“We are but a weapon in the right hand of the Emperor.” —Exhortationes Principiis Titannorum, Divisio Militaris, Adeptus Mechanicus
* * *
Susa City, Hegira
3 999 741.M41
Having analyzed 1,323,591 potential variables in the fight ahead, Alpha 239-A determined his course of action—and transmitted a data feed of tactical instructions to the seven Skitarii Rangers and lone Sicarian Infiltrator under his command.
< Estimated advance of unidentified troops allows superior concentration of fire power. > Alpha 239-A told them. < Team Alpha will follow me and outflank. Team Beta will take position in doorways across the street of their current position. >
<Team Gamma will deploy behind stone wall at Grid 0389-a-3 and prepare to engage northern column of enemy as they attempt to cross the street to your front. >
< Weapons fire is not authorized until identity of troops is determined. Possibility of unreported friendly troop movement is 7.34 percent. >
All the troops under Alpha 239-A’s command— Infiltroriad-Spuria ε 172 —moved to obey with the quiet effectiveness of every soldier in service of the Omnissiah. They moved quickly, the hydraulics in their legs pushing them forward with a speed that would exceed that of a standard human at a run, yet one that was no more nor less rapid than necessary to achieve their deployment in the time allotted.
It was a mechanical efficiency that pleased the Skitarii commander. For the last 17.32 standard days, his command had patrolled this quadrant of the Achaeon Suburbs to prevent the greenskin xenos from infiltrating through Imperial lines and striking deeper into Susa City.
Every ork they’d encountered had been eliminated or forced to withdraw.
Overhead, a small sensor drone filled his mind with binaric cant and novabyte and noospheric blurts that detailed the exact position of the unidentified troops heading in his direction.
Although surprise was not an emotion that Alpha 239-A’s cognitive function could experience, he did register that the aerial magna-picts and holo-diagrammaticals of the approaching troops were unexpected.
The troops to their front were not orks. They were Astartes. There were seven of them. They were moving with stealth, and they were not broadcasting Imperial Identification cryptograms (IICs) designed to prevent friendly troops from firing on them. This was an anomaly that indicated the need for caution and clarification.
< Protocol Defensive-Alert-Identification-Required-Alert Status 13-b is in effect. > Alpha 239 transmitted. < Identification of Astartes is Priority One .>
Followed by a Ranger and the Infiltrator, Alpha 239-A crossed the street and raced up a narrow alley. His intent was to position himself behind the enemy, allowing him to block a move south or move to outflank the approaching force if it continued in its current direction.
* * *
Alpha 239-A was standing next to a tall circular tower when he realized he faced a perplexing and potentially dangerous tactical situation. A magna-pict was neuro-synced straight into his brain from Kolus-Theta-44, a Ranger in Gamma Team who was armed with an arc rifle.
Four Astartes had appeared to the front of the Ranger, approximately 50 meters away. They were huddled at the opening of an alley, and they were scanning the street as if deciding whether to advance into the open.
< Bronze-colored power armor, accompanied by unit markers incorporating a wolf’s head silhouette, corresponds to a traitor warband known as Blood Wolves. > Theta-44 transmitted. < Identification probability 93.7 percent. >
< Assessment received. > Alpha 239-A responded. < Diagnostiquorum consulted . . . hold position. >
It took the Skitarii leader less than a second to analyze and confirm his course of action. The only Astartes in the city were the Knights of Altair, who wore light gray armor and always broadcast on the ICC frequency.
< Astartes classified as hostile, > Alpha 239-A transmitted. < Eliminate with maximum efficiency. >
Linked to Theta-44’s optic array, Alpha 239-A immediately saw the blue-white electrical discharge of Theta-44’s arc rifle flash across the street and strike one of the Blood Wolves in the chest. The traitor Astartes was thrown on his back.
Simultaneously, there was the crack of two Galvanic Rifles, and another traitor staggered backward, the warrior’s gauntlet rising to his chest. He fell but began to crawl towards cover. The remaining two Astartes also withdrew, firing their boltguns in the direction of the Skitarii.
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Categories: Hegira Campaign