Author Topic: Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative Dawn of War AAR  (Read 577 times)

JasonPratt

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Reply #30 on: November 02, 2019, 04:17:12 PM
{Note: this is roughly the halfway point of the season.}

INTERLUDE -- UPON HER ASHES
---------------------------

The Canoness stood in her command center. Safe now. As safe as anyone could be on this blasted, haunted world, once a bastion of humanity’s power.

She could feel the ashes on the soles of her boots. That was her imagination. But all feeling was of the imagination. She told herself there was no point looking, she had scoured them clean already...

No. She had gotten new boots for her armor already. She had told the techpriests that those had been cursed, by a clever trick of chaos, and to be careful with disposing them.

So it couldn’t be the ashes of those people stabbing into the soles of her feet. Even penitent sisters didn’t have that. They wouldn’t be able to run or stand to fight properly.

Grim silence surrounded her, despite the usual work going on, officers voxing and reports being given and taken. Grim darkness, despite the lights of various screens and the overheads.

She had underestimated that... that ‘Pauel’. He was cruelly clever. He and his leader, who dared to call himself the new Emperor. Automatically she recalled his offenses as a litany -- and just as automatically, felt the usual disappointment upon recalling that there was no evidence he had ever called himself Emperor. Rather that he agreed the Emperor was the Emperor of Humanity.

Which showed how deviously clever he was. Clever and cruel.

The ashes of her honor stabbed and stabbed and sounded like they were screaming, burning alive, as she walked across the command room to look over some normal report about something. She wouldn’t cut off her feet, however. Then she might be unfit for command, or at least be hobbled from being as effective as before.

And then he would win.

“Ah, Canoness!” said the officer at the viewscreen, though she hadn’t said anything. “Uh, the Emperor’s Children have been driven off Partox in a decisive defeat. This,” he kept giving her quick glances, so quick he must have been hoping she wouldn’t see them, “seems likely, according to our strategists, to inspire competition among the Chaos forces about who and how exactly to take advantage of their loss. The overall result will be, they expect, a small yet significant decline in the invasions by Chaos elsewhere in the system, as the foes move to compensate. As a mobile strike force on this world, we should... um... the strategists haven’t been very clear about their expectations for us. Lady?”

“We will serve the Emperor. As always. Never doubt that. Ever.”

“Of course, Lady!” he saluted.

She turned, and a captain-sister stood not far away. Watching her. Intently.

“Your purpose. Be quick,” the Canoness told her.

“My purpose,” she said, her normally dark-skinned face practically pale... with fear? with anger? “is that of the Angel Saints.

“To save the people from Chaos. Because we love them -- “

The captain couldn’t quite finish “them” due to the Canoness having leapt upon her, throwing her to the ground. The captain could have struggled; she wouldn’t have won, due to inferior armor and weaponry, but the Canoness knew her qualities. She would have been a good Canoness herself in due time.

But the captain didn’t struggle. Not even when: “In the name of the Emperor,” declared the Canoness, “I accuse and convict you of treason!” She knew everyone had to be staring at this, but didn’t look away from the captain’s eyes.

Couldn’t look away.

“I accept,” said the captain. “I have betrayed the honor of the Emperor.

“When I pulled the trigger. On those people. Over and over again.”

“On my orders.”

“As you say. On your orders. And on your honor. You didn’t flip a single switch, or pull a flamer’s trigger. You ordered us to. And so -- “

“I am not guilty. I did what had to be done. So did you. I do not accuse you for that, but for this!”

“For what. Because my purpose is to save the people from Chaos?”

“......you are judging me. And I will not accept it.”

“I am judging myself. But yes, since you mention it: I am judging you, too. Lady Canoness.”

“It is a trick, you... you ninny!” She had almost called the captain something much worse, but her conscience could only bear so much. She settled for thumping the captain’s head against the plating of the command center floor. This had to be gotten out now, dealt with now, and the captain had simply volunteered to be the example. “There is no way to verify that the traitor commander spoke truly!”

“All we have is his word,” said the captain. “His promise. Which he kept. And your word. Which -- “

The Canoness ripped out her throat. The captain didn’t even seem surprised. She reflexively tried to breathe for a minute. Then expired. Probably from blood loss, not from asphyxiation. Yet.

The Canoness backed off her body, after ensuring her death. And stood. And looked around.

“Anyone expecting her to rise at once as an angel of light and denounce me,” she said, very calmly and sanely, “can just go line up against the wall outside right now, so you can be shot in an orderly fashion. Save everyone the trouble. No volunteers?” she snarled, or sneered the word. “Good thinking. Get back to work. Someone clean that up.” She would have to write a report explaining the death. Somehow. A faithful and talented captain’s death would not be easy to explain. Even moreso, a captain she herself had personally chosen for her qualities.

“It’s some kind of trick!” she announced. “Obviously! Can’t you all see that!? This is what he wants! To sow doubt in us, doubt in ourselves, doubt in the Emperor! He shall not succeed. I won’t let him; neither shall you. He has done this to us, but -- “

“You have done this to us.” The Canoness whirled to see who would speak to her that way, at this time.

A sergeant, from one of her honor guard. Also personally chosen by the Canoness, for her qualities. She would have made a good captain, but had pleaded to stay a sergeant. For the honor of serving the Canoness. She had been there. Had looked at her with suspicion when the Canoness had tried to find a way around --

“You have done this to us, and to yourself. I give my life, and die, speaking the tru--“

The Canoness’ weaponry was very high quality. “In case anyone else was thinking of opening your mouth to me,” she told them, very sanely and calmly, and reasonably, too, “remember that my weaponry is strong enough to blow a sergeant’s head clean out from under her own hair. Now someone will have to clean that up, to-- never mind. Everyone up! Right now! Outside. March. So help me under the Emperor, I will blast you all right now and set this command center on fire, anyone who remains. Out the door. That’s right, good boy, get going, you might have a future.”

“Oh?” someone to her left asked. “Does he have your word abo--?”

“And there’s another example for all of you!” she declared after the ringing of the next shot inside the walls died off. The walls had been designed to absorb and disperse the sound of even bolter fire, quite quickly. “So if you want to live a few more moments, get to it! Wait up, I’ll go first.” She didn’t want them running away. They mustn’t escape her.

“Up against the wall,” she snarled as she went outside. “All of you. You, too, boy. You might live a little longer. I haven’t made up my mind yet. Understand? I have absolute authority over life and death here. Under my command. This is not optional. Our war against Chaos LEAVES NO OPTIONS!” That was important to emphasize.

They lined up against the wall. There was some quiet weeping. Not from her. Her eyes were sanely clear and reasonable. She was a Canoness of the Fervent Heart, a servant of the Emperor’s honor.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she repeated. “You are all sure that the captain and the sergeant, and maybe whoever else that was, will rise as angelic saints, and blast apart the roof as they ascend, and glare down upon me in absolute judgment. BUT THEY AREN’T! SEE!? THEY AREN’T DOING THAT! THE EMPEROR HASN’T EMPOWERED THEM TO JUDGE ME!! I judge them, not the other way around. Me. I’m the judge here. Not them. That light in the sky... that isn’t them. All that is, is the clouds, randomly parting due to some atmospheric... QUIBBLE!” she screamed. And shot bolter fire into the general direction of the sunbeam. “I know what you’re thinking, it seems awfully improbable that the sun would burn down on my head like fire, on this ruined hell of a planet where smoking rubble has thrown up clouds across the world. Well that’s all it is. Improbable. It isn’t impossible. It isn’t night-time, you dolts.” She wasn’t entirely sure about that, but she would be damned if she checked now. “The fire will go away in a minute. And when it’s gone, I’ll decide how many more I have to kill in order to make my point and keep order in this command. How many more traitors I have to execute,” she corrected herself.

She stood there, waiting for the swirling clouds to cover the sun again.


“And then,” she said, some time later. And paused. And covered her face in her hands. From under her hands she said, “...it doesn’t matter. I don’t think there were angels in the sky. Not really. But it doesn’t matter. Because that’s the story going around now.

“And it doesn’t matter, because I could feel them judging me anyway.

“I could have immediately walked over and turned myself in, to the Inquisition or to some other administrative body. I thought about it. Would they say I was guilty? -- guilty of being an agent of Chaos? Or would they justify my actions? Either way, they had to remove me from duty, I understood that. From duty as a Canoness. I would be strapped to a penitent engine, or perhaps be made a penitent foot runner. Charging into battle, pierced by my sins. I was willing to accept that. I didn’t deserve anything better, anything more.”

She inhaled, like a sign in reverse. And uncovered her face. And looked at Pauel.

And said,

“But I knew, to the core of my soul:

“I’d always be running upon those ashes.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #31 on: November 03, 2019, 02:01:09 PM
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN -- MONSTERS (Part 1 of 2)
----------------------------

 


{Gamenote: 3-player fan-made map Inquisitor fortress, on hard (since they’re fighting each other and I’m starting in an area with built-up protections plus some Space Marine tactical and assault infantry support.)}

“I have problems,” Eria announced, after gliding into my room, where I was partially resting. Partially -- because my connection to the Arisen didn’t allow a traditional sleep. I didn’t dream, so much as subsume myself into overseeing management.

“Who doesn’t?” I grimly retorted. Then, “Sorry, that was supposed to be trench humor. I know, you wouldn’t have visited me and said that, unless you knew it was very serious.”

“Until just recently, it was not a problem at all. The war we Eldar instigated between the Tyranids and Chaos demons?”

“I still have no idea how you managed to do that. But, I’m glad we haven’t seen either of those problems for a while, so thanks!”

“Obviously, there couldn’t be such a war unless the demons chose to attack. But we played on their pride, indirectly guiding them into thinking that the Tyranids are competing to be the most horrible monsters.” She couldn’t help but smirk at that. “Who would even care? The Tyranids don’t. But Chaos demons don’t have much in their lives, except the fear they can generate. The Tyranids, in their own way, have each other, and each other’s loyalty.”

“And I understand,” I said, “in their own twisted way, that’s more than enough: justice only amounts to what serves to improve the hive in its capabilities.”

“Yes, although if we could angle this into the hive becoming suspicious of its chaotic hybrid leaders...”

“You haven’t explained your problem. Yet,” I smiled, but tried to convey how tired I was by the smile.

She came to herself, out of her plotting, with a start. “My apologies. Of course, as you say, I wouldn’t have bothered your rest unless it was serious.

“The Volunteer Legion has recently found and taken a fortress; formerly an Inquisitorial chaplain-colonel was stationed there, overseeing compliance for the area.”

“Still not a problem yet.”

“The defenses set up by the Legion are... a start, let us say. Enough to fend off casual probes. For various reasons, more has not been added yet...”

“I see; I’ve found the records. Yes, I think the point is that we aren’t going to stay on this world, so there was only need to have enough to brush off a raid. More fortifications would have been added, from our limited resources, upon facing a greater threat.”

“Properly so. Now something like a greater threat has slipped into the area, not so much against the fortress, as trying to outflank each other.”

“Ah, the nids and the demons.”

“Their parallel advances will bring them into the fortress area soon. I am unsure the fortress will last if both decide to attack at once, or if one decisively defeats the other; and the Volunteer Marines are spread already thin in other areas. As are most of the Volunteer forces.”

“Hm. I would say abandon the area; Lord knows, we have plenty of planet to work on. But, I see from the records...”

“Yes, there are human populations in the area, who haven’t evacuated. They don’t trust us enough yet, but we should be able to get them moved, by fear if nothing else, to put the fortress between them and the advancing monsters -- for now.”

“But if the fortress falls, yes, I see, they’ll be overrun. We have a real problem here.”

“...you have one force which hasn’t overstretched itself, yet. I volunteer us, to help the Legion’s defenses.”

My eyes snapped open wide at that. “I... I’m glad to accept your help on the ground, of course. But I’m... I have to say I’m surprised.”

“I will be critical of myself,” she stated. “I have not... encouraged my people to be of much help in the fighting, so far. And this particular problem has developed, due partly to our responsibility. I wish us to make our contributions to solving the problem. That is all.”

She didn’t exactly flush, but after all these years I could detect signs of some embarrassment. “At once!” I agreed. “Can the Vols provide some help?”

“I think so, yes. One of your Brother Captains and a Force Commander, say that they may be able to get away from their current engagements, and join some tactical marines. Perhaps the new Librarian commander, too. They will not be able to bring out anything like their full strength, but together we... should,” she emphasized, “be able to deflect both wings or tendrils of the devilish arms slinking out that way.”

That sounded problematic. So she hadn’t foreseen the outcome. Oh well. “At the worst,” I said, “if the people see you both fighting together to spare them from those monsters, maybe they’ll finally be encouraged to get on transports out of the area, instead of waiting for the Empire to bomb them to dust. I’ll have the Vol Militia detail some logistic transports as soon as possible. I pray the people will get in them, this time.”

“I’m confident you’ll succeed,” she said. “Now, I myself will go and see to the fortress defense.”

And so, she went.



JasonPratt

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Reply #32 on: November 03, 2019, 02:02:41 PM
(Part 2 of 2)

{Gamenote: due to map design, you’ll just have to ignore the Blood Angel coloring and markings. I didn’t have any way to set them as Vols, except by making one of the other starting positions also Vols, on my side, and that was too much of a crushing over-roll.}

 


 



 


“Resources in this area are rather spent,” Pauel told her as they met for planning at the fortress.

“And I see,” she said with just a slight acidity, “the Legion has put down one plasma generator.”

 


“We have been called away. Often.”

“I know. We could have upgraded the area ourselves, already. That was my error, and I am sorry. I was critiquing myself, not you. We should have been doing more to help your operations; and I am to blame for this situation at all. I do not wish to risk my life, or even another Eldar life, for a bunch of ungrateful filthy, dying -- !” She stopped, and carefully inhaled. “But here I am.”

“Ah. Well, I’m here, too, for now, and others may come, but the first requisition should be spent on logistics, of course. We have enough defenses to parry off casual thrusts. For now.”

“Already working on it,” she murmured, sending command orders out as Bonesingers and two squads of scouts arrived.

 


“We still have some time. The enemy will be distracted with each other, and with building up their own presence in the area. At first.”

“Once we’re ready to go out and remove them, I recommend trying to hit them for balance, so one of them won’t get so much stronger as to finish off the other.”

“Very well said! -- you would make a good Eldar.”

“To be fair, I’ve been alive now for over ten thousand years, though mostly not in this form. Doesn’t seem that long. In the warp, I mean.”

“I understand. I don’t often meet humans older than I am, and by a fair margin. More precisely, you are the first.”

“So you were born after, um... the Eye of Terror opened?” he diplomatically put it.

“Long after. We do still breed. It is just... difficult. To avoid being captured by Slaanesh while doing so. And we don’t breed very quickly at all in the best of times. Didn’t.”


 


“Which is why you protect your dwindling numbers so fiercely. I understand, and I appreciate your gesture of goodwill here that much more by proportion!”

“But do you appreciate her gesture fully yet?”

 



Eria and Pauel were both seasoned warriors, very much so; and so though surprised they whirled toward the unexpected and oddly stilted voice, in synchrony together -- though in his armor he couldn’t turn nearly as fast, and so saw him last:

an Imperial Inquisitor.

“So, you aren’t here to fight us,” Eria inferred.

“And you did not foresee my coming. Or I would not have surprised you. Curious.” The massive black-skinned warrior quirked a smile and easily shifted his warhammer in his brilliant, thick armor.


 


“No, I am only here to be... inquisitive.”

“Very well,” the Force Commander said, “I am Commander Pauel.” He didn’t introduce the Farseer, nor of course his obvious Legion.

Nor did he ask for the other’s name, but paused a moment to offer a chance at reciprocation... “I am Inquisitor Mordecai Toth.”

“I know that name,” the Eldar said. “My teacher fought against you, and with you, on occasion. She said that you were a good opponent.”

“Taldeer, perhaps? I have only met one Farseer yet, besides yourself, although I am sure that I have fought against, and even with, some others. Indirectly. You understand.”

“I do. And yes, I was taught by Taldeer.”

“I felt... ...a loss, when I heard of her death, against the Necron menace on Kronus, during the Dark Crusade. My condolences,” he bowed, more like a nod in his armor. “I found her interesting. I would have been glad to study her more.”

“Dissect her?”

“Unnecessary. And pointless, for me. I would have recommended against it.”

“Interrogation then,” stated Pauel.

“Not torture, no. Any player of the ancient game, appreciates another player worthy of the match.”

“So, if you are not here to kill us, we have some things to do.” Pauel voxed some orders to prepare to bring in tactical marines.

 


“Protecting this fortress?” Toth made that a question. Aimed at Eria. “Eldar protecting an Imperial fortress is, to say the least, a rare spectacle.”

“There are people behind the fortress,” she answered cooly. “We are trying to evacuate them.”

“Speaking of protecting this fortress,” Pauel returned after sending out some orders, “how did you get arrive? And when?”

“Why, just now, a few minutes ago. Shall I tell him how? Or does he know? Or, does he not know?” The Inquisitor watched the enquiring look that Pauel gave Eria; and her wariness.

“Apparently he does not,” she answered. “And I have not yet told him, that this fortress was built around and over an ancient Eldarian webway gate.”

“One in danger of being overrun by highly unstable forces, naturally capable of dangerous warp manipulation,” Toth observed.

Now she did snort. “And the mon-keigh, O Inquistor Mon-keigh: you think we think that you are not?!” Toth squinted at that riposte. “We know how to seal off a captured webway gate.”

“Like this one we are standing over?” Pauel enquired, pointedly looking at Toth.

“This one has never been sealed, yes,” affirmed the Inquisitor. “Guarded, yes, against what might emerge, or who. But, not sealed by the Eldar, nor of course by us. Don’t you find that curious?”

“A backdoor communication channel, then.”

“Perhaps, but one not used. Overtly not used, if I may put it bluntly, keeping in mind the current situation of the Cadian system.”

“In fact,” Eria said, “some blessed saints of the Imperial Sisters recently helped evacuate some troops of yours, through some Eldar webway gates. With our permission.”

“But you did not warn us this invasion was coming.”

“...no.”

“But you knew.”

“...to some extent. Pauel should remember me saying that, during an operational briefing, before we arrived in the area.”

“Among other things, I am inquisitive,” Toth said, “as to why. The fall of the gate, creating a risk of expanding the Eye of Terror, could by no means benefit the Eldar. Or, could it?”

“That is a fascinating question, which we shall have to return to later,” Pauel declared. “You are welcome to join our fight here. Your blows against Chaos spawn would be very helpful. But if you aren’t allowed, or might get into too much trouble, I’ll understand.”

“...you would let me take command of a squad of your Marines?”

“Under supervision, yes.”

“Or, if you prefer, I would allow you to fight along with a squad of Banshees,” the Farseer invited -- a little pointedly.

“That would be... a novel experience,” Toth agreed, cautiously. “If you are serious.”

“Very.”

“Ah, of course,” Pauel slightly smirked. “They would keep a better eye on you in case of treachery.”

 


The fight began in earnest, now, outside.

It continued. For some time.

{Gamenote: to be honest this fight was rather boring -- the Nids and Demons fought each other so much we barely saw them before advancing outside the fortress, and we had plenty of time to max up to an overwhelming power. The map is really designed for a 2 vs 1 fight, not free for all. Also, my game crashed before I finished off the Demons, who had already beaten the Nids after which the AI seems to have given up trying to decide what to do; but I was well on the way to rolling them, too. Please accept these snapshots as indicative.}

 


 


“I rather hoped,” said Eria after, “the Tyranids would overcome the Chaos demons, if there should be some clear victor between them.”

“Less Chaos that way,” Pauel explained to Toth. “Relatively. Thank you for your service. My men and I appreciate it.”

“As do we,” the Farseer said.

“Returning to our fascinating discussion, as we finish up here: I myself would like to enquire,” Pauel dryly asked, “how exactly did you ever learn how to travel the webways?”

“Yes, a worthy question.” Toth had to have noticed that this was not exactly where the topic had been left off, but he continued anyway: “I will be glad to answer, in exchange for knowing why the webway was never closed, or even destroyed from within, despite being captured by the Inquisition. Farseer Eria, as I’m sure I heard you called by various subordinates: I don’t suppose you would care to explain as well, why you never used it?”

She nodded once, her lips drawn thin. Toth, with a gesture, invited her first to answer.

“My teacher gave out explicit instructions, to keep the gate unsealed.”

“And did she have that authority? Or did she foresee why?”

“Not normally, no; and so that answer is yes. But she didn’t specify. And yes, before you ask, I did ask her.”

“Curious. Do you have any guesses you think worth prudent to share?”

“Until just recently, I had no clue. Just recently, though, my guess is that she saw the gate would be used by you.” Eria smiled, thinly, to see the Inquisitor’s lips now thin in turn.

“...a reasonable guess. I suspected you might answer that -- once you told me the Farseer ordered, prophetically, the gate be left unbarred. So, you deployed to protect the gate for my...”

“As you have just realized, clearly not: once you arrived, we would have had no reason to stay any longer, if that had been my primary goal.”

“...you expect me to return the way I came. The gate must therefore stay protected, so that I may go back.”

“A not-unreasonable guess,” she smirked, “except for being clearly very faulty. I didn’t foresee your coming, and you caught even me by surprise. Quite an embarrassment to me, remember?”

“Or, that is what you want us to believe,” said Toth -- glancing pointedly at Pauel.

“Hm. I’m going to take a guess myself,” the Force Commander said: “you don’t understand her yet. At all.”

“And you do? Are you so sure?”

“I do have more experience than you, not only at dealing with her, but also with strange manipulations and lies, far beyond whatever an Eldar might dream up! So no, I think she meant what she said was her primary goal here; and that was...?” Pauel prompted. “She told you, too, shortly after we met.”

“To save a bunch of ‘mon-keigh’?! You don’t understand the Eldar well at all, I dare to say.”

Pauel glanced at Eria, as they walked back toward the fortress, through the ruined destruction, with the remnants of their army, working together. “Anything,” she said, “I said, might be deemed suspicious, or else redundant if you do understand me. Correct?”


 


“Well answered!” Pauel laughed. “What you may not know,” he answered to Toth, “is that she herself was instrumental in bringing us all together to work with each other, to fight against Chaos. Not against the Imperium, if we can help it. And she has made her prejudices clear, about our species. Self-critically so. And that, she said, is why she has chosen to fight here -- commanding her own people to their deaths, some of them. She said that she is at fault, for not having done enough to fight to save our people yet, and that this situation here was her own....”

“....yes?” Toth inquired. “Her own fault, did she say? How so?”

“She had manipulated the Nids and the Demons into fighting each other, to keep them occupied and not so much a threat to our recovery efforts, to get as many people off this planet and safely away as possible.”

“A very typical Eldar move on the board, I agree.”

“But, the enemies had started trying to outflank each other in this direction, which put the population at risk. Thus, her responsibility for their endangerment.”

“Which she perhaps considered you would blame her for, and so,” Toth suggested, “to protect her status and goodwill in your force, she sacrificed her people to clean up a political mess she had made.”

“She doesn’t like to sacrifice her people,” Pauel replied, shaking his head, waving off the idea. “That isn’t it. No,” he rubbed his chin, “I think it’s something else.”

“Do tell,” invited Toth, still with a satisfied smirk.

“...ha! A-hah!” Pauel’s victorious laugh caused that smirk to falter. “I see the plot! You,” he whirled upon Eria, “arranged for that tendril of their war to reach out in this direction -- in order to convince those people, finally, to trust us to evacuate them!!”

“I did. Well seen. The people needed to see the Eldar helping, too, and I had put them in danger, so it was fair that we risk our lives for them.”

“Bah.” Now Toth was waving that off. “I utterly fail to believe you now regard the value of your people as being equal to our own, so that you would sacrifice them to help us. There must,” he said to Pauel, “you must understand, there HAS TO BE another plot behind this!”

“Of course,” she pertly said. “Considering the circumstances, as they were developing...

“...I wanted to see if this would trigger whatever my teacher’s purpose was, in leaving that webway gate unsealed. Upon her special authority as a Farseer.

“And here you are. O Inquisitor Toth! -- treasured opponent of Farseer Taldeer. Who has somehow learned to navigate our webway, and operate our gates!” And now she was beaming so hard, she was radiating satisfaction just like a cat perched up above a stove! “You can take your turn explaining that, at any time you’re ready, according to our deal.”

“Preposterous! You would have us... you would have me believe, you sacrificed the lives of your people, for this? ...for me?!”

“Not for you. Not at all. And not to see if whatever she had Foreseen would happen. I didn’t know what would happen, remember, or if it would happen at all at this time. I’m deeply curious what the meaning of this will be. But I assure you: I didn’t sacrifice my people’s lives for you.” -- delivered with a glare as hard and sharp as warp-bone. “...I might do so later,” she admitted, looking away. “I don’t know. It depends.”

“And so I am back to why you sacrificed your people’s lives. No answer you gave makes sense, so far.”

“Of course not,” she said... and distantly smiled. “I’ve told you the truth -- but you cannot believe it.”

“I believe it,” Pauel said. “And my belief counts, here. Not his.”

“Your belief counts, my ally. But... maybe also his.

“Maybe that’s what my teacher foresaw. I’ll tell you something else I didn’t foresee: our leader saving you, Commander Pauel. Any of you, at all. That never even occurred to me. I still remember my blank surprise, the moment he suggested it.” She shook her head, amazed. “I... supposed that he would destroy you all, or seal you away forever, or for an eon. Or something. I hadn’t really thought about it. Only assumed. I assumed what I already thought, and felt, to be true. And I was wrong,” she told Pauel. “And I am glad I was wrong, and that I agreed to help him try. And also I am sorry for being wrong. I will admit, I didn’t want you saved, at all. Not specifically you, I didn’t personally know you, but generally none of you. All of you could rot forever, or out of existence all together, as far as I ever cared.

“But he cared. More than I could care.

“And that,” she told Toth, who was busily flicking glances back and forth between them, as if he had forgotten what Pauel had been, “is why I and my people risked our lives today, for your fellow humans. I’ve learned to care more than I did, once. At least, I’ve learned I should care more, although I’m not very good at it yet. My people are learning that, too. Slowly enough, but surely.

“And -- that might -- that might just be --

“-- why my teacher saw to leave a door unsealed. For you. To meet your monsters.”

They walked toward the forward ramp of the fortress, which they would now abandon, its purpose served.

 


“I don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t even know if I would survive today.

“I hope we’ll see.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #33 on: November 03, 2019, 02:03:31 PM
INTERLUDE -- INQUIRY
--------------------

“Welcome to Craftbase Alaph!” I greeted the Inquisitor as he stepped off the Eldar transport. Eria had chosen not to bring him here through the permanent webway under the Inquisitorial Fortress, nor any of the more temporary ones that had been scattered around during her mission, so that he wouldn’t be able to use the webway to get here again. I walked forward and offered my hand: “My name is John.”

The man looked understandably curious and wary, both in equal measure, but he gasped my hand and answered, in his odd and lilting accent, “Toth, of the Imperial Inquisition -- as I suppose you’ve been told.”

“True. Also, in case you’re wondering, yes I’m human, despite some relatively minor technological upgrades and, let us say, Eldar health training. So I’ll thank you not to crush my hand, testing my strength or resistance to damage.”

“So noted.” And he relaxed and released his grip.

“Your own augmented strength is also noted, for future reference,” I wryly smiled, flexing my hand a little for show. I hadn’t lied, but neither did I want to reveal any actual limits to him. He surely hadn’t shown his own. “Speaking of notes! Please be assured that you have full permission to record and scan whatever you wish -- and can get away with doing of course,” I winked, “while you’re here! Naturally we have some military confidentialities we won’t intentionally let you see, but otherwise be as thorough as you wish. Bring back the fullest report you can.”

“I intended to. But I... appreciate your permission.”

“I’m glad you accepted our invitation back, and I don’t want you to be in any trouble when you return.” He didn’t reply to that, so I continued, “Commander Pauel here will start you on a tour of our facilities, but I’ll need a short report from Farseer Eria before we join you. We’ll be over there in the office for this hangar -- probably out of reach of any sensors in your suit, or psychic abilities. But we’ll join you soon on the tour. Commander?” With that invitation, Pauel led Toth away, as Eria and I withdrew.

“I’m glad you returned,” I told her once we had a reasonable measure of security; not privacy, due to hangar staff doing usual operations, but we were off to the side so that we wouldn’t interrupt them but could respond in case of alert. “I suspected you didn’t see your own return, despite being confident your strategy would get those people on the transports at last.”

“Yes; a... test perhaps. From the source of our foresight.” She preferred to skirt the question of where the Eldar truly received what they saw, although she knew my opinion. This was the closest she had come, so far, to acknowledging any intentionality -- maybe.

“And perhaps a test to see if I would figure out your rationale?”

“Perhaps. And did you?”

“You dropped enough hints to make it reasonably probable, at least, that you had engineered the encroachment by those sparring creatures to convince the civilians to evacuate with us. Of course, I have no way to prove I guessed beforehand; you know I was listening in on conversations down there.”

“You don’t sound as though you entirely approve.”

“Your strategy, yes. Your keeping your strategy from me, no. That’s your prerogative,” I agreed. “I’m not your ultimate authority. But we’re in a war and I don’t appreciate being tested by clever games when other people’s lives are on the line.” I gave her a moderate glare, and added, “Whether Someone Else intended to test you, as your ultimate authority, is irrelevant: that’s no excuse to make yourself feel better by giving me partial rationales, to see if I’ll pick up on them. I know it made no difference in the end,” I forestalled her. “I can see you weren’t trying to undermine or betray anything. Even so, a trivial game for drama’s sake is still a trivial game.”

“...call it a habit, then. We don’t have many enjoyments anymore, so we indulge in drama even when we don’t have to. Not your problem, I know; and I accept the rebuke. I was feeling unsettled by my own rather more important test. You’re right, I did feel more in control by playing you that way. You didn’t deserve that. I won’t lie and say I feel sorry, but... yes, it was unjust and I shouldn’t have done it.”

“Accepted,” I said. “I won’t dwell on it. And, aside from our losses -- especially grievous to you and your people -- I’m glad things have worked out successfully. So, let’s go give Toth a good understanding of what we’re doing and what we’re about, and then...” I was turning away to go, when I heard her say:

“I won’t promise not to do it again.”

I looked back over my shoulder with a puzzled squint --

-- then laughed! “Very well,” I said and turned to bow. “I see you’re going to test on whether I’ll trust you anyway! So I choose to do so.”

About an hour later, after a short but reasonably thorough tour, we and local commanders gathered in a briefing room to question the Inquisitor. While he found the Tau leaders interesting, he was most curious about the D’oru’kan Warboss lounging against the back wall, under a sun-lamp, without any armor.

“I have been... close,” said Toth, “to an orkan Warboss before. I did not enjoy the experience. Neither did he.”

“Never close to one like me, yet, I reckon,” grunted the ork with a lopsided grin.

“Warboss Sunstriker here,” I said, “was the first we ever raised from the reclaimed spores. He may look like he’s napping, but that’s how they process information and pass it around by a biological network.”

“Absolutely fascinating,” murmured Toth. “Using the warp?”

“In a very mild way, yes. Our scientists are just giddy being able to study orkan biotechnology this...!” Pauel coughed, closer to one of the doors. “Oh, yes, the Vol commanders need to get back to their forces soon. My apologies, let’s begin,” I invited, as I beckoned Toth back up to the front of the room.

“So!” I clapped my hands once. “I’m glad you accepted our invitation, and as soon as you like we’ll shuttle you back to the base and ensure a secure perimeter for you to leave by the permanent webway gate. Obviously the Empire is welcome to retake the fortress as soon as you’re feasibly able.”

“Will you be returning the people?” he asked.

“That depends,” I answered. “First, do they want to return to the Empire? If so, we’ll try to get that done. But second... are you going to fry them to a crisp or imprison them for torment or anything else like that, after being in our care? We’ve had some problems along that line: it’s the only reason we’ve fought against the Empire so far -- “

“So far,” Toth noted. And raised an eyebrow.

“I can’t rule out other actions yet; I mean for other reasons than defending civilians from you. I’d like to rule out every combat action against the Empire, though, as soon as feasibly possible. Relatedly -- and not that I’d blame you -- but are you planning to virus bomb this planet?” No answer. “Because we’ve seen and heard some indications along that line. And I’m not keen on sending back civilians to face Exterminatus from on high, you understand.”

He stood for a moment, considering. “Yes,” he said, “that is our plan. I fully support it. The increasing Tyranid infection alone would warrant such an action.”

Before I could speak, one of the Vol Militia commanders snorted and said in derision, “And yet you wanted us to put those people back.”

“He might have still -- “ I calmly started, but, “Just to be clear,” interrupted Toth, “I brought a quantum detonator, deep in my armor, in case I had a chance to wipe out your leadership all at once.”

“You wouldn’t succeed,” I flatly stated.

“Mostly success might be... acceptable,” he shrugged. And carefully watched the faces in the room. No one was rushing for the door -- or rushing him. Naturally, they were tenser now, but --

“If that had been your primary plan,” Eria inferred, “you would have done so already.”

“I reserve the option. Depending on... factors.”

“I hope our restraint at this news is one of those factors,” I said.

“While we are waiting to hear our fate,” Eria continued, just a bit dryly, “would you consider keeping your side of our bargain?”

“...ah. Yes. I cannot deny, you’ve gone out of your way to offer... detailed... answers to my questions.

“The question at hand,” he said to the rest of the room as he settled into something like a lecturing stance, “is how I know how to navigate and operate the Eldar webway and its gates. To some extent.” That caused a ripple of surprise across the room. “To grossly oversimplify the answer: before his... lapse... into his current state, the Emperor had been researching Eldar webway technology, hoping to devise a similarly safe way for humanity to travel interstellar distances. Then Chaos forces seduced away several of his sons, cloned from his own genetic material, to rebel against him. The Horus Heresy. Holy Terra itself was invaded, and the Emperor was lethally harmed in slaying his own most-beloved son, Horus.”

“I vaguely remember those days,” Pauel sighed. “I wasn’t on Terra, but elsewhere. Rebelling.”

That earned a gimlet eye from Toth, who then continued, “Retreating to the Golden Throne, the Emperor was able to sink into a near-coma. His project and many other dreams, had been ruined. The most he could do, was use his nascent technology to broadcast himself as a spiritual beacon, allowing us to navigate the warp more safely than before... somewhat... but still directly. This is also how he can send forth spiritual energy to help bolster his people in times of need.”

“I myself do something a little similar,” I said. “I am supposing you’ve suspected that already.”

“Indeed. Your confirmation is not... unexpected. To make a very long story overly short, various technophiles have long attempted to carry on the Emperor’s former research -- under the oversight of the Inquisition due to obvious risks of warp exposure. That has been nearly ten thousand years. There have been many... problems.”

“Was the Cadian Gate an experiment in webway technology?” I asked.

“Yes. I assume your Eldarian ally will know of this already, and you are asking to see if I’ll truthfully answer.”

“I did already sense this,” she confirmed. “But I have told no one other than fellow Eldar yet, who would also be in position to know. Until just recently, it didn’t seem important, with all our other exertions to focus on.”

I coughed and added, “She did tell me. More than a little amused, that I now count as one of the Eldar, in effect...!”

“I wasn’t sure you wanted me to relay that information,” retorted Eria, with a touch of frost, “considering the circumstances.”

“So why do you want me to know?” Toth wondered.

“Partly just from honesty,” I said. “And partly because I want you to know: we have a plan to try to reverse and close this new Eye of Chaos.”

“...I see. No servant of Chaos would want to do that. Perhaps.”

I chuckled a little at that. “Can’t be too careful, I understand!”

“Wait,” said one of the human commanders, “why would he even be suspicious of that?!”

“Aside from the possibility,” Toth replied, “that your leader is simply lying to me... I prefer not to voice my suspicions.”

“He’s wondering,” said a Tau Etherial, “whether we’re pooling our knowledge on how to manipulate the warp, in a more ordered fashion -- Eldar, and Tau, and not forgetting the D’oru’kan who do so naturally -- to become a new, more effectively dangerous, and less self-destructive Chaos force.”

“Chaos Undivided has been a dream of Chaos,” said Toth, “since time immemorial.”

“A deluded dream,” I observed. “Chaos undivided is chaos ordered, and so no longer chaos.” Toth pointedly rolled his eyes around the room. “Excuse me,” I continued, “but the Imperium, and you yourself personally, constructively use the warp in an ordered fashion. You’re even using webway gate technology! So, while I understand your suspicions, unless you’re about to accuse the Emperor and yourself of trying to become a more effective Chaos power, then...!”

He held up a hand. “I understand my own intentions. By the nature of things, we can only judge intentions from other people by externals.”

“Shall I submit to a mind probe?” I offered.

“Irrelevant for several reasons. First, your own intentions may be pure, but not those of your conspirators. Second, you may corrupt your intentions later. Third, I cannot be sure you wouldn’t know how to foil and fool a mind probe, especially considering your various... upgrades, and training. The fact you volunteered could count in favor of that suspicion.”

I spread my hands and said, “I don’t know what else to tell you, then!”

“Of course. The fact is simply that I cannot be sure. The data points all fit into more than one shape, so to speak.

“However, I acknowledge: they do fit more than one shape. If you will allow me to leave, I shall... ponder what I have learned, and seen, and heard.”

I nodded at once, “Of course you can safely leave, and as I said we’ll arrange for transport safely back to the webway gate, if you prefer.”

“...I do. I make no promise about reducing our forces’... hostilities, toward your people.”

“I didn’t expect you could in any case,” I said.

As promised, we delivered Toth back to the surface, and secured his exit through the permanent webway gate.

“What did that even accomplish?” groused a Vol Militia commander after we left.

“Sowing seeds,” Sunstriker rumbled.

***
Toth walked out of another webway gate, hidden deep within another, very much larger and much more active Inquisitorial fortress. “Inspector-General Phaytes,” Toth saluted and bowed, “I am prepared to make my report; and also I submit to the mind probes, at any degree of intensity, considering my exposure to them.”

“So it shall be,” intoned Phaytes. “Tell me, though: do they present a threat to the Imperium?”

“Considering all I saw....” he paused to do so. “Yes. But not yet.”

“Then,” said Phaytes, “let the Inquiry begin.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #34 on: November 08, 2019, 09:54:38 PM
Less plotty, more dakka!

CHAPTER NINETEEN -- The Strongest There Is
------------------------------------------

{4-player fan-made map “Lake Acrimony”}

“All right, ya grots, lissen up!” Warboss Sunstriker strode up onto a podium where his subcommanders could see him better; anyone could hear him for various reasons. “The boss,” he enunciated rather more clearly, “is sending us on vacation!”

That earned some surly growls, but those were for show. The Orks weren’t stupid, and knew they hadn’t been gathered for nothing. But all armed forces love their traditions.

“Oh no, it’s true!” Sunstriker teased. “We’re going to this resort here!” he pointed on a nearby map.

 


“Even da humies like ta get out in tha sun and soak a while!” Some snorts of disbelief, but also of interest. “Now, there ain’t much sun,” he casually continued, slipping mostly back out of the traditional accent, “not anymore -- too much waaagh-dust,” he grinned and winked, “so we’ll just have to find somethin’ else to do, I guess.”

“WAAAAAGH!” his subcommanders roared, exactly two seconds then cleanly cutting off. Good discipline!

“Yep, and better! -- these ‘spiky boyz’ decided, hey, why does their boss get to bring Orks, and we don’t? So guess what? They’re hiding out behind a batch of Orks they brought along!

“That means the Vols over here,” he pointed, “are in trouble: they’re still trying to carry the weaker humies out from around the area. They’ll be able to fight, sooner or later, but they asked if we’d like to get stuck in first -- and show them other boyz who the strongest one is!” That earned another disciplined ‘waaaugh’. “These Evil Sunz, they don’t know what we know, see. And they wouldn’t care if they did! So we gotta keep ‘em from gettin’ to the weaker humies, give ‘em a good fight instead! Th’ last good fight they’ll ever get, yeah!?”

“Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! Waugh!” Chanting in disciplined time, the D’oru’kan saluted and marched off to war.

The combat gretchens got there first.

 


They arrived after the builder gretchens, strictly speaking; but having built the first Orky fort, the builders wisely stayed protected within until the combat gretchen squad emerged.

“You boys, no foolin’ around! -- run up there on the bridge and grab that resource point,” Sunstriker ordered. “Go! You builder lads, you get to work on four generators over in the corner. We’ve got a nice little fort here, and this is the safest place for them. Next combat grots, you start raising requisition mining ownership, here near the base, then work your way over to the leg of the fort which leads around the lake-edge. Last builders! -- you go follow the first combat grots, cap their point at once.

“Our job here is to make things orky up front so that the Militia boys can get armored up in safety: they’re the weak, we’re the strong, and we gotta protect ‘em! Once they’re stronger, they’ll come on up and help us, and then...” he chuckled. “Well, then we’ll see who has the best artillery! I’m bettin’ on our little grots!”

It would be a while longer before Sunstriker could arrive on the field himself, but very soon that forward point was capped and a critical point was being taken.

 


“You forward builders, set up a hut for the boys, then start making Waugh Banners! We wanna show all the boyz that we can make the biggest waaaugh,” he growled. “And they’ll be good protection early up for our forward point. Now in the middle of this bridge on the lake, is th’ only relic point in th’ area. But don’t rush up yet. We’re gonna take a few minutes, bring the Big Mek out,” he was a popular subcommander, training to be a warboss someday, “a squad of slugga boys, and then three, count em, three shoota boys squads.

 


“You backfield builders! -- once you finish with th’ first generators, you set up a pile o’ guns before you start cappin’ the points your combat greats are gettin’. We need the tech, then more req, get it!?”

The main point to the pile, at first, was to make sure the shoota boys could upgrade to bigger rifles. There was a subtle point of logistics here, and I made a note to talk to Sunstriker about options in the future. Slugga boys cost a little less than Shoota squads, but the main difference was that the “shooters” all started with basic rifles rather than hand guns. However, once the gun pile was set up then Choppers and Shooters became much more equal: any of them could pick up to five special weapons per squad, whether those were flamethrowers, assault rifles, or rocket launchers.

The difference still came down to extra Shoota boys being given regular rifles -- but I knew, from long experience, Sunstriker was playing the angles: every individual ork added to a squad after its formation not only cost a little requisition but also logistical “population”. Yet any squad could only expect to field five Orks competent enough to operate the more complex machines. Thus instead of building one squad of 15 shooters only 5 of which had the best rifles, Sunstriker was going to build three squads of 5 shooters (plus a nob sergeant) all of whom (aside from the nob) would have the advanced rifles! -- hand picking them for the role. The less dextrous Orks would be given axes and sent to the mob of slugga boys, under the direct command (along with their nob) of the Big Mek, although five of those would still get flamethrowers.

 


This was all fine, and Sunstriker had hit on this clever tactic to great effect long ago: he could field whole companies of assault-rifle Orks, before even getting to the seriously larger guns (like on the “flash gits”). He especially loved being able to outshoot factions famous for being “shooty”, early in a fight!

But I suspected he hadn’t caught up with the recent advantages in orkan organization and training: Choppa squads could also be trained up the way he was thinking, but they would cost a little less to start with because they’d only be given handguns, not rifles, before the assault rifles were distributed. And then, in a pinch, I also suspected the “sluggas” would be better melee fighters.

Then again, as I pondered this, I realized he might have outthought me already! -- for such smaller elite squads needed a little more micro-management to deal with loss replacements, and a new slugga boy assigned to a squad intended to be a ‘heavy’ shooter, wouldn’t even have a rifle to work with before a new assault rifle could be distributed! In other words, if Sunstriker used slugga squads to build his heavy shoota squads, they’d be weaker shooters after taking casualties, thanks to their handguns, than official “shootas” would be with their normal rifles.

A subtle point indeed! Though then again, this point wouldn’t affect him making a third company of early rocket launchers by the same “slugga” method; but I think he got a little too focused on the one “kommando” squad that he was assigned at a time. They could cloak themselves, and were good all around fighters in any role but Sunstriker liked to give them rockets early and use them against hard targets. Which was fine but there was no reason he couldn’t add some lesser cloaked tankbustaz, or even slugga squads upgraded with rockets, for more balanced punch. Oh well, something to talk with him about after this operation.

While the intial task force was gathering, Sunstriker made sure to direct the increase of supplies in the backfield, upgrading requisition guard posts and finishing out the original dole of plasma generators, as well as gearing up production efficiency of both. He was fleshing out his task force, and starting his builders on securing the back door to his fort (with turret towers), when... “Them other boyz is here!” the Mek voxed in.

“Time to get stuck in, boys! -- go show them why we’re stronger!” ordered Sunstriker, sending his combined weapons task force forward: the Big Mek led the charge with Choppa axes hand to hand; the Shootas (mostly upgraded by now), blasted from behind, including support (at this distance) from the upgraded guard towers, and the Kommandos... well, they held back for now, so as not to hurt their own side with splash damage.

The Sunz had sent their own Big Mek subcommander, but all he was leading were combat gretchens (for now). The fight didn’t last long.

“Time to move up and get that relic point! Company one, advance!” The Sunz’ Big Mek returned down the bridge with a squad of sluggas and also some with jet packs. They tried to jump into our Shootas, but were chopped and shot down so hard that only one made it in. Briefly.

 


The enemy panicked, including some final squads arriving, and tried to retreat to their own covering guard towers on and around the relic. This would have even worked! -- our Slugga squad was almost wiped out! -- but the combined force of the Shootas and Rocket Kommandos in the company turned the tide. Soon Sunstriker was sending the forward combat grots (who had stayed out of trouble so far) to capture the relic requisition; to be followed by the forward builders to cap the point -- and to build up our own defenses around it.

Around this time, the Vol Militia was starting to send out plenty of their own troops, up the bridge but also up each wing around the lakes. On the bridge they soon met initial World Eater Chaos cultists. The “spiky boys” and Guardsmen exchanged fire for a while, but soon enough Sunstriker’s D’oru’kan task force was on the way to help.

 


The Warboss made sure to keep his Orks technologically advancing as they pushed with the Guardsmen onto Chaos’ side of the bridge, which Sunstriker would give to his ally as soon as enemies were blown off it. (Over to our left, we could see the Guardsmen had advanced into range of Chaos’ own encampment, but were having difficulty doing much over there against the buildings and defenses.)

“Oi! You Guardy boyz! That’s brave, runnin’ on up ahead off the bridge,” called our Big Mek, “but you’re all squishy, and you’re gonna get chewed up on all sides... ganzit ‘n gragit,” he cursed. “C’mon boyz, we gotta go save ‘em.” Sunstriker was busy directing more logistic and defensive improvements in his backfield and didn’t notice that the Mek had taken the task force forward without waiting for the next three Shoota squads to arrive and lend support. This turned out to be a problem, for now the flanking defenses started tearing up the Orks, too! The Kommandos and Shootas were able to remove some of those defenses, but all too soon the remaining squads had to flee back up our side of the bridge to where the builder gretchens were setting up what they called “ouchy platforms”: more powerful guard towers, which unlike the Waugh banners weren’t made of the special wood that could hold the mold spores for calling the Orks together in an organized group. But those were being installed behind, to be upgraded fully to rocket launchers so that the defensive point in front of the captured relic would be potent against all kinds of threats!


 


“Run off by Grot tanks!” scoffed Sunstriker, although to be fair those were hardly the only things shooting up the task force.

“But boss, the little humies were gonna get slaughter’d if we didn’t go up an’ --!”

“If they act dumb, that’s no excuse for you to do it, too! I told you to wait until the new Shootas had arrived! You warned ‘em, right? Their own fault. Gork n Mork, now we gotta re-con-sti-tute... Here, look, our great-chens are havin’ to save our hide!” The Ouchy platforms and Waugh banners were doing their best to hold the line against Chaos encroachment; the builder grots had to stop setting up Boomy Platforms: proper artillery.

 


“Okay, the humies have got a Leman tank up there to help, that’s good.”

“Boss, what’s a ‘Leman’ anyway?”

“It has somethin’ to do with how humies spawn. Don’t know the details, ‘xactly.

“Grots, you go over and repair the Ouchies; don’t wanna lose ‘em! You can get back to setting up long-range arty later. Where’s the Nobs and Flash Gitz?” “On th’ way, boss!” “Good, the Flashes can fill out a shoota company, and when the Nob Squads start arriving we’ll phase out the Slugga Boyz and I’ll go down and take command on the field m’self,” he grumbled. “Bring out the Mad Doc, too! He’ll get a Nob Squad, along with th’ Big Mek. I’ll send a Weirdboy to the Flash Gitz...”

Before then, the first task force, now with an upgraded Big Mek leading them, helped repel a major sally by Chaos across the bridge, along with Guardsmen allies (and lots of orkan defensive artillery), then started pushing forward again to take and secure the other side of the bridge. But no farther!

Sunstriker checked the logistics in the backfield again... “Huh, why’s that thing burnin’ on our leg defenses? Must’ve seen off a Chaos thrust. You builder grots, get to repairin it! Now, what do I need to do to keep the flow of supplies goin’... hey! You boys on the post, what’re you shootin’ in the air for!?”

 


“That ain’t us!” the gretchens complained, cowering behind their plating while they desperately whirled around their big machine gun on top. “Someone’s shootin’ over us, boss!”

“...what... Grok it!” A Chaos Predator was cheerfully rolling through the Volunteer backfield, blasting away at everything in sight, and heading for Sunstriker’s forward base! -- just where the Nob Squads were forming up.

 


This turned out to be a problem for the Predator: the Nobs, though they hadn’t maximized their squad yet, weren’t pushovers, and hacked at the Chaos tank, while nearby gretchens on guard banners started upgrading to rocket launchers. Still, “You boyz up front! Get back here and whop this thing!” demanded Sunstriker. That was unnecessary: the Nob squads forced it farther onto the bridge, in range of the banners already rocketed-up, and it didn’t last much longer. But Sunstriker himself was on the field and on the way. “Oi, I shoulda told a builder squad to make a new fort f’r me to deploy from,” he groused. “Anyone wanna give me a lift...?”

The Volunteer Militia didn’t have any transports handy, but they were busy forming a group near the Ork Boyz hut (our original defensive line on the bridge), setting up minefields as well. Honestly, they were clogging the area! But they had brought some decent hardware with them, including air support.

 


The Guardsman task force took over on the assault down the other end of the bridge, and was doing reasonably well (with some support from long-distance orkan artillery), while Sunstriker got his own upgraded and expanded task force organized.

{Gamenote: alas, I never bothered to run the camera up there and check on the Vol assault, so no pix.}

“Nope,” he told them, slipping more into the orkan accent, “our humie friends prepared, so they’z the ones who get to go up and fight now! You cheer ‘em on, and get prepared, too... no, we ain’t prepared yet! I say when, see? Them Chaos Orks and spiky boyz, they don’t prepare enough, cuz all they want is fightin’. But we gotta fight for more than ourselves! That’s why we’re the strongest Orks! -- we fight for the strongest One there is! So first we get ready, then we go hit ‘em like a buncha nukes! Hm,” he thought while the orkan cheers were swelling in anticipation, “hey, you builder grots, I gotta special mission for ya. You run up to where our humie friends’ve got their guard-post capped, and start buildin’ more boomies. See, I’m gonna have yer brotherz back there start makin’ nukey shells; and once you got a boomie platform or two, you can upgrade them to shoot little nukes, see? Then we’ll show ‘em whose great-chens are the best, yeah!?”

They very much liked this plan. But it took a while.

 


With smaller nukes already being shot into the Evil Sunz’ base, Suntriker led his task force in and progressively wiped it out; as the Guardsmen started doing the same to the World Easter Chaos Marines (who must have been terribly confused about why they weren’t rolling over these mere little humans!)

 


After a point, however, the Volunteer Guardsmen could almost just hang back and spot for the Orkan nuclear cannons!

 


The World Eaters didn’t fancy a steady diet of small nuclear blasts, so abandoned their facilities and left the area empty-handed: unable to get to the civilians the Volunteer Guards and Orks had protected.

“A right proper fight! I’m proud’a’ya, boyz! We helped those ones who’re weaker than us, and they helped us when they got themselves stronger -- and together we pulled each other up the mountain, see?

“Up the mountain of VICTORY!”



JasonPratt

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Reply #35 on: November 10, 2019, 03:23:32 PM
CHAPTER TWENTY -- THE GREATEST GOOD
-----------------------------------

The Vol’u Etherial stood at the rampart of the fortress from which he deployed his people during the campaign on Partox -- looking out on the scene of what would soon be slaughter.

“So,” said Ek’cla to Farseer Eria, as she approached from behind. “Your ploys have borne fruit.”

“Once again,” she confirmed, “the Chaos Demons will try to strike against the Tyranid expansion: here, where you will be ready to crush them both, from prepared positions.”

“As we agreed, since the soulless wanderers started shifting in this direction. But why are the humans here?”


 

{Gamenote: 4-player Map, Ores’ Tashn (the Tau Stronghold map from Dark Crusade, I think.) Player 1 is in the stronghold; by tradition should be Tau. Directly across, Demonhunters. Position 3, Chaos Demons. Position 2, Tyranids.}


Eria very shortly sighed. “They were not part of my plan. Destiny weaves its own lace, and I see only the smallest part. No doubt, in accord with their calling, they sensed the coming of the demonic horde, and wish to staunch it.”

“I would be pleased to help them, for the Greater Good of Fair-Togetherness,” he reverently genuflected. “But they will not accept my help, I fear.”

“No. They come from the Empire. And they must steel their will to fight against the worst of monstrous threats. They would only see us as more of such monsters.”

“A great pity. They will reject the greater good, and lose. Or win despite rejecting the greater good, thanks to our interventions; and then, what?”

“Then we shall see.”

Ek’cla didn’t roll his eyes at that, partly because he understood why vaguery was proper sometimes -- but mostly because eye-rolling wasn’t a symbol for ‘whatever’ in his culture.

“The soulless beasts strike first!” reported the Tau Commander Or’e, over the general vox channel, from his post in the middle between the approaches. “My squad will lend firepower. Left wing, be ware of the beastly spirits!” Ek’cla himself could see the fight beginning to his right.

 

{Gamenote: there was some kind of “fatal scar error” pausing AI processes throughout the whole match, probably for the Nids. I suspect it happened because I started everyone with a decent-sized armed force, as might be expected with an established Tau command post; and the Tyrannid AI couldn’t figure out what to do with it so paused part of its AI routines. Only part of them, however.}

He would now withdraw, to the midst of the support buildings. His presence allowed the Tau to fight with more spirit, and so he must be protected. He called down another handpicked elite squad of Tau warriors as he departed; he had been sending them to Or’e for his squad, and would continue to do so. Or’e himself commanded a squad of Crisis Battlesuits; relatively basic models but more would be coming. The Kroot would mostly be deployed to the left wing now.

“I see you have things well in hand,” said Eria. “And I know you’ll remember how far the greater good extends.”

“And yet you remind me anyway,” he observed with the barest acerbity. Soon she was gone. And Ek’cla was left to listen to reports as Earth Caste workers nearby hastened their logistic upgrades. Possibly temporary.

Over the next standard hour he heard the flow of battle. Everything would have worked perfectly -- except for the humans. Not that they were failing; they succeeded very well. But, of course, whenever they would meet the Tau, there wasn’t even negotiation. Bodies exploded or hit the ground dead. At least he managed to convince the Kroot allies not to eat the bodies of the humans.

Yes, they did very well. Tau lives were sacrificed to find the Demons’ base, and spot it for a recently erected ion cannon.

 


Not many minutes later he managed to get more Stealthsuits into spotting position -- and the demons had been wiped out. Not by the Tau. The Demonhunters had even set up invisible basing! They detected and slew his stealthsuits before the scouts could retreat.

 


His left wing mostly-Kroot company was sent to take one of the two central relic points from the Demons. Having succeeded, they were then driven off by the Demonhunters. Or rather, the Tau withdrew under orders to avoid fighting the humans as much as possible. More than a few Tau died as a result.

 


On his right wing, Or’e eventually pushed forward into the Tyranid base -- to discover that the Demonhunters were already far along in taking apart the area. The Tau helped destroy a few structures in reach, and then withdrew, picking up the survivors of the left wing along the way, who had withdrawn from the center.

 


So. As it happened, the Imperial humans did not need their help. Or want it. Indeed, now they were trying to push past his leftward defenses, dying in ever increasing fury.

 


It was time to leave this place, then, before.......

“AH!” Commander Or’e clutched his head, along with many of his company. How had it happened?! -- they all knew what it meant, but... “FALL BACK! BACK TO OUR BASE!” he cried out, grieving, chased by relentless humans whom he had been ordered to spare if possible.

Most of the base, they discovered, was gone. Only a cloud of glowing dust, and one of the headquarter buildings remained, along with exactly one plasma generator somehow. Everything else? Gone.

 


Along with Etherial Ek’cla. The holy man had suffered whatever horrible weapon had struck the area. Now he would suffer no more.

“FALL BACK!” Or’e demanded, though precious few remained to fall back with him.

Later, he reported to Farseer Eria. “Our losses, one hundred and seventy-five, including Etherial Ek’cla. Mostly at the hands of the humans. Enemy losses were much higher, of course; mostly at the hands of each other.” He had removed his armor for refurbishing and recalibrating, so that he could rest while making his report. His blue, hairless skin shone brightly, broadcasting his emotions. “The humans have taken back their fortress; it was theirs anyway. We kept it in good repair until they destroyed it.”

Or’e couldn’t weep for his friend and teacher. But he wanted to. “The greater good,” he said. “...the greatest good demands much. The death of our pride. The death of our bodies for the sake of our own enemies, sometimes.”

She nodded. “I sympathize. It has always been so, but now it is... harder, somehow. I do not have much practice suffering for the sake of my enemies. Ungrateful ones at that. I honor you, and your teacher, Commander, and all those you lost.

“They lived and fought... like my own people.

“Let us grieve together in our ways.”

Or’e nodded. “Let us,” he said...

“...be done with this place more quickly.”


{Gamenote: yep, I lost this fight in such an epic fashion, I decided to keep the footage for a chapter entry!}
« Last Edit: November 10, 2019, 03:27:31 PM by JasonPratt »



JasonPratt

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Reply #36 on: November 10, 2019, 06:38:01 PM
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE -- THE MEN ON THE FIELD (Part 1 of 2)
------------------------------------------

 “Always comes down to the infantry.” That was a standard greeting between Vol Milita Commanders Barodo and Kryg. Barodo managed to say it first this time, before they shook hands.

“Always comes down to the people with feet on the ground,” Kryg replied.

“That’s why we’re here,” Barodo agreed. “Chaos to the left of us; Tyranids to the right; Demonhunters and Space Marines ahead.

 

{8-player fan-made Bray Cathedral Subsector map; two Imperial Guards vs a CSM/DE team vs a Demonhunter/SM team vs a Tyranid team. Standard (which for UA is “hard”.}

“Can’t say I’m looking forward to this. But we’ve got to round up this final batch of people on the ground. Before they get rounded up much worse.”

“Wish I could think the Empire was here to help them.”

“Yeah. Me, too. So, y’heard about Ek’cla, right?”

“Damned shame. Liked him a lot, once I got to know him. Or’e must be every shade of blue pissed imaginable.”

“So, here’s what I’m thinking. Who was the first to drop some Space Marines?”

“That’d be us!”

“I can’t say I’m too sorry about that anymore.”

A pause. “Yeah, I’m about done being nice to them,” said Kryg. “We’ve bent over backwards. They wanna help save the people, fine. Go do it over there. They wanna burn the people alive? Then they amount to Chaos now, in my book.”

“The Sisters did that, but these clowns are doing it, too. They’re going to nuke the whole place from orbit, according to that Toth guy, and they clearly don’t care about anyone left on it. So to the pit with them. Why are they even here?!”

“Recovering things left behind is my guess.”

“Well,” Barodo drawled, “so are we. So let’s get to it, secure the operational area, and get those people left behind on some transports. Anyone who wants to run can run. Anyone who doesn’t...”

“Think Prester John up there is gonna care?”

“Probably. If he decides to chew me out, well I’ll just stand there pointing to the civvies we rescued.”

“I don’t think he will. Chew us out, I mean. The Prester knows what’s important. Getting those people out.”

“Right. Our techpriests have set up shops, so let’s get expanding.”

Barodo, a little more safely in the rear, focused on getting his techpriests to bring in logistic support at first, while Kryg sent out some Conscript teams to capture local points, followed by techpriests to cap them -- and to start building plasma generators.

“After I get my logistics up,” said Barodo, “I’m gonna bring in some light cavalry and harass points, find civilians and announce they gotta make a choice now: go to the Empire, come with us, or stay and get mulched by the bugs or enslaved by dark elves.”

“I’m not a big fan of a two front war,” Kryg voxed back, “so I’m going to take only the nearest four or five points and then tech up a little bit to pump out plasma-armed guardsmen as soon as possible. Take the fight to the bugs.”

“The Prester does love to throw plasma at problems until they go away! Gonna be hard to maneuver huge squads through these streets, though...?”

“True, but I’m going in lean. Just enough in each squad to give everyone plasma, or half plasma half melta guns -- I’ve been thinking we need to hit harder targets farther out. Four squads of that to start with, add some medics and sergeants, and some commissars to keep the troops firing at top speed.”

Six minutes into the operation, Barodo had pushed a sizable group halfway to the chaos lines, and the third group of guards were on the way to the forming-up point, with Commissars being directed to join them.

“I’ve got the enemy in my sights,” Barodo voxed.

“Fey?”

“Nope, bugs! I’ve got scouts close to the center of our area, so you need to -- “ “We’re under fire!” one of Kryg’s conscript team interrupted.

“Buggy things arriving,” Kryg confirmed. “Not a few, several types! Conscripts, you’re dismissed, get out of there!” Too late.

 


“My short company of guards, with heavy guns from the listening post turret, is hitting hard with plasma; not a moment too soon, but... great, the enemy just tunneled underneath first company!”

“Need some help?”

 


“...eh, no, they tunneled into a wall of plasma fire. Sucks to be them. Some of our conscripts survived, no doubt in shock. You-all can just camp out here, and reinforce your squad. 1st company will start counter-pushing forward; I’ll order up two special weapon teams, too.”

Some high caliber rifle cracks echoed through the city. “Your snipers found something?” “Fey. Not anymore. That’s a flash ruckus you keep kicking up over there!” “The Nids keep trying to send things over here,” Kryg reported. “Lord above, I can see why the Prester loves plasma so much! There was this twenty-five foot armored thing crunching up the street toward us, and we just lit it up -- all it could do was writhe!”

 


“How far have you gotten?”

“Heh, like fifty feet down the street. At least the Conscript squad is safe now!”

“That bad?!”

“Not really, but I’m happy to just be wasting their resources while my guys earn experience, hero up. Once my spec-ops guys arrive, we’ll push on.”

“Kasrkins?”

“No, not them yet; that would take too long, cost too much. Spec-op shooters will be fine, we can kit them with plasma and melta, too, but the spares have decent guns to fill out the squads. ...hey, I see on my op map, your forward guys just found the fey base!”

“Yeah, and enemies came up behind them, too. Ultramarine scouts! You morons, why are you shooting at us, can’t you see we’re fighting the dark elves?! At least wait until we’re done if you don’t want to do any work yourse-- agh, I hate having the Empire shoot at us!”

“Sorry you have two problems, Bar, soon to be three over there! Or four if the Demonhunters arrive. Maybe you should pull back and consolidate?”

“I’ll deal with the left wing,” Barodo testily told his fellow commander. “You just exterminate our bug problem!”

“Can’t say we’re going fast, but we’re doing a clean sweep so far. You got some armor out now?”

“Not big guns yet, but better than nothing.”

“Roger that. I’m taking the mining caches back on either side of our closest bridge. Can’t cap’em yet, but the enemy will stop getting requisition and the troops will appreciate some fallback points. Hey, you’ve got a wall of red over there!”

“Marines and fey mixing it up, with some Chaos Marines for flavor. We’re pot shotting from the side.”

“Not at the Ultrasmurfs, I hope?”

“Well, y’know, we try our best.”

“Oooh, the bugs don’t like us taking our side of the bridge back! -- they’re rushing capture squads at us from the south... followed by the boys in blue! Would you kindly help us shoot the ravening bug monsters please?” he voxed over to the Imperials, but, “well at least they withdrew. Lord above, I can see why. I think we aggravated every bug squad remaining on the map!”

 


“You look surrounded!”

“We are, but mostly they’re coming from one or two directions. A couple of squads are keeping sallies across the bridge from doing much of anything.”

“Can’t let you hog all the glory! My team is formed up, and I’m going in, see if I can set the fey back some.”

“Good luck, oh yay, more bugs arriving. I hope the Empire down there is at least taking some good advantage of this distraction.”

“Team wipe?”

“No, no, we’re staying up, lean no excess. Annnnnd done, bugs? Nope not yet. Now?”

“You should really get going. Sitting there looks awesome -- “

“Yeah, I’m making sure the operators back at base are getting video snaps for posters!”

“-- but that only ends one way.”

“I know, I know, the whole point was to press the bugs early and cripple them. They’ll keep armoring up and evolving if we don’t get moving; though I think we’re forcing them to spend energy and req in just trying to crack us. Now done?! um... oh, hi, good grief!”

“What?”

 


“A Smurfspeeder just suicide-skidded into our lines! Must have been recon’ing the swarm, then suddenly no swarm left.”

“Dead?”

“Yeah, no choice, he started shooting on us, so...”

“I’ve got some of those guys on my flank here, too. They won’t leave my assault group alone long enough for us to push in on the dark fey, argh!”

“That is just wrong, no two ways about it. Okay, the bugs are down to sending bat squads over the bridge for now, so I’m going to do some upgrades back at base while the company clears across the bridge. Get our Mechanized Command up, so our base can upgrade... okay, that’s going; bridge assault fine... argh, really?! How many things are left over on our side of the bridge!? They’re following us across!”


 


“Trapped?”

“Theoretically, but I think we’ll be okay, as long as I can pull everyone together for concentration fire defense. We’ve gone far enough fast enough, and caused enough damage -- only 15 minutes into the op! -- I don’t think they’ve gotten any serious artillery up for splash damage yet. Just poofing poot on us from the air. We’re taking their req point on their side of the bridge; I think they took one behind us but then decided they had to try to stop us, so we should still have one back there.”

“Just so you know, I haven’t gotten any farther but my forward company’s still alive.”

“So I see! What about those problems just south of our base area?”

“Unlike some people, I’ve got Leman Russ tanks now; just one is enough to sort out that dispute among our enemies -- in our favor.”

“For now. You know the Imperials will have Predators on the ground soon, if not already.”

“Tell me about it. Better yet, get your base upgraded and swarm the area with Russ tanks, too!”

“I’ll need at least five minutes before the first one has been delivered to Mech Command and rolling up. But I’ll send them all your way, keep security behind you.”

“Thanks. You ready to push into their base area?”

“Yeah, we better go before they manage to scrape out area attacks, or morale-eaters.”

At 18 minutes, Kryg announced, “Last req point outside their main base, captured! The final push starts now. Won’t end any time soon, but... aw, crap, they did get some arty-turret things out. Need to hit that first!”

 


“Great, yeah, tanks when?”

“When I can spare a minute to arrange them! One of my squads just charged a Carnifex by themselves to krak-grenade that bio-plasma spitter. Good job, guys, now surround him and keep him pinned down, you’ve got good company on the way! Awww, he’s running. Or trodding away I should say. Huh, the Nids still have things they keep sending back to their own base across the bridge...”

 


“That’s just wonderful, tanks when?!”

“I’ve got hive tyrants with glowing shields here! But I just got permission to set up tank reception in the Mech Command. Oh, and more Carnifaxes, whee. ...and serious arty, that’s more of a problem. Fortunately they’re still mostly dropping poo-gas on us, nasty but more of a distraction than anything.”

“Yeah, could be worse, they could be summoning whirling vortexes of chaos on you. Ask me why I’m thinking of that.”

“Not quite 22 minutes into the op, and we’re taking the first req spot on the edge of their base. Target rich environment here!”

 


“Well, I’ve got Chaos in my face, and you’ve let flappy things start assaulting your side of our base, so...”

“The flappy things can’t do much. As for chaos in your face: I just told Mech Command to start pumping out Russes and sending them your way.”

By the 28 minute mark Kryg had mostly finished off the Tyranid force aside from some straggler buildings he hadn’t noticed off to the side yet. “Glad that’s done,” he sighed.

“Well, your tanks at the crossroads are doing a fine job fending off pushes by the Empire against us,” Barodo reported.

 


“Thanks for those. Can’t say I’m cracking enemy positions as well myself yet... The most I can say is that no one has gotten past the halfway point between us and chaos -- not for long -- and so the Empire seems to be focusing on their own push against the Chaos corner.”

“I’ll be over to help soon. Lots of blank spots on the map for our non-allies to be harvesting req and energy from, though...”

“Yeah, they started with all the big energy spots in this area. Close to the only relic point, too!”

“Can’t say the Emperor doesn’t love the Ultrasmurfs.”

“Where does that come from anyway!?”

“Ultra-smurfs? It’s an old word for magical creatures, s-i-m-u-g-h-s. Spelled weird but pronounced smurfs.”

“Oh. Kind of insulting to them then.”

“More than you think; there were these cute little blue gnomish things, see? Found them in some old drawings. And get this, they’re all blue. So blue little round-headed gnomey things, blue little simughs, right? Big and armored, and they’d be...!”

“Got it, great!”

“Just don’t call them that to their faces. For one thing they won’t understand.”

“I just wish they’d stop shooting us in our faces! Relatedly -- are you going to push on them from their left anytime soon?”

“I keep running across bug remnants. They’re re-setting up around here somewhere, so I’m trying to dig out their final builders. Once they’re gone, I think the bugs will go away. I’m getting the next base upgrades ready, though; an air control tower and then... dangit, another hive tyrant? Really?! How did it even get over there? Where did it come from!? Anyway, how about I lasso up the Russes and send them to help you crack through the Chaos line?”

 


“Sure, but that’s going to leave our right flank awfully exposed.”

“True, but I’m gearing up for Kasrkin and Ogre squads. I’ll have four of each ready to fight soon, and then once I clean house over here, put the bugs to bed, I’ll withdraw 1st company for some well-deserved rear-guard action: they’ll defend our approaches, and the elite company will come help your attack. It’ll be a few minutes...”



JasonPratt

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Reply #37 on: November 10, 2019, 06:40:43 PM
(Part 2 of 2)

At about 31 minutes 30 seconds, the first tyranid regiment stopped reinforcing their line and withdrew. Only seconds later, vox scanners reported the Empire had finished off the other tyranid regiment, too. “Uh-oh. We must have Demonhunters nearby...” Kryg guessed -- quite correctly. His weary first company took a beating trying to get back to the Vol Guards defense line.

 


From there, however, at about 37 minutes into the operation...

“My 2nd company isn’t really ready yet,” Kryg admitted.

“Well, your tanks have done well, but they’re having trouble getting into the fey base defenses.”

“Okay, I’ve got my 1st company back up to snuff. I know they don’t want to go, and I don’t blame them, but...”

“Yeah, but the men on the ground have to do all the work.”

“For the sake of the men on the ground, yep. OH GOOD GRIEF!”

“Ultra-smurf devastators raking your flanks on approach, eh?”

{Gamenote: wasn’t able to get a good snap of this.}

“Yep, I think they have Termies now, too! I know you’ve had to deal with this for half an hour already, but dang! We’re going to melt off before we even get to the horrifying slave lord things!”

“Tell me what the difference is now, between the Ultramarines and the Alpha Legion over there...”

“They think we’re Chaos, too, that’s the problem.”

“A problem that gets you rotary cannons in your armpits while you’re trying to stop Chaos.”

“I know. Look, I don’t think we can do this. I’d better pull them back, get second company ready to go.”

“Your call. But your tanks are gonna die over there.”

“I didn’t say I was happy about it.... all right guys, keep going, don’t give up! Smash those elves in their pointy little teeth!”

At about 42 minutes, Kryg sighed and said, “This just isn’t working. How do they still have resources to keep up with us?!”

“Don’t know, but no one can say your guys didn’t try.”

“That arty piece banging away outside our base. How about sending some of those shells over here?”

“Can’t, I’m keeping the Empire from hitting you worse in the side than you already had to deal with.”

“Oh for pity’s sake -- some Imperial gnatwit just called down an orbital strike ON US AT THE GATE!

 


“Not on the dark elves, or their armored Chaos buddies, but on us! That’s it, I’m pulling back what we’ve got left. It’s okay guys, you tried your best, everyone can see that...”

“Is your second company finally ready?”

“....sort of? They need to gear up first.”

“Well, come up to the crossroads while you’re gearing up.”

“Great stars above, some ungodly gunfight is going on down there!”

“Yeah, the Chaos Marines sallied south from their base toward the Ultras, and I’m trying to keep a path clear for your 2nd company boys. Eventually,” said Barodo with a hard and critical edge.

“I’ve been distracted by having my first company chewed up and blasted from orbit. But I’ll throw some air power into the mix once I go. Deal?”

“No complaints here.”

By 46:30, Kryg’s 2nd company was on the way, Ogryns up front. “Man the dark elves don’t give up easy, I’ll giv’em that!” he said in some astonishment. “They’ve got a guard tower out on that req point again, spitting at us as we’re coming in!”

“Would you rather have devastators raking you? I can get you a good deal...”

“No, no thanks.”

After the point was decapped again: “Watch out!” Barodo warned. “Chaos has some marines down here guarding the approaches! They’ll flank you if you aren’t careful!”

“Well, gosh, I guess we’ll just flank them with Kasrkins and the Ogryns up their rears... oh, grag wallgokl!”

“Ork cussing? I kind of like it!”

“I thought you said you had pushed the devasmurfies back!”

 


“I had. You took too long. They have armor, we don’t, so...”

“I swear, after we’re done here, I’m not letting those blue-boys keep one square foot of ground in this area.”

“Copy that.”

By 48 minutes, Kryg could report, “The good news is that my Ogryn are in the enemy’s front gates now. Also, Ogryns can’t run away effectively! The bad news is that they’re clogging up the gate and trying to run away. We can’t advance any farther than the 1st company did. At least we aren’t taking as many casualties, but...”

 


“Don’t ask me for any arty support, I’ve got my tubes busy over here.”

“Fine, I’ll just capture that point behind us, cap it with some techpriests, then use the area control to lay some heavy arty down.”

“I find no complaints with this plan,” Barodo chuckled briefly.

“...being chased back out, by a chaos predator...!”

“You’re still making Russes, right? Send up your next tank company, do something about it.”

“No, I think we’re okay on that, but since you mention it, I’ll push them up to help support your flank.”

“No complaints with that plan either. Say, didn’t you order up some air power earlier?”

“Yes and no; they never got to the point of actually SENDING me any,” Kryg groused. “I’m fixing that problem now.”

55:30 “The elves just sent this one little guy out to tank us by himself,” Kryg reported. “When he died, it was like a small nuke went off!”

 


“Well, at least I can say that with your second tank squad we’ve pushed the smurfs and their cronies back, so you don’t have to worry about flanking fire now. The bad news,” said Barodo, “is that you no longer have a second tank company.”

“So I noticed, thanks. Never mind: I’ve capped the point, and just got the first artillery package delivered to the ground. Time to set it up!”

At 56 minutes, the first Earthshaker round was going downrange.

“And that’s just the beginning!” Kryg promised. “Plenty more on the way!... I’ve got to move our guys forward some to make room for more artillery. Three long barrels should be enough.” By 57 minutes the next two had arrived for setup. “Ogryns are stuck in the gates again, good grief. But it doesn’t matter. They just have to spot for the long guns!”

“Going to upgrade to volcano rounds? By the way, have some missile pods to help out.”

 


“Certainly. Oh, thanks! -- I wonder where my airforce is?”

“To be fair, they’ve had a lot of ground to cover for support today. Mostly protecting transports out.”

“Can’t really complain about that. Those poor souls on the ground are why we’re here.”

“Wish the Imperials understood that. My prevalent theory, by the way, is that the Inquisition has capped up practically everything on our right flank and is just sitting back feeding resources to the Ultramarines. Maybe while building up a giant wave of doom to send over here.”

“While we do the work, and they harass us.”

“Well, the Ultramarines aren’t doing much of anything right now. You’re welcome.”

At the one hour mark, Kryg’s airforce request arrived. “On the dot. I think they planned it this way!”

“Anything left there to shoot?”

“Some, yeah; the fey base has been gutted, but the Chaos Marine base still exists. Not for long. I finally unclumped the Ogryns, so I’m getting second company in, too. Say, did you know there’s some stylite psycher or someone standing up here on a tower?!”

 


“All this time!? That’s crazy!”

“He’s still alive, must be one heck of a shield he’s throwing up. Doesn’t seem chaotic, exactly. I’m willing to leave him alone if he leaves us alone.”

“Good plan; aggravating the guy who could shield himself through an hour of Chaos basing plus our bombardments, seems like a losing proposition.”

“I really do think he’s a stylite. Just a guy up on a pillar praying, as a sign of devotion. I kind of admire him doing that while Chaos was taking over below, even if he didn’t help any. It’s like saying, hey, even if you win, people like me will always defy you!”

At one hour three minutes and 45 seconds, the final desecrated base gave up the ghost, somewhat literally, and collapsed back to the Chaos whence it came.

“...and we’re still getting spite from an Ultramarine Whirlwind somewhere over there,” Kryg growled. “Not anything very harmful, just spite.”

“It’s mostly on me,” Barodo grimly replied. “Seems fair for you to have some, too.”

“You know what isn’t fair? Those idiots down there.”

“Just doing what they’re told.”

“No, I don’t think so. I mean, sure,” Kryg said, “the Marines definitely do what they’re told, and Ultramarines couldn’t be more by-the-codex at following orders. But they’re also fanatics. So much so, that rather than team up with us for even a little bit to put down Chaos, they spent the past hour causing us grief!”

“Hm. I can tell you, I’m done letting any civilians run over to them to be slaughtered as infected whatevers.”

“Really?! They were doing that?”

“Not sure I’d blame them, from their perspective. But I’m sure I wouldn’t take their perspective either, in the first place.”

“Got it. So, here’s my plan. You keep them bottled up. That’s stage zero, so to speak. Along with a rush by my last Russes.”

“Okay, stage one?”

“I gather up eight or more ground-attack craft and start scraping them out of the area.”

“Concur. Any stage two?”

“I build another four Earthshaker platforms at the edge of the former Chaos base to help out.”

“Sounds good. Stage three?”

“I just upgraded to Tier five. So, nuclear generator and a nuclear bomb factory is on the way.”

“Any titans?”

“Hm, no, they took the relic early, and I expect they’ve milked it dry by now. Fools.”

“Not gonna complain about no Ultrasmurf titans clomping down on us.”

“True. Say, did I happen to see a baneblade out earlier?”

“You did! Turned the tide and got the smurfs out of your hair for good. Lost him, though, to some land raiders at last.”

 


“A pack of land raiders, just wonderful. I’ll see what kind of baneblade I can set up.”

It took another while; almost another hour. As Barodo had suspected, the Inquisition was building a massive army on the other side of the river, and as the Ultramarine base was slowly pasted off, they surged forth to protect and recapture the relic, seized eventually by Kryg’s 2nd company.

 



 


Kryg nuked most of the Ultramarine base, and even had time to set up another nuke to hit the Inquisition base later. Meanwhile, his techpriests capped the relic point, and although no relic energy remained to power up a second baneblade of his, a first stormlord was enough with 8 vultures and the 2nd company to convince the Imperials to withdraw.

 


Especially after the second nuke.

 


One hour, 55 minutes. The two exhausted commanders walked the ground of the ruined city. Soon to be more ruined.

“I think anyone meaning to flee, with us or anyone else, has already done so,” said Barodo.

“Even though we keep telling them an Exterminatus fleet is on the way.”

“I don’t know if they believe us. If anyone remains.”

“Wounded and can’t get out?”

“Could be. We’ve tried to check, but... it’s just impossible to be sure.”

“Yeah. Did our best, though. Saved as many as we could.”

“How many troops?” asked Barodo.

“433. You?” Kryg didn’t clarify they were speaking of casualties. To honor them, the two friends didn’t think of them as dead.

“545.”

 


“Ow. You held the middle, though, against literally everyone.”

“Not many bug-lizard things, but yeah.”

“A hard slog. But we did it together, again.” Kryg offered his hand.

Barodo took it. “We all did.

“For the sake of the feet on the ground.”

They shook; and then, turning away from each other for now, they started shepherding each of their regiments to withdraw.


{NEXT TIME -- THE GRAND FINALE TO SEASON ONE!}
« Last Edit: November 10, 2019, 06:49:24 PM by JasonPratt »



JasonPratt

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Reply #38 on: November 11, 2019, 07:27:41 PM
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO -- DEATH FROM ABOVE (Part 1 of 7)
--------------------------------------

Marine Commander Pauel stepped off the cloaked Eldar shuttle and asked, “You called?” -- not without a pointed, wary glance above.

“I did,” said Farseer Eria, “for much the same reason I also asked for Tau Commander Kal’os. Who will be here momentarily.”

Pauel nodded and looked around. “Nice fort. Looks defensible. No back or side ramp to worry about; not that I could see from our approach. Plenty of room for Kal’os and his crew when they arrive; maybe for some others...?”

“We shall deploy as well.”

“You have your reasons,” he stated.

“Which I shall explain momentarily. Our shuttle for him is landing now.”

“Your antigrav and cloaking are as impressive as ever.” A pause as he looked around the position. She had been waiting near the opening between the central and left-side courtyards. “Will your explanation include the temperature falling steadily over the past few days?” Snowflakes scattered down from the sky, mingling their fragile, sculpted forms with ashes.

“Yes, among other things,” she smiled, though briefly. “You might as well begin to deploy your stronghold. Ka’los is doing the same to our left; I’ve already placed ours down to your right.”

“Near the relic, then,” he decided, and voxed appropriate orders. “Resource rates?”

“Largely depleted already, in this area.”

“And what will we be facing -- if not why?”

“There will be time to explain when Ka’los arrives. Momentarily.” The Tau Commander was already jogging across his wide stone courtyard in his battle armor.

“Farseer; Force Commander,” Ka’los greeted them moments later, each with a nod of his shielded head. “I understand there’s some emergency here? Enough to risk us being virus bombed?” That might have been sarcasm; Pauel couldn’t quite tell.

“As you may suspect or know already,” Eria began as she walked with a stately glide toward the leftward ramp, which led to the overlook on that side of the gates, “each Inquisitorial fortress has been erected over an ancient Eldar gateway -- all across this world.

“During the civilian evacuation, my people have been carefully updating those gateways. To a more modern level of technology. This fortress sits over the final one.

“Naturally, the Inquisition is well aware of what they have been sitting on, and studying. By now, they will be also aware that we have been rendering the gateways harder to use by their clever studies -- and even harder for them to study.”

“Assuming any survive the death that is coming from above.” Pauel couldn’t see from his angle, but Ka’los sounded as though he was looking up into the overcast night.

“Some may not. Some may. I have hope some will. These particular webways were built to last; have lasted for billions of your years already. Longer than we have been awake in this world.”

“That sounds ominous,” said Pauel. “...ah. Would the core of this world be very cold and dead?”

“Well phrased, yes.”

“And that,” said Ka’los, with one brisk brush of an armored arm, “would also explain why the temperature here has been dropping.”

“Yes. The Imperials found this planet not much more than barren rock, and went to the trouble to lightly terraform an atmosphere for colonization. The Cadian system is rich in other planets. Why bother with this one at all?”

“When you have their resources, why not? There can never be too much logistics, too much defense. Or that,” mused Pauel, “is how it would look.”

“They found the primal webway gates,” Ka’los surmised. “And so built colony forts above them to study them, and to act as guards around them. The colonies were a cover for their true purposes.”

Pauel shrugged: “Not only a cover; you really cannot have too much logistic depth or defense!”

“Yet Partox was one of the first such outposts in this system, not one of the last.” Eria paused near the triple-layer gate, and looked out over the ramparts into the grey distance. “No doubt explained as bureaucratic tanglement, a schedule mis-management.”

Pauel folded his arms in his armor, to lean upon a battlement, looking down over it into the moat below, gauging lines of potential fire. A sound to his left; and with a grim smile he saw that Ka’los had done the same -- and now was looking at him, in just as much surprise and amusement!

“We can expect an Imperial attack in force upon this position,” Ka’los inferred.

“I wouldn’t have brought you both to prepare your forces here, otherwise.”

“They do not mean to let this gate be recovered? They care about it that much -- enough to risk still being here when the Exterminatus fleet arrives?”

“To them, that might be a bonus,” she said. “Their targets may be us. Or even the Prester, John; they might expect him here. ...before the day grows busier,” she dryly added, “what is that title? I have been meaning to ask.”

“A legend from Terra, long long ago,” Pauel explained, “about an immortal Emperor who ruled a secret land, far away, through wisdom and kindness -- and who very much didn’t want to be known as an Emperor. So they just called him an ‘elder’, in one of their languages. After a while they slurred that word a little to make it more unique, not to be confused with other presbyters. Thus, Prester John. There was some speculation, among Terran historians, that our own immortal Emperor of Humanity was once the basis for Prester John, the legend. We do not know how long he lived on Terra among the rest of us, but back when he could still speak he seemed to imply it was much farther back than when he decided to bring all of humanity under his rule at last, during the Unification Wars. However, I cannot imagine that man ruling in kindness and in such humility. Some of us had some reasons for our rebellions; or not altogether bad reasons anyway.”

Eria digested this for a quarter-minute in silence, then asked, “And do you know how old our John really is?”

“...no, can’t say I do. Over a hundred years now since he met you, of course. Do you perhaps know?”

“I do not. He seemed a young man and yet older somehow when I met him, back on the outskirts of his world.”

Pauel pursed his lips in thought at hearing this. “Prester John was supposed to be waiting for something or someone, and living until then. Perhaps he was waiting for you?”

She opened her mouth and closed it again. A couple more times. Then said, “...something to explore at a later time. Our enemies have arrived.” She gestured into the dusk. The two men straightened and started to vox, but -- “Before we begin, let me be clear: these forces have come for vengeance.

 


{Gamenote: epic 8-player fan-map Castle Rosenstein, 3 vs 5 configuration. Apocalypse level “standard”, which is “hard” vanilla. Resources set to half starting and half generation.}

“The Ultramarines will be deployed in the center. To their left and right will be regiments of different Cadian Guardsmen corps, brought along for flank support. And then, on their extreme left and right, the Lodge Destructio of the Inquisition, and also the Sisters of the Fervent Heart.

“They need a victory, and expect an overpowering victory against us; and so they have started broadcasting out this battle -- in real-time -- throughout the Cadian system and down through relay beacons across the galaxy.

“If we simply make our preparations and leave, we do not know if they will launch their Exterminatus after all before securing and trying to regain access to the primal webway gate.

“We need to beat them, and beat them badly -- enough of a show of skill and force to demonstrate that we are a viable alternative to the Emperor of Humanity. And also enough to convince them to hit this planet with death from above.”

“Which we will be gone from, before it arrives, I hope?” Pauel couldn’t fault Ka’los for being noticeably sardonic in that question; not after what happened with O’re.

“Of course.”

“And why do we need them to virus bomb this planet back to lifeless dust?”

“For the same reason the primary webway gates were scattered all over this planet, back in the wars before the sleep of the Ark within the webway:

“Because this is a Tomb World.” Eria’s musical voice rang like a bell of doom. “And all this lively activity will surely awaken the sleeping undead below, before we are ready. My people forced them to withdraw into their defenses before the history of life in this galaxy began anew; and among other things, those primal gates have succeeded in keeping them unaware of human presences here, until now.

“But then Chaos invaded, and now there is outright war. Apocalyptic war.”

“I want to return to your statement,” said Ka’los: “’before we are ready’.”

“Does the Prester know... oh, never mind, of course he would.”

“Yes, his connection to the Arisen makes him naturally sensitive to such things -- even more than we would be if we did not already know why we had put such gateways here,” she dryly replied. “He has been working carefully on disentangling the Necrons, down in the cold, dead core of this world, out from the grip -- and out from their grip upon -- one of the C’tan. One yet unnamed in this era of life. If he should arise... we would have more problems.”

“So: save the primal gate from further tampering; make sure the humans out there are aggravated enough to grind the surface to powder...” Ka’los had raised two armored fingers.

Pauel added a third -- raised in defiance toward the Imperials quietly setting up their forward bases in the distance, beyond the gloom of sight: “...and look great doing it!”

“Force Commander! -- if Ka’los and I can hold the gates, perhaps with some armored support and some of your excellent turrets -- “ Eria had whirled in a swirl of combat skirts away from the battlements and started for the downward ramp, lowering her battle mask, and drawing her sword.

“ -- can I take the time to whistle in something like a Legio Titanus Warlord Titan? I have just the thing! Or, perhaps, a couple of smaller ones?”

“Helpful though that would be, we need something very much worse to make them question the wisdom of simply ganging together to vent their frustrations.”

“Something... worse than a Warlord Titan. Hum.”

“I can help provide it, but I need you to excavate and recover certain information from your relic point. It is connected to Inquisitorial studies of the primal gate beneath this fortress; I cannot access their studies myself, or not as quickly, but I can tell you where to find them. Your technology should be able to process the information more efficiently than mine, considering the source similarities.”

“More on that later, then. We need to start making initial build orders, now!” Ka’los trotted rightward at the bottom of the ramp, into the left-hand wing of the fort, and switched channels in his suit to vox emergency deployments.

“Agreed,” said Pauel, “you can fill the details later. Let’s get some initial guards on that gatewall. Especially near the gate. They can get in other ways, but the ground forces will try to push through there -- if only as a major distraction!”

“Until later, then!” And Eria teleported over to the fort’s right wing.



JasonPratt

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Reply #39 on: November 11, 2019, 09:08:54 PM
Just in case there was any worry that this would be mostly plot without much tactical shootyness...  >:D

(Part 2 of 7)

“I want a scout team capturing the req points on either side of the gate, up on that wall, first thing,” Pauel ordered. “Don’t bother sending them squad-reinforcements yet, but send a servitor squad after each of them; you can reinforce those. Another two squads should capture the req points at ground level just inside the gate.

 


“Then capture points backward on this plan; servitor teams following afterward to cap the points. Upgrade them with automatic guns as soon as possible, in the same capture order. Final scout squad focuses on the single req point behind us, as well as the nearby relic and critical point.

 


{Gamenote: closeup of the minimap for that prior snapshot!}
 


“Final pair of servitor squads -- reinforce those, too -- pump out six plasma generators first thing, back near the slag deposits and the single rear req-point. Then you can cap that req point and the relic.

“This is a race for resources now, in a thin field to harvest from; and our only chance at winning is to get ahead and stay ahead!”

A little more than three and a half minutes into the operation, the echoes of pistols could be distantly heard outside, almost inaudible in the moaning, chilling wind as the planet gave up the heat, the life, provided by its many human inhabitants. “Some morons out there must be drunk, or trying to get a promotion!” reported a Vol scout. “A couple of their scouts are speckling the outer gate!”

 


 


“Genuinely hilarious!” Pauel agreed. “Maybe they’re etching their names to show that they were there first, before their friends arrive in force!” An enemy commander soon found them something else more productive to do. And soon found someone else to knock on the doors.

7:45, the sixth plasma generator was completed... “Under fire!” someone reported. “What?! Oh, good, they haven’t jumped over the gate yet. A more serious attempt on the outer gate this time, though!”

 


 


“Also a more mixed group. Flamethrowers on horses... at least they were keeping those animals warm. They’ll have that outer gate down in a few minutes.”

“Why wouldn’t all three gates be equally tough?” a lieutenant wondered in the command center.

“Because it’s supposed to be a trap, obviously,” snorted some older sergeant nearby standing guard. “Sir. Except, the Imperials packed up everything when Chaos chased them out the first time, so now we’ve got to build the traps!”

“To be fair, they withdrew to concentrate force elsewhere,” Pauel clarified. He allowed and encouraged a certain amount of banter, as long as the work got done, helping to season everyone. “Didn’t want to destroy the fort, in case they could come back -- probably so as not to lose any automatic guard protection for other things in here, either.” He’d share the existence of the primal webway gate later, when it was pertinent. “But they took all their gear, to put it to use elsewhere, and so that an enemy getting here first -- like us! -- couldn’t use it against them.”

“Those weapon servitors are no joke, huh,” someone marveled, watching them light up the darkness outside the first gate. “Scouts are all back in position, up top.”

“Okay, time to reinforce them. They can take potshots from on high, under the covering fire of our fortified position caps, until the enemy brings up something beefier; then they should bug out, save themselves from being totally plastered.”

9:30 -- “First gate just went down! Lots of flamers in that group, about to be hot here, soon,” reported a scout from flanking position above the second gate.

 


“Keep your heads down then and let the automatic guns go to work. Take opportunity shots at your discretion.”

“Roger that. Any, um, other turrets you wanna send up here? We’ve got easily a hundred-fifty targets to work on. I mentioned some have flamers, right?”

 


“Can’t send any yet. The first Stronghold needs to be upgraded before we can put any turrets at all; and after that we need two more Strongholds out, to get twelve more plasma generators in the back, pronto. We’re in a race to get enough resources to do... whatever it is the Farseer wants to do,” Pauel had to finish a little lamely. “Something more impressive than a Warlord Titan.”

“Yeah, well, they’re in a race to get in our gates -- or over them! Over.”

11:00 -- “Second gate is half down; we’re taking potshots, but the enemy has figured out how to flame the gate from outside fortified bolter range.”

“Little do they know that the inner gate is three times as thick and made of partitions each much stronger than those flimsy things. Soon our trap will be complete,” Pauel deadpanned. “Out.” And went back to planning. “Anyone among our very shooty allies who wishes start taking shots from through or above the final gate, you can get into position any time now,” he added on a wider channel. “Annnnny time, over.”

11:55 -- the second Stronghold had been completed, on the left rampart wall (Pauel thought it might serve as a useful distraction target there), and the second set of plasma generators planned out along with a chapel and armory dropped in for assembly, when, “Squad broken!” a scout team reported.

 


The enemy had melted the second gate, and could now enter the rampart courtyard far enough to flamethrow the scout teams. “Scouts, withdraw to the main stronghold and get medical attention. You’ve done your job well, and are out of the fight now; evacuate the area.” Switching channels again: “Annnnnnnny time now.”

A Tau Landspeeder floated over to behind the gate. “That doesn’t look like it can shoot accurately through the gate. Which would explain why it isn’t trying,” Pauel dryly observed. “Can it climb a ramp? Or would it prefer not to get its paint singed?”

“The crew is concerned that the heavy flamers will melt the light armor,” Ka’los returned. “They’re giving me information to plan out a deployment behind the gate.”

“I promise, I won’t be offended by anyone volunteering,” Pauel emphasized, “to replace my scouts on the ramparts over the... wait. Scouts, I TOLD YOU TO WITHDRAW! To the first Stronghold, not ten steps back!”

“We’re in less danger here, and can heal our wounds,” a scout replied. “We’re able to fight, we just want to help protect the fortified points from any ACCHK!”

 


“Damn and blast it! Assault Marines and their Sister counterparts have jumped up onto the ramparts,” Pauel reported to his allies. “Can I get any help at all here?!”

“We have several squads on the ground behind the gate,” Eria reported. “As do we, though not as many yet,” voxed Ka’los. “The moment anyone tries to jump off the wall into your courtyard they will regret it.”

 


“My now-dead scouts regret even more that YOU WEREN’T ON THE WALL!”

“We’re one the wall elsewhere, and thought that you had secured the rampart wall.”

“No, I’ve been busy on the plan Eria promised would provide us something scarier than a Warlord Titan, as soon as possible! Grack clogit!” Pauel pounded a mailed fist onto a portion of command-counter kept conveniently free on its surface for such eventualities. “The first twelve men dead, and I’m only now getting our chapel ready to receive drop-pods!”

“You did order them out,” said Farseer Eria. “They disobeyed your wise counsel. I sympathize with your pain over the result. But, we must consider a deeper defense of your gate, not a shallower one. Those Fervent Heart Sisters now shall learn regret, for continuing onward without support: Ka’los’ troops will make short work. Whereas, the moment those Assault Marines clear the inner wall, we will nail them out of the sky.”

“Meanwhile, we’ve lost the gatewall.”

“...begging your pardon, but not entirely, Commander!” “Eh?!” “We let the Assault Marines focus on the fortified point and got out of their way, didn’t draw attention to ourselves; the other point on the ground, along with that one, chewed them up to where they jetpacked off! I saw some Eldar sneaking shots up over the lip of the wall, too! -- a fine display of marksmanship. Would have preferred them up on the wall, sure, showing off from a distance, but you’ve still got two scout squads on the right gatehouse wall!” a scout reported proudly.

“...amazing. Well, if you insist on standing there to die, at least run your first squad down around and up the other side; we’ll send you some bolters to submachine with, too.”

“Already way ahead of you, sir! We’re passing several Tau squads also taking up position on their portion of the front wall, discouraging jumpers. No fortified positions left here, but the reqs are still ours; send more servitors when you can get around to it.”

“I’ve got most of them detailed to put a third stronghold on the right rampart now; you should see the transport coming in! Once they’re done, we’ll be able to rush the 18th plasma generators; but they’ll stay up on the wall to get that point capped again with guns, as well as some advanced turrets.”

“If I may say so,” interjected Farseer Eria, “having arrived behind the gate myself, I am pleased to see that Ka’los has sent more warriors down here than we have! But we have not been idle. Both of us have garrisoned all points of the wall within shooting range, to punish anyone trying to jump onto the wall and then over.”

“Indeed, your human former-allies have designed the moat and walls so that they themselves might jump down and back, at their discretion,” Ka’los reported. “Which means, that standard jump-packs and, I expect, even short-range teleporters cannot get into the fort with one jump! They can only get to the walls, where they will repent of that choice and die before their packs can cool down and recharge. Therefore, the gate will be the focus of their attacks for some time.”

17:00 -- the enemy has been largely uninterrupted trying to chew through the first layer of the third gate, “but,” Pauel updated his allies, “neither have they bothered to jump the wall again, not needing to get rid of Volunteer fire from above. And they are finding that lasguns and scout speeder machine cannons and even flamers don’t affect the panels of the final gate much -- no doubt they already knew that,” he allowed. “Their flamers aren’t even trying, although that might be because they suspect some scouts still exist up there and don’t want to provide free shots at gel-tanks on their backs! But the other guns might as well scratch away at it until the real power arrives, as long as they aren’t interrupted. They’ve done...” he checked. “Almost no damage so far. So low that on the console, the one panel they’re all focusing on still looks like a solid green line of health!

“I’ve put down two machine cults, and the first Stronghold has just started its upgrade to Tier 3. My main concern at this time, is that the enemy will start flying units into our backfield.”

“Same,” Ka’los agreed. “I shall bring out a few potent anti-air assets.”

“I’m trying to keep my expenditures low, to progress as fast as possible; but I will, too.”

“I appreciate your progress so quickly,” Eria said. “No doubt more quickly than our foes. However, I am concerned that they themselves are also progressing more quickly than usual, since they have barely had any losses to replace.”

“Well, you can just come up here and help do something about that at any time. Or bring some artillery to shoot over the gate!” Pauel invited. “Our third Stronghold is complete, and I’ve got a servitor team rolling up to... ah, yes, the enemy has flamethrowers already ready already,” he sighed. “My little toaster corpses are braving those flames like pros, however, trying to cap that point again!”

 


18:00 -- “Right gateguard point’s capped again, but the flamer’s eating it up before we can upgrade it. If I’m not going to get more guns up here to shoot,” Pauel grated, “then I’ll have to call in turrets. Those poor servitors will be roasted again... First AA has arrived, second one on the way. Okay, first turret out! -- just in time, the fortified point has its autorotary gun, but is already on its final notches of armor! The turret is sending rotary cannon fire down nicely, distracting the enemy from trying to flame the req point at least. Hah, the Ultrasmurf speeder bikes have mostly stopped even pretending to try to hit the gate! -- though they do have a predator up now, argh. Wait, what’s that? -- I just saw Eldar vehicles jumping up onto the wall FROM DOWN INSIDE THE COURTYARD!”

 


“Just a quick opportunity strike,” Eria explained, almost purring with pride. “We distracted your enemy long enough for your turret to finish the job, and jumped out again. You’re welcome. I think we’ll keep cycling them in and out for a while.”

“Okay! Now it’s more like a party! Second AA out, so unless they send a VERY dedicated airstrike we’re safe in the middle. Both Thermo-plasma reactors have landed for assembly, and I’ll get the last six regular plasma reactors set up soon. No, scratch that, I’ll put out the orbital relay first, then do the final six...”

“Faster power will reach our surprise faster,” suggested Eria.

“I need the Orbital relay for the relic management station anyway. Also the orbital relay will allow my first stronghold to start upgrading to Tier 4 immediately... oh, good! The fortified point has also upgraded to its more heavily armored form; and I’ve started some basic research on improving their armor and gunpower. Second turret going down! Nice to see some Eldar jump-craft getting into the game!”

“Our lives and deaths are not a game to us,” retorted Eria, with more than a little frost. “...not to all of us. Some cope in care-free ways. They should not be a game to you, in any case.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #40 on: November 12, 2019, 08:11:34 PM
(Part 3 of 7)

21:30 -- “Heavy Armor Deployment being geared,” reported an officer in logistics.

“Not too shabby; we’re doing our job,” the Force Commander assured them. “I hope,” he didn’t add. “Now that we’ve designated resources saved up for that, let’s get those final six plasma generators out at last! Also, what’s our limit on servitor squads? I mean the normal ones, not combat. Five? Six? However many more that we’re allowed at one time, I want them up on that wall, keeping those turrets and the fortified point in good repair. Right now, those servitors are the heroes of our force!

 


“Come to think of it, add a fourth turret; the ones we’ve got can take the heat a while.” Later, Pauel would remonstrate himself, going over the after-action report, that he hadn’t manually ordered the turrets to concentrate on the flamers down in the courtyard...

23:20 -- checking back on the gate defense: “WHERE IN THE HELL ARE MY TURRETS!? Was there an orbital strike, when I wasn’t paying attention? I was about to compliment them on driving off most of the foes, but -- !”

 


“The Sisters rolled up a heavy flamer tank,” scouts reported, currently still well back from the edge but gaining steath-suits and sniper rifles. “Before we even realized what was happening... drat! -- our other scout team, across the way, guarding the point, just got mortar’d by something! Sure wish we had amazing mechanized artillery pieces somewhere nearby...”

“We could, but the Eldar and the Tau were supposed to be helping take care of things like that, while we’re... (sigh) teching up to put that Farseer’s plan into place. She knows what she’s doing.”

“I have plasma artillery pieces down behind the gate right now,” Ka’los announced. “Send me positional coordinates for the flame tank’s location!”

“I’ll let the scouts work with you on that -- “ “WE’RE KIND OF BUSY BEING SHOT TO PIECES BY SOMETHING UP IN THE AIR!” “ -- I’ll let whichever scouts aren’t busy work with you on that,” Pauel corrected himself, and then to a logistic officer, “I want one of those machine cults working on an armor upgrade, and the other one requisitioning a Mark I Whirlwind from army headquarters, immediately! If we lose the gate before we get to the Farseer’s awe-inspiring plan, then,” he dryly observed, “we won’t get to her awe-inspiring plan.”

“The scouts at the overwatch fortified point have been driven off by that Lightning Fighter,” someone reported. “They’ve taken too many casualties; they won’t be coming back anytime soon.”

“I know one of the points behind the gate is shooting that fighter; can the overwatch fortification hit it?!”

“Unclear: it’s hovering directly overhead, in a safe zone...”

“I have distributed plasma weaponry to some of my forces below,” Eria broke in. “We will drive it away -- or bring it down if the pilot insists on staying! I thought it was targeting your fortified point before, not your scouts, or I would have made such arrangements sooner.”

 


“The Sister pilot is bugging out for home!” a surviving scout on the other side of the gateway wall reported. “We took some shots as she passed, but she’s only about half-damaged. She’ll be back, likely enough. Maybe upgraded.”

25:33 -- “Tier III organized,” announced a new voice on the vox net. “Techmarine Agrabah here, grouping up with your backfield servitors. Orders?”

“Put up the Heavy Machine Cult platform, off to the side; that Whirlwind had a little trouble getting clear of its arrival and assembly point, and I don’t want any land raiders or larger units having similar problems getting into the fight. The Whirlwind should go up our rightward ramp to the gatewall; it won’t need to get very close of course, but there’s a little more protection in that direction at the moment. Come to think of it, now that we’ve got Tier III organization in place... Ah, crog it!” Ork curses were coming in handy today, Pauel thought off in a corner of his mind, followed by wishing he had some Orks to deploy on the side for a sweep across the enemy backfield. “The Fortified Point is almost destroyed! Hurry, get a new servitor squad out there!”

The servitor rolled out from the nearby secondary stronghold, and managed to reach the fortified point in time -- to have the thing explode in the servitor’s face.

 


Fortunately, they had volunteered long ago to suffer various upgrades to help be functional should that happen, but, “Now we have no guns up there at all. Wonderful.”

“Oh, we do,” a scout reported, sardonically. “But those guns belong to that Sister pilot; she just came back over, and now she’s shooting down into the Eldar crowd.”

“And out of our effective range.” Eria sounded as though she was grinding her teeth. “Not out of range of your other fortified point, however; nor some Tau rifles. Nor, if I may say so, out of range of the Falcon Grav tank I just sent to drive her off. She will not stay long.” And she didn’t, zooming away.

“Before we start over again on capping that point, I want servitor teams planting up Perimeter Defense Outposts along the wall edge, overlooking the courtyard,” Pauel ordered. “Three or four if possible. Ignore the artillery strikes!”

“I just sent a Guardian team to help, bringing some small brightlance grav platforms with them,” said the Farseer. “They are trying,” she coldly added, “to ignore the falling artillery as much as possible.”

“Ah; well, they helped! The enemy had to spread out their attention, and now the first PDO is up!

 


“The foes down there will find THAT a lot harder to deal with. I think I’ll keep a servitor team on repairing it for a little while, until they get the new armor upgrades finished; new PDOs will benefit, too, afterward.”

“So, do you have a Tier beyond 3rd?” Eria asked. “When exactly will the relic research station be ready?”

“Yes, we like to call Tier IV ‘The Unknown Chapter’! We’ve just started arrangements for its organization.”

29:15 -- the second PDO goes into operation over the gate, shortly after their system’s armor improvements are completed; even the heavy flamers brought up to the courtyard now find themselves barely scorching the outer hulls! “The servitors should have enough protection now, to get a listening post up onto the req point again -- and keep it this time! Put a Lascannon on top of the first PDO at once, as well. We’ll try to keep a one to one ratio of anti-infantry and -armor weapons up there over the gateyard.”

“Most of the enemy forces have clustered on the bridge, not in the courtyard anymore,” a still-surviving scout reported.

 


“I think some of the Tau and Eldar armor behind the gate are showing off now, sniping through the gatecracks! Wish we had some orbital strikes prepared or something like that, to hit that bridge...”

31:40 -- the Whirlwind succumbs at last to counter-battery fire; but now there are four PDOs, three of which are able to target the bridge leading to the courtyard, and two of those with lascannons. Eldar jump bikes are routinely landing in the gateyard to harrass the enemy with anti-vehicle shots before retreating again, and a Falcon Gravtank now takes its own potshots out at bridge targets from behind and between the PDOs!

 


“Y’know what would be even better?” a scout opined out loud on the other side.

“A fifth PDO in that group?” Pauel deflected. “I could maybe arrange that, but I think I’m out of room? Hm.”

“Sure, but we were thinking, hey, y’know, maybe three or four or five of those PDOs over here on our side of the overlook...”

“Agreed in principle. For that matter, a nice company of eight Whirlwind Mark II armored carriers might be even better! And some Land Raiders, too, while we’re at it!”

“Not that that’s impossible...”

“No, but also not the plan. The Farseer has a surprise. To that end, I’m putting up a thermonuclear plant to gather more energy.”

34:00 -- “Thermonuclear plant set up,” Agrabah reported. “Seems like maybe a nuclear center would go real well with that...”

 


“Agreed. But I’m trying to stay with -- one moment. Our first PDO up there is only at half health. We’ll talk about this later.” Pauel directed the currently-only-remaining servitor squad to go to its aid, while there was still plenty of time...

...and then a light from the sky began to shine and focus down...

“ORBITAL STRIKE!” a surviving scout on the other side of the gateyard rampart shouted into the vox net. The first shots rent a near-full health PDO apart; the shockwave blew back the hapless, heroic servitors. That was only the first of several salvos.

 


“Farseer!??” Pauel called, the edge in his voice inquiring.

“Yes, just in case, perhaps you should -- “

“Nuclear Weapons Platform, Agrabah, go! One of the upper strongholds should start on organizing more of relic research, too.”

“I think you will find your relic research station to be more -- “

“I’m sure you’re aware of how hard your own people are fighting past the gate now, Farseer. I’m making those preparation in case we need something less awesome than whatever you’re thinking is even more awesome than a Warlord Imperial Titan.”

37:00 -- “2nd PDO down! Others have been repaired,” reported the warrant officer in charge of monitoring and targeting the group. “No new ones to come yet?”

“I suppose we had better -- “ started Pauel but was interrupted:

“Here, Force Commander. Let this Soul Walker relieve you!!”

 


The gangly Eldar mecha leaped up onto the wall and hobbled around, dodging and returning fire; joined by other Eldar vehicles, too.

“ -- um. That will do, for now, perhaps. Thank you,” Pauel sincerely said.

“Don’t lose focus on your mission, Commander. That is all I ask -- all we ask, with our lives.”

“Noted. Pull up the plans for the relic research station.”

“um, boss, that gangly thing is, uh, walkin’ on outta there.”

 


One of the surviving stealthed scouts now felt, with some justification, he had earned the right to make that sardonic report in an orkan accent.

“...okay, current servitor squad, get in there and put up a new PDO. We’ll try to get five back up and running.”

“No good boss,” the report came a minute later. “They’re all shot up, and so was both of the PDOs they tried to lay down.”

“....start organizing the Superweapons in the Nuclear center,” Pauel ordered. “Agrabah, I want a Titan Assembly Bay put down as soon as possible.”

“Commander, the research station -- !”

“You want to tell me what we’re all out here bleeding for, Farseer?!”

“Not over a broadcast channel, no. Regardless of encryption.”

“Okay, you want to glide over here and try to explain it to me using gestures!?”

“...no.”

“Order stands, Techmarine.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #41 on: November 13, 2019, 06:56:12 PM
(Part 4 of 7)

40:00 -- Pauel was trying to decide if another three squads of reinforced servitors could try to put down another PDO, to join the remaining two, against the hellish fire at the gate, when he noticed: “I’m sure your people down behind the gate have seen this already, and just didn’t think it was necessary to report. But one of the major reinforcings panels on the final gate is down.”

 


An enemy EMP blast fried all the servitors, as they were trying to repair the fortified point. “Does anyone have good news?”

“This is Agrabah. Titan Platform almost finished.”

“That could be very good news!”

“We can start on smaller titans immediately, but remember our limitations.”

“Noted. What’s the largest single one we can make, under these circumstances?”

 


“The Lucius Pattern Warlord. That would be our only one, but...”

“...buy we might only need one of those. As a last defense of the gate.”

“Bad news is, we need the final Tier organized first to start construction. And 8000 each in energy and req to start that organization.”

“Almost there on energy. Already there on req.”

“Would be nice to have some orbital strikes of our own, while we’re waiting.”

“I’ll gladly authorize that. Put down a deepstrike beacon, Agrabah.”

“You,” declared Eria, “are wandering astray from the plan, Commander!”

Your plan. Which the enemy isn’t going to let you implement. That’s how it goes, sometimes.”

“No need to lecture me on war, human. I have been fighting -- “

“-- almost as long as I have, yes I remember.” That choked her off; she was young for a Farseer, and Pauel had fallen ten millennia earlier, during the Great Heresy. “I promise, I’m taking that under advisement.

Apocalypse Tier organization: divert resources and start!

 


“We’ll get a Warlord Titan out at least, Farseer. Or a short company of Land Raiders, which might fit better through that gate after it falls. I promise, the enemy will be impressed.”

43:30 -- Pauel had carefully chivvied the most recent servitor squad into repairing the fortified point, against constantly thrown artillery shells (and another EMP), when suddenly the roaring firestorm of weaponry down below... lessened.

It even could almost be said to have abated! Not entirely, but...

Glancing at his minimap, Pauel saw...

...no more enemy units marked on the map. Not in sight anyway.

Not in the gateyard. Or on the bridge.

“...um, any remaining scouts? What’s going on at the gate?”

“Sir, the enemy withdrew and sent in an Ultramarine Force Commander.”

“They’re setting up an another orbital strike!”

“No doubt. A soul walker is down there trading hits with him, trying to finish him off before... wow, the walker punched the Smurf Commander out of the courtyard! Or he backflipped away, just to show off -- tons of things were shooting at him, can’t say I blame him.”

 


“Just in time?”

“...no sir, beams are focusing in! Target’s the gate!”

“That’ll likely wipe the basic gate itself. At least it wasn’t the troops gathered behind it! Let me know if any of the other armored plates go down.”

“Well if it does, there’s an awful amount of Tau and Eldar ready to shoot through that, too, sir! Looks like the basic gate held, and all armor plating for now.”

“Commander,” that was Ka’los, “evidence suggests the enemy has grown desperate.”

“If they’re suiciding a Force Commander into the gate, yeah, that’s evidence, I agree.”

“We see signs, especially on our wing of the fort, that enemy groups are pushing up to try to remove our screening units.”

“So they can get airborne units in somewhere. Not a bad idea, under the circumstances. Can they succeed?”

“I do not think so. Or not yet. I gauge this as a probe, or a secondary plan, not a main one.”

“Any idea on their main one?”

“Withdraw, rest a few minutes, and return with any number of Baneblades.”

“Makes sense: divert resources temporarily for upgrades and escalation.”

“I have sent a cloaked ship to investigate this theory...”

“If only we had a superior escalation strategy,” Eria grated.

“If only,” Pauel agreed. “Too bad we don’t, so far as we know. Send up any jump-capable ships to keep them away from the gate. Counter-battery fire would be appreciated... ah, you’re already on it, thanks.” Plasma artillery arc’d over the current servitor squad from inside the fort. “I’m taking the opportunity to get six PDOs set up -- although the enemy artillery’s doing a bang-up job of slowing that down.”

“Rapid stealth recon complete,” Ka’los said. On his minimap, Pauel could see the quick little thing zooming back from the Guardsman base closest to the Tau side of the fort -- going over to take a position, cloaked, in front of some of the remaining gate shields.

 


Any incoming lateral enemy fire would have to destroy it first. Stellar bravery; Pauel would commend its pilot himself, across the service branches, if he survived this debacle. “Report received: yes,” said Ka’los, “Baneblades of various models are being constructed. Theory, confirmed.”

“Agraba here. 5th Tier organization will soon be complete.”

“Personally,” Pauel said, “I’m curious whether a Warlord class Titan can crush a Baneblade underfoot.”

“Starting construction, sir!”

“Commander. Force Commander.”

“Busy preparing for a final stand, Farseer.”

“Your leader, Prester John, trusts my plan. I dare not say more. I dare not whisper it.”

“They aren’t going to let me do that, Eria.”

“You may set up one of your largest Titans, Commander Pauel. And I will be duly impressed.

“They will sooner or later set up five just as large. And I will be wishing we had something more.”

“...we can retreat through your webway gates any time. Or at almost any time. This would be a fine opportunity to withdraw more troops, safely, than under a heavier assault,” Pauel suggested.

“If we do that,” she said,

“...they will win.”

“That happens.”

“Have you forgotten? They are broadcasting live, across the system, and also across the galaxy! All will see that there is no reason to think about another way, a better way. A way that leads to peace instead of only dissolution into grim darkness.

“Also, if we leave, they will stay, and not turn this world into a lifeless grave --

“ -- and then the unknown C’tan will awaken.”

“... ........

“...all Legion officers, I want clear withdrawal plans set out, immediately, to reach escape routes.

“Agrabah:

“cancel the Titan. Set up the Emperor’s Armory.”

“...as you command. Resources diverting.”

“You think we still have time, Farseer?”

“...I don’t foresee that we don’t, now.”

“That’ll have to do.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #42 on: November 13, 2019, 08:36:14 PM
(Part 5 of 7)

“...uh, boss? Enemy arty and orbital strikes have scotched all our PDO plans. Again.”

“So noted. I don’t suppose you’ve got an Ion Cannon set up in your side of the base yet, Ka’los?”

“No, we have been busy on other matters.”

“Understood.”

“I have deployed a Void Spinner super-heavy artillery craft to guard our side of the gate wall, commander. With another one in reserve,” Eria voxed.

“Understood! -- thanks, that’s ultra-helpful!”

 


{Gamenote: those things can spit out plasma artillery shots at a rate of about 2 per second! Also pictured, my last nearly dead PDO. Counterbattery fire pulped it along with the three servitor squads trying to repair it, 30 seconds later. F for respects.}

“I have also sent a volunteer harassing force beyond the gatebridge,” Eria added. “They will probably not return alive.”

“...understood.”


48:30 -- “Emperor’s Armory, ready,” Agrabah voxed.

 


“Sending codes that we have recovered from your computers far below,” Eria said.

“Ultramarine Land Raider at the gatebridge.”

 


“So,” Pauel inferred with something similar to relief, “they won’t be sending a Legio Titanicus at us. Just a swarm of Land Raiders. Along with a swarm of Baneblades.” It wasn’t very similar to relief...

“Any of the others might still outclass you on Titans. Outclass us,” Eria emphasized, “all together. Please begin processing code for the project of a hexadecimal number I am sending you.”

“...does this project have a nifty name?”

“No.”

“Project No, then! -- I kind of like it alread... THIRTY THOUSAND REQ AND ENERGY?!”

“You would be far more than halfway there already, Commander, had you -- “

“ -- stayed focus, of course.”

“ -- had you trusted Ka’los and I to hold the gate for you.”

“... .....Okay, Tier V rates can be instigated, but that’ll cost a lot of what we’ve already got...?”

“My calculations,” Ka’los said, “suggest that we will reach the goal sooner if we spend those resources now.”

“Done. We’re starting from around 2000 each now. I will ignore the gate as much as possible so as not to be distracted. Some of the fortified points back here -- all of them actually -- have never gotten fully upgraded, so their requisition rate isn’t as good as it could be. The nuclear power plant and all my plasma generators can punch out rates a lot faster than my requisition right now, so I’m going to dump energy from the reactor into supercharging req. That will give me what I need to upgrade the req points, all of them. Agrabah: as soon as you can, set up a second thermonuclear plant.”

“Sir, I notice this project won’t be using relic resources directly...”

“Yeah, we spent a ton of resources we can’t get back, increasing what we can squeeze from this point. We might have been warned about that.”

“You might indeed have been,” Eria agreed.


55:30 -- “Lots of Eldar vehicles up on their side of the gateway wall, boss. Not so many Tau on our side, currently.”

 


“We are concentrating elsewhere,” Ka’los explained. “Including behind the final gate. Where, I assure you, we can shoot very well through the single gap.”

“Hm.” Pauel rubbed his chin in thought, wondering with a small part of his mind if he could grow a beard now. “I could send three servitor teams around to that side, see if they can set up some PDOs...”

“You are just now one third of the way to your goal, Commander Pauel,” Eria reminded him.

“They don’t cost a lot. I’ll shift the squads over there, just in case.”

57:00 -- “What are you doing, Commander?”

“They might as well at least cap the point! It hasn’t had a listening post on it for almost an hour now: that’s a loss of requisition rates.”

 


“Upgrading it won’t be a waste of time, I agree,” said Ka’los, “as long as the enemy doesn’t destroy it afterward.”

“See?!”

Eria sighed. “Almost 43% gathered. My forces -- our forces -- are fighting successfully to keep the enemy away from the gate. Sacrificially. Don’t be distracted.”

“Any Baneblades yet?”

“...no.”

“They’re saving them for a push. You’re going to need all the firepower you can get at the gate.”

“Numerous Terminator Ultramarines deepstriking into the courtyard, boss!”

“I’d better lay down five PDOs.”

“COMMANDER!”

“Maybe six.”


57:45 -- “Orbital strike on the PDzzzzzzzz....” Pauel palmed his face, as his current servitor squads died on the wall. His final scouts had been there, too. Apparently no infernal deal for immortality after all...

 


“I would say I told you so, but most of my guards behind the gate, along with Tau, were also hit with a massive electromagnetic pulse. We will need some time to recover,” said Eria.

“We do have a couple of orbital satellites of our own in the sky, now...” Agrabah suggested.

“You need the help to hold, Eria. Do it, Agrabah.”

“Orbital bombardment AND an orbital strike! Eat flaming death, sirs.”

{Gamenote: alas, I was literally too busy trying to stay in the game, to watch the results on the enemies gathering past the first gate!}

“...back to 43% complete,” grated Eria.

“And now we might last till completion, Farseer.”



JasonPratt

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Reply #43 on: November 13, 2019, 09:49:34 PM
(Part 6 of 7)

“Boss! It’s {cough} me! Escaped most of their orbital blast, got vox’d down by the EMP though! Unpacked PDO survived as well! -- I took shelter under it!”

That had to rank as some kind of miracle, Pauel thought, but he sure wasn’t going to complain about it... “Gate no longer has its basic structure, only the armor plating!” the lone surviving scout reported.

“More for us,” said Ka’los, “to shoot through, I think you said.”

So they did.

 


59:20 -- “First PDO up on our side, woo! Amazing sound and light show down in the pit there, boss! Glad to have something to stand behind for once, peeking down! Repairs to the Fortified Point and its gun, also complete!”

“You know what would be better than a PDO, sergeant?”

“A second PDO, boss?”

“I can arrange that! Fortified post upgrade almost finished...” Hard crumps poomfed over the vox channel.

“Servitor squad mostly pulped by a wicked barrage here, boss.”

 


“So noted. PDO package still there?”

“So far.”

“Lining up servitor group number... thirty-seven?!”

“Halfway complete on the energy. Back to 43 percent on the requisition,” Eria sighed.

“You do see that giant red blob on the map outside our gates...”

 


“YES IT’S LIKE OUR LITTLE GIANT BLUE BLOB ON MY... on my own map. Commander. Please don’t lose focus.”

Hearing the Farseer shout had been a novel experience. One that Pauel wasn’t eager to repeat. “...we, uh, may not add a 3rd PDO yet. But let’s try not to lose the 2nd before it’s unpacked, okay?”


1:01:45 -- “This is Agrabah. 2nd PDO completed, Commander. Repairs on 1st PDO underway.”

“You don’t have to whisper, Techmarine. I’ve got you on a specially secure channel. I can barely hear you over the firefight down there as it is. ...see anywhere you’d like to put a 3rd PDO?”

“Yes, sir, I do!”

“Permission granted.”


1:03:30 -- “This is Agrabah. Ultramarine Land Raider Ares destroyed while it was trying to retreat! 3rd PDO landed the kill shot.”

 


Considering the volume of Eldari and Tauian fire that had been engulfing the area, Pauel thought that report to be improbable; but on the other hand, the Vol Legion now had three PDOs once again active over the gatehouse and bridge!

“Almost 61 and a half percent complete, Commander Pauel. On the energy. Requisition continues to lag behind.” Eria sounded strained, and she hadn’t even had to be in any of the fighting directly yet. Pauel hoped that she had invested in bringing up her best tactical gear, just in case.

“I’ve noticed the difference and I’m trying to balance the amounts better now, Farseer. Try not to worry, I have a plan.”

“...does your plan,” Agrabah asked, “involve the fact that PDOs cost a lot more energy than requisition, sir?”

“Good guess, Techmarine!”


1:05:00 -- “This is Agrabah; six of the ten gateshields are gone.”

“Lots more holes for the shooty boys to shoot through, sir.” Pauel wondered if the surviving scout sergeant had made some infernal pact for immortality. In his experience, that wasn’t only an appreciative joke...

4th PDO,” coughed the Techmarine in addition. “Putting a Lascannon up there now.”

“With the gate almost in shambles,” stated Ka’los, “I have directed my crisis suits and some other infantry out onto the bridge. I wish to register gratitude for so much Volunteer Marine firepower supporting our advance.”

 


“Noted,” Eria noted, with almost no trace of a sigh. “Two thirds of the way, in energy.”


1:07:00 -- “Sir, Agrabah. I beg to report that the backfield servitors have been... lax...”

“Did you forget to order them to set up that second thermonuclear generator, in your haste to get up on the wall?”

“That is a distinct possibility, sir. I might not be able to recall.”

“Don’t tell the Farseer.”

“...she, uh... She’s directing the construction of a webway command center, over between our main Stronghold and the nuclear weapons center.”

 


Pauel winced. “Farseer!” he cheerfully voxed. “I greatly appreciate your plan to shield our most valuable buildings, or some of them, with your cloaking technology!”

“Noted,” she replied, with barely a trace of a growl. “I see you have started the second generator at last. ...Requisition has caught up to two thirds? -- but energy has lapsed back to 16000?!”

“Oh, that was my plan, Farseer, ma’am. Lady. Highness!” said the Techmarine. “I dumped a lot of energy from the first reactor into supercharging the requisition rate. By my calculations, the two reactors together will catch up around the target mark.”

“Reasonable,” she allowed. “I may send you a commendation later. And some advice on your future.”

“...n... not really necessary, but thank you, Lady Farseer.”

“I may insist.

“Ahem,” Pauel coughed. “I have just capped our other, rightward requisiton point above the gateyard again; which perhaps we may finally keep this time. Pursuant to that, on my command authority I have detonated the remaining plating across the middle of the final gate opening, so that if either of you have some larger infantry units, let us say, you want to send through...?”

“...our elite infantry, together... with your turret support,” she firmly acknowledged, “looks to be keeping the enemy out for now. But thank you. And thank you, sincerely, for your support on the wall.”

“More PDOs on the way!” the Force Commander brightly announced.

“I shall restrain myself from having a heart attack from not-surprise. Men --” her vox cut out abruptly but a little too late.

“Sorry? I couldn’t quite catch that last vox. Watching those other two pieces of plating go down is surprisingly satisfying, though!”

“They were practically worthless anyway, where they were. So, be satisfied,” she said, more serenely.

“Boss, you enjoying watching a stream of elite Tau and Eldar surge steadily out in an offensive assault as much as I am?!”

 


 


{Gamenote: mere photos cannot depict the relief I felt that the mass of Eldar and Tau behind the gate had not only survived without being zorched by any of the five opponents, but were now flowing out into the battlefield!}

“Yes, sergeant, at least as much! But you know what would be better?”

“Five or six more PDO’s on the rightward side of the gateyard wall?”

“Just in case.”

“Twenty-three thousand requisition,” reported Eria, only slightly less serenely.


1:14:30 -- “Thirty thousand energy,” Eria reported. “Requisition close. Our combined sally to try to stop the Baneblade factories failed, with many casualties. But at least the enemy has been pushed from the gate, for now.”

“How goes your secondary push to keep the enemy’s left side distracted?”

 


“Faring better, much to my surprise. Not accomplishing anything constructive, but we’re keeping their resources tied up with some effectiveness.”

“I am genuinely unsure,” said Ka’los, “what the Ultramarines are planning. However, I think they didn’t invest wisely in relic efficiency, and have wasted what little they could get on Land Raiders already. We are staying out of firing range of their base, just to be safe. They might have reserved one.”

“They don’t need relics to cover us in Terminator companies, given time and opportunity,” Pauel said. “Farseer?”

“Resource targets complete,” Eria announced. “And... I must admit, perhaps this timing was best, in its own way. We still need the help to win, but we don’t look desperate. I don’t think they expected us to break their assault and counter-attack, even as fruitlessly as this.”

“The live broadcasts are continuing,” a comms officer verified. “But some time ago, they, um, rephrased their withdrawals as having completed the destruction of our main force, and giving their troops a rest before deploying for...”

“ENEMIES OF THE IMMORTAL EMPEROR, HEAR ME!” The voice seemed to radiate from the heavens. “YOU HAVE COME HERE TO DIE!”

“...might not be just rephrasing,” Pauel muttered.



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Reply #44 on: November 14, 2019, 07:13:12 PM
(Part 7 of 7)

“THIS IS A PROCLAMATION, SO THAT ALL WILL KNOW THE TRUTH OF THE COMING VICTORY!”

“I have teleported to your relic study... place,” Eria growled a moment in her own language, “if you will open the doors!”

“A flustered Farseer, not a good sign...” Pauel was snapping his fingers, but an underofficer was way ahead of him.

“ -- AND ALSO SHALL KNOW TRUE FEAR, TRUE DEFEAT! NONE SHALL STAND WITH YOU, JUST AS NONE SHALL STAND AGAINST US!

Sister Tereza strode into the command center, unarmored and unarmed. “...I didn’t think you would need me yet..?”

Who is this ‘nun’ who shall stand against you?!” Pauel quirked a grin, though nervously.

“What’s happening? Are we losing?!”

“They think so,” Ka’los voxed. “More than a little confidently.”

“JUST AS YOU SHALL BURN TO ASH, SO ALL MUST KNOW THAT WE ARE WILLING TO GIVE OUR LIVES FOR THE SAKE OF THE GLORIOUS EMPEROR! AND YOUR DEFEAT SHALL BE THE SEED, AND FORESIGN, OF OUR ULTIMATE VICTORY HERE IN THE CADIAN SYSTEM!”

Pauel jerked his head around to the door, by reflex: “...Tereza, you need to leave, everyone with her! Emergency retreat, at once!

“I think they’re planning to drop the Exterminatus while their forces are still on the ground!!”

“NOW BURN, BURN TO DUST, AND TASTE YOUR FINAL DESPAIR!!!”

People in the command center were rushing to reach the door. Tereza hadn’t budged, but stood aside, saying quietly as Pauel approached, trying to give some order to the crash evacuation...

“I accept my death. For all I did.”

“You chose a new name of ‘harvest’,” Pauel declared, seizing her by the shoulders. “Lead them below, some might be saved, lead them to -- “

-- light had started glowing around them --

“Too late,” she shook her head, looking him clearly in the eyes.

“If we both must die,” she said --

-- the light appeared to be growing from within the air itself --

-- “I’m glad to be with... ...you?”

Pauel almost couldn’t notice the puzzlement on her face; partly because his mind was trying to process what she said, what she meant --

-- and partly because he himself was looking around in equal puzzlement.

By now the light should have increased the temperature far beyond bearing; if they could see it already, within the stronghold, then surely their eyes should have melted already, too...?

“Everyone!” Pauel clapped his gauntleted hands three times. “Please proceed in an orderly manner to your originally planned withdrawal points. Do not panic; this is not an attack. But I believe our time on this planet has ended.

“I don’t really know what’s happening,” he admitted to Tereza more quietly, whose glowing face looked just a little panicked... now that she might live??! “But obviously, this isn’t -- “

The room shifted. Or rather the ground.

Only a little, but noticeable, even within the solidity of the Stronghold.

Tereza twitched her lips in more surprise, and then arching an eyebrow said, “So... did the ground also move for -- ?”

“ATTENTION IMPERIAL FORCES:”

Just as loud or louder, and yet calm contrasted to the previous rising frenzy.

THIS IS PRESTER JOHN.

“YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF ME.

“YOU MAY HAVE ALSO THOUGHT THAT I WAS ON THE SURFACE BELOW.

“BUT I COMMAND THE ARISEN CRAFTWORLD ALAPH!”

“YOU MAY PANIC NOW. BUT I DON’T RECOMMEND IT.”


“This,” said Farseer Eria, as she teleported into the room, upon a glyph she had woven for that purpose, kept clear for any such arrival, “is why I didn’t dare to speak aloud about our plan. Too many ways to listen; then they would have prepared.

“Now they will not be prepared!” And she placed her hands on her hips in triumph, over her battle skirts. “’Depths of despair?!’ Feh. I am Eldari. We have eaten despair at every meal for eons.

“Now no more!”

She nodded, and strode to where Pauel still stood with Tereza. “I have foreseen it,” she explained. “Not this, specifically. This was only a plan. But I know where this should lead.

“Impressed yet?”

“Ah...” Pauel closed his mouth.

“Yes,” voxed Ka’los. “Should we still be withdrawing?”

“With some haste, yes,” she said. “But you may do so with some order. My people are setting temporary webway gates around the central courtyard, and... yes,” she put a hand to one ear of her helmet, “also now in the Tau courtyard. We will evacuate to the Craftworld.”

Pauel raised a finger. “The light was the primal webway gate.”

“Of course.”

“You used it to bring our Craftworld directly into orbit.”

“This was planned long ago, in the first age -- not exactly for this, but in the event the Necrons awakened past the dampening influence exuded by these special webways, yes: a Craftworld could follow the beacon to precisely the vectors necessary for instantly achieving orbits of various sorts.”

“...the ground did move!” Tereza crooked a smile. “It wasn’t just us.”

“NOW THAT YOU HAVE PANICKED, OR NOT... oh, let me adjust the volume, that’s better. I really do not want to panic you, I promise.

“However, unless you withdraw your forces from around that fortress below my position, I will give them as much of a glorious death as they may wish. Except they’ll accomplish nothing by it. Less than nothing. I would prefer they survived, as well as you, to keep fighting... hm? Oh, you’re going to launch Exterminatus at me! Good, good, thank you: I appreciate your effort! One moment please.”

“...we should be leaving more quickly, I think.” Eria shooed them out the door of the now-abandoned control room.

“Why did you need the help of Imperial relic technology?” Pauel asked as they departed, with some alacrity.

“The Imperials had figured out this part of the primal webway purpose; and, alas, being clumsy enough to study vases with hammers, they had entangled the webway workings in a most atrocious mess of sloppy... argh, I have no words!” She sang of her frustrations in her language for a moment.

“By now,” I announced, “you’ll have noticed that your various virus missiles didn’t fail, so much as disappear. Yes, I can do that; the people who work with me are very clever.” I hoped the Imperial force could hear me grinning; but I was sure the cheering technicians could! “So, I’ll just be keeping all those virus bombs, hopefully not returning them to you. You brought enough for a second volley, I hope, just to be safe? We’re leaving behind a nasty mess of Tyranids down there. Fighting a bunch of Chaos demons. I really don’t mind if you glass the surface completely.

“Now, I would prefer if you waited until you evacuated your final forces down there. However,” I said, with some sorrow, “I also would prefer they not try assaulting my friends and fellow workers there, while they’re peacefully leaving. Just be patient and you can have the fortress all to yourse... but, no. I truly wish you would work with me.

“I see you stopped your broadcasting earlier. Was that around the time I swallowed your virus bombs into warp pits? Or before then? Well, no matter, I’ve kept the broadcasts going for you.

“I’m sorry in advance, to every family of the troops remaining down there. Your Empire only acknowledges power to be important.”

I shot ion beams, small nukes, and orbital bombardments all over the enemy.

 


 


{Gamenote: this is the ultimate Space Marine ability in UltApoc, actually called “Battlefleet Gothic”. Once activated, it randomly chooses an enemy unit-production point and throws a randomly generated number of superweapons at it. And keeps doing this, unstoppably, for the rest of the game; or maybe unless the activated superweapon center gets destroyed.}

“I’m willing for you to retreat, temporarily, at any time. Please, I don’t want to hurt you any more.

“Your Emperor and your Empire think that the power to cause effects is the only ground of justice, the most important importance, in all of reality.

“But that isn’t true. Power is only important, so far as persons are important. Power is only important to persons; and persons, any person, can do what all the natural universe itself, and any others if they exist, cannot do:

“We can act!

“We can introduce effects into the natural system, that Nature itself did not entirely bring about, determinately or randomly or both together.

“Fair-togetherness, fulfilled between persons: that is the most important importance in all reality.

“Don’t be deceived: there is no justice, other than that justice -- the one and only fundamental justice that grounds all reality!

“What I just did to your troops -- that wasn’t justice.

“That was only power. The power to cause effects.

“But I wanted to be just, for them; for you.

“And I still do.

“Therefore, I am going to take the first of my Craftworlds here -- not that I own them, I only command them -- oh, did you know I had more of these now? You’ll understand if I don’t say how many more. Yet. I’m sure you’ll find out later, but we’re making more all the time, so by the time you find out how many more such moons are working together now -- working with Necron, and Tau, and Eldar technology, and also Imperial, don’t want to leave out anyone...!

“Yes, once I take Alaph here, and leave this area, you can do with your planet as you wish, including recovering the survivors among your forces down there. Or, if you want to glass them, too... I could stop you, but I won’t. Because I would have to endanger or outright kill the rest of you, to keep you from killing them, your own people.

“Well, I see you’ve all now spread your ships out, so that you won’t present so much of one target to me, and so that you can hit Alaph from every feasible side -- as though you think I can’t defend and attack both equally well, from the surface of a sphere!

“But anyway, I, John, am not going to be here, when you-all get here!

“That’s a form of a very old joke, by the way. Too long to tell now, and all my people have now arrived, so: fare-well, however you fare!

“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again. Sooner than later.

“End of transmission.”

I jumped Alaph out and away into another portion of space in the Cadian system, much emptier, before they reached a distant firing distance for their longest ranged beams.

And cloaked it.

To wait.


They didn’t rescue their own surviving forces, before they launched their spare Exterminatus package of virus bombs and such.

I suppose they thought it was the only way to be sure.