Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The doom of Alphe

General Percival's distress call from Alphe was answered as quickly as possible by the Imperial Navy, and to their credit they managed to get Alexander's battlegroup to the system within two weeks. When they arrived in system, although the hive fleet was nowhere to be seen, the entire system close to Alphe itself was swarming with spores, which delayed the inbound would be rescuers as they were forced to bunch up and punch a way through the toxic biohazards.

Meanwhile as the fleet approached the planet itself, the defenders on the ground were facing a desperate struggle for survival, trying to keep the Deepsnow space port open as the tyranid hordes closed in around them. The final battle on Alphe would be fought at the gates of the massive city itself, constructed on and within the mountain range in the polar regions of the planet. Percival, now aided by the Eldar and a company of Ultramarines, made his stand at the fortifications protecting the hive, the only city large enough for such a classification on the whole of Alphe, while as much of the planet's precious resources and equipment was shuttled to the awaiting fleet. If there was time and sufficient space, the civilian population might also be rescued.

The tyranids rushed headlong at the gates of Deepsnow, and Percival was forced to deploy his last reserves. This included two super heavy tanks, a baneblade and a shadowsword, the last on the world, as well as a handful of Prozan and Librian regiments, bolstered by his allies. The Tyranids quickly created a breach in the walls and blew the main gates to pieces, then, in the half light of the now almost toxic atmosphere, Nemesis swarmed forward.

While Percival began the evacuation of heavy equipment, the battle raged at the gates. The order of priority was brutally pragmatic, starting with the Adeptus Mechanicus, the men and equipment of the Imperial Guard would be next. Adeptus Arbites struggled with millions of rioting civilians at the spaceport gates, all desparate to leave with the remnants of Imperial authority, and soon bloody battles were being fought inside the city as well as at the gates. Law and order broke down as the instinct for survival took over.

At the gates themselves, bolstered by the inspiring sight of the Ultramarines, and in awe of their alien allies, the Imperial guard of Libria and Prozan fought furiously. The super heavy tanks turned hundreds of aliens into gobbets of flesh and chitin, while the Ultramarine terminators fought in bloody hand to hand battles with any creatures which got close to the walls. But there were always more. The battle turned when several monstrous burrowing creatures appeared in and around the main gates, forcing Percival to direct his attention momentarily away from the approaching horde. It was all that Nemesis needed.

As the fire from the defenders slackened, the horde of tyranid creatures burst through the breach in the walls, slaughtering the eldar defenders. Percival sent in Hellhounds to reinforce his allies, but these were in turn destroyed. By now Nemesis had got close enough to the walls to assault the tanks of the Librian guard, and a terrifying barbed Hierodule ripped the baneblade apart with its claws, having destroyed the shadowsword with it biological ranged weaponry. Fortunately for the Librian defenders on the walls, massed lascannon fire brought the brute down before it had a chance to rip its way into the fortress itself.

In the centr
e of the battle the Space marines were being tested in their attempt to hold the central gatehouse of the walls of Deepsnow, and the captain of the 4th company fell in combat with multiple tyranid beasts. A brave airborne counter assault by the Prozan cavalry bought some time, but as soon as they had disembarked the Prozans were surrounded, the colonel of the regiment taking his own life rather than face butchery at the hands of the aliens as they closed in around him.

At the end of the first day of the tyranid assault on Deepsnow, the eldar began to retreat towards their warp gate, which was held long enough for them to escape, sealing it shut behind them. As the breach finally fell to the tyranids, Percival gave the order to withdraw to the landing pads. He realised the time was up, and at 12:14 local time on 1808.012M42 he gave the order for all remaining equipment to be left behind. He would now save as many of his men as he could.

As Nemesis closed in on the central complex of Deepsnow, the remaining Prozan and Librian troopers retreated in good order to the landing pads at the heart of the city. The PDF revolted when they learnt that only guard regiments would be evacuated, and several thousand PDF troopers and Imperial Guard soldiers died not at the hands of their enemy, but to each other. As all discipline broke down the guardsmen scrambled for the remaining shuttles, as Ultramarine roared skyward.

Of the 85,000 guardsmen left after the battle for Deepsnow, almost half were evacuated. Of the 250,000 PDF troopers all but 12,000 met their fate on Alphe, while only the planetary governor and some three hundred "important non-military personnel" left Alphe with the survivors, leaving several million to perish at the hands of the ravenous aliens. Nemesis did not meaningfully interfere with the escape of the handful of men. Nearly all the equipment had been lost and the hundred thousand or so who left with battlegroup Alexander represented a tiny amount of the total force available to either Nemesis or the Imperium. All told, the campaign on Alphe had lost the Imperium eleven tank divisions, four airborne regiments and thirty five infantry divisions. The loss of life, some two million military personnel and almost the entire civilian population of Alphe, was appalling, but the loss of sixteen imperial guard regiments, including almost all their equipment, was the most painful loss.

With Alphe gone, the second agri world in the subsector had been consumed by the tyranids. This now left Zadoc in a perilous position. Tarsis Major, now occupied by the Tau, had always been more or less self sufficient in food, but Zadoc, and to a lesser extend Libria, both imported heavily from Alphe & Betor, or "the sisters". Now the subsector capital faced a famine of unprecedented scale unless those sources of food could be replaced...

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