Friday, September 29, 2023

Mordecai - Battle for Menoria Hive


Tau prepare for Zadoc Invasion

Having taken the Zadoc moon base in 06.023M42 the Tau had been preparing their invasion of Zadoc proper for some time. It came as no surprise that the next target for the Tau would be the trading outpost of Adriante, as this installation on the cold outer planets of the Zadoc system was strategically vital to incoming supply traffic to the system. Given the time between the creation of the initial bridgehead and the assault on Adriante, there had been plenty of time for the forces of chaos to react to the Tau presence in the system. 

Using arcane sorcery fuelled by the daemonworld of Astralis, the Thousand Sons, led by Ahriman and a projection of Magnus the Red prepared an immediate counter attack to any move the Tau made, and when in mid 09.023M42 that time came, the traitor astartes deployed in strength against the hunter cadre sent to take the trading post. The Tau however had anticipated this kind of response, and their attack force was well equipped to deal with the strong counter attack from the daemon led space marines force. Although individually powerful, the Thousand Sons did not have great numbers, and the Tau had brought maximum firepower. Fire warriors deploying from devilfish supported by crisis suits, hammerheads and larger battlesuits overwhelmed the ancient astartes and their sorcery, inflicting a heavy defeat on the Thousand Sons and banishing Magnus back to the warp. Now the Tau had the planet of Zadoc itself surrounded and cut off from outside supply, barring the warp conduit to the Astralis daemonworld. It was only a matter of time before they would make planetfall.

Tyranid Menace plagues Rifts of Hecate

While the Imperium concentrated on the invasion of Mordecai Primaris, and the Tau launched their new offensive in the Zadoc subsector, the Tyranid threat began increasing in scale in the Hadron Expanse. The hive mind had already consumed Candic Minor and Mezria IV, and now exploratory probes were becoming more frequent and violent. One such splinter fleet arrived at Helos Majoris in mid 07.023M42. With the Imperial Fleet guarding the Hecate Gap there was no way to prevent the tyranids from making planetfall, but the combined actions of the Grey Knights and Dark Angels, still stationed at the most important imperial base in the region, were able to drive back the xenos assault.  The Grey Knights held the line against gigantic alien creatures, while the Dark Angels pursued the stragglers remorselessly, hunting down and burning every last creature and seeking out any spore nodes to prevent the aliens from using the biomass of the planet to generate more warriors. By the end of 08.023M42 Helos Majoris was once again free of the tyranid threat.

The Tau too faced another tyranid invasion, having cleared one previously, as more xenos craft arrived from Mezria IV to land an army of alien creatures on Garmenes. The Tau, having decided to make the world a bastion against alien incursions from the galactic fringe, were however well placed to meet this assault. Deploying large numbers of crisis suits the firepower of the Tau overwhelmed the invaders, and the tyranid threat was eliminated within a week.

At the less heavily defended system of Lodax however, the tyranids had more success. No faction held either Lodax Prime or Lodax Secundus outright, and both worlds only had small garrison or patrol forces stationed there. On Lodax Prime the world played host to an eldar garrison and an imperial outpost. The imperial garrison was quickly overrun, with the Imperial Fists attempting to intervene. It was too late however, and the small force of astartes sent to deal with the threat found themselves seriously outmatched. Of the company of Fists sent to investigate the loss of the imperial outpost, only a pair of terminator armoured space marines returned, severely denting imperial strength in the Rifts of Hecate. 

The eldar faired little better. The tyranid swarm overwhelmed them and while they tried to conduct a fighting withdrawal to their webway portal for a while, this eventually became a headlong rout as the eldar warriors fled from the overwhelming power and numbers of the approaching alien horde. By the end of 09.023M42, while the major bases had held against the tyranid onslaught, Lodax Prime was now almost overrun.

Battles at Hylas reach installation

In the Zadoc subsector the Tau were making progress on New Cerberex but the advance had stalled due to the presence of the Dark Angels. At the same time the Imperium were rushing forces towards the subsector as it was now clear the Tau were launching major operations in the region while the Imperium were busily engaged in the Hadron Expanse and at Mordecai in the Perseus Deeps.

Forces would be slow to assemble in the area however, and the first to arrive in the region was a regiment of Praetorian Guard. Acting on intelligence that suggested Demiurg forces allied to the Tau were seeking to take the Imperial outpost of Hylas Reach, a space station in orbit around a gas giant protecting the warp lane to Hylas itself, the Praetorians decided to deploy on the station in order to head off the xenos assault.

Unfortunately neither the Demiurg nor the Imperium were aware that the orks were also on the move in the Zadoc subsector. Ever since the loss of Zadoc and Tarsis Major, the Imperium had allowed the defences of their two remaining worlds and associated outposts to fall into disrepair, and unknown to the Praetorians the space station had been abandoned. When they did arrive in late 06.023M42, instead of heading off the Demiurg they found themselves in a three way battle on the decks of Hylas Reach between themselves, the orks and the Demiurg.

The battle for Hylas Reach raged for almost a day as the imperial forces tried to gain a foothold. The aggressive orks charged into the praetorian lines holding them back, just as the Demiurg force arrived. The Federacy had been tasked with taking the installations, while the Tau concentrated on the major worlds, but the Demiurg were also not prepared for a fight against two enemies. The Praetorians suffered the most, caught between two hostile alien forces, and were quickly forced back to their breaching locations, while the orks swarmed over the abhuman Leagues of Votan forces. It was not clear to the Imperium where these abhumans originated, but it was widely suspected that this was a force from Hartak, rather than a new expedition from the galactic core, and imperial intelligence continued on the assumption that these forces were part of the Federal-Tau alliance, referring to them using the derogatory term "squats" in the official reports.

The orks didn't care. The greenskins simply swarmed all over their new enemies and soon had taken all the strategic locations on the station. With reports of ork spacecraft in the vicinity both the Praetorians and Votann forces evacuated. Hylas Reach would need to be dealt with in another way.

Calthingum Raid


Friday, July 14, 2023

Drukhari raids increase in Rifts of Hecate

In 07.023M42 the Imperium was beset by new problems in the Zadoc subsector and the focus of high command shifted back to the Perseus Deeps with the invasion of Mordecai Primaris. This also continued to drain the forces of chaos, but both the imperium and the followers of the dark gods had outposts in the Hadron Expanse and into the Rifts of Hecate, which were looking like tempting targets from the masters of opportunism, the Drukhari.

The Dark Eldar, lacking in any particular central strategy other than to gather slaves and inflict pain, were however strongest in the galactic east thanks to the prior work of Vlokarian's cabal, and now the Drukhari struck once again, this time in the Rifts themselves, raiding the imperial base at Helos Majoris, and the chaos world of Mendesum. 

The raid against the Imperium, whose forces under general Maximus had been stripped following the suddent invasion of New Cerberex and the redeployment of Admiral Craddock's fleet was a success. The imperial garrison was quickly overwhelmed and even the intervention of a crusading force of Sisters of Battle was unable to prevent the dark eldar from devastating one imperial base and taking thousands of slaves. On Mendesum however the Drukhari were less fortunate, and ran into a strong force of Iron Warriors whose presence on the world had not been expected. The Drukhari were forced to retreat as they lost their commander and cabal leader, with the Iron Warriors taking steps to reinforce the world against further raids.

Tau launch invasion of Gamador

With the Imperium and chaos threats focussed on Mordecai and the Tau having pulled back from the Rifts of Hecate, the strategic situation in the Aleph Sector in 07.023M42 was looking favourable for the Tau Empire. Commander Dawn Strike had already launched a new campaign in the Zadoc subsector, but the Perseus Expansion Sphere was also now favourable for continuing the plans of the Empire. The Tau already had strong bases on Lucardium and Parius, and a secure route to resupply both via the Foramen Ancilla and to the major hubs of Libria and Tarsis Major. In addition the Tau had noted the lack of activity from the Necron worlds of the Perseus Deeps and launched an exploratory expedition to Gamador.

Their initial landing was unopposed. Instead of a strong and active necron world the hunter cadre sent to the system found the ancient xenos dormant and unprepared for invasion. This didn't last, as the ancient race soon mustered a force to oppose the interlopers, but the counter attack was far from cohesive or overwhelming. After a brisk engagement the necron counter attack was repulsed, and the Tau reported a successful bridgehead on the world. On Lucardium, the centre of Tau operations, plans began to be drawn up for the conquest of the Charnovokh dynasty in the Perseus Deeps.

Battle of New Cerberex

Prelude to Battle

The battle of New Cerberex was a major fleet engagement between the Imperium and the Tau Empire in the Zadoc subsector which took place on 0207_023M42. By this time the Imperium's defences of their worlds in the subsector had been neglected for some time, and the Tau Empire had taken the opportunity of invading the world of New Cerberex, a home of refugees from the original world of Cerberex which was taken over by the Federacy many years before. Despite the Tau having the strategic advantage, the Imperium were not willing to give up New Cerberex without a fight, and had been conducting a defensive effort on the world until Admiral Craddock could arrive and hopefully break the Tau blockade.

Both sides were eager to give battle. Craddock knew that his fleet was not alone, and by bringing the Tau fleet to battle, a subsequent strike by a full chapter strength Space Marine fleet that had secretly made its way to the Mabb nebula, would finish the Tau dominance in the region. However, Craddock and Imperial intelligence were unaware that the Tau fleet was itself supported by a powerful Federal fleet, and the Tau admiral had a similar idea.

Upon arriving in system the Imperial fleet, led by the retribution class battleship Vanguard, was able to slip past the Tau pickets and take up station in the solar flare region of the system. The tau ships moved to intercept, and the battle would be played out amongst the confusing radiation burst and solar flares of the New Cerberex star.

Imperium order of battle
Vanguard - Retribution class battleship (Admiral Craddock commanding)
Redoubtable - Dictator class cruiser
Aboukir - Gothic class cruiser
Indomitable - Gothic class cruiser
Agincourt - Lunar class cruiser
Conqueror - Lunar class cruiser
3 sword class escorts

Tau order of battle
Serenity - Custodian class battleship
Enterprise - Protector class cruiser
Endeavour - Protector class cruiser
Voyager - Protector class cruiser
Discovery - Protector class cruiser
Providence - Protector class cruiser
Messenger class escort
3 Castellan class escorts

The Battle
Both fleets engaged head on, with Craddock somewhat surprised that the Tau had split their fleet into two divisions, though these divisions were placed in mutually supporting positions. The imperial admiral decided to tackle the smaller division to port first with a head on torpedo run, while showing his fleet's powerful broadsides to the other group. Meanwhile the Tau admiral prepared to fight the engagement relying on torpedoes and manta waves, despite the risk from solar flares. What follows is a transcript of events from the surviving cogitator banks on Redoubtable.

15:02: Fleets engage. Admiral Craddock turns to port intending to use gunfire against the larger tau group and torpedoes against the smaller.
15:07: The first torpedo wave from the larger tau group arrives and proves accurate, crippling the cruiser Indomitable.
15:14: The Tau fleet successfully reloads for more torpedo waves.
15:25: Aboukir is crippled by the second wave of torpedoes and mantas from the Tau fleet.
15:27: On the imperial left flank the imperial escorts are destroyed by accurate fire from the smaller Tau formation. 
15:35: Yet another wave of torpedoes and mantas assaults the imperial fleet with devastating accuracy, crippling Craddock's flagship. 
15:44: The Imperium torpedo and bomber wave finally arrives at the Tau fleet with starhawks severely damaging Endeavour
15:45: Imperial torpedoes arrive, destroying the protector class Endeavour but blast markers detonate imperial torpedoes saving the Discovery
15:48: A further bomber wave, unseen by the imperial fleet manages to evade turret fire from Vanguard, and the subsequent bombing run leads to a catastrophic plasma drive overload, killing all hands, leaving the fleet leaderless and scattering plasma across the battle zone.
16:00: Heavy fire from Redoubtable and Aboukir destroy two castellans but the third escapes. 
16:06: The lunar class Conqueror now succumbs to another manta bombing wave.
16:11: Another Tau torpedo wave cripples the Indomitable. Agincourt takes minor damage but loses her shields.
16:11: Agincourt, struggling with minor damage but with here shields down suffers a critical hit from a sudden solar flare, crippling her.
16:13: Worse still for the imperium the wreck of the Endeavour explodes due to impact of the solar flare, the resulting explosion sets the imperial cruiser Indomitable on fire, crippling her.
16:16: Conqueror, drifting and burning, now wanders into the Tau fleet, exploding and crippling the Tau protector class Enterprise.
16:18: Having suffered severe damage and unaware of the battle progress, the cruisers Aboukir and Agincourt successfully disengage from battle.
16:21: On the left flank the Imperium are still in the battle, and Discovery is crippled by weapons battery fire.
16:23: The tau decide to disengage Discovery to protect her from further harm, but contentiously keep Enterprise in the fight. 
16:28: Indomitable is reduced to a hulk by the combined force of Tau which have now almost joined up.
16:32: Redoubtable launches a final bomber wave, destroying the Enterprise.
16:33: Enterprise, set on fire, now explodes, crippling her sister ship Voyager.
16:37: Combined fire from the Tau fleet now cripples Redoubtable, who is facing the remaining Tau ships alone. Suffering serious damage the dictator class vessel disengages, bringing an end to the battle. 

Imperial losses: 1 battleship destroyed, 2 cruisers destroyed, 3 cruisers crippled, 3 escorts lost
Tau losses: 2 cruisers destroyed, 2 cruisers crippled, 2 escorts lost

The imperial fleet was shocked by the loss of Vanguard and the heavy losses, as well as the certain death of a respected admiral. Three capital ships destroyed, two irrevocably, and three severely damaged far from a fleet base represented a devastating blow to imperial power in the subsector, and risked the campaign on New Cerberex. However, Lord Admiral Jellicoe took some comfort from the destruction of two tau cruisers, and hoped the Space Marine Fleet of the Sky Lords would be able to break the Tau stranglehold over the system. At this stage, still unaware of the Federal fleet presence, it was decided that the remainder of Craddock's ships would return to Bastien for refit and replacement, while the space marines would be able to deal with the now damaged Tau fleet.

The Tau aim was to inflict heavy losses on the Imperial fleet to force it to withdraw from the Zadoc subsector, giving Alliance forces total space dominance. To this end they had been willing to sustain losses in pursuit of this goal, having struck a deal with the Leagues of Hartak for direct military support in exchange for human inhabited worlds in the Zadoc subsector being allowed to join the Federacy.

Post action analysis by the Tau forces determined losses were "within acceptable parameters" and the operation was a success. Kor'O Ke'lshan Ria'en, commander of the Tau fleet received praise for her decision to split the fleet into two mutually supporting elements and for her strong training regime for fleet ordnance assets but was criticised by some within the Tau command hierarchy for what they saw has her reckless decision to keep Enterprise in the line of battle after it sustained heavy damage, leading to its destruction.

The Leagues of Hartak cruisers Sentry and Outrider joined the Tau task force at New Cerberex. The remaining Votann fleet mobilised and departed from Hartak, destination unknown, on 0707_023M42, presumed to be carrying significant ground force complement by imperial spies. No abnormal signs of mobilisation from the Federal or Tallaxian fleets were detected, which remained on defensive postures.

The priority for the Tau-Federal alliance now were to try to complete the conquest of New Cerberex before the Imperium could move any more fleet assets to the region.The Leagues of Hartak also wanted to secure as many space stations in the Zadoc subsector as possible for use as fleet bases and invasion launchpads, with Hylas firmly in their sights.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Mordecai Primaris: Imperial Breakout

Shortly after establishing a bridgehead on Mordecai Primaris, imperial high command fully expected a strong counter attack now the Imperium had made clear where it would be landing. Kutuzov was unable due to resource constraints and the speed of the invasion to effect more than one landing, so the single bridgehead would be the only one for the time being at least. The plan now was to break out towards Westonia and take the hive sprawls and their resources before conducting any subsequent phases south or north, that would come with their own challenges.

While planning this breakout, scheduled for early 07.023M42 imperial intelligence came across information that was alarming. In Westonia it appeared Emerald Serpent forces were not just massing for a counterstrike, but that a psychic ritual was taking place. The reason was unknown, but Kutuzov and his command team decided to move forward the breakout in order to take Westonia and to disrupt whatever heretical activity was going on.

To push east across the partially ruined landscape Kutuzov could count on several Valdograd and Novgorod Guard regiments, which were particularly well equipped with super heavy tanks and artillery. Once again Kutuzov would put his faith in the big guns of the imperial guard, but he would not have to rely on them alone. For this segment of the operation the Sky Lords chapter of space marines had committed a full company including several squads of their elite terminator 1st company. Even more surprising was the assistance of a small contingent of Blood Martyrs space marines, thought destroyed following the coming of the Cicatrix Maledictum. Along with this Astartes help, the adeptus mechanicus provided a warhound titan to give extra fire support.

The enemy had amassed a large force of traitor guard to oppose Kutuzov's advance, with the signs of corruption even more evident on the Darantine Guard's vehicles. Along with heavy armour and chimera borne mechanised infantry, the traitor guard were backed up by Thousand Sons traitor astartes, as well as the familiar form of the Warlord Titan, Astralis Invictus. It was clear the chaos forces were very keen on the Imperium not taking Westonia, or were preparing their own counter offensive.

On 2506.023M42 a massive battle erupted in the ruins of the hive sprawl between New Averbrike and Westonia, as the Imperial guard started their slow push forward supported by massed artillery fire. At the same time a massed terminator teleport strike smashed into Westonia itself, driving back the chaos guard regiments and slamming into the enemy armoured units. On the right, the Imperium were unable to contest the power of Astralis Invictus as the mighty war engine reduced several imperial vehicles to scrap, but it was in the centre where the crucial battle took place. Mechanised traitor guard units contested the all important centre part of the front with space marine tactical squads and Novgorod infantry. The chaos units took massive fire from the imperial line, and eventually broke, forcing the intervention by the Warlord Titan.

Kutuzov's men were unable to prevent the mighty war engine from taking the centre ground, but the battle had gone on long enough by now for the Sky Lords to have mopped up the left flank, and a pincer movement began to develop that threatened to envelop the Warlord Titan and the Thousand Sons. Realising their position had at last become untenable, the Emerald Serpent force withdrew from the Hive Sprawl in good order. Casualties had been high on both sides, but the Imperium were now in control of Westonia and had successfully disrupted whatever psychic plan the sorcerers of Tzeentch had been planning. The chaos forces had not been decisively beaten however, and now the Imperial army would have to make plans to conduct offensives across the unforgiving harsh plains between the hive cities.

Imperium make planetfall on Mordecai Primaris

Having secured a foothold on the space docks in the Mordecai System general Kutusov was keen to make planetfall on Mordecai Primaris as soon as possible. He would have control of space to perform the landings, thanks to the landings made on the Mordecai Docks by the Hammers of the Emperor astartes chapter. In addition, the fleets of the Arch enemy no longer seemed to show any interest in challenging the imperial fleet for dominance in the Mordecai system.

On 1706.023M42 the Imperial navy began a mass campaign to gain air superiority, focussing on the mid latitudes away from the heavily fortified north pole, but close to the hive sprawls of North Averbrike and Westonia. Kutuzov's plan was to land centrally, where there were adequate resources to create a stable bridgehead, before systematically moving north and south to capture the other major settlements and finally the heavily defended fortresses of the north. The Ring, the system of orbital docks and settlements in orbit around the world would for now remain unmolested.

The air war was strongly contested by the forces of chaos, but the Imperium were able to land significant imperial guard forces to the west of the city of North Averbrike. The first assault was led by Valdograd mechanised infantry, and the attack quickly became a disaster as a strong counter attack by chaos armoured forces broke the guard advance and sent the regiment retreating in disarray.

The initial success by the chaos guard forces defending North Averbrike was short lived however, as air cover made sure their heavy tanks were not give freedom of movement, and a huge artillery strike by bombards shattered the main enemy tank formations. With their heaviest units shattered from above, the imperial guard second wave of infantry was able to gain a foothold in the city, and cavalry support soon rendered the chaos positions in the main city untenable.

The cost of the initial invasion had been higher than desired, but within a week Kutuzov was able to disembark imperial guard regiments, elements of the titanicus as well as astartes support, all aided by round the clock air cover provided by the navy. By 2406.023M42 the general was able ready to conduct a breakout from his bridgehead, but by now the chaos forces had reacted, and the Emerald Serpent was about to oppose him in strength.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Drukhari battle daemons as new secret uncovered

For the most part the eldar and dark eldar had been content to allow the other races battle for control over the Rifts of Hecate rather than intervene directly. The Drukhari occasionally launched raids against the imperial, chaos and tau forces for slaves, but overall the ancient xenos raced showed little interest in the ongoing campaign. the exception was the Kel Sandros Craftworld, whose farseer had seen shadows of doom to come were the Rifts not re-sealed from prying eyes, but were unable to as yet determine the reason why.

This changed in 06.023M42 following a raid by the Drukhari on Calthinghum. The dark eldar had intended to conduct yet another slaving mission to the chaos world, as the settlements were ill defended by their masters, and there were plenty of poor and desperate amongst the human population whose fear was particularly appealing to the eldars' fallen kin. However on this raid, the Archon noticed all was not well on Calthinghum, as great numbers of the population were being herded together for apparent sacrifice. This enraged the Drukhari as they saw it as loss of resources, and instead diverted their force to attack whatever ceremony was being performed.

It was at this ceremony they discovered what the forces of chaos had been working on for months. A portal from the Rifts of Hecate, to the Enceladus subsector, connecting the heart of chaos power in the region to the area, no doubt to start another war on the galaxy from a new direction. Realising they had been discovered, the chaos cultists summoned a host of daemons to oppose the Drukhari, but the dark eldar were just able to escape from the clutches of the horde, though at great cost including their leader. The Drukhari returned to their lairs but, in deference to old allegiances, made known the secret to the eldar of Kel Sandros, and the Ynnari. A new warp link from the heart of the Enceladus subsector to the Hadron Expanse would be serious news indeed if it were not prevented.

Imperium stave of assaults by Tyranid swarms

By mid 023M42 the Imperium had established a strong base in the Rifts of Hecate and had gained control over the Hecate Gap, save for the rather difficult problem of a greenskin horde occupying much of Haven. However the Imperium retained superiority in space, so for now the convoy routes to Helos Majoris and Ferrosiun were open.

This was just as well, as the tyranid swarm that landed on Helos Majoris at the end of 05.023M42 was not the last. Two more waves of tyranid infestation arrived in 06.023M42 and both were numerous and powerful. The adeptus mechanicus biologis as well as the Ordos Xenos, posited that because admiral Sommerville had been withdrawn to the Hadron Expanse to cover the move of Craddock to the Zadoc subsector, Barham's remaining fleet was unable to cover all lines of advance into the system, and it now looked highly likely that the number of tyranids in the region may have been far higher than first estimated.

The Sisters of Battle were the first to be called on to defend imperial bases, as a swarm of tyranids and bio-artillery appeared in the open area around one of the cities garrisoned by the Imperium on Helos Majoris. The Sisters of battle, their attached stormtroopers and Frateris Militia pushed hard through the city to reach the front lines, with the imperial navy air wings and orbital strikes from Minotaur softening up the waves of enemy creatures. Casualties were high amongst the Sisters as they stubbornly held the main gaits of Helios in the face of the hive fleets largest and most potent xenomorph monsters, but by the second week of 06.023M42 the alien threat had been contained and the city cleared of alien presence.

Only a week later a third wave of tyranids crashed down onto Helos Majoris, further into the wilderness zones of the planet. Unwilling to let the hive mind gather its strength before attacking the main city of Helios again, the Hammers of the Emperor deployed deep into the wilderness away from their supplies, willing to sacrifice their lives to keep the alien threat at bay. In the following battle without support, the Hammers devastated the tyranid menace but at heavy cost in terms of losses. Helos Majoris was declared xenos free on 2306.023M42 but General Maximus was now growing concerned at the strength of the alien forces opposing him in the Rifts.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Imperium defeat Tyranid incursion on Helos Majoris

As 06.023M42 began the Imperium remained overstretched despite the victory on Mordecai Secundus. Inquisitor Cyrus Esquerra had advocated for pulling back from the Rifts of Hecate, but was overruled by Lord Inquisitor Huron who wanted to continue the crusade to the Eastern Fringe. The "crusade" was not in any way a large force, but the Ordo Xenos Lord Inquisitor had his own reasons for continuing the expansion of the Imperium despite the logistical problems.

The invasion of the Zadoc subsector forced Lord Admiral Jellicoe to pull back fleet assets from the Hadron Expanse, leaving the region dangerously exposed, but the withdrawal of the Tau from Ergura's Fall ensured Huron's view prevailed.

The Imperial bases in the Rifts of Hecate centred on the systems of Ferrosiun and Helos Majoris. In early 06.023M42 the latter system came under assault from a splinter of Hive Fleet Poseidon. The splinter force was particularly large and without a fleet to prevent the xenos from landing on the world, the Imperium were forced into a ground war as the alien creatures flooded onto the world. Fortunately for the Crusade, general Maximus had assigned a large proportion of his Imperial Guard to Helos Majoris, and they were able to construct significant defences.

The xenos creatures repeatedly smashed into prepared trench lines, taking heavy casualties, but biovore artillery gradually thinned out the defenders. A counter attack using a hades tunnelling drill failed to achieve its objective, but the battle was eventually turned by the army commander, and his command staff including a commissar. their company of one hundred men was whittled down to just five, but they held onto a key defensive position despite repeated xenos assaults. Unable to break through the imperial lines the Hive Mind withdrew, abandoning their remaining creatures which were exterminated in short order. Helos Majoris had been defended from the Tyranids for now, and general Maximus ordered the defences enhanced.

Fierce fighting on Caitlen Station

The fighting on Caitlen Station and the discovery of Tyranids on board attracted more astartes to join the battle against the foul xenos. In early 06.023M42 the Dark Angels committed a number of squads to join the Hammers of the Emperor, and they quickly encountered creatures of the hive mind as they pushed deeper into the station.

The first encounter favoured the astartes as the tyranids were pushed back in brutal close quarters fighting, but a subsequent counter attack further into the base caused heavy casualties. It was clear the Tyranids were not going to be removed easily from the derelict and strategically vital space installation.

Tau launch invasion of Zadoc

With the Tau invasion of New Cerberex still unresolved the Tau in the Zadoc subsector decided to move forward with their overall plan anyway. The strategic situation was highly favourable as the Tau controlled Tarsis Major, had a good supply route via the Federacy and Libria, and with Caitlen Station contested, almost a complete logistics stranglehold on the subsector.

The next target for Tau forces was the major world and subsector capital of Zadoc. The world had fallen to chaos following the coming of the Cicatrix Maledictum, and now the world was ripe for a takeover by the Tau. To facilitate this, rather than launching an immediate invasion of the world, the Tau, led by commander Bright Moon, planned a series of assaults on other system installations and outposts. The two key locations were the orbital trading post and the Zadoc-g Moonbase.

On 0106.023M42 a full Hunter Cadre deployed on the Trading post installation on the frozen planet of Adriante. They were opposed by a force of Thousand Sons, though it is unknown whether these traitor astartes were working for the Emerald Serpent or intervened for other reasons. In the battle however, a manifestation of Magnus the Red was encountered, which posed a significant threat to the Tau invasion. Overwhelming firepower was swiftly employed by the xenos force, and the shard of Magnus was obliterated back to the warp. With their leader and a key chaos sorcerer eliminated, the remaining Thousand Sons were soon surrounded and pushed back, evacuating on 0206.023M42 and leaving the Trading Post in Tau hands.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Zadoc Subsector: Battles on Caitlen Station

In late 05.023M42 the Tau invasion of New Cerberex had stalled thanks to the superb defensive fighting skills of the Dark Angels. Further afield, having been lost in the warp for several years following the coming of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the powerful space station and naval docks of Caitlen Station, once a bastion of imperial power in the sector before the fall of Tarsis Major, Zadoc and Libria, and the consumption of Alphe and Betor by the hive fleet known as Nemesis, suddenly reappeared. The station was still fully intact, but devoid of life, apparently abandoned.

This news quickly spread and the astartes of the Hammers of the Emperor chapter quickly moved in to investigate. They were not alone however. The forces of chaos had already sent a strike force to the station from their bases on Zadoc, only to find that the station wasn't entirely derelict. Inside the cramped passageways and ducts, an alien threat lurked. As the Death Guard force moved through the station they were suddenly assaulted by tyranid creatures. The Death Guard put up fierce resistance but were ultimately seen off by the marauding xenos entities.

The Hammers of the Emperor faced a different threat, immediately coming into contact with the abhumans knowns (derisively) as squats. The abhuman force was dealt with after an intense close quarters fight, and the astartes found their enemy to be well equipped and competent fighters. This was the first engagement with the abhumans for many years, and concern grew that the Federal world of Hartak may be preparing to involve itself in the affairs of the Zadoc subsector. The information was passed back to imperial command, and unfortunately word got out.

As rumours spread about the Votann, local imperial commanders were quick to dismiss the armed confrontation with "squats" aboard Caitlen Station as merely a minor engagement against a kinband engaged in looting and salvaging. Imperial intelligence meanwhile, raised concerns about unusual fleet activity at Hartak in the Federacy that might indicate mobilisation, and reported that two cruisers, Sentinel and Watchmen had already broke system several weeks ago and their whereabouts was unknown.

Tau continue to root out xenos on Garmenes

Despite having abandoned the Hecate Gap, the listening post of Garmenes was still an important system for the Tau to control, in order to monitor events in the region. By late 05.023M42 the Tau believed that the tyranid threat had been expunged from the world, but investigations by the Tau water caste indicated that all was not right with the indigenous if small population of humans they had now gained control over.

After several reports of changes to the human population's behaviour, and observations of a new religious cult emerging in some settlements, the Tau deployed in strength to investigate. Instead of a new human religion they quickly realised the activity was centred on one particular "preacher", who had apparently discovered religion rather recently, and was spreading a message involving a "many armed god".

This didn't fool the Tau, and the fire caste deployed a full Hunter Cadre against the main settlement where the cult was preaching, soon finding a full genestealer cult in residence. In the following brutal engagements the cult was eliminated in its entirety, and the settlement of Ang'Por burnt to the ground. The Tau then established water caste "advisors" to all the human settlements to monitor the local populace for the taint of the xenos infestation going forward.

Mordecai: Astartes launch preparation for invasion of Primaris

By the end of 05.023M42 the Imperium had successfully secured Mordecai Secundus. Immediately thoughts turned to the invasion of Mordecai Primaris, the jewel in the crown of the system and the necessary final struggle for Imperial control over the vital strategic location. With Mordecai Secured, the warp lanes from Bastien to the Zadoc Subsector would be significantly easier to traverse, although there was still a need to open a new passage through the Cicatrix Maledictum.

General Kutuzov wanted an early invasion to prevent the forces of chaos from building up their defences. Astralis could not be assaulted directly, but the defences of Mordecai Primaris would need softening up, as well as the capture or neutralisation of the powerful Mordecai Naval Docks.

The Hammers of the Emperor proposed astartes strikes on both the defences of Mordecai Primaris, most notably the missile silos that would endanger any landing force, and to take out the space docks by launching a space marine led invasion of the facility. That way the docks could not be used, but if successful, they may proove useful to the Imperium instead, speeding up the conquest of the major world around which it orbited.

The Hammers of the Emperor dispatched a company strength force to neutralise the missile silos of Mordecai Primaris, while sending a smaller force to board the Mordecai Docks. Meanwhile General Kutuzov began preparations for the full scale invasion of Mordecai Primaris, liaising between the navy, the Adeptus Mechanicus and imperial guard contingents of the planned assault force.

The Hammers of the Emperor performed multiple bombing runs against the missile silo targets, but quickly realised a land force would be necessary to confirm their destruction. The astartes then performed an assault drop, but found the silos defended by a strong force of World Eaters. A furious battle then developed, with the Hammers of the Emperor making use of their close range firepower while keeping out of range of the berserk fury of the traitor astartes dedicated to Khorne.

It almost worked, but in the end the Hammers had not accounted for a force of Brass Scorpions entering the fray, and these units of the arch enemy held onto key locations long enough to deny the loyalist astartes their objectives. With reinforcements on the way, the Hammers of the Emperor were forced to abandon the mission, and the missile silos remained intact.

At Mordecai Docks the imperial fleet under High Admiral Stark supported the Hammers' boarding parties in case of a reaction by the chaos fleet. None was forthcoming, as the chaos vessels would be outnumbered two to one versus the Imperium, and chose not to engage at such unfavourable odds. The station itself put up heavy fire, but the boarding torpedoes and assault boats weathered the storm of fire and breached the fortress walls in several locations. Vicious close range fighting now took place on the station itself, as traitor astartes from the House of Eschar faction of the Death Guard fought bitterly for every corridor. 

The Hammers of the Emperor took heavy casualties from close range employment of plague sprayers by the Death Guard's Foul Blightspawn, which burnt through the Primaris marines' armour, killing many of them. An intervention from the Death Guard Terminators, teleported from Astralis made things even more difficult for the loyalist astartes, but the Hammers of the Emperor sent in their own elite assault troops and eventually cut through the tainted traitors.

By the end of 05.023M42 around a quarter of the Mordecai Docks had been taken by the Hammers of the Emperor, but at a great cost. They would now need assistance from elsewhere to take the rest of the facility, although for now the docks were no longer able to interfere with the imperial invasion of Mordecai Primaris.