Two guardsmen are dead; Sgt. Deley is wounded. A hint of panic grips at the remaining guardsmen, but they continue the fight. Summoning all his strength, Sgt. Deley pulls a grenade and tosses it at the Fire Warriors in front of him. Alas, his throwing arm is shaky, and the grenade is thrown too far to the right. The subsequent explosion simply alarms the xenos.
The Tau are relieved—but not for long. The ogryn has seen his NCO fall, and the other guardsmen cannot control him. The three-meter-tall abhuman lets out a roar and charges forward, firing his grenade launcher at the xenos. Explosives fly out in the direction of the Tau, but the ogryn isn’t proficient with his weapon, and he is running. Every shot goes wide, although one lands close enough to pepper one Fire Warrior with shrapnel. He goes down, but he is more shocked than hurt by the attack.
The Tau respond in turn. Moving up the west side of the yard, the Stealth Suit clears the cover of the satellite array and shoots the ogryn, who falls heavily to the ground. A nearby drone reviews its combat protocols and, examining in a microsecond its options, it charges into Sgt. Deley to engage him in combat.
Normally, a drone would have little chance in hand-to-hand combat with the NCO. But his wounds and loss of blood have weakened the veteran guardsmen, and he is unable to defend himself. Sgt. Deley is killed.
The Tau in the yard sense their advantage, and they advance. The two drones and Stealth Suit race down the west side of the office building, targeting a guardsmen firing from a parked tractor across the street. The guardsman is at a disadvantage, as he’s firing back at the Pathfinder on the hill, and he’s positioned himself to have cover from that direction. He has no cover from this attack from a new direction.
But the xenos are moving at a run, and their fire is wildly inaccurate. The guardsman manages to scurry around the corner of the tractor and get out of sight.
Across the road, the Shas’ui is beside himself. The guardsmen in front of him are almost impossible to hit, and he lacks the numbers to charge their position. All he can do is keep those guardsmen under threat and hope the drones and Stealth Suit can win the day.
His hopes are bolstered as he sees friendly fire force a guardsman in the distance to dive for cover. One more human is pinned down, and, without their commander, surely the humans will break soon?
The guard aren’t willing to give up. Some inner strength keeps them from breaking, and they surprise the xenos by counterattacking. In an act of immense courage—but little tactical sense—three guardsmen break out of cover and charge the drones and Stealth Suit.
One of the guardsmen has a flamer, and he engulfs all three in holy promethium. The other two guardsmen throw frag grenades. Shrapnel downs one drone, but the Stealth Suit walks out of the flames unharmed and opens up with its burst cannon. Two guardsmen fall.
Instead of losing heart, the sole surviving guardsmen of the three—and several others in range—scream in outrage and pour all their fire at the Stealth Suit. None strike home, but, perhaps due to the ferocity of fire, the xenos fires his jetpack and withdraws. Soon after, the other xenos lose heart and pull back.
The guardsmen are shocked at their good fortune, yet saddened at the loss of their comrades—particularly the popular Sgt. Deley.
Postscript: Petrov Konrad watched the handful of guardsmen wrap their dead in body bags and load them into the now-idling transport.
“Sorry, your Excellency,”” a corporal, now ranking officer, explained. “But we can’t take the time to bury them, and I’m not going to leave them to rot alongside the road. We’ll bury them when we find a place to hide for the night.”
Konrad examined at the corporal, who looked so young to hold such responsibility—and who was forced to confront the horrors of war.
“I think your decision is a sound one,” Konrad replied. “These men deserve an honorable burial, and I regret we must leave the abhuman behind.”
The corporal looked over at the fallen ogryn. “He won’t know the difference. But he’d want to take down a few more xenos if he could, so we’ll give him his chance. If the xenos try to move him off the road, the demolition charge we’ve set will do the job.”
The corporal saluted and turned back to his small command. “All right! Let’s load up! We’re heading out.”
TheGM: After a follower asked how the citizens of Port Aruna were holding up, I decided to incorporate his concerns into the campaign. Thus was born Petrov Konrad, high mayor of Aruna, who received an answer to his inquiry.
After the fall of Aruna, I was curious about the fate of the high mayor, and this scenario was born. Well, as it turned out, he has escaped the city!
I’m not sure, however, what his fate holds. Will he make it back to Imperial lines? If he does, what’s he going to do without a city to administer? Join the Imperial Guard? He’s a bit too much of an aristocrat for army life.
But, perhaps, he’ll rise to the occasion. Instead of fleeing, perhaps he’ll use his remaining guardsmen to rally whatever refugees or farmers who are now under Tau rule, and he’ll become a guerilla leader—perhaps to attain the fame of a Francis Marion, (the Swamp Fox), Daniel Morgan, or Nathanael Greene—all of the American Revolution.
The direction of this campaign is always a surprise to me. We’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store.
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