+ Recon Two to Alpha One: Mutant force of 2,000-plus infantry, supported by motorized artillery, advancing on your position. ETA: 20 minutes. +
Colonel Piet Konev acknowledged the recon team’s vox report, then turned to face his assembled officers for a final briefing. He scanned their familiar faces—his eager and all-too-youthful lieutenants, his steady and serious-minded captains, and his somber and somewhat cynical executive officer.
They all looked to him for guidance.
“We already have this battle won,” Konev told them. “So don’t screw up. The sand dunes in front of us are tall and steep, which means the mutants will have to divide into columns to reach us. That gives us the opportunity to concentrate on wiping out one column while the others try to catch up. As long as we stick to the plan, we’re fine. So stay sharp.”
“Now get back to your commands, and get ready to kill some mutant scum.”
+ Begin Report +
On 3 117 739.M41, the 1st Battalion, Household Guard of House Fenring, engaged a mutant force from Ungolath, which only days before had stormed and captured Promethium Plant 117 and slaughtered its defenders.
Reconnaissance had alerted the battalion’s commander, Col. Piet Konev, of the mutant’s approach, and he deployed his 1,600-man force in the mutant’s path. In a debriefing after the battle, Konev explained that, as the mutants were passing through a difficult landscape of sand dunes, their force had divided into multiple columns, somewhat isolated from one another.
“My intention was to concentrate on one column, wipe it out, and then turn on the diminished force remaining,” he said.
Konev selected the western-most mutant column as the focus of his attack. Nearly 1,200 guardsmen were deployed behind a low sand dune, along with a squadron of Scout Sentinels and a sub-cohort of Skitarri provided by Magos Dominus Julio Sextus of House Fenring’s Adeptus Mechanicus support cadre.
The center of the guard’s position was anchored by a line of heavy bolters positioned to sweep one gap in the sand dunes, while 300 men watched a third pass to the east of the battlefield.
As anticipated, the mutants arrived before the Imperial battle line in columns divided by the sand dunes. With little regard to tactics, each column advanced to a separate gap in the sand dunes, effectively neutralizing their advantage in numbers.
Addendum: Aerial analysis of drone pict-records indicate that the mutants may not have been as tactically inept as first appeared. The two eastern columns delayed their attack against the 1st Battalion, while a significant number of mutants from the central column reinforced the western column that was the target of Col. Konev’s main attack.
The West Flank
As planned, Col. Konev launched his attack on the western mutant column—at 10:07 local time. A line of guardsmen rose from behind a sand dune and took the enemy under long-range fire. Supporting this fire were the sub-cohort of Skitarri and the Sentinel squadron.
The initial round of Imperial fire proved minimally effective. A number of giant, grossly mutated enemy warriors hefted two-meter-tall shields of an unidentified but strong material, and lining up side by side, they created a lengthy barrier that deflected Imperial fire.
Behind this nearly impenetrable wall, the mutants advanced. Although a few lasgun rounds cleared the wall to strike at mutants at the back of the advancing horde, only the multi-lasers of the Sentinels had any noticeable impact on the mutant shield wall.
“In those early minutes, I admit to some worry,” Konev acknowledged in his debriefing. “Those shields were as effective as any slab shield. But, finally, the multi-lasers began to tear apart the metal, and then the giant mutants began to take hits. Their injuries would have killed a dozen men, but the mutants were almost on top of us before the giants went down, taking their damned shield wall with them.”
As the last of the giant mutants fell, the now-exposed mutants were deployed in firing lines and began to return fire with surprising effectiveness. Nearly a third of the Household Guard, and nearly all the Skitarri, fell before the mutant column was decimated and the survivors fled.
To attack the center of the Imperial line, the central column of mutants had to pass through a narrow gap in a rocky ridge that was half-buried by a large sand dune. This gap created a bottleneck that allowed only a half dozen or so mutants to cross at a time.
This was an optimum tactical situation for the heavy bolter squad, carefully deployed to bring the gap under intense fire. As wave after wave of mutants raced through the gap, they were mowed down. Eventually, mutant corpses were piled so high that any attempt to break through the gap was impossible.
In response, a handful of mutants used this mound of bodies as a gory fortification, firing at Imperial lines as the dead absorbed returning fire. Such nuisance fire, however, had no impact on the battle at large.
Addendum: It is a matter of some debate as to whether the mutants purposefully attempted an attack by echelon—or the delay in their attack was simply evidence of ineptitude or a reluctance to engage a strong Imperial force.
The general consensus is that the mutants had no tactical acumen—and thus are only dangerous in overwhelming numbers. A small but vocal minority of strategists suggest that the study of future battles will clarify the threat level to assign the forces of Ungoloth.
The East Flank
The only serious threat to the 1st Battalion developed on the east flank, where a mutant column managed to advance within 100 meters of Imperial lines and threatened to turn its flank.
Mutant fire caused serious casualties to one guard platoon, and the executive officer, Major Aldolar Raynar, sent an additional platoon to bolster the flank. Reinforced, the severely pressed guardsmen managed to hold the line and repulse the mutant scum.
One of the most important elements in the mutants’ repulse is attributed to Enginseer Paladius Xi-7 and his retinue of servitors. Racing to the mutants’ far flank, he and his servitors dismounted and, with the additional firepower of his Taurox’s auto cannon, Paladius and his heavy-bolter-armed servitors swept the mutant flank with devastating and demoralizing fire.
Addendum: The actions of Paladius were cited in dispatches to the Household Guard’s Senior Command.
The battle was over in less than three hours. More than 200 mutants were killed by Imperial fire, and another 300 wounded —abandoned by their fellow mutants—were executed where they lay and left to the desert’s sand worms. The defeated mutant columns rapidly withdrew to the northwest, most probably to regroup at their captured promethium mine.
Guard casualties were 89 dead, 191 wounded.
Without armored support, Col. Konev could not pursue the mutants effectively—and, in any case, lacked the heavy weaponry needed to retake Promethium Plant 117. He ordered his forces to withdraw to the town of Talpas, which is the outermost desert community that the Charcharoth Council has agreed to garrison against mutant incursions.
Addendum: Imperial authorities are encouraging nomadic tribesmen and isolated villages to the northwest of Charcharoth to abandon the desert in the face of the mutant threat. To date, however, most tribesmen have refused to become refugees in the overcrowded and claustrophobic environs of the hive city.
+ End Report +
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