Thursday, December 31, 2015

Minos: Stahl's new tactic

Minos had been at war for months, and while the tide was turning on the ground, the orbital blockade and scant resources meant food shortages among both the nomadic tribesmen and those living in the few towns were becoming more common. In the last weeks of 015M42 rioting broke out in one of the largest of Minos' towns involving hundreds of civilians who had succeeded in capturing several members of the Administratum. The Adeptus Sororitas were closest available military force and sent troops to put down the rioting and rescue the Administratum officials. Entering the town in the early hours of the morning the Sororitas came under fire from a captured Arbites Chimera. This was a prelude however as seconds later both the Immolator and Penitent Engine were struck with improvised explosives lobbed high above the town, quickly followed with an Earthshaker cannon fire from a cannibalised cannon, Fresh explosions wrecked the Sisters' Rhino transport and shattered the legs of the Penitent Engine.

Clearly this was not a food riot but an ambush. The Cannoness spotted an officer in an unfamiliar uniform who was clearly commanding the rioters, supported by unfamiliar soldiers. She immediately ordered that all haste be made to cut the head off the snake. This proved disastrous for the sisters as while many rioters were untrained civilians whose fire was wildly inaccurate, more than half had clearly been trained in military tactics. The Sisters were quickly surrounded and putting down a food riot had become a desperate last stand. With bolter and flamer the sisters took twice their own number down before falling; the last sister killed defending the Administratum officials they almost successfully rescued.

The Cannoness' last reports of the traitor human army forced Imperial Command to stall their advance and even cede a small amount of ground while they shored their defences against further attacks from this new and insidious threat.

Battles in the Minos system


Following the Imperium's defeat in the battle for the Libria system and Stahl's presence there some had began to wonder whether the Warsmith was preparing to quit his war upon Minos. The loss of Collingwood's fleet at Libria was a continued concern as it left the space lanes to Federacy territory heavily weakened. Imperial command still wondered what could have truly enticed the current apparent master of Chaos forces into an alliance with the Federacy, however temporary.

In the subsequent week the Inquisition's spies within the Federacy, as few as they were, received reports of visions and nightmares from many members of the populace, terrified of a beast of night hunting them; pockets of hysteria breaking out in some smaller towns on Hartak and Aleph. However as soon as these nightmares began they ceased and life returned to normal. Two weeks later, similar reports surfaced upon Parthenope. The Astropaths were the worst affected, screaming incoherently of the “ghost of night” coming for them. Again, just like Aleph and Hartak, these reports ceased after a day. A third time the reports of nightmares and beasts returned, this time being so persistent that the news reached the desks of the Imperial Commanders in the region. The nightmares continued for days, leading to Guardsmen complaining of acute insomnia, and others simply refusing to sleep for fear of the beast that awaited them. Again the worst affected were Psykers; even the Navigators of local patrol, not so far needed in significant numbers, reported a “maw” in the Warp that was slowly moving towards Minos. Despite increasing Psychic static, the Astropaths sent word to Bastien requesting additional fleet support to investigate. Naval Command feared the appearance of a Tyranid tendril or even a Chaos Space Hulk and so Admiral Jellicoe despatched two of their fleets to protect the system. This move was not universally welcomed, many scoffing at the Navy jumping at ghosts particularly when there was such a dire situation on Libria and any possibility of a Hive fleet would have to pass through the now very heavily defended Bastien space. Nevertheless, the fleets of Admirals Enkvist and Somerville arrived in the the Minos system 0512.015M42 with Enkvist's Fleet heading to the Sun and the source of the Warp anomaly and Somerville remaining in orbit of Minos.

Enkvist had been attached to Jellicoe after the catastrophic losses suffered by Collingwood and Pendragon, as Kar Duniash finally realised that the Aleph sector was not a sideshow, but a real warzone. Even then Jellicoe had to use all his efforts of persuasion with the naval lords, and it took him several days to get the reinforcements he needed. Jellicoe was also able to explain the situation with the "crusade fleet", although Kar Duniash was unwilling to take sides in an inquisitorail conflict.

The First battle of Minos

In the early morning of 1612.015M42 Enkvist's fleet passed the orbit of the Minos System's closest planet, detecting strange sensor readings as they did so. Enkvist, a practical man, believed this anomaly to be an enemy fleet and not some apparition or Bioship, so he ordered a concentrated sensor sweep of the area closest but in safe proximity to the Sun, paying particular attention to cold spots. By the Emperor's grace Enkvist was rewarded by spotting the enemy fleet of Warsmith Stahl, powered down and drifting towards Minos, apparently having come into the system from the far side to evade detection. Admiral Enkvist hatched a daring plan; as the Chaos fleet was spread out of order, he believed he could close upon them and attack before they had the chance to close into formation. This involved the tactic of circling on minimum power dangerously close to the Sun's outer Corona. However, despite the dangers, Enkvist carried out his plan and was rewarded by catching the Chaos fleet out of position.

At a little past 15:00 local system time, the Chaos fleet sighted its Imperial counterpart and, realising their plan had failed, activated full power and prepared for battle. Unfortunately for Stahl, the cruisers Iron Eternal, Strength Eternal and the Unbreakable Litany were split from his battleship Stahl's Vengeance, and faced the fleet of Enkvist alone. As Stahl's Vengeance, the Pride of Charybdis and Escorts rushed towards the Imperial fleet. The Unbreakable Litany scored first blood, destroying one of Enkvist's many Cobra escorts but was crippled in return. Enkvist, ordering fire upon the Iron Eternal, succeeded in crippling his a second vessel only minutes after the Unbreakable Litany. Then, at a little past 15:36 ethereal howls and screams echoed throughout every ship in the Imperial fleet; warning sirens blaring of a close proximity Warp translation. Fleet-wide reports of boarding actions were shouted at Enkvist, false reports of fire and magazine discharges, along with screams of beasts in the corridors of all ships in Enkvist's tight fleet formation. The Ghost of Rofocale had appeared off the Kirov's Port side and amidst the chaos caused by its appearance both the Iron Eternal and Unbreakable Litany were able to disengage.

Still recovering from the appearance of the Rofocale, Enkvist barely caught the distress call from the Poltora coming under heavy fire from the Chaos fleet, which was quickly crippled with concentrated lance and weapons battery fire. What had seemed like the perfect trap had been thrown seemingly into disarray by the demonic presence of the Rofocale who further compounded matters when the Narva refused to fire at the more distant Strength Eternal, instead firing its lance batteries at the incorporeal Rofocale. Sensing blood, the Ghost of Rofocale fully left the Empyream to fire into the crippled Poltora. Enkvist, fully aware that the demon ship was crippling his fleet but could not be fired upon due to its position, ordered the Captain of the Kursk to ram the Daemon ship to end it once and for all. However this was not to be the heroic end for the Captain as the Daemon ship managed to twist in space and the Kursk only succeeding in clipping the vessel although the bold move allowed Enkvist's fleet to place themselves beyond the daemon ship's crippling influence.

The Imperial fleet continued trading shots with the Strength Eternal until the other half of Stahl's fleet entered effective weapons range. At a little after 16:45 Stahl's Vengeance, the Iconoclast's escorts and the Pride of Charybdis opened upon the Imperial fleet, reducing the Petrova to a broken hulk with a devastating bomber run. The appearance of Stahl's flagship allowed the wounded Ghost of Rofocale to drop back into the Warp and the Strength Eternal to disengage. For the next two hours the fleet of Enkvist would take pot shots at the Chaos fleet with neither able to draw a bead upon the other, all the while the Ghost of Rofocale appearing and disappearing. Finally, Stahl, believing he had done enough damage to prevent pursuit, disengaged and rendezvoused with his fleet in dead space to make their next move.

The Second battle of Minos

The second battle for Minos occurred two days later in orbit above Minos itself. Rear admiral Somerville, having received warning from Admiral Enkvist, first detected the Iron Warriors when heading on in-system patrol. Somerville, aware of the enemy fleet's capabilities, was keenly aware of its superior range and sought to boldly close the gap as quickly as possible and bring his superior, but short ranged lance batteries to bear. At 18:09 the first salvoes of the Stahl's fleet fired, damaging Wyvern. In return Somerville launched a full spread of torpedoes into the oncoming path of Iron and Strength Eternal who were flanked by the carrier Pride of Charybdis. While Strength Eternal suffered minor damage from the oncoming torpedoes the Pride of Charybdis, intending to use its superior turrets to destroy most the torpedoes, moved into the path of the the remaining salvoes to protect Iron Eternal. This proved to be a terrible error, with the torpedoes tearing through its stern and crippling the vessel. At this point the Ghost of Rofocale broke from the warp, unleashing terror upon the torpedo crews of the Wyvern and Minotaur. Despite the torpedo spread, the main fleet moved to the Imperial fleet's starboard, save for Stahl's Vengeance who forged ahead into the teeth of of Somerville's fleet. At 18:35 a fleet-wide order from Stahl was broadcast to lock onto the Imperial fleet, with Stahl's Vengeance moving abeam of the both the Wyvern and the Falcon and opening all lance batteries. Concentrating his Prow weapons' batteries upon the smaller Falcon, Stahl smashed through the Falcon's prow lance battery and crippled her. The Unbreakable Litany led the fusillade against the Wyvern, and the combined fire from both the Litany and the rest of the fleet left the Wyvern crippled. This left the Unbreakable Litany in the sights of Somerville and most of the remaining Imperial Fleet who launched torpedoes, bombers and fired their lances with every ship available tearing through the chaos vessel's superstructure reducing it to a broken hulk that drifted and crashed into a large asteroid.

The Iron Warriors dismissed the Unbreakable Litany as an acceptable loss and continued their attack run upon the Imperials. First to suffer was the already crippled Falcon, which was torn apart by the predatory Ghost of Rofocale. Meanwhile the fleet were focussed on destroying the recently arrived Cobra squadron and Firestorm Escorts who, without the support of the larger imperial capital ships, were picked apart in short order. With the escorts destroyed, Somerville concluded that their attack had failed to stop the Iron Warriors and resolved to disengage at 19:59, leaving the space around Minos and the broken ships in the hands of the Iron Warriors. This was not as dire a situation as first appeared as Enkvist was repairing and within days able to take the fight to the Iron Warriors once again.

Third Battle for Minos

One week after the first battle for the Minos system, Admiral Enkvist of the Imperial fleet had facilitated enough repairs of his fleet to engage the Iron Warriors' fleet once again. The Iron Warriors themselves had not been idle, reinforcing their position with more ships from out of the system. This time Admiral Enkvist had neither time nor patience for careful ambushes and made all haste for Minos' biosphere. Stahl and his Desolator battleship were dropping reinforcements onto Minos and so delegated the role of command to Diodotus, commander of the carrier 'Sword of Charybdis'.

Battle commenced at 14:00 with the Iron Warrior fleet coming to starboard to avoid the closing Imperial fleet. A little over 30 minutes later the Nova cannon fire crippled the Iron Eternal which, having barely been rendered to working order, was crippled once again and forced to disengage. Having learned from their previous engagements, the Iron Warriors deployed massed fighter waves to intercept the impressive number of torpedoes heading towards their ships. The Idolators' escorts, ranging ahead of the main fleet, destroyed their Cobra counterpart, and the rest of the fleet began opening salvoes at battleship Kirov. The Nova cannons fired their salvoes again however this time the crews of the Chaos fleet were ready and braced against the cannons. In return, Diodotus and the Iron Warrior fleet focussed their fire upon the Kirov, destroying the shield generators and tearing the superstructure apart, crippling it and forcing Enkvist himself to disengage at 15:10.

Despite Admiral Enkvist's retreat, the Imperial fleet continued their attack, determined to break the traitors, focussing their fire upon one ship the Eternal Will. The ship was set ablaze, and after crews were unable to control the blaze, was reduced to a drifting hulk. The Imperial Fleet and Iron Warriors fleet both stubbornly refused to break from each other, however the damage was slowly favouring the Iron Warriors, with the Khal Kangal being reduced to a hulk and the Tsushima being crippled with a severely damaged engine. In a gambit to rescue the situation, the Falchion escorts used their superior agility to attack the Sword of Olympia at close range with an impressive spread of torpedoes and weapons fire. However, surprisingly effective turret fire bracing on the green crew of the Sword meant that the Falchions were unable to cripple the lance ship. In return the Iron Warrior fleet, having no other viable targets in range, focussed their fire upon the Falchions, destroying them. In the hours following the Ghost of Rofocale continued to shadow the Imperial fleet who, seeing the closing vengeful Iron Warrior fleet and the materialising Ghost, elected to disengage and leave the day to the Iron Warriors.

Iron Warriors Fleet
Stahl's Vengeance – Desolator Class Battleship (Warmaster)
Strength Eternal – Carnage class cruiser
Iron Eternal – Carnage class cruiser (Crippled in 1st and 2nd battle)
Pride of Charybdis – Styx class cruiser (Crippled in 2nd battle)
Unbreakable Litany – Hades class cruiser (Crippled in 1st battle, destroyed in 2nd battle)
Ghost of Rofocale – Murder class cruiser (Daemon Ship)
Two Iconoclasts Escorts

Iron Warriors reinforcements
Eternal Will – Carnage class cruiser
Sword of Charybdis – Devastation class cruiser
Shield of Charybdis – Devastation class cruiser
Sword of Olympia – Acheron class cruiser

Imperial Fleet of Admiral Enkvist
Kirov – Retribution class Battleship (Enkvist)
Kursk – Dominator class cruiser (crippled)
Poltava – Dominator class cruiser (Destroyed)
Narva – Gothic class cruiser
Boridino – Dictator class cruiser

Imperial Fleet of Admiral Somerville
Minotaur – Gothic class cruiser (Admiral)
Wyvern – Gothic class cruiser (Destroyed)
Harpy – Dictator class cruiser
Siren – Dictator class cruiser
Sparrow – Dauntless class Light cruiser
Raven – Dauntless class Light cruiser
Falcon – Dauntless class Light cruiser (Destroyed)