A bloody cornfield
To the north, a Shaper known as Orek was leading a warband of Kroot on the Gue’la flank. He raised a claw, and the warriors behind him froze, their rifles at the ready.
Sniffing the air, Orek scanned the cornfield before him. The tall stalks screened his advance, but such an advantage was not his alone to enjoy. There was a faint scent of oil and exhaust fumes in the air, suggesting the Kroot were not alone.
There! His avian eyes spotted the faint movement of a single corn stalk. Something was in the cornfield.
A soft whistle escaped the Shaper’s beak, and Orek’s warriors quickly moved forward and formed a firing line. They raised their rifles and waited for the order to open fire.
Before Orek could give the order, the roar of a chainsword sounded, and half a dozen Marines rushed out of the corn and charged the xenos. The Kroot fired a volley, but the armor of the Gue’la warriors held firm, and the Space Marines closed the distance and both Kroot and marine soon were joined in melee.
A decision took only a few moments. Although the Space Marines killed more than 20 of Orek’s warriors, the Kroot were far stronger than the average human—and they had numbers on their side. The marines were overcome. (6)
Yet it was a pyrrhic victory. Only Orek and two of his warriors remained standing. They were too few to continue the fight.
There was only one thing left to do, Orek realized. Reaching down, he set to work to remove the helmet of one of the Gue’la warriors. The genetically enhanced DNA of these elite warriors would be invaluable in making the Kroot race yet stronger.
Shot to pieces
In the southeast corner of the battlefield, another assault squad of the Knights was descending on a Tau position, yet its fate was worse than that of Captain Nevarre’s squad.
Confounded by the strong winds during their descent, Chaplain Arnaud Sévin and his five battle brothers landed far off course—and directly in front of four squads of Tau fire warriors. (7)
Surrounded by knee-high crops, Sévin recognized that his squad was fatally positioned. His warriors had landed too far from the Tau to engage them before the xenos opened fire, and there was no cover within 40 meters.
Casualties would be high, if not total.
As he prepared to give the order to charge, a xeno transport raced by about 50 meters to his left, then was struck by a lascannon round that sent it crashing to the ground. A few moments later, hatches opened, and a Tau Breacher Team evacuated the stricken vehicle.
“Squad! Xenos to the right. Take the xenos down!” the chaplain shouted, even as the first of his squad, Brother Jerome, fell to heavy plasma fire. The Tau deployed on the tree line across the field had opened fire.
Without hestitation, the Space Marines brought their boltguns to bear on the Breacher Team and, within seconds, all but two of the xenos were dead. But so, too, were three more battle brothers, who fell to the intense plasma fire.
With his squad reduced to only two members, himself included, Sévin accepted the tactical realities of his situation. “We must move—” the chaplain began to say, then spotted a small red dot that appeared on his chest armor. A market light.
Before he could react, a plasma round struck him squarely in the breastplate … and all went black.
The remaining Devilfish jerked upwards as the pilot avoided the wooden fence that encircled the crop field, and the Breacher Team inside were thrown against their seat restraints.
Listening through comlinks, Shas’ui Vurael heard the report that their partner team had crashed.
The loss of the other team was worrisome, and Vurael hoped that his squad would be sufficient to complete his mission. Although he’d never fought the Gue’la’s so-called Space Marines, tactical analyses indicated they were formidable opponents.
Thankfully, help was on the way. Through the tactical array in his helmet, the Tau subcommander watched a squad of Crisis Suits drop from the sky and land next to the destroyed Gue’la dreadnought. (8)
Without pause, the elite troops laid down accurate and deadly fire upon the Space Marines that were running toward the satellite array. One Marine squad bearing heavy weapons [Classification: Devastator Squad] were quickly brought down by sustained burst cannon fire.
At the same time, a warband of Kroot, having advanced from the south, ran forward to intercept the advancing Gue’la and screen the approaching Tau.
Finally, the Devilfish crossed the valley floor and pulled up beside the satellite array. As the transport came to an abrupt stop, Vurael and his Breacher Team released their restraints and surged toward the exit hatches. (9)
“La’rua One, set up a defensive perimeter,” Viral ordered. “La’rua Two, with me. Into the Gue’la building and grab what you can.”
Editor’s Note: [La’rua: Fire team]
Mired in battle
“Squad Morlok! Take out the xeno swine moving on our flank,” ordered Brother Sergeant Cottus as he slogged through the knee-deep mud that had bogged down his Rhino.
The veteran marine sergeant was furious. How had this mire gone undetected?
Every transport was immobilized. The Vindicator, thank the Emperor, had stayed on the road, and Brother-Sergeant Foix’s Predator had spotted the hidden marsh in time to stay on dry land. But almost every Rhino was bogged down. The wall of armor that was supposed to take the marines into striking distance of the xenos was broken.
It was a shameful tactical error, Cottus thought. And it would cost the lives of his Knights.
To his left, three of his Devastator squad fell to heavy xeno fire from a trio of Crisis Suits, depriving him of heavy weapons support. He yelled at several marines. “You! Bring those filthy curr under fire. Keep them suppressed while we advance.” (10)
It was not going to be a good fight, Cottus knew. But there was only way to salave the situation—advance and kill the enemy.
Vengeance is swift
As Captain Nevarre landed with his veterans, the first volley of xeno fire peppered the squad of scouts that had moved forward to shield the assault squad. Two scouts went down, as did Veteran Brother Yanis, whose chest exploded a second after the Tau Broadside fired its rail rifles.
It was a painful loss, but mourning would have to wait. Despite the gunfire around him, Nevarre’s mind analyzed his tactical options in mere seconds, and a single thought through his neuro-connectors ignited his jetpack and sent him flying toward the Broadside that had fired.
“At the battle suit, brothers,” Nevarre snarled as he soared toward the Tau.
Another volley of plasma rounds hit home, although this time the power armor of the assault squad held strong. Nevarre and his men crossed the 40 yards to the Broadside within seconds, while the remaining scouts charged a supporting unit of Pathfinders.
The Broadside’a rail rifles were useless in close combat, and the veterans set upon the four-meter-tall xeno battle suit with lightning claws, power maul, and thunder hammers.
It was Nevarre that drove home the final blow, burying his lightning claws into the chest of the Broadside and impaling its pilot. (11)
The right flank of the Tau had been turned. Now was the time to drive the fight home.
Swiftstrike is isolated
The powerful winds that had scattered the landings of the Space Marines also plagued the Tau, particularly the landing of Swiftstrike. Originally intending to land behind the Gue’la tanks and strike at the thinner rear armor, Swiftstrike found himself blown far behind enemy lines, impotent to affect the course of the battle.
A lone Rhino, at the rear of the Space Marine lines and thus still free of the bog, remained mobile. It turned toward toward the Tau commander. Out in the open, Swiftstrike knew he was vulnerable. But there were trees nearby.
Signaling his bodyguard, Swiftstrike and his companions rose on their jetpacks and landed on the far side of the woods, providing them cover from guns of the enemy. The only question was: What now?
I cannot withdraw without drawing blood, Swiftstrike thought. The lone Rhino was still approaching his position, and as it did so, it blocked the line of fire of the rest of the Space Marines within range. That made the Gue’la vehicle vulnerable.
Signaling his bodyguard to follow, Swiftstrike hopped over the trees and landed beside the enemy transport. All three Crisis Suits let loose with their fusion blasters. (12)
Failure! Three powerful plasma rounds struck the vehicle, yet its armor held. Frustrated and spotting more enemy troops approaching, Swiftstrike had no choice. This fight was a sideshow, a fight that would not turn the tide of battle.
Reluctantly, Swiftstrike fired his jetpack and launched himself to the south, crossing the open fields as quickly as he could. There was a time to fight, and a time to run.
It was time to run.
A lone warrior
Standing in front of scores of enemy troops, their plasma rifles targeting him, his chaplain and fellow squadmates down, Brother Adrien did not expect to survive the battle.
But he could kill. Only 30 meters away, two survivors of the Breacher Team were firing at him—and were close enough to reach. Adrien triggered his jet, and plowed in tho them.
The two xenos’ fire was rushed and missed him, little wonder with a two-meter tall space marine barreling down on them. Adrien landed atop one, crushing him under his booth, then sliced the other in half with his chainsword. (13)
It took a mere moment, and Adrien only wished there had been dozens in reach. He’d kill them all.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog of our wargaming adventures in the fantastical universe of Games Workshop.