ALERT TO ALL IMPERIAL SHIPS: Task Force 7-A engaged the fleet of an unidentified xeno species in the Elara System. Ten of 16 Imperial ships were destroyed, with the surviving vessels forced to withdraw.—Broadcast by Imperial Navy headquarters, Belliose System.
+ + INCIDENT REPORT: CONTACT WITH XENO FLEET + +
+ CLEARANCE: Beta-Secondarius +
TO: All commanding officers, BattleFleet Belliose
SUBJECT: Fate of Task Force 7-A
XENO SPECIES INVOLVED: Unidentified
AUTHOR: Commander Lucius Antonius
INPUT DATE: 3 593 738.M41
+ REPORT BEGINS +
On 5 572 738.M41, Task Force 7-A was on routine patrol in the southwest quadrant of the Corvus Cluster when ship navigators reported a “shadow” or “darkness” in the Warp that was moving toward the nearby Imperial-controlled Elara System.
The task force commander, Commodore Gaius Regulus, directed the task force to intercept the mysterious phenomenon and ordered all ships to battle stations.
On 5 574 738.M41, long-range sensors indicated that nearly 30 unidentified vessels were entering the Elara System. Task Force 7-A intercepted the xeno fleet in the system’s outer asteroid field.
Sensor readings indicated several unprecedented features of the xeno fleet. There was a scarcity of metal that would be consistent in a traditional fleet of ships. Instead, the vessels appeared to be organic in nature, perhaps even alive.
Two distinct vessel types were identified. Two extremely large vessels, comparable to Imperial battleships, were surrounded by approximately two dozen cruiser-sized ships with kilometer-long appendages that most observers described as “tentacles.”
The xeno fleet was divided into two groups of approximately equal numbers. One group shifted course to an intercept course to the Imperial task force; the other group entered a cloud of asteroids as it approached. Before this latter group disappeared from sensors, it was recorded that at least one xeno vessel was torn apart by a collision with a large asteroid.
Unfamiliar with the xenos’ capabilities, Commodore Regulus ordered a squadron of Cobra–class destroyers to advance ahead of the task force and test the firepower of the xeno lead ships.
As the opposing ships approached, the destroyers opened fire first, supported by long-range fire and torpedoes from Regulus’ flagship, the Imperatoris. Two xeno ships were destroyed, indicating that their defense systems were not unusually powerful.
With this first act of aggression, however, the xeno ships responded with a massive wave of ordinance fire. Two-hundred-meter-long organic ships, resembling motile bacterial cells with waving flagelia, quickly were launched by the larger ships.
These small ships enveloped and destroyed the three-destroyer squadron.
No other weapons fire was observed of the cruiser-class xeno ships, and it was surmised that the main weapon of these ships might well be their tentacles.
Although the theory that the xenos actually might rely on a physical assault in space defied logic, it was noted that another xeno species—orks—also rely heavily on physical contact (ie. boarding parties.) To avoid giving the xenos a tactical advantage if this theory proved true, Regulus directed the task force to make a sharp turn to port and ordered All Ahead Full!
It was just as well. A second wave of xeno ordinance—derisively labeled “spores” by a junior officer—was launched at the task force.
The xenos’ reliance on ordinance proved a dilemma for Imperial ship commanders, who realized that the composition of the task force included few ships with anti-ordinance weaponry.
The xenos responded to the Imperial course change by maneuvering to intercept. Most of the task force managed to outrun the xenos, but two Sword-class frigates were destroyed by the xeno spore before they could complete their course correction.
Over the next few hours, the xeno fleet fired subsequent waves of spore, largely targeting the Imperatoris, which trailed the task force as it was slowed by the debris of a nearby gas cloud.
The spore attacks were largely countered by the Mars-class battlecruiser’s four squadrons of Furies. But, as casualties among the fighters rose, more spore managed to slam into the Imperatoris, causing sufficient damage to the engines to slow the vessel and allow the xenos to close.
Spores also accounted for severe losses among the task force’s escorts.
Eventually, Regulus determined that the task force must turn and fight—or abandon the Imperatoris and withdraw. The task force’s three Dominator-class cruisers turned course and engaged the enemy with long-distance fire from their starboard weapons batteries, while the surviving frigates attempted to counter the xeno spore targeting the task force.
Imperial fire began to have its impact on the xeno ships, but more than a dozen of the cruiser-sized ships managed to engulf the Imperatoris. Their kilometer-long tentacles battered at the battlecruiser’s Adamantium hull, and pict-recorders on nearby vessels recorded instances when the tentacles actually ripped sections of the armored hull free of the ship.
The Imperatoris courageously battled its xeno opponents for approximately 20 minutes, during which time the Imperatoris bridge reported multiple fires and explosions across the length of the 5.4-kilometer-long battlecruiser.
A final message from the flagship indicated that the vessel’s reactors were engulfed in fire and about to overload—and all nearby ships should keep their distance. Seconds later, a nuclear fireball consumed the Imperatoris and more than eight surrounding xeno ships.
With only six surviving ships under his command, Captain Julius Marinus, senior surviving officer on the scene, determined that he could no longer effectively defend the Elaras System and ordered a jump into the Warp.
Final sensor readings before the task force’s withdrawal revealed the xeno fleet changing course and heading toward the populated worlds in the inner orbit of the system.
Postscript: Astrpoathic communications with the Elara System ceased with the xenos’ arrival in the system, and there has been no further communications with the system’s populated planets since.
• An examination of the Admiralty’s Tome of Xeno Threats, Edition XXXVI, includes no record of a xeno species with an organic component similar to the ships observed in the Elara System.
• References to a “shadow” in the Warp, as reported by the task force’s navigators, led to an analysis of reports of unusual phenomena submitted by Imperial-sanctioned astropaths and navigators in the past two years. This analysis suggests the xeno fleet has been crossing the Eastern Fringe for several months.
• If this analysis is correct, the xeno fleet’s course in recent months suggests it came from the Galactic East, although it is unclear if this determination offers a clue to the direction of the xeno’s homeworld—or simply identifies its most recent movements.
• This possible course indicates travel through several Imperial systems where astropathic contact is sporadic. It is recommended that authorities attempt to determine the status of these worlds.
• The weaponry of the xenos appear limited to its organic tentacles and spores. This is, however, a conclusion of low confidence, as it’s based solely on the observation that no other weaponry was used against Task Force 7-A.
• The defensive capability of the xeno ships appear comparable to Imperial warships. The ships were vulnerable to Imperial fire, and there was no indications of anti-ordinance weaponry other than the spores.
• The capability of the larger xeno ships is unknown, as these vessels did not actively participate in the battle, excepting for the launch of spores. It is possible that these are command vessels.
• The xeno ships’ highest observed speed suggests that Imperial ships can outrun the xenos and engage in long-range fire to defeat the xenophobic ships.
• It is advised that Imperial commanders engage the xenos with a strong contingent of anti-ordinance weaponry.
+ END REPORT +
TheGM: As always, serendipity (or fate) plays an influential role in the direction of the Corvus Cluster.
This battle was fought at Historicon, a wargame convention held in Lancaster, Penn., in July. There, I met an old wargame buddy who challenged me to a game of Battlefleet Gothic.
Thus I found myself facing a beautiful scratchbuilt Tyranid fleet consisting of two hive ships and about 25 escort-class blobs of tentacles—with ordinance but no other long-range weaponry.
My fleet consisted of a quickly cobbled-together list of ships that turned out to lack any serious anti-ordinance weaponry. (I didn’t know anything about Tryanid ships.)
It was a foregone conclusion how the battle would end, if only because I’ve played few games and my buddy, David, is an avid player. But I did manage to kill enough Tryanids that, point-wise, the fight was not a total embarrassment for me.
(Although, to be honest, it was only the Imperatoris’ spectacular destruction—a purely random event—that did the most damage to the xenos.)
It was a lot of fun, though, and that’s what counts. I’m hoping for a rematch.
But the big news is that the Tyranids are in play. I wasn’t expecting them to join the Corvus Cluster, as I only have a handful of unpainted Gene Cultists—and no plans to paint them up anytime soon.
Yet, the Tryanids are here—and who knows where that will lead? Maybe I need to think about pulling out those cultists and see where inspiration takes me. Or building my own Tyranid fleet.
Oh, I don’t have much hope for the Elara System.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our wargaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.