of Chaos - and Hemera, the results would be catastrophic for the Imperium.
When Huron learned that the Claws were moving on Malius, he notified the Dark Angels, who immediately - and rather too eagerly - sent a force to interecept them. However by the time the Dark Angels had arrived they found no trace of the traitor marines, and orbital scans suggested that a battle had recently taken place.
The Dark Angels landed a scouting force to investigate but after just a few hours on the surface of Malius they were attacked by Necrons. As the Dark Angels fought tenaciously and bitterly, retreating back to their landing zone, it was abundantly clear what had happened to the Claws of Lorek. Only a last ditch defence and heavy losses by the Dark Angels' elite scouting forces allowed the rest of their number to escape back to their strike cruiser. The space marines notified General Veers of the situation and a decision would now have to be made. Land forces on Malius to cleanse the Necrons or leave it to the ancient alien race?
With Corticant secured Jellicoe's naval battlegroup under Admiral Dreyer, arrived in the system. Up till now the force, consisting of the battleship Iron Duke, cruisers Glorious, Black Prince, Cressy, Aboukir and Repulse, had not succeeded in tracking down the fleet which must have transported the Chaos raiders to the planet in the previous month. That changed on 0403.010M42, when Dreyer's fleet picked up faint signals from behind the gas giant C7X455 in the Corticant system.
Dreyer formed up the fleet and after a brief game of hide and seek a force of six cruisers, loyal to the Kendrenec warlord Tragean, powered up and closed with Dreyer's formidable fleet. The naval analyticae identified the ships as the slaughter class Doomblade and Reaver, the Hades class Plagueclaw, the Carnage class Dark Omen, the Devastation class Unforgiveable and the Styx class Edematous Maximus. Closing rapidly the Imperial fleet had little time to employ their three nova cannon, but Dreyer made them count, bunching up his fleet in tight formation and crippling then hulking the cruiser Unforgiveable almost before the Chaos fleet had fired a shot.
When the Chaos vessels did open fire the gothic class Aboukir took much of the punishment, being the vessel on Dreyer's extreme right flank, the side which the Chaos lord chose to pass by the Imperial fleet, firing broadsides from Dark Omen and Plagueclaw. At the same time the two slaughter class vessels attempted to outflank the Imperial fleet on Dreyer's left, but despite some skillful evasive manouevres from Doomblade, the ship took the full firepower of the Imperial Battleship and the two dominators. She was rapidly reduced to a drifting hulk.
The combined firepower of the Iron Duke, Repulse and Black Prince decided the outcome of the battle, along with the massed waves of bombers launched from the decks of the Glorious and Dreyer's flagship. Unable to match the Imperium for firepower at close range the Chaos fleet was hammered, losing another vessel, the battlecruiser Edematous Maximus, which blew up with all hands. Dark Omen managed to escape into an asteroid field with the remnants of the Chaos fleets escorts, while the remaining serviceable warships Reaver and Plagueclaw disengaged to lick their wounds.
The Imperium had won a major victory, but during the battle accurate fire from Plagueclaw and enraged bombers from the styx class heavy cruiser had taken their toll on the Imperial vessel. Glorious had taken serious damage and many of her bomber squadrons were forced to land on Iron Duke, who's decks became overcrowded with tired crews from both Imperial carriers. Aboukir meanwhile had been reduced to a drifting wreck, and the Black Prince took severe damage. Even with these losses the Imperial victory ensured the safety of Corticant, for now and enhanced the reputation of Admiral Dreyer. Two Chaos cruisers were towed back to fort Bastion to be decontaminated and used as static fire platforms.
As 03.010M42 began General Veers prepared the completion of Corticant's powerful staging base, named fort Bastion. Here the Imperium's mighty power could be projected across the Perseus Deeps and against the growing shadow of Chaos, held at bay after their defeat at Farport, but rising once more to threaten the worlds of the Emperor of Mankind.
The Corticant system made for an ideal outpost to defend the Imperium's interests in the Deeps. Situated close to both the Perseus Run and Farport passage, and home to six powerful Navy capital class vessels, fort Bastion would be able to protect shipping on the main trade routes into the Deeps and across to the Zadoc subsector. In addition Veers had a mandate to go further, creating more bases and outposts in the Deeps with a view to conducting full scale invasions of the major Chaos held worlds in the dark region between the Vastrid and Zadoc subsectors.
By 03.010M42 the Imperial base on Corticant had grown to nearly one million Imperial Guardsmen and three space marine companies, and work on the system's naval defences had begun. On one small moon orbiting Corticant's largest gas giant Corellian Storm Guard were forced to face a small force of Necrons, awoken by the Imperial excavations required to create an automated missile silo. At one point the battle was going so badly that Veers contemplated destroying the moon entirely, but by 0603.010M42 the Imperial Guard had the upper hand and the Necron threat had been annihilated.
Repeated encounters with the Necron race in the Deeps led Inquisitor Huron, who now based himself at fort Bastion, to conclude with some alarm that the Perseus Deeps were likely a major centre of Necron civilisation before their fall, and that more tomb worlds were likely to be encountered across the expanse of space between the Imperial hubs of Zadoc and Vastrid.
Within the western contamination zone of Betor Nemesis continued its assault, sending wave after wave of warrior bioforms into the streets of Hauzenburg. Exhausted and desperate Corellian troops attempted to hold the central administration district, reduced to rubble by explosive spores dropped from orbit by the hive fleet. Soon scanners detected a large concentration of life signs surging forwards from the south with alarming speed. The gaunt ruins of the Administratum prevented the Correllians from opening fire and they watched nervously as the blips got ever closer on their auspexes.
Then they detected further lifesigns closing from the west and their air support was suddenly blown from the sky by powerful warp blasts as flying tyranids burst out of the Administratum ruins lead by an enormous flying tyrant. A barrage of weapons fire cut down the lead warriors of the horde but then the Corellian's tanks began exploding as more Tyranids attacked from the north, directing fire into the rear of their positions. The Tyrant landed in the middle of the Corellian position, hurling tanks around like broken toys. Eventually it was brought down but it was too little too late. Surrounded and with their positions compromised from all directions the Corellians had no choice but to fall back and fight a guerrilla war. As Nemesis scoured the streets for survivors they were able to disrupt its advance by targeting synapse nodes but eventually the city fell and the Tyranids began the process of consuming its terrified populace.
Probing into the heart of the Perseus Deeps an advanced tendril of Nemesis sent to locate suitable prey worlds for the hive fleet located a number of unpopulated worlds with vibrant ecosystems. When scouts found no intelligent life on Enaloth Nemesis deployed the warriors suspended in hibernation within its outrider vessels. Consumption of the undefended world would yield sufficient biomass to turn this probing tendril of the hive fleet into a fully fledged splinter fleet which could attack the other weakly defended worlds within the deeps. However, Nemesis had not detected the Necron tombs hidden deep within the planet's crust.
At first the awakening Necrons were easily defeated by the ferocity of the Tyranid Hive, but soon enough Necrons were awakened to perform a reconnaissance in force. They probed the area of the planet surrounding the initial drop site, which Nemesis had covered in reclamation pools and feeder spires to convert biomatter into more warriors to add to the scout fleet's limited supply. Nemesis was slow to react to this incursion into its midst but soon vicious and bloody fighting erupted with both sides sustaining heavy casualties. Despite Nemesis' limited resources it proved the Necrons less willing to accept heavy losses. Unable to capture any of the reclamation pools the Necrons phased out to muster their strength within their tombs for a final stand.