== Somewhere in the Desert ==
Forgemaster-Sergeant Diaz scanned the horizon cautiously, occasionally wiping the ever-fogging lenses of his binoculars. The enemy should be there, the intelligence officer had said. Without question.
Groggily, he placed the tied off field glasses on the turret roof and, looking through his hatch, kicked his gunner awake. His shift had ended, it was time for someone else to keep watch for a few hours.
The gunner, Fabricator 1st Class Arellano, uttered a few choice words at his tank commander's choice of awakening him. Reluctantly, he traded places with his Sergeant, emerging from the open Tank Commander's hatch, uttering a few more guttoral curses as the cool midnight breeze hit him. Straining his eyes against the near-darkness of a full moon, he scanned left to see the blurred silhouette of Hawg Invicta 32, Forge-Sergeant Cavender's tank. The crewman on watch had noticed the shift change and gave a short wave.
Waving back, the F1C turned his gaze to the right, barely making out the platoon leader's tank in its dug-in tank trench. No trooper sat outside the hatch, and this came as no surprise. The PL's crewman on watch was most likely within the track itself, staring into the eye straining light of the Noospheric Battlefield Display for any sign of chatter relating to Hawg Invicta's Blue Platoon.
The wind became a howling torrent of dust and small rocks, with the occasional impact against his face amplifying the suffering he faced. Yet he remained steadfast in his duty, for his vigilance will keep the crew alive.
The vox crackled under him.
"...all Blue tracks... stand-to..."
Reaching down for the handmic, Arellano requested the transmission to be repeated. The reply came from Blue Primus, the Platoon Leader himself.
"I say again, all Blue tracks prepare for stand-to in 10 minutes followed by BP reports. Greenskins spotted in AO."
Arellano shot his affirmation and quickly woke the crew. Trading places again with his tank commander, he started the warmup process of the optical gunsight as well as the auspex scanner, hearing the all-to-familliar clicks and whirrs of the device. As the auspex came to life, a blurred image sharpened until he could make out the view in front of him, focusing and producing datum points as the cogitators began searching for and classifying targets. The "fishbowl" display made its final adjustments and a brief READY flashed before dissapearing.
Testing the optical sight, he peered into the binocular telescope and switched between zoom modes. He flicked the Boresight Test switch and waited for the cogitators to recognize any devation between the sight and muzzle of the weapon. Sensing none, GOOD flashed over the reticle of the sight. He glanced at his Gunner's Panel, staring at the myriad of lights and switches to make sure everything was correctly selected and in place. Judging everything to be fit, he finally grasped the familliar handle of his firing assembly and set himself into his sight.
The Forgemaster-Sergeant glanced at his timepiece, and exactly at 0330 ordered the driver to start the track. The engine sputtered and rumbled before finally engaging, joining the simultaneous chorus of the other three tracks. He reached for his throat mic, and after his crewmembers reported themselves as ready keyed out to the PL.
"Primus, this is Quartus. Situation Green. No enemy in sight."
"I copy, Quartus. Stand fast. Out."
He heard the other two tracks, Secundus and Tertium, give their reports. He grasped the handles of his portable auspex and stood out from his hatch, scanning for any targets.
A brief glow in the fishbowl was the first alert of movement on the horizon. F1C Arellano glanced at the display, willing the cogitators to focus as he panned his gun over the faint apparition. As he threw the optical sight into "Auspex Overlay", he saw clearly the signature of an armored vehicle. The auspex tracked and fed the range estimations and environmental variables to the gun, adjusting its point of aim to strike the target with pinpoint accuracy.
"IDENTIFIED TANK, 3500 METERS."
The loader threw the gun safety to arm, clearing the gun breech.
"UP", he cried.
Forgemaster-Sergeant Diaz quickly gave a spot report to the PL and awaited his permission to engage. The order was given.
"FIRE AND ADJUST!"
"ON THE WAY!", Arellano called as he squeezed the trigger.
The enormous recoil of the gun rocked the Leman Russ, and the muzzle blast obscured the opticals and overwhelmed the auspex temporarily. The picture came back into view just as the armor-piercing shell struck the Ork vehicle, detonating its powerplant in a blinding flash. The cobbled-together tanks behind the lead vehicle piled on, running through the wreckage towards the position of Blue Platoon. Arellano slewed the gun to the next vehicle as his loader fed another shell into the breech.
The tank shook violently as the turret recieved a glancing blow, throwing the Forgemaster-Sergeant to the floor. Sparks from a damaged light fixture filled the turret with a blinding light until the circuit was quickly cut by the Enginseer. Resuming his post, he called for the gunner to engage targets at will.
The F1C began slewing and firing his weapon, as though he was following the automations one might expect from a servitor.
He spied a troop transport carrying a squad of Greenskins, firing wildly in their direction as it sped towards them. He engaged with his coaxial heavy stubber and watched as the vehicle came apart with each impact before exploding in a shower of flame and steel. Another shell streaked above him, and turning towards the threat saw a tank stopped, no doubt hoping to increase its already dubious accuracy. He fired a single shot from the main gun though the jagged front, the resulting ammunition detonation causing a billowing flame to emerge from all crevasses of the tank. Another tank emerged from behind it, and it too was quickly vanquished. Shot after shot, burst after burst, the tank filled with the sickening stench of sulfur and burnt oil from the ejecting casings and scorching weapons.
The return fire became more dense now, with shell and bolt impacting all around the vehicles. A crack of energy discharge hit the front slope of the Russ, failing to penetrate yet leaving a glowing hole of molten metal. He tracked the discharge to a Wierdboy encased in a hideous Ork Stompa, decapitating it with another high-velocity shell. As more and more of the hated foe fell, twice its number replaced it. The situation was quickly becoming untenable.
Within his commander's hatch, Forgemaster-Sergeant Diaz watched through the periscopes as the first tide of Ork footsoldiers crested the far hills, a black mass enveloping the far terrain. Chancing a bolt to the head, he poked out to observe with his field glasses. Many of the Orks carried crude trophies of Imperial and Mechanicus equipment, the grisly trophies of war that signified the end of Battlegroup North. His observations were cut short by the telltale moan of incoming artillery, instinctively dropping back down and securing the hatch above. Dull, dry cracks shook the vehicle. He was about to report the indirect fire when the vox barked.
"All Hawg Invicta units, withdraw to Phase Line Theta. Concealment will be provided via Smoke Salvo. Warhawk en-route to suppress."
"Acknowledged", the PL replied.
The Orks were within the effective range of the hull-mounted heavy bolters, and each crewman began laying down a wall of steel at the horde. It was impossible to miss. Arellano kept tracking and engaging targets, the loader pouring sacred oils on the glowing stubber in order for it to cool and function. In between loading, he threw the building pile of shell casings out through the hatch. Occassionally a loose casing wedged itself within the turret ring, jamming the traverse gear. He would hammer or pry it loose, discarding it before loading the gun again. Glancing at the ammunition stowage, he saw ominously that most of the racks were now empty. His worries were cut short by the gunner demanding another High Explosive shell.
The horde was within 500 meters when the first of the Phosphor shells impacted, showering the Greenskins with flesh-melting flakes of combustible metals. A billowing white smoke engulfed the front of the horde, and the return fire lost all semblance of accuracy. The Forgemaster-Sergeant ordered a full reverse, and the tank lurched as it climbed out of its dug-in battle position. The other three commanders did the same, eager to pull back from certain annihilation.
A distant whine built to a howling screech as four black dots appeared on the horizon. The Forgemaster-Sergeant tracked the Marauders as they came low over the enemy, wing abreast, dropping their payloads simultaneously. As they pulled from their runs, one was struck in the wing by a burst, snapping off and careening back into the horde in a fiery end. Ork craft dove from the distant clouds, some Imperial Thunderbolts in pursuit. The bombs struck their mark, however, and the massive wave was sundered by the earthshaking blasts of each warhead. Confused and having lost the initiative, the Orks withdrew back to the hills. The battle was over, and for at least a short time Imperial forces would have time to rearm and reconsolidate.
The platoon regrouped on the dirt trail leading back towards Hive Razish, with Blue Secundus leading the way.
Edited by HeraldOfSanguinius, 30 September 2019 - 02:58 AM.