“A Tau attempt to seize a strategic crossroads in the Sandeep Plains was blocked recently by the sudden arrival of the Knights of Altair Space Marine Chapter. The noble Knights slaughtered the xeno scum in a three-hour battle that . . .”—Imperial Voxcast to the Imperial citizens on the Tau-invaded moon of Dar Sai, 3 540 739.M41.
On 3 528 739.M41, Imperial strategoes assigned to the 728th Cadian Regiment on the war-torn moon of Dar Sai identified troop movements suggesting that Tau invaders were planning on attacking a key crossroads in the Sandeep Plains, an arid region of the main continent of the moon.
The crossroads, known as the Sandhurst Oasis, was undefended, as military reverses had forced military commanders to divert nearly all troops to the two main war effort on the moon: the sieges of the port cities of Pradeep and Aruna.
The failure to ensure a reserve in the Sandeep Plains was a major oversight by military authorities, and it left them with a major dilemma: There were no uncommitted troops to send to the oasis, and it was unlikely that troops could be quickly transported across the continent before the Tau attacked.
As military strategoes became aware of this disaster-in-the-making, they learned that a Strike Cruiser carrying half of the 4th Company of the Knights of Altair was en route to the ork-infested world of Hegira and passing within 30 million kiolmeters of Dar Sai. The strike cruiser was contacted, and the senior Astartes officer aboard,Brother-Chaplain Arnaud Sévin, agreed to a short deviation from his course to defend the oasis.
Arriving outside the oasis by Thunderhawk before dawn, elements of the 4th Company disembarked and raced toward the handful of mud-brick hovels that provided the only heavy terrain on the battlefield. Tactical squads sought to deploy within the buildings and begin firing on the approaching xenos.
To the northeast of the oasis, a combined-arms force of xeno armor, infantry, and battle suits approached from behind the cover of sand dunes. Once in range, the Tau armor took up a “hull-down” position behind a sand dune, with guns above the sand with a clear view of the oasis but with their armored hulls shielded by the dune.
The infantry continued to advance under the cover of their armored support.
It was at this moment that reinforcements began falling from the sky. First was a Space Marine drop pod manned by a small Assault Squad led by Brother-Chaplain Arnaud Sévin, His mission was to seize a tall building on the north corner, and deny it to the enemy long enough for a tactical squad to arrive.
This early in the battle, long-range fire was minimal and ineffective. Targeted by Marker Lights, a Vindicator tank was singled out by the Tau armor but, given that dawn was still half an hour away, the darkness of the night prevented xeno fire from striking home.
When dawn finally arrived, Tau infantry was visible advancing from the northeast. But the xenos soon found themselves flanked as more drop pods fell from the sky. Slamming into the ground just south of the Tau position, one opened to reveal a second Assault Squad that quickly charged a Tau squad and slaughtered half its Fire Warriors in seconds.
Another drop pod landed nearby and revealed a more dangerous threat: the ancient Boras, one of the most venerated dreadnoughts of the Knights of Altair. Opening fire with his Multi Melta and Stormbolter, the dreadnought quickly racked up an impressive body count of xeno scum.
Supporting this effort was the Knights’ armored contingent, including a Whirlwind, Vindicator, and Predator. Given the strong defensive position of the Tau armor, the Space Marine armor was uncharacteristically cautious, supporting its infantry mostly with long-range fire from the safety of cover (behind buildings, sand dunes, and mesas).
As the Space Marine tactical squads began to deploy in the buildings and bring their fire to bear on the approaching Tau, the xenos revealed their expected countermeasures: Dropping from the sky on columns of fire, squads of Crisis Suits and gun drones began to rain behind the Astartes’ front line.
The Tau commander and his bodyguard landed directly on target—behind the Vindicator tank and adjacent to the Whirlwind—and opened fire. Although struck at point-blank range by the Crisis Suits’ deadly Fusion Blasters, both vehicles’ ceramite and plasteel hulls deflected the super-heated plasma of the xeno weapons but still left the crew stunned by the sudden threat on their flanks.
A second Crisis Suit team dropped behind a Razorback advancing to the northwest corner of the battlefield. Despite landing behind the vehicle, the Tau’s weaponry once again was stymied by robust Imperial hull armor.
A third Crisis Suit team strayed off course, landing in copse of Shardwrack Spines in the southeast corner of the battlefield. The spines’sharp and poisoned barbs managed to slice through two Crisis Suits and injure their occupants.
The most effective attack of this aerial drop was recorded by the xenos’ heretical AI-operated gun drones. On the west side of the battlefield, a squad of Terminators had disembarked from a Rhino to challenge the hovering drones. Although the drones were ultimately destroyed, they managed to bring down one Terminator.
On the east side of the battlefield, falling drones swarmed around Boras, and one managed a lucky shot on the dreadnought that penetrated its rear armor.
Such threats were met with maximum lethality by the Knights. In the northwest corner, the Razorback responded to its attack by turning around and opening with its stormbolter. Its hatches opened and a Devastator Squad disembarked, raising their handheld lascannon and plasma guns to the ready. In addition, trailing the Razorback was an Enginseer and two heavy bolter-armed Servitors who opened up and damaged one xeno battle suit.
Not far away, with a tactical squad moving into the north building, Chaplain Sévin dispatched his assault squad to the north, with the goal of sweeping the Tau’s north flank. (He had spotted a Fire Warrior team moving behind a sand dune in that direction.) While his squad went north, Sévin launched himself on his jetpack and headed to the Razorback’s rescue.
To the southwest, where the Tau commander and his bodyguard had struck at the Vindicator, the unengaged Predator tank turned to fire at this threat. It was joined by a strafing run by a Sky Talon arriving from reserve. The combined fire killed the xeno commander’s two bodyguards but left the commander still alive.
To the southeast, the second assault squad swept the Tau’s southern flank, wiping out scores of fire warriors. Meanwhile, Boras, bellowing a roar through his loudspeakers, swatted gun drone after gun drone out of the sky.
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