Monday, December 05, 2011

The Battle of Calliden - The Battle

The first chaos vessels sighted were those of Lord Tragean. Jellicoe received a message from Dreyer's flagship Iron Duke and the admiral gave his subordinate permission to engage, as his own battlegroup was following Dreyer's with Hector on the starboard wing and the Adeptus Mechanicus fleet tracking an anomalous energy signature on the port wing. Jellicoe hoped to trap Tragean before any reinforcements could arrive.

This plan went wrong with alarming rapidity. As Dreyer's vessels began the action with Tragean at 12:22 local system time, the Adeptus Mechanicus fleet reported that a large fleet was threatening Jellicoe's flank, and they were straining to keep up. Annoyed, instead of following Dreyer, Jellicoe turned his fleet, led by the Agamemnon, to port, preparing to meet this threat. This left Dreyer on his own, fighting it out against Tragean around a densely packed asteroid field. Worse still, it was at this time that the ork Roks, and a fearsome ork hulk appeared dead ahead, and began lending their ordnance of torpedoes and fighta bombas to Tragean's attack.

Dreyer's battlegroup opened the shooting and caused the first damage to Unnatural Permutation at 13:30. Tragean's vessels began firing back and Dreyer found himself trying to fend off swarms of ork attack craft while taking fire from the chaos ships, which had formed into a concentrated battle line. Using the cover of the asteroids, Dreyer's ships managed to cripple the Harbinger early on while avoiding critical damage themselves.

While Jellicoe was still waiting for the second chaos fleet to pull into view, Admiral Hector's battlegroup arrived on the starboard wing, behind Tragean's fleet. This ought to have put them in an ideal position, but Hector was slow to order "all ahead full" and Tragean's vessels already had a good lead. At 15:36 Dreyer's luck finally ran out when Irresistable became the first casualty of the battle, brought down either by fire from Tragean's lead ships, including the battleship Irredeemable Apostate, or from waves of ork torpedoes.

Hector's ships finally began accelerating, but it soon became apparent that they could not meaningfully aid Dreyer's battlegroup, who were now skillfully navigating the asteroid belt in order to get a good shooting position against Tragean's ships. Hector had his own problems as well, as the orks were beginning to interpose themselves between his fleet and the chaos vessels. Disaster struck at 15:44, when Medusa, a dauntless class cruiser, took an unlucky hit from an ork torpedo, breaking her back and sending her spinning out of the battle. Revenge came swiftly however, as at 15:45 combined firepower from Dreyer's gothic class vessels, emerging from the asteroid field, crippled the Unnatural Permutation.

Meanwhile Jellicoe had made contact with the fleet he had been chasing. Appearing from the port quarter, Admiral Thok's fleet appeared, led by the Jormungandr. They had drifted in silently and powered up weapons at the last moment, taking the Imperial fleet by surprise. The result was almost catastrophic. Thok's entire fleet zeroed in on the cruisers Valiant, Indefatigable, Conquerer and Agincourt. The results were predictable and at 15:40 the Indefatigable was reduced to a smoking hulk, while Conquerer took heavy damage. Thok's ships shooting had been woefully inaccurate however, and Jellicoe ought to have paid a much heavier price. Conquerer and Daring quickly disengaged, the latter having been caught out on her own and engaged at long range by the newly arriving chaos vessels of Lorek, which appeared on the scene at about 15:40, on the port wing of the ork "formation".

Jellicoe now had his revenge. Agincourt and Valiant made an expert torpedo run, while firing both broadsides at the rear of Thok's lines. Supported by the lance batteries of the Agamemnon, Thok's ships took a battering. Worse still for the chaos admiral, at 15:45 the Adeptus Mechanicus fleet arrived on his port quarter, damaging a chaos cruiser and crippling the Jormugandr with an outstanding display of accurate nova cannon fire. Thok's fleet couldn't withstand this kind of punishment for long, and despite frantic manouevres, Brunhilde, Skoll, Beowulf and Grendel's Fury took heavy damage, and Thok's entire battlegroup disengaged at 16:45.

The defeat of Thok ought to have ensured that despite the fact that Jellicoe had torn up his battle plan, the Imperium would win the day. However things were coming to a head in the centre. Tragean had now managed to get behind Dreyer's force, and Hector's fleet were now busily engaged with the ork roks. Worse still, Lorek's fleet was turning to chase Dreyer's fleet while Jellicoe's vessels struggled to turn round and get back in the fight. The Adeptus Mechanicus fleet's arrival made up for the poor tactical position Jellicoe's forces were now in, as long range firepower crippled Lorek's flagship, the Sword of Ajax, at 17:15.

Admiral Hector's fleet was suffering at the hands of the orks. His ships had destroyed three in a fierce engagement, but Hippocampi had been reduced to a hulk, and the wreck of the Medusa detonated as she collided with an asteroid at 17:25, only adding to the scene of carnage on that area of the battlefield. In the centre, Tragean was constantly frustrated by the lack of discipline from his captains, and despite damaging the Iron Duke and setting it ablaze, Dreyer's fleet managed to escape annihilation by successfully navigating the asteroid belt which dominated the centre of the action. However, Dreyer soon found the action just as hot on the other side, as his fleet began to form up with Hectors to fight the orks. At 19:08 the ork hulk itself showed its worth, destroying the Cressy and minutes later destroying the dauntless class Helios, after it had been crippled by a long range salvo from one of Lorek's vessels. The wreck then exploded at 19:15, blinding the sensory augurs of most vessels in the vicinity.

Jellicoe was losing ships, while the chaos forces hadn't lost one. The orks by now had lost four roks, and their hulk was taking damage, but the forces of chaos still had all their ships intact, even if several were seriously damaged. This finally changed at 19:27, when the ailing Sword of Ajax was finished off by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The forces of the machine god also managed to cripple the Unholy flame, before the confusing augur returns caused by wreckage and explosions from destroyed Imperial vessels began to see both sides lose contact with each other.

Despite some long ranged salvoes over the next few hours, the main action was over. Jellicoe ordered his sub commanders to form up on his flagship while he searched for the chaos fleet once more. Several hours later Beattie's battlegroup arrived, informing Jellicoe that the chaos fleet had returned to the safety of the Calliden space docks, while the ork roks had melted away into the asteroid belts which ringed the system.

There was a brief discussion whether or not to press home the attack and assault the docks, but with so many ships lost or damaged, the likely result was mutual annihilation, something Jellicoe could not afford. Disappointed and unsure of the result of the battle, Jellico returned to port at Corticant, his battered vessels arriving some days later.

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