“I hate those guys, Catillo and Haddaway. They’re lazy, selfish, and cowards. When the front line collapsed, and the xenos broke into the trench line, they took off–they couldn’t run fast enough to get to the ships. Me? I was part of the fighting withdrawal … and one of the last to escape. If I had my way, they’d go before a firing squad.”–Private Journal, Pvt. Tyesha Levers, Baker Co., 728th Cadian Regiment.
How I Survived the Fall of Malati
Pvt. Tyesha Levers
Dated: 4 946 735.M41
I write this from the deck of a sinking fishing vessel, The Drunken Witch. The ship is sinking because it took a hit from a xeno plasma beam that struck the hull at the water line, just moments after we evacuated the port city of Malati.
Capt. Faltz says we’ll make it to Pran Harbor (wherever that is) before we capsize. But he could be saying that just to keep morale up. The ship is leaning about 10 degrees to port, and I think someone said we’ve got 300 kilometers to go before we make landfall. I don’t like the odds.
But, hey, I’m alive. That’s better than a lot of my comrades in arms. Yesterday, the Tau made their big push to take Malati, hitting a part of our trench line that wasn’t complete–and, of course, you can guess where Baker Co. was deployed. Of course. My unit was right in front of the biggest xeno offense of the war.
It was not pretty. We knew they were coming, and Capt. Faltz had us on our feet and fed by 04:00. We were just settling into the trench line when the shit hit the fan. All of a sudden, we had incoming artillery fire, and it was massive. One blast hit about 200 meters away, but I was still knocked off my feet. Once the sun rose, I could see the crater where the blast hit–it was at least 30 meters across. That section of the trenches was simply gone–I’m certain there wasn’t a single survivor.
Not that I had much time to think about it. The Tau came on fast in the dark, led by their skimmers and armored personnel carriers. Just as the sun rose, they came into range of our lasguns, but then the skies opened up. On flaming contrails, xenos in armored combat suits dropped out of the sky right on our lines. It was impossible to get a target as they dropped–they were moving too fast–yet the second they hit the ground those combat suits opened up with burst cannons and flamers.
The squad to my right was obliterated almost immediately. I know I hit one of the combat suits, but my shot simply bounced off the armor. A second later, one of the smaller combat suits–the nasty ones that have some kind of cloaking device–dropped into our trench, crushing Pvt. Dalback into the dirt and letting loose with its burst cannon. Thankfully, I was next to a concrete pylon and was able to duck behind it–or I’d have been ripped to shreds.
The next half hour is a blur. Tau fire warriors were storming over the front of the trenches, the combat suits were in the trenches, and some xeno armor had broken through and were behind the trenches–so I was certain I was a goner. Most of my platoon was soon dead. Then I heard the order to withdraw to our secondary line of defense.
I didn’t wait. I bolted out of that death trap of a trench line and actually ran between two xeno tanks to escape. I tried to avoid bunching up with others on the run, as I figured the xenos would target any sizable group. Our pre-arranged secondary line already had fallen to the xenos, but after running another 200 meters beyond that, I heard the voice of Capt. Faltz trying to rally men to him. So I headed toward the sound of his voice.
He’d pulled together about 30 men from various platoons and set us up on a firing line. It would never have stopped the xenos if they’d aggressively attacked, but the main xeno thrust seemed to be directed at the trenches–I guess, as they had our flanks, they wanted to roll up the line and create a bigger hole for their second wave to pour through.
In any case, Capt. Faltz had us withdraw in an orderly fashion, leapfrogging firing lines backward as we picked off the thin screen that advanced cautiously in our direction. Most of these xenos weren’t Tau, though; they were the Kroot, those damned avian-looking auxiliary troops who had earned a reputation for atrocities in the countryside.
I believe those reports now. By the time we fell back to the city, the Kroot already were there–and I saw at least two instances where the creatures were actually eating corpses. It made my skin crawl. Thankfully, in both cases, I saw the xenos before they saw me. In fact, they never saw me. But I hope they felt the lasgun rounds that drilled into their heads.
The strange thing is, I’m less angry at the xenos than I am at some of my own comrades. I’ve never been impressed with Pvts. Catillo and Haddaway. They don’t pull their weight, and they always find excuses to avoid work details. During the battle, they were off on my left flank, so they weren’t even attacked during the initial fighting. Yet, while I was fighting alongside Capt. Faltz, those two bums ran right past us. We called to them to join the firing line, but they didn’t slow for a moment. My guess? They were among the first to get aboard a ship and evacuate the city.
I almost didn’t make it. A huge crowd of civilians and retreating PDF were trying to get to the harbor and board one of the ships still on the docks. But apparently Capt. Stark had ordered that only 728th personnel were to be given entry to the docks–at least until all of our regiment was boarded. That didn’t sit well with the crowd, and there was rioting as people tried to force their way to the ships. Our commissars stopped that nonsense, setting up firing lines that poured volley after volley into the crowd to drive it back.
We had to fight our way through the crowd, relying on bayonets and rifle butts. I didn’t enjoy that, killing civilians who simply wanted to live. But as ships started pulling away from the docks, I started to panic at the thought of being left behind. But we made it. If we weren’t the last ship to leave Malati, we were among the last. The sun was setting as we left port.
The timing was good. As I’ve already noted, our ship took a hit from shore before darkness provided some security. Out at sea, looking out from the stern, you could see the orange glow of the burning city, although I don’t know whether the fires were caused by the fighting or a conscious effort by our commissars to keep supplies from falling to the enemy. But the city was burning–really burning.
That was bad enough. What was worse were the screams. Two kilometers out to sea, you shouldn’t be able to hear a scream. But if thousands are screaming …
Quick postscript: We didn’t sink. Capt. Faltz formed a bucket brigade, and we bailed out the water from the lower decks–mostly by using our helmets–for almost 20 hours. Even rotating those at work, everyone aboard is exhausted. But we’re only half a klick from Pran Harbor. We’re gonna make it.
That’s all I’m writing today–I’m too damned tired.
TheGM: I doubt many will instantly recognize the names of Pvts. Catillo and Haddaway. They were featured in Two Soldiers Reflect on Defeat (Battle of the White Tower), sitting on a destroyed Tau Sky Ray gunship. Obviously they’re in the same unit as Pvt. Levers.
You can also read about the actual battle at Malati falls to Tau attack.
Other artwork courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense (with some cropping and artwork added).