“Come you aliens, show me what passes for fury amongst your misbegotten kind!” — Blood Ravens Sergeant Avitus
* * *
It is 6 835 742.M41. The Damocles Gulf Crusade has been under way for nearly eight months, and the Imperial Crusade against the Tau has been largely successful.
After defeating a xeno fleet in the break-away Garrus System, an orbital assault by the Ultramarines, Black Templars, and Novamarines chapters of the Adeptus Astartes reconquered the Garrus Colony and restored Imperial rule.
Soon after, the Crusade Fleet moved to the Kleist Colony, which wisely submitted peacefully to Imperial authorities. Other worlds, which had not broken away from the Imperium but were suspected of such heretical thinking, loudly proclaimed their loyalty.
Imperial authority was restored across an entire subsector.
Yet one small world denies the Crusade’s utter success: the Namatos Colony. There, a strong Tau military force continues to staunchly defend the planet from an attack by the 5th Company of the Knights of Altair Space Marine Chapter.
The Knights’ commander, Captain Martel Vivant, feels both frustration—and some small measure of concern. His battlefield success over the past century made him the youngest company commander in his chapter, yet he has suffered two humiliating defeats at the hands of the Tau during this campaign.
Now word has reached him that, unless he can quickly crush the xenos, the Crusade will have no choice but to leave the 5th Company behind. The Crusade Fleet is preparing to depart Imperial space and journey across the empty Gulf to invade the Tau empire.
To be left behind would be shameful—and raise doubts about his fitness for command.
The Order is Given
Standing at the edge of forest, Captain Vivant scanned the Tau defensive position through a tripod-mounted scope. Much of the xeno armor was deployed to the west of the line, where a stone wall provided some protection from anti-tank fire. To the east, a largely infantry force defended a small agricultural community.
He raised his head from the scope and nodded to his adjutant to store away the device. He looked to his right. Some 400 meters away, he could see an armored column of
Predator and Vindicator tanks idling, ready to launch the main attack.
“We are wasting time.”
Vivant turned to see the black-armored Chaplain Allyr Numa standing with his Crozius Arcanum in hand.
The tone in Numa’s voice was a challenge—a subtle critique of his company commander. But after witnessing repeated defeats at the hand of the Tau, Numa was not alone in showing his discontent without crossing into outright insubordination.
Vivant put his hand to the hilt of his power sword. “Our troops are in position, and the enemy is before us. I don’t need to be prodded into an attack.”
Numa nodded. “I would hope not.” The chaplain turned to rejoin the line of Space Marines waiting for the word to advance.
The Patient Hunter
The Gue’ron’sha were preparing to launch their attack, thought Shas’o Vi’Tasha.
Sitting in the hold of a Manta gunship, hiding in the thick clouds that hung over the battlefield, the Tau supreme commander watched the Imperial troop movements on a video monitor. The data was being transmitted by a Pathfinder standing on the main Tau battle line.
The main attack, she thought, would come on her left flank—the armored force. To the right, strangely separate from the main force, a smaller force were gathered. All her instincts told Vi’Tasha that the Gue’ron’sha would hit hard on the left, but the greater threat was from this smaller force. What was the Imperial commander planning?
No matter. The way of the Kauyon—the Patient Hunter—was not an easy one. The enemy saw only prey in front of them. They did not see the threat that was invisible. They looked to the foe in front of them. Not to the threat above.
She would let the gray-armored soldiers attack her line . . . allow the predator to think it had cornered its prey. Then she would teach the enemy that the Tau—not they—were the true predators here.
Forward to Glory
The Space Marine’s armored column crossed the ground toward the enemy at cruising speed, holding its fire until it was in a short range. Brother-Sergeant Brice Duplantier rode in the lead Predator tank, known as Carnage.
A thunderous roar announced the response of the xenos. On his data screen, he could see huge plumes of flame, smoke, and vaporized dirt erupt in front of him, as the Tau tanks fired their powerful Railguns at his formation. So far, the xeno fire had failed to strike a deadly blow.
A shrill “whoosh” sounded outside the Carnage—the telltale sound of a hyper-velocity shell passing close by. It was only a matter of time before the Marines took casualties.
“All tanks, identify xeno anti-armor threats.” Giving his orders over a micro-vox link, Duplantier’s voice was as steady as stone. “Priority One. Fire at your discretion.”
Several Predator tanks opened fire, and the xeno defenses were pounded by shellfire.
“This is Gray Death,,” a voice sounded over the vox. “Hammerhead sighted, negative 15 degrees of center. Out of my range.”
A Vindicator tank, Gray Death was armed with a Destroyer Cannon, a powerful but short-range weapon. Deployed just 20 meters to the right of the tank, it fell upon the Carnage to deal with the threat.
“Data acknowledged,” Duplantier confirmed. He adjusted his targeting auxpex. The xeno tank was hull-down behind a stone wall. That made it statistically unlikely that his first strike would hit home.
Not that it mattered, he thought. When you find the enemy, you shoot the enemy. “Target identified. Preparing to fire.”
Target of Opportunity
Twin lines of plasma erupted from the guns of an approaching Gue’ron’sha tank, and a portion of the stone wall that shielded the Hammerhead simply disappeared into an explosive vapor as the beams struck the stone wall.
The tank’s commander, Sash’ui Mal’ka’ir, jerked his eyes away from his targeting scope as it flared white from the nearby blast. As the glow faded, he looked again into the scope and saw the melted gap in the wall and appreciated his good luck. If the enemy’s fire had been just a few tor’il higher, he and his tank, Sharp Teeth, would be nothing but smoke and flame.
But, for the Greater Good, he was ordered to draw the enemy fire while Commander Vi’Tasha prepared her counterstrike. Mal’ka’ir would not fall short of his duty. He made no attempt to move to a better defensive position. He looked for a target.
There! To the right, he realized that a squadron of armored transports were moving down a road toward his position. Unlike the approaching Imperial armor, there were no trees that limited his line of sight. The enemy transports were in the open—an easy target.
He ordered all the tanks under his command to shift their fire. Make the enemy infantry advance on foot, he thought.
Half a dozen Hammerhead tanks opened fire. His Hammerhead bucked backward as, despite its inertia suppression system, his Railgun spit out its hyper-velocity shell. So fast did it move that the tank commander never saw the shell. But he saw, with great satisfaction, the left tread of a Gue’ron’sha transport rip free and spin 30 meters into the sky. The stricken vehicle skewed to the left and came to a stop, black smoke billowing from its engine.
Two other transports also came to a stop., devastated by the Tau armor’s proficiency with their weapons. One transport billowed black smoke, while another was nothing but a burning wreck. Hatches opened on the side of the smoking transports, and Mal’ka’ir watched as giant, gray-armored Gue’ron’sha disembarked speedily, forming a defensive circle as they assessed their tactical situation.
The tank commander decided to clarify their assessment. As his Railgun’s power system recharged, he opened fire on the enemy with the tank’s front Burst Cannon.
Click here to read Part 2 of the fight.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Damocles Campaign