Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Activity increases in Cerrack Nebula

As 03.011M42 drew to a close the activity in the Vastrid subsector, particularly in the Cerrack Nebula and its associated systems. The arrival of chaos forces in the area due to the Perseus Deeps crusade against them led to a consumate increase in Imperial forces being deployed to the region. This in turn stirred up the orks who had for a long time spent their time warring amongst themselves, as well as drawing the attentions of other races.

The Space Wolves had established a base on Quim following the destruction of the Praetorian Guard on Train, but shortly after their arrival they were attacked by Dark Eldar who appeared from nowhere. The alien cabal attempted to take as many slaves as possible from the primitive tribal human population, numbering around four and a half million, but this time the Space Marines stopped them after a brutal and bloody battle. The Dark Eldar had been raiding the planet for centuries according to the tribesmen, and they were glad of their saviours this time.

Meanwhile the Eldar attacked the orks of Warboss Thrugnik on Aspaster, though their reasons remain unknown. Perhaps they were trying to head off an impending Waagh! but their raid went badly wrong as the orks responded in great strength and with great enthusiasm. This victory spurred the orks on and on 2803.011M42 they raided the chaos forces on the neighbouring system of Triam, and now many observers feared that momentum was building behind Thrugnik at a time when a new ork resurgence was the last thing they needed.

The strange eldar harlequin force turned up once more before the end of 03.011M42, this time on Triam, where they attacked and decimated a force of Shadow Suns who had recently arrived to reinforce the Catechism forces. The raid was a welcome occurrence to the Imperium as the small chaos base on Triam remained isolated and unsupported and unable to influence greatly events in the region, but whether that was the intention of the unfathomable aliens was as ever pure speculation.

Tarsis Evacuated

The Imperial position in the Aleph Sector was becoming precarious. The crusade against chaos in the Perseus Deeps, according to Lord General Roover and his aides, had to be given full priority and, and it was stumbling, immediate and final orders to evacuate Tarsis Major were given.

The Imperium had already evacuated the outer rim and mining facilities, and on the ground general Cunningham had managed to destroy much of the infrastructure in the remaining Imperium held territories, although the efforts had cost much of the Imperial armies' remaining equipment and thousands of men killed or captured. Now Admiral Dreyer led a powerful battlegroup of Imperial cruisers into the Tarsis system to salvage what they could of the Imperial forces on the planet.

Dreyer arrived aboard the Emperor class Iron Duke, flanked on either side by the mars class Glorious, the gothic class Aboukir and Cressy and the new dominator class vessels Irresistible and Implacable. Upon arrival the surveyers indicated no Tau presence, but Dreyer knew his enemy would be waiting somewhere in ambush. In order to flush out the Tau Dreyer split his fleet up while the troop transports rushed to Tarsis Major itself.

Before long contact was made with the Tau fleet as the two dominator class vessels encountered three protector class vessels hiding in an asteroid field. The two squadrons closed and fired furious salvoes at one another, but neither side was able to inflict any major damage, such was the surprise on both sides.

Shortly after this action the Iron Duke herself detected three cruisers dead ahead and moved full speed to intercept them. Dreyer had lucked out, coming across three merchant class vessels attempting to shelter from the main battle. Despite a suicidal charge, two of the three merchant vessels were blown to pieces in short order and admiral Swiftstar found himself facing defeat. meanwhile the bulk of the Tau fleet had managed to form up, and the gothic class Aboukir had a lucky escape, disengaging rapidly when she found herself surrounded by Tau vessels.

Gradually the fleets formed up into a recognisable battle line, but the manta bombers from the Tau flagship Ores'Au were inexperienced and Implacable managed to escape damage again and again. The Imperial fleet also performed well below expectations, and damage on both sides was relatively light, despite the losses inflicted by the Iron Duke.

With the Ores'Au crippled by fire from the bulk of the Imperial fleet, admiral Swiftstar reluctabtly disengaged after two hours of battle, leaving the Imperial fleet, with three crippled cruisers, to complete the evacuation of Tarsis. The Tau admiral saw no point in continuing the battle for such little gain. Tarsis had been evacuated and the long campaign for the system finally brought to an end.

Betor: Tyranids near end game

Cut off from interstellar communication by the shadow in the warp, little had been heard from Betor in months. Probes had reported that Nemesis had settled to harvesting the biomass of the areas it already controlled rather than hunting down the remaining Imperial forces, who were too demoralised or degraded to interfere in the process. This was new behaviour from a Tyranid Hive Fleet and it worried analysts. By beginning the harvesting process early Nemesis made itself less vulnerable to an exterminatus order aimed at denying it the planet's biomass. At every turn Nemesis seemed able to anticipate Imperial tactics and actions. Combined with the Hive Fleets mysterious origin from within Imperial space and repeated attempts by Imperial institutions to conceal information on Nemesis it all added up to a disturbing picture for the Ordos Xenos.

The Inquisition pleaded for help from the Space Wolves. They needed more data on Nemesis and some form of victory against the rampaging alien menace to prevent resistance on Betor from collapsing entirely. The Space Wolf Strike Cruiser exited the warp to find the hive fleet orbiting Betor grown to colossal proportions. The sensible course would have been to turn back but the Wolves' pride forced them to continue. Many nerve racking days were spent threading their way through the tendrils of the hive fleet on minimal power in order to reduce the Strike Cruiser's sensor profile. Finally the cruiser made the edge of the planetary atmosphere and a Thunderhawk was dispatched to the besieged city of Munchefeld.

The bone weary defenders were briefly elated by the arrival of the small Space Wolf task force, believing the Imperium were finally coming to save them. Their joy was short lived – Nemesis reacted to the intruders in its midst with overwhelming force both on the ground and in space. The Strike Cruiser found itself in the centre of a storm of spores and small bioships whilst the ruined streets of Munchefeld became alive with a tide of chitinous horror.

The Strike Cruiser attempted to re-enforce their battle brothers on the ground by launching drop pods, but one of the bays was disabled by an exploding spore. The Wolves were hardened and fearless but nothing could prepare a warrior for what was about to happen. One minute the streets were empty, the next they were a boiling sea of claws and fangs which raced at the marines before they could even ready their weaponry. The drop pods crashed down but it was already too late – a carpet of living flesh seemed to wash over the Space Wolve's position.

In less than an hour all communication had been lost with their forces on the ground. When the last drop pod bay was finally brought back on line they were launched to secure the extraction point rather than the battlefield itself. As soon as the few remaining survivors had been extracted by Thunderhawk the Strike Cruiser broke orbit and drove at full speed for deep space, forced to abandon the gene seed or many fallen warriors

Cracks deepen in Veers' crusade

In late 03.011M42 serious cracks began appearing in General Veers' Crusade force. The force, made up of several Space Marine chapters. Imperial Guard regiments, the Imperial Navy and other parts of the Imperial war machine, was led by the crusade council. The council itself was made up by leaders of the various forces involved in the campaign, as well as officials from the Inquisition, Ecclesiarchy, Administratum and Adeptus Mechanicus. As the campaign stalled, rifts began to appear in the naturally fractious alliance.

on 2203.011M42 the Ares campaign, already lacking in proper Imperial Guard support, suffered another setback. The Dark Angels had left on "urgent business", their victory on Ares seemingly intended as an act of show for the Space Wolves' benefit rather than a strategically thought out strike leaving the Red Angels in an almost private war against the Shadow Suns, a force Lorek was happy to leave on Ares, slowly bleeding the life out of the crusade. Skirmishes and battles flaired up along the roads between settlements, the only easy way to traverse the rugged Ares terrain, and this time the Shadow Suns caught the Red Angels by surprise, inflicting heavy casualties and forcing their way back into Ares Prime. This threatened to cut off Hepath Station once again, and Veers appealled to the Astartes chapters for further support, knowing his precious Guard regiments could not yet be freed up from important operations on Bastien.

It was at this point that news reached Veers that the Space Wolf company under the command had been attacked by his own side, ambushed at their base on Aethor by a full regiment of Praetorian Guardsmen. The Guard attack had been repulsed by the Space Marines who slaughtered their attackers, believing them to be traitors. Only when the few survivors were captured did they find out that they were under orders from a member of the Ordo Hereticus. Infuriated the Space Wolves refused to take their seats at the council and made it clear to General Veers that from now on they would follow their own path in service to the Emperor. Even the Dark Angels were outraged at the attack. Inquisitor Hathek promised to investigate the matter, but the Imperial will to prosecute the Perseus Deeps crusade was falling apart.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eldar on Mysterious mission

In 03.011M42 the Eldar began to resurface in the Perseus Deeps. With the Shadow World exodite colonies now protected, the harlequin led eldar now began to pursue another, more sinister agenda, which started with an unexpected raid on the Tau base planet of Cernunnos on 2203.011M42.

The Eldar, formerly friendly to the Tau suddenly appeared from nowhere through a webway portal only known to the mysterious harlequins of the eldar race. They took the Tau totally by surprise but as the eldar approached their main administrative centre the Tau did put up a creditable defence with the limited forces at their disposal.

The eldar were made to pay for every metre of Tau territory they took, but despite fighting hard the eldar forced their way into the heart of Tau control on Cernunnos. Frantically the Tau mobilised as many defenders as they could, but just as the Tau commanders had reinforced their retreating army and made plans for a counter attack, the eldar vanished. Upon returning to their violated base the Tau were appalled to find that an ancient and precious artefact of strange alien origin which they had been analysing for some time, had been stolen by the eldar.

At roughly the same time the eldar were also raiding the chaos forces of Lorek on Parthenope, though nothing of worth was apparently taken from the chaos world. The eldar merely arrived, defeated a large force of chaos marines, then departed just as suddenly. None of the eldar activity made sense to the other races of the Aleph Sector, but that suited the eldar just fine.

War reaches the Vastrid Sector

While the Perseus Deeps campaign continued, there were alarming reports emanating from the Vastrid sector as 03.011M42 drew to a close. The Vastrid sector had been saved from Chaos invasion after the campaign on Farport and the subsequent supression of Bastien, but the minor worlds of the Cerrack Nebula, less well defended backwaters nominally under Imperial control, found themselves suddenly vulnerable to hostile alien forces General Veers was unwittingly forcing in their direction.

Lorek and his chaos followers had lost much ground to the Imperial advance across the Perseus Deeps, and in an attempt to re-establish his power base Lorek had already begun sizing up the Cerrack Nebula systems as likely new forward bases from which to launch raids on the Imperium. Attacking systems far from the main crusade he reasoned that the Imperium would have to pull back, easing the pressure on the hard pressed defenders of the chaos domain in the Deeps.

lorek had already failed once to land a force in the Cerrack Nebula, thwarted by hostile ork warbands coming from the many ork infested worlds in the region, but the Catechism, notably followers drawn from the Cerberex Guard who had turned traitor, found more success.

The traitorous Guard regiments were transported to the system of Trian by conventional means, arriving in the lone chaos cruiser Unforgivable from Lord Tragean's fleet. Jellicoes forces were still dealing with the Tau on Tarsis and protecting the crusade, and the sudden arrival of chaos forces around Triam came as a complete shock.

The 2 million inhabitants of the world were defended by a mere regiment of Imperial Guardsman, drawn from the Praetorian Guard, and the Cerberex units fell upon them in the major settlement of Gudran on the world's main continent. Despite a heroic defence of the city, Gudran fell, leaving the Cerberex Guard with an open route to the capital, Triasica. The defenders could expect little in the way of help however as Triam was considered strategically insignificant by the Imperium. Time would tell if that analysis would prove to be a costly mistake.

In fact, on 1803.011M42 the Imperium did send forces to the region in order to shore up the defences. A company of Space Wolves arrived on Glossop V to set up a forward command post, but their arrival had the opposite effect than intended.

Seeing a force of the Emperor's finest landing within striking distance was too much of a temptation for the Greenskins and a horde of Orks soon landed, or crashed on the surface of Glossop V. Their attacks, though ferocious, were however unco-ordinated and the ad-hoc invasion force was beaten off by the Astartes chapter.

Never-the-less the Imperial commander of the Vastrid sector now wondered whether the arrival of the Space Wolves had in fact stirred the usually divided orks of Aspaster into a more organised enemy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tarsis Evacuation Begins

Having rescued the greater part of their forces from the orbital docks, the Imperium began the next phase of their evacuation plans. While the Imperial fleet recovered from the mauling given to them by the Tau, the Imperial forces in the remaining loyalist held areas of Tarsis Major began enacting the Emperor's command to deny the remainder of the planet to the Tau.

Imperial forces systematically began destroying the industries of northern Tuva and Sartano, ripping down factories and destroying the production facilities of the north and the far south. Little or no consideration was given to the plight of the population of the region, as General Cunningham's forces' actions ensured that once the Imperium finally withdrew from the planet theirs would be an existence of misery and want. Adeptus Arbites forces just managed to keep local rebellions intact, but hundreds were executed to keep the Pax Imperialis.

The Tau quickly realised what was going on and commander Shadowstrike immediately pulled together his forces for an immediate attack. Time was of the essence and his forces had to grasp as much of the remaining Imperial zones before their infrastructure was irrevocably destroyed.

Shadowstrike mounted a successful invasion of Sartano, taking the small and strategically less important Imperial zone of control, but in the north, Cunningham had expected the Tau reaction. The alien attack quickly came up against stoic Imperial resistance and casualties mounted on both sides. This time however the Tau were prepared to throw themselves at their enemies, headless of the losses. As the Imperial defenders grimly hung on to the northern industrial zones, Shadowstrike threw in his reserves in a last desperate gamble to take them before the last factory was razed to the ground.

For days the offensive hung in the balance. The Imperial Guard, particularly the 101st Librian regiment took horrendous casualties but would not yield. Eventually however, on 1703.011M42 General Cunningham finally allowed the battered remnants of his forces to retreat north into the Calder Peninsular. The now mostly smoking ruins of the Grenton mines and the industrial zones of the region were grudgingly given up to the Tau.

For Shadowstrike the result was disappointing as much of the resources of Tuva had been lost, but now Cunningham had fewer than half a million troops and barely any equipment to mount a last ditch defence of Coldside. His forces needed evacuating soon or face total destruction at the hands of the Tau. Cunningham began to consider whether he would allow his forces to surrender or fight to the death...

Dark Angels turn the tide on Ares

For weeks the Imperial crusade on Ares had been stumbling, and recent events had put the Imperial position on the planet in peril. The Space Wolves of Erik Morkai had not been successful in bringing the world into the Emperor's benevolent light, and the crusade council struggled with what to do. They couldn't demand the Space Wolves change their plans without insulting an Astartes chapter, one which was vital to the success of the crusade. While General Veers pondered his next move, the Dark Angels made theirs.

Dropping to the north of Hephath station the Dark Angels fell upon the Claws of Lorek defending the settlement and soon succeeded where the Space Wolves had failed. Within days the forces of Lorek had been forced from the settlement and Ares City fell to the avenging angels before the Space Wolves even realised what was going on. The tide had been turned on Ares thanks to the Dark Angels, and the crusade was back on track.

Neither chapter appeared in front of Veers' council to explain the events, and Veers didn't even know if the two chapters were communicating on the ground. The Ares campaign was looking up for the Imperium but the diplomatic relations between the Space Wolves and Dark Angels - dreadful at the best of times - were a new addition to the worries of the Lord General commanding the Perseus Deeps crusade.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tarsis Major: Imperium begin evacuation

For months the Tarsis campaign, starved of support and reinforcements had ground down the Imperial and Tau forces with little or no gains on either side. The Tau, commanding most of the world's strategic assets, were prepared to wait the Imperium out, and the deployment of a large fleet in the system ensured that only a full scale invasion force would tip the balance of power in favour of the humans, and that seemed unlikely given the events on Betor and in the Perseus Deeps. Eventually the Imperial forces would run out of supplies and ammunition and the remaining pockets of Tarsis loyal to the human God-Emperor would succumb, sooner or later. Even General Cunningham knew this fact, at least in private.

Lord General Roover was not entirely blind to this fact, and in late 02.011M42 he and his advisors hatched a plan to "better use" the forces deployed on Tarsis. The reconquest of the world was now seen as secondary to the successful prosecution of the Perseus Deeps. Once the Chaos, Necron and Tau strongholds in the Deeps had been overcome, Tarsis, isolated, would fall.

To accomplish this Admiral Beattie was first despatched with a significant portion of the Battlefleet Aleph, with the mission to extract forces, equipment and an important secret individual from the orbital docks of the system, situated close to the Tarsis sun itself in the dangerous flare zone and still loyal to the Imperium. This would be the first in a series of steps to extract cunningham and his forces from the Tarsis system.

Beattie's fleet included the fast battleship Tiger, the old grand cruiser Canopus, as well as four other ships of the line and a squadron of swords. Beattie arrived at Tarsis and managed to approach the flare zone almost without detection, but as soon as his flotilla passed the orbit of Tarsis Major itself, the Tau battlefleet reacted, quickly realising the Imperial destination. Two Custodians and several protector class cruisers begam travelling at full speed on a converging course with the Imperial fleet towards the orbital docks.

The two fleets gradually approached each other as they neared the docks, passing a number of asteroid belts and stellar fragments as they battled fierce solar winds and radiation bursts. Manouvering in this environment was difficult, as was passing orders between ships, due to fierce interference caused by the roiling magnetic fields and plasma thrown out by the turbulent stellar atmosphere.

Beattie formed his fleet with the Canopus set behind the dominator class Repulse and the carrier Repulse, while keeping the two lunar class vessels behind as a strike force. Meanwhile, seeing the Tau fleet apparently racing for the orbital docks, Beattie ordered full speed on his flagship, Tiger racing away from the rest of his force intent on reaching the orbital docks first. As Tiger passed another asteroid field a critical moment had come. The Tau realised that now the fast battleship would be unable to support the rest of his fleet in battle. The Tau abandonned their race to the orbital docks and turned their fleet en masse towards Beatties main battlefleet.

The Tau vessels swung round in space to face the Imperial fleet, holding off launching their considerable ordnance until they were sure of a decisive strike. Canopus and a wave of bombers from Intrepid quickly crippled one protector, but shooting from the Repulse was poor and her nova cannon barely found its mark.

Beattie's fleet, adrift of their flagship, fought well, throwing in Agincourt and Conquerer with a torpedo run followed by full broadsides, but with the carrier Intrepid crippled and disengaging early on, the Imperial vessels suffered badly as wave after wave of Mantas and torpedoes from the Tau ships battered them from all quarters. Soon repulse was hulked along with the Lunar class cruiser Agincourt.

Canopus also took heavy damage and fled, her portside batteries a flaming ruin.
The Tau suffered too, with one Custodian and two protectors badly damaged, and one Emissary class cruiser blown to pieces by long range gunnery from Tiger, now in orbit around the orbital docks. The rest of the Imperial fleet disengaged leaving the relatively lightly damaged Conquerer to rendevous with Beattie's flagship, which by now had successfully extracted the troops, equipment and important personnel from the Imperial docks. As the Invincible class battleship powered up her engines and began to race for the system's jump point and escape, the remaining Tau protectors began to swing slowly round in space to give chase.

They almost succeeded, torpedoes and long range gunnery causing significant damage to the lightly armoured fast battleship, but Tiger and Conquerer were just able to keep ahead of the remaining Tau vessels who gave up the chase when they realised they could not match the speed of the Imperial ships over long distances. Beattie met up with the remaining battered Imperial vessels and limped away from Tarsis Major. The mission had been accomplished but at a terrible cost. Two cruisers reduced to drifting hulks in a system still controlled by the Tau.

Crusade in stalemate

If the Crusade Council had been disturbed by the passage of the crusade in late 02.011M42, then they became alarmed in early 03.011M42, and Lord General Veers began to feel increasing pressure from his superior, Lord Roover, and also the Inquisition. Things were not going according to plan.

Veers lad left Ares in what he imagined were the capable hands of the Adeptus Astartes, chiefly the Red Angels and Space Wolves under Erik Morcai, a company so errant from the usual Space Marine doctrine that they didn't even bother to consult the council over strategy. Whether Veers had left the planet to Morcai or whether the Great Company had just took it upon themselves to prosecute their personal crusade against Chaos here was an open point of contention, and one Veers took exception to being discussed in his company.

Either way the campaign had hit the buffers, and when the Red Angels were taken by surprise by Khornate Marines at Caeralon the Space Wolves moved immediately to counter the advance, using their orbiting strike cruiser to perform a drop pod assault on the settlement. Then things began to go badly wrong. Their heavy armour support was destroyed as soon as the attack began as an unexpected force of traitor Astartes loyal to Lorek himself suddenly appeared, the first time his legion had been in battle for some time.

The battle raged for almost a day and neither side gave the other any quarter, but then came news that Lorek had outflanked Morcai's forces, attacking and taking much of Ares city and leaving Hephath Station almost cut off. The Space Wolves attempted to retreat, but few of the attackers survived. With the Imperial defenders of Ares City barely holding on, the battle for Ares hung in the balance.

Meanwhile the Blood Angels, at first welcomed by Veers and the Crusade Council, showed little or no interest in participating in the planning or even the execution of the campaign proper, choosing instead to follow their own mysterious agenda. their forces landed on the daemon world of Carnage, doing some damage to the Claws of Lorek, but not enough to affect the course of events, before leaving, apparently empty handed. Veers would need better allies than this to get his crusade back on track.

Eldar close off their Shadow Worlds

As 03.011M42 began the Eldar finally achieved their long aim of hiding their three exodite planets in the Mabb Nebula. These planets had been hidden from the other races of the galaxy for millenia, but the outbreak of violence in the Shadow Worlds in 008M42 when Waagh! Nazghat erupted from Kallack and the key players in the Aleph Sector flocked to the region. Although the war had since moved on from the Shadow Worlds, the planets of Saim Lann, Mael Kithlan and Shelwe Agir remained dangerously exposed, open to invasion by any passing alien trespasser.

The Eldar, led by the harlequins themselves, had been working tirelessly to hide their planets from prying eyes once more, appearing from nowhere on scattered worlds using their knowledge of the webway, sealing old entrances and enacting the rites which would ensure the three Eldar worlds would not be accessible again to non Eldar.

Two worlds, Shelwe Agir and Mael Kithlan, had already been made safe, but Saim Lann required two more missions. Closing off webway certain webway portals on Tyndareous and Typhon would ensure the last of the trinity would be hidden, and once again the Eldar set out, finding their old portals now infested with the lesser race of man. On Tyndareous the Eldar encountered the Blood Angels, searching for some meaningless mon-Keigh trinket, but they brushed them aside and completed the necessary ritual. On Typhon the followers of the abomination dwealt, building their blasphemous citadel on the site of an ancient Eldar ruin.

Once again the Eldar armies struck hard and fast, defeating the Claws of Lorek and their gibbering daemonic host. Finally, after two years of despair, the final ritual took place and the Eldar withdrew. Mael Kithlan, Shelwe Agir and Saim Lann dissappeared from the scanners and sensor screens of the lesser races and the Eldar could live in their quiet seclusion once more. The harlequin forces, forever at the centre of the campaign to save the exodite worlds, left them with the gratitude of their people, to pursue other pressing matters...