"Everybody hold on!" yelled the driver, and the occupants of the Chimera felt themselves thrown around in their restraints as their driver began to take evasive action. The IFV shook as an impact rattled the ground--T'au munitions, to be sure.
"All platoons, report in!" Captain Burke half-yelled into his mic.
"First Platoon, no casualties, sir!" after a few seconds' delay.
"Second Platoon, all accounted for, sir!"
"Fourth Platoon, we've lost a squad but we still have our heavy guns!"
"Fifth Platoon, this is Sergeant First Class Evenson. We lost our command track, but otherwise we're fit for fight."
"Third Platoon, come in! Third platoon, report!" the captain asked.
His adjutant grabbed his arm. "Sir, third platoon was leading the formation. There's no chance they survived if the T'au volley targeted on the center of our line!"
The captain slammed the receiver down into its cradle. "Emperor damn it! We can't lose a fifth of our firepower and expect to win this!"
"We can if we contact the Firepower, sir!" the lieutenant shouted.
Burke nailed Hartmann with a glare. "And if I do that we surrender all the glory of this battle to the Dawn Blades. Except that damned crazy Apothecary, none of them have a stake in this. These frakking Tau have cost the Guard a lot of good men and I'll be ashamed to go to the Golden Throne and tell the God-Emperor we failed to exact vengeance for them. The Astartes stay in orbit! Now get me the Colonel on the line! We have our own elites and I intend to use them! And find out where the hell our sentinel support went off to!”
"Aye Aye Captain!"
Lieutenant Hartmann turned to his communications officer and began to contact Regimental HQ to see about acquiring some Scion support, and the accompanying air support.
A short company of mechanized infantry against a numerically and technologically superior Tau battlewing. It hardly seemed fair. For the Tau.
Captain Broklaw hunched his Sentinel down below a wall, dropping the frame of his combat walker out of sight. Volleys of light speared over his position as a hail of pulse fire came his way.
Glancing down at his tac net, he could see that the fifth company was strung out behind him in a loose formation, their walkers dodging under fire. Smoke trails and tracer rounds denoted their return fire. Taking several seconds to reorder his thoughts, the captain began barking orders over the vox, instructing his men to prepare for a coordinated assault.
After a count of five on his vox, the Captain's walker sprung from the ruin along with seventy-odd other light combat walkers, guns blazing.
While the Tau Shieldwall had been well sited to defend against an attack, it was manned to only repel probing attacks and provide a warning in case of a concentrated assault.
Such as this one. Just because the Cantorellians had been cautious on their approach didn't mean that they didn't have the means to break this defensive line in a matter of minutes. Volleys of missiles and light beams lanced from his troops' weapon mounts, and the gunrig that formed the left anchorpoint of the line shuddered and then exploded as a lascannon beam found a reactor and detonated it.
With the gunrig destroyed, the Fire Warriors manning the wall began to fall back, executing smooth movements that would have put a group of Cadians to shame as they executed their retreat.
The right gunrig continued to fire on automatic as it was abandoned, but a second volley of rockets silenced it as well, blowing the railgun off of its mount and destroying its hover-plates.
As it died, however, it began to hiss a light green vapor, which the Captain instantly recognized as the deadly chemical weapon the sept had deployed some fifty years prior, and which had killed uncounted millions of guardsmen and a not inconsiderable number of Astartes already. Fortunately, despite its lethality, it was still a gas, and there were certain countermeasures against that.
"CBRN protocols, now!" Canner shouted into the vox, sealing his Sentinel's vents as he did so. Screens flickered on and provided him a camera view of the battlefield, with a targeting grid for his laacannon overlaid on top. He didn’t like the techheads much, but they certainly knew how to coax the most out of a machine’s spirit.
Within the next several minutes, Fifth Company had destroyed the remains of the shieldwall and run down the surviving infantry—mechanical walkers moved far faster and just as agile as foot-bound troops did, and the Fire Warriors had brought little anti-tank weaponry. There were a few casualties here and there, with lucky shots from pulse rifles finding joints or ammunition feeds, but on the whole the operation had been executed within excellent parameters.
After the mop-up, Captain Broklaw called the platoon commanders together for a brief meeting.
“Alright people, we’ve got our outflank. Now it’s time to support the Third’s assault. Second and Third platoons, you take the left echelon. Fourth and Fifth will be on the right. I’ll take first platoon and drive the spear. Relay the news it down the line, take a quick break and reload your weapons, we move in three. Third company’s got little time left before they hit the Tau lines. Any questions?”
“No sir!” Was the general response. That was good. Everyone had been extensively briefed on the mission prior to departing on it. If anyone had had any questions, there would have been...problems.
Two minutes and thirty seconds later, the entire company, minus three damaged or destroyed sentinels, was on the march again into the plains.
The vox hissed as the Valkyrie gunship rattled through the air. Captain Jameson smacked the receiving button, opening the line. “SEAL team here,” he screamed, his voice cutting through the engine’s roar.
“Captain, Lieutenant Hartmann with Third company, we’ve got some T’au arse we’re fixing to kick, if you and your team would care to join us. We’ve lost a platoon in the charge and could really, REALLY use a hand with manpower. Colonel’s already authorized your deviation from your current target.
The Captain checked his datapad and saw a pending message from Colonel Zenara. “Lieutenant, I’ve got the approval right here. We will divert in thirty seconds. You and your commander will have five cans of whoop-arse in four minutes, fifteen seconds. Transmit your attack plans to my pad. Jameson out.” He cut the connection and opened another one to his platoon.
“Alright ladies, we’ve got a hot drop coming up here in a couple minutes. Rack your slides and saddle up, people. You have four minutes to get ready, and then we’re in freefall to kill some xenos. Ride the waves!”
“And die upon them!” Came the echo from his command squad, and across the vox. It was the traditional SEAL battlecry, rallying cry, and generic morale yell, and it never failed to bring a savage smile to the Scion commander’s face.
He stood up and attached his hook to the drop rail, and cut the connection on the vox. “Alright boys,” he said, turning to his command squad, “looks like we get a chance to spill xeno blood today.” He drew his sidearm and gave it a quick once-over, double-checking that the powerpack was connected properly, before pulling his power sword out of its sheathe just enough to ensure it was there.
“How many bluies we killing today, Captain?” Asked Staff Sergeant Piers.
“As many as you can gun down with that plasma gun, Piers, and then some,” the Captain promised. “We all buttoned up, boys?”
A round of resounding ayes answered his inquiry. “Alright then!” He turned to the ramp and keyed the built-in vox in his helmet, closing the visor as he did so. “Ensign Morgan, how are we for bullets?”
“Sir, we have a full load of ammunition and we are two minutes out from the drop zone. Pucker up everybody, you’re going to want to wish you’re going to miss this. I don’t know what kinda flak these guys are going to have set up, but for damn sure what they’ve got is going to hurt bad if we get hit.”
“Roger that ensign, I trust your shooting to get us safely to the ground.”
“Yes sir,” came the reply. Jameson could hear the prideful smirk in his voice. It was well earned, of course. The only reason Morgan wasn’t a higher rank was due to his typical sailor’s habit of getting drunk and disorderly on shore leave. His combat record was otherwise impeccable, and had gotten multiple commendations for bravery under fire. There was a reason he was the Captain’s preferred pilot.
Shas’Vre Me’lek Des’mon kept an idle eye on the skies above as his contingent of Hammerheads fired continual rail gun blasts against the horizon. The Gue’la tracked machines were coming across the field, belching smoke from smokestacks and smokescreen grenades.
“Shas’el,” he asked, glancing down into the body of the hover tank, “when will the Gue’la be in effective range?”
“Two minutes, sir,” his subordinate answered.
“Very good. Continue firing as you have solutions. Release the drones from their mounts when the Gue’la come in range.”
The Shas’Vre looked at the sky. Suddenly, there were some...what were those specks, exactly? And were they...growing larger? What the hell were those?
Captain Broklaw smirked as his company emerged from the tall grasses. Whoever the T’au commander was, he was stupid for trusting another commander for protecting his back lines. Fifth company had blown through that defense line like it was nothing; but had it been connected to his own command he would have had warning of what was coming.
He didn’t have that now. He keyed the command vox and let it cast static on the line four times, as had been prearranged with Third company. He then switched back over to the company vox and let out a ululating yell. It echoed back across the vox from a hundred xenocidal troopers as the company broke into a run in their walkers.
Cries of alarm came from the Tau lines as their tanks and gunships slowly swung around to face them, as well as a swarm of drones arising from various locations across the battle line.
A hail of gunfire rose to meet them as the Cantorellians advanced into a slowly increasing patter of pulse fire. For the most part it splashed off the armor, but some walkers took enough damage to put them to the ground. The trio of Hammerheads finally came about and began to open fire, their railguns sounding off bolts of death.
A Devilfish caught several lascannon shots and caught fire before crashing into the ground and carving a furrow several meters long before exploding.
As the firepower became too intense, Broklaw gave the order to scatter. The platoons broke away from each other, putting distance between them to avoid being caught in a crossfire.
Once they were properly undercover, Candon Broklaw laughed as the armored first of the Emperor crashed into the now-turned T’au lines.
“Alright, drop the ramp in three, two, one!”
“For Cantorellia and the Emperor!” Came the battle cry as the sergeant’s men charged out the back of the Chimera. They rapidly took up defensive positions and began to open fire on the Tau lines. Whoever the commander was, Gunnery Sergeant Rainwater reflected as he shot a Fire Warrior in the back, he was an idiot.
The wind howled around the Captain’s face as he hurtled toward the ground. HALO insertions had been a favorite of his ever since he’d first jumped out of a Valkyrie. When he was 150 meters up, he triggered his grav chute and felt himself be yanked up as gravity lessened its pull upon him thanks to the techpriests’ works. He drew his weapons as he reached fifty meters, and at five he killed the pack and cut a Tau clean in half with the downstroke of his sword.
His command squad landed around him and promptly opened fire, scything down a fireteam of breachers who were caught off guard.
A hundred meters away, third squad closed in on a Hammerhead and managed to get a melta bomb up something approximating a tailpipe, with a few plasma shots into the main gun for good measure. As a result, it shuddered twice before crashing into the ground, useless. Under a triple-pronged assault of mechanized infantry, several Sentinel troops, and the SEAL platoon’s firepower, the T’au line was quickly being crippled.
Eventually, however, the T’au managed to get their lines in order, and the hovertanks managed to find some cover from the attacks. What ensued was a long, drawn-out firefight, with reinforcements trickling in for both sides over the span of two hours. Additional SEAL squads and Valkyrie air strikes against the T’au lines were counteracted by T’au air strikes and a few Crisis teams that were in the vicinity.
Eventually, though, despite close to ten percent casualties, the Cantorellian forces managed to win the day. The commanders of the three strike teams came together to conference once the battle was over.
Shas’El Me’Lek Al’wra double-checked his fusion blaster. He was eligible for a more advanced battlesuit, but the stealth capabilities of his XV-25 as well as the weapon it carried had been his preferred weapon for a very long time. He’d just gotten word that a batch of Gue’la regulars had broken one of his key defensive lines. It would require retaking. Allowing the breach to remain would threaten a key supply line, which was of course the reasons the Gue’la had attacked there.
There was also the matter of the Gue’ron’sha force. Too many targets had already been destroyed by their forces. But he would deal with that after destroying the Gue’la regulars.
Captain Burke quickly took command of the meeting—which he held in his command track—though he spent much of it moaning and muttering under his breath as a medic tended a pulse burn on his upper left arm.
“Alright men, we’ve got our breakout. Regiment wants us to hold this position until the irregulars can get here and fortify the area, which means we have two days for the PDF to get their arses in gear and march in here. Captain Jameson, the colonel has authorized one squad of your platoon to remain behind and bolster our lines. The rest of your team is free to go and carry out the operation we diverted you from—would you stop that?” He snapped at the medic, who had just applied an antiseptic wipe to the wound.
“Sir, if I don’t clean this the wound is going to get infected.”
“Do you have to clean it this minute?”
“If you don’t cooperate I can and will sedate you, sir, so that I can. If you want to keep operational command, you will allow me to do this right now.”
“Fine.” The captain turned to the map table in front of him. “Candon, I want two platoons out as pickets, one platoon in reserve for mobile fire support, and your other two platoons anchoring our flanks.” He pointed on the map to indicate the ends of the line.
“My company will array themselves behind these ridges, using the craters and wrecks as cover where needed for our Chimeras. Unfortunately, we’ve taken some serious casualties, so we’ll have to be concentrated somewhat to prevent a weak spot in our lines.”
Candon leaned over the table, and looked at Captain Burke. “When can we expect reinforcements from regiment?”
“First company will be arriving tomorrow night, about ten hours ahead of the PDF,” Burke answered. He quickly consulted his datapad. “And if we absolutely have to, there is a squad of Astartes assigned to our regiment who can be here in two hours by Stormraven.”
“But if we do that we admit we’re not strong enough to handle it, or isn’t that right, Captain?” commented Lt. Hartmann.
He was given a slap to the face for his troubles. “Lieutenant, I believe you have duties *elsewhere*,” the captain growled.
“Aye sir,” muttered the Lieutenant, rubbing his bruised cheek as he left.
Burke groaned as the medic finished bandaging the wound. “Alright sir, if you need that dressing changed, come see me. And if I see you outside of a chimera during a firefight for any reason except escaping it’s burning hulk, you and I are going to have problems,” he threatened.
“Ahh. You’re dismissed, Corporal.”
“Aye sir,” he said with a salute. The captain returned it with his left arm, his right occupied in a sling.
“What sort of chemical measures can we expect, Captain Burke?” Broklaw asked.
“We’re expecting the Silence at a minimum, and maybe some other experimental weapons as well. Tell your men to keep their masks on them at all times. One whiff of the stuff and you’re dead.”
“Understood. I’ll have my men stay in their walkers as much as they can.” He replaced his cap upon his head. “I’ll have my boys start spreading out, but if you’ve got a tech priest or two laying around I’ve got some troops could use the help.”
Burke nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. Captain Jameson, do you need anything before your rides come pick you up?”
“No, I think we have everything. Third squad will stay behind with you along with their Valkyrie, Captain, and they’ll be under your direct command til regiment decides otherwise. I’ll be departing in fifteen minutes.” With that he departed the command track, joining up with his waiting command squad.
“A day and a half for the T’au to launch a counterattack whenever they thrones-damned feel like.” Burke sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He sincerely hoped that Captain Broklaw would be able to scout and screen any incoming forces—it would mostly be fast-attack units, he figured, and mounted units like he had used to break the T’au’s lines. It would be a race of reinforcements. Perhaps he should have held more of the SEAL teams back. He had a hunch by the time all was said and done, he would have liked to have had them fighting along side his troops.