“You can see signs of a major xeno offensive on the horizon. You can see it in the orks’ constant raids and reconnaissance missions of recent weeks, such as the raid stopped by the Knights of Altair the other day. The orks are probing the defenses surrounding Susa City. They’re scouting for their big assault on the capital.”
— Remarks by Galene Lydos, Hegira’s most esteemed scholar in xeno behavior, during an interview with local media (remarks later redacted by authorities).
For more than half a year, the ork invasion of Hegira—the desert moon orbiting Sculptor II—has been stalled. In their last major attack, the orks had successfully seized the Barak Mine, but the cost of their victory had been heavy in greenskin lives. Indeed, losses were so heavy that, even with the orks’ rapid reproductive cycle, they could not quickly replace the casualties they’d suffered at the hands of the Knights of Altair.
It also did not help the ork cause that the Imperial Navy in late 738.M41 had unleashed a massive orbital barrage on xeno troop concentrations.
But the orks would not be deterred. While they were unable to mount large military operations in recent months, they took every opportunity to test the Imperial defenses. This was particularly true near Susa City, the last great bastion between the greenskin invaders and the strategically vital Palatine Space Port, upon which the entire Imperial defense of the moon relied.
In the “no man’s land” between the ork and human armies, ork raids, probing attacks, and reconnaissance missions were a constant reality. The Imperials responded by deploying small fire teams to meet the xenos’ efforts.
Thus it was that, on 3 007 739.M41, Brother-Sergeant Karael Taridon, leading a small squad of scouts of the Knights of Altair, clashed with one such recon mission.
A tempting target
In the days prior to the skirmish, Taridon had established a temporary camp in no man’s land, amidst the rubble of the abandoned Caratice Housing Development. This once-thriving housing complex for laborers had been evacuated and bombed by imperial authorities to deny the xenos good cover if they decided to use the area as a line of attack.
All that was left was rubble and shattered ruins.
In this desolate area, however, Taridon had established a secret camp. It included a small but valuable cache of supplies to allow the scouts to operate for an extended time in no man’s land, as swell as a promethium cache to power their sensor equipment.
Despite their stealth, the scouts’ presence apparently was discovered by the orks, who attacked with a small mob of boyz in early 738.M41.
The timing of the attack proved fortuitous for the xenos. Most of the 10-man squad, including Brother-Sergeant Taridon, had dispersed to operate in small recon groups, so that only a sniper and boltgun-equipped scout remained on guard.
Fortunately for the scouts, however, a Terminator-clad member of the Knights’ 1st Company was in camp, having arrived as the vanguard of an assault team that was gathering for a mission deep into ork territory. This Terminator played a key role in the skirmish that followed.
The orks attacked the camp from two directions, moving clumsily through the low ruins in an attempt to remain in cover as long as possible. They made so much noise on their approach, however, that the two scouts and Terminator were in firing positions long before the xenos could be seen.
To the west, five orks rushed the weapons cache, seizing it with no difficulty. What they didn’t realize was that the sniper and boltgun-armed scout had the cache in their firing sights, and, in a moment, the two Space Marines had shot down two of the greenskins. The remaining three ducked for cover.
A similar result occurred to the east, where the Terminator unleashed his stormbolter at a group of four orks targeting the promethium cache. All went to ground as well.
For the next few minutes, both sides traded fire to little effect. But the ork attack was stalled.
The weapons cache
Their attention totally focused on the scouts in camp, the orks to the west failed to notice the arrival of human reinforcements. Drawn by the sound of gunfire, three scouts had returned to camp and positioned themselves behind the orks at the weapons cache.
These three—armed with a boltgun, heavy bolter, and missile launcher—immediately opened up on the three standing orks that had seized the Space Marines’ camp. All but one were knocked to the ground.
Yet, although the orks’ attack appeared doomed at this point, their powerful xeno physiques served the greenskins well. As the scouts continued to pour fire into the small warband, one ork seized the weapons cache and fled to the north, while another—clearly wounded—crawled northward in an attempt to escape.
Two others rose and fled to the southeast, having spotted the sniper and deciding to target this isolated “humie” for a “good bashing.” Their attempt failed, as the sniper managed to keep them at bay with heavy fire.
The fifth ork did not move. The greenskin was dead.
Over the course of the next few minutes, the three Space Marines repeatedly targeted the orks heading north with the weapons cache. Despite their best efforts, however, the ork with the cache managed to survive and continue to move northward.
The Promethium Tank
On the eastern side of the battlefield, the boltgun-armed scout and Terminator stood guard in the ruins that housed the promethium tank.
The sheer volume of fire from the Terminator’s stormbolter ensured that the attacking orks were pinned down. But, although most huddled in the cover of the ruins, one enterprising ork discovered a gap in the ruin walls. He scuttled to the second floor of the ruin and, out of sight of the Space Marines, managed to reach the promethium tank, hoist it on his broad shoulders, and run off with it.
Although quiet during his advance, the weight of the tank prevented the ork from stealthily escaping, and the scout and Terminator—made aware of the orks’ theft—gave chase.
Eventually, this ork came under the crosshairs of the Terminator’s weapons, and the xeno was shot down.
Ork cunning (or cowardice?)
Although orks usually are aggressive to the point of insanity, the species also has an animal cunning that sometimes reveals itself. It did so in this skirmish. Rather than charge mindlessly toward the Space Marines, the orks were content to seize their prizes and withdraw.
Alas, they did so successfully. Although the ork with the weapons cache eventually was shot down, a nearby ork picked up the cache and stumbled into some ruins. Despite heavy fire from the scouts’ heavy bolter and missile launcher, the ork managed to make his escape.
In the west, although initially relieved to shoot down the ork with the promethium tank, the Space Marines were mortified when a large greenskin appeared out of the rubble, survived a hail of Marine fire, seized the tank, and ran off with it.
Naturally the scouts made every attempt to give chase. The promethium cache was recovered, but every time an ork with the weapons cache was shot down and he dropped his prize, another xeno would pick it up and keep running. Nearly half the ork force was shot down at one point or another during the battle, but all but one would eventually rise and continue to withdraw.
In the end, there were no Space Marine casualties, but the orks were gone—with the vital weapons cache that allowed the scouts to replenish their ammunition after a mission. It was a shameful loss of face for Brother-Sergeant Taridon, who arrived in camp seconds after the last ork had disappeared.
TheGM: The mission was “Hit and Run” using the Shadow War: Armageddon rules. Alas, I did not record the attacker’s mission, but my recollection is that The Gaffer didn’t achieve it. Still, his orks got away with the loot marker (weapons cache), and without a resupply of arms and ammo, the scouts could not stay in “no man’s land.” (Particularly as the orks now knew where their camp was.)
In any case, the Space Marines failed to protect their camp properly. It was obviously an ork victory.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
began, been bombarded by Imperial artillery to deny