Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Golovin III: Darkest before Dawn. Part 1 - The City Sleeps

Golovin III - Darkest before Dawn

Eron lay perfectly still, his camo cloak draped around him and covered in the dust of this world to better disguise his presence, its’ cameleoline fibres picking up the subtle shade variations and mimicking them to further conceal his position.

He could have sworn he’d seen movement in the building across the street. Nothing overt, but a flickering shadow within the rooms of its upper floor. He’d carefully taken cover within the bombed out shell of a building they were searching, staying away from the window and concealing himself within the room so as to make sure he was invisible from other vantage points. He’d voxed a warning to the rest of his squad, who had taken up covering fire positions whilst they established if the enemy were indeed present in the area.

He scanned the building once more, his enhanced Astartes physiology allowing him to view the building both through his rifle scope and with the naked eye at the same time, the detailed view through the scope supplementing what he could see from across the street. For a sniper, it was a significant advantage to be able to retain awareness of his surroundings whilst simultaneously focusing attention on a particular point.

Wind whipped through the building, unsettling his cloak and creating miniature dust storms as the air howled through the smashed windows. The city was abandoned. Hassendorf had once been a bustling industrial centre, but the Dusk Knights now prowled the empty streets of the habitation districts, undertaking a detailed search to find any signs of the Alpha Legion they knew had been here before the Indomitus Crusade. What had caused the populace to leave, there were no bodies remaining, no blood, no real signs of battle, simply a tired city gone to ruin in the century since the crusade had begun and the Dusk Knights had left. But Golovin was not an abandoned world - elsewhere its inhabitants thrived, but here they had simply disappeared without a trace.


Despite his mind puzzling the disappearance of the inhabitants, Eron’s senses had remained alert and the instant they had detected further movement in the building his consciousness had snapped back to the present.

Blue-green armour, moving quickly across an opening. Not close to the window but back within the room.

“Sergeant Alfredo.” He voxed, silently. The complex pickups embedded within his throat translating his silent speech into an audible transmission that was reproduced within the ear of his Squad Commander.

“2nd floor, the building to the north west of the crossroads overlooking Squad Primus. Movement, astartes plate.”

“Acknowledged, Neophyte Eron. Sergeant Reyes, movement detected to your left, suspected Astartes. Investigate.”

“Confirmed.” Came the growled response. Reyes was a veteran of centuries of war and an exceptionally competent Sergeant. No wonder he had been granted command of Hazard Company's prestigious first squad. Eron could see from here the power field sheathing his left fist fizzing and spitting as dust particles adrift in the breeze made contact with it and were atomised.

“Adolfo, Vito, Urbano, Santos, move and support, I’m going to investigate. Rodrigo, Lope, prepare for covering fire into the building, Efrain, Ulises, Marcos, overwatch protocol.

A series of clicks chattered in over the recon force vox net as the Initiates of squad Primus wordlessly acknowledged their orders and quickly moved into positions. Within seconds, the squad, which had been carefully picking its way forward towards the crossroads had redeployed, three battle brothers covering the buildings to the east, whilst marksman Lope and the squad’s heavy weapon bearer, the giant that was Rodrigo prepared to bathe the building Eron had detected movement within with bolter and grav cannon fire.

“Sergeant Custodio, prepare for pursuit protocol, Sergeant Gonzalo, cover the rear of building Alpha 926 on the north eastern corner of grid 3-5, possible hostiles, Sergeant Reyes is investigating, they may try to effect an escape.”

The Dusk Knights had spread a net over the city once they had made planetfall, the scouts of the 10th company Shadow Stalkers moving forward with the support of the 4th Hazard Company, securing their perimeter as each city grid was cleared and confirmed free of the enemy. Sergeant Gonzalo and squad segundo had been moving forward parallel to squad Primus to the north west, and would be in an ideal ambush position if there truly were Alpha Legionaries in the building and they sought to break out across the city to the east.

Suddenly, all hell broke loose, both across the vox and in the ruins within which the scouts lay. The building through into which squad primus were advancing exploded into life, loud bangs signifying the use of frag grenades, whilst the entire facade of the hab block within which Eron lay simply fell away, sections of the roof collapsing in on itself, burying two of his comrades before they could even draw a bead on the warriors firing upon them.

“Hostiles incoming” a hurried shout came across the vox “Throne, this isn’t a sentry force, we’ve got mechanised support inbound, Rhino APC and outriders. Auspex shows movement to the west also, no eyes on targets yet.

“Hold your positions brothers, support incoming. Death to the heretics!”

Eron sighted down the scope of his mark IV Ryza pattern sniper rifle, searching the battlefield for a viable target, when suddenly there was a livid flash, only his Astartes genhanced physiology preventing him from being temporarily blinded. Followed by a thunderclap of sound, as Eron pulled back from the scope, he saw a giant standing in the corner of the building that had not been there before. A giant in midnight blue, layered ceramite pauldrons decorated with crimson pteruges and a cream cloak swirling around in the eddy created by the displaced air rushing back to fill the gap left by the teleport flare. Drawing a combination melta from a thigh holster and sighting along the barrel through a broken window, the inspiring form of Captain Alvaro was suddenly present on the battlefield.

“Dusk Knights, fire on my target, bring down that Rhino!” and so saying, a coruscating beam of heat flashed from the barrel of the meltagun, ripping into the enemy personnel carrier, the insane heat causing the driver’s compartment to sag in on itself, the armoured glacis simply melting under the onslaught.

The Rhino came under a storm of fire, bolters, grav weapons and the chugging heavy bolter of squad Segundo all contributing to the fusillade. Eron himself, having failed to draw a bead on any more valuable target, pulled his sniper rifle in close to his shoulder, regulating his breathing and lined up a shot onto the damaged tank. Targeting the engine block that had become exposed by the melta shot from the Captain, Eron paused his breathing and gently squeezed off a round. His aim was true, and the shot smashed into the fuel line connecting the engine to its promethium feed, causing a flash fire in the engine bay. The personnel hatch popped, alpha legionnaires spilling from the transport, one of whom simply crashed through the doorway and collapsed to the ground, his armour still burning furiously from the spilled promethium that soaked its surfaces.

With a petrochemical roar, a squad of bikers rounded the street corner in the distance, riders gunning the engines on their mounts and loosing off a hail of fire into the building within which Eron was sheltering. With a show of marksmanship at a level beyond even that shown by his own achievements in destroying the Rhino, the bolters, mounted on assault bikes moving at incredibly high speeds down the rubble-strewn street, laid down a fusillade of shots, ripping through the smashed and broken windows of the building, peppering Eron’s squad with fire. He saw Juliano and Maureo fall, both of them demonstrating that even their heavy scout armour was not proof against the explosive charge within the bolt rounds directed at them. He started to their aid, but hadn’t moved more than a few feet before the corner of the room was blown out by a melta blast. Skidding to a halt, Eron tried to throw himself beyond the falling masonry, but a spear of pain in his right ankle told him he’d not made it. Looking down he could see his leg was shattered, several tonnes of ferrocrete slab crushing it to the floor. His vision swam with the pain as his enhanced nervous system tried desperately to counteract the natural responses of the human body as it tried to drag him into unconsciousness. He had no choice, staying here meant certain death, and though it would mean weeks, if not months in the infirmary, Eron slid his combat blade from its sheath in the small of his back, the oiled steel hissing as it slid smoothly from the polished leather. Gritting his teeth, he slashed the blade down at his leg, its monomolecular edge cutting cleanly through the flesh and bone. The pain was immense, even his enhanced system couldn’t dull it to a manageable level, and his swimming vision greyed, then went black as his sus-an membrane engaged and slowed all his essential bodily functions, the larraman cells of his blood staunching the wound even as his heart slowed, reducing the blood flow.

Alvaro watched, helpless, as the melta blast destroyed the corner of the building he’d been standing in moments before. The Alpha Legion were everywhere, where had they come from? One minute his forces had been scouring the city in search of a seemingly absent foe, the next they were close to being overrun. Over to his right, the heretic astartes that had spilled from the ruined transport were not cowed by the destruction of their transport, and turned their fire on squad Reyes, explosive ammunition and a flame unit swamping the building in which his Company’s first squad were taking shelter. He watched his tactical readout in his helmet update as no less than seven of the squad’s vital sign monitors blinked from green to amber and red. Before he had a chance to react, his vox bead hissed into life.

“Squad Alarico engaging, tactical sitrep requested.”

“Emperor bless you Alarico” he voxed back. “Push up on the eastern flank, support the survivors of Squad Reyes and hold that position until reinforced.”

“Copy that Captain” replied Alarico, “Lieutenant Anselmo is with us”.

Further to the east, Alvaro could hear the roar of more bike engines and the staccato chatter of bolt fire, punctuated by the heavier, hollow bass tone of grenade launchers firing. It had to be Squad Custodio arriving to reinforce his flank.

“Captain!” Came the urgent voice of Lieutenant Anselmo through the vox “I can see their Commander, engaging.

“Wait, Emperor’s breath, hold your advance!” bellowed Alvaro as he started to make his way east, but his path was blocked, the shattered building had deposited piles of steaming slag and rubble in his path and even his Cataphractii plate armour would need time to negotiate such an accidental blockade.

“We have them on the run sir!” came the voice once more, before the vox erupted with static, and Alvaro could only hear another fusillade of fire echoing round the broken buildings from that direction.

With a cold, steely determination, Alvaro swung his power fist at the nearest pile of rubble, smashing his way through it only to be confronted by the assault bikes he had seen earlier before the destruction of the building from which he was only now extricating himself. Roaring a challenge, he swept into them like some kind of primal destructive force, the power field surrounding his fist flaring off huge quantities of energy as it ripped through rugged mechanisms, splintering power armour and pulping the traitorous flesh inside. In three blows, he had reduced the bikes and their riders to no more than piles of spare parts and dead sacks of meat. Urging his armour to its fastest pace, he kept going, passing a pile of rubble only to be faced with the slab side of a second Rhino troop carrier. Lowering his shoulder, he charged bodily into its side, rocking it back on its tracks and slewing it around. It still blocked the street however and his way through. He could still hear fighting from the street beyond, and a triumphant roar that stuttered through his vox pick up that could only be his second in command.

Slamming into the Rhino a second time he finally made enough of a gap to squeeze his massive armoured form through, and watched on in horror as the enemy lord, his armour sparking in places and his back pack emitting clouds of smoke, sent a ruinous punch crashing into the side of Anselmo’s helmet, the head snapping round at an impossible angle and his body crashing to the ground, his arms and legs limp.

He broke into a run, his armour wasn’t built for speed but if he could catch the enemy unawares it would be like being hit by a freight train. He was dimly aware of the enemy troopers snapping off poorly aimed shots at him as he ran, one disappearing in a cloud of superheated plasma as his weapon overloaded, whilst a second plasma gunner caught him a glancing blow, the furiously hot splash of fire ripping into his side and causing him to stagger in his charge.

He barely missed a step, but it was enough, as the Alpha Legion commander whirled round on him, swinging a buzzing chainsword in a hail of blows. His armour kept out the worst of it, the combination of thick plates and overlapping energy fields shrugging off the rain of strikes his opponent launched at him. Even an Astartes couldn’t keep such a furious rate up for long however, and Alvaro contented himself with a defensive posture for now, waiting for an opening to strike. It didn’t come however, as the Heretic Lord’s chainsword found a join in the energy fields at his neck, its whirring teeth stripping through the plate in moments, sending a rush of blood over his armour and causing him to fall back in pain. Impacts scratched off his armour from all directions as the heretics accompanying the lord also added their weight of blows to the fight. Typical of the traitorous dogs, he thought, not even respectful enough of their own leader to let him fight his own battles.

Alvaro glanced at his tactical display, and he could see that further reinforcement at this time would be fruitless. His forces were scattered and wounded, and they needed ordered support to recover the position.

“Hazard 3-5, this is Captain Alvaro. Fire for effect on my position, 30 metre spread!” he voxed, before throwing off his attackers with a mighty shrug of his arms. Reaching out, he grasped the limp form of Lieutenant Anselmo. From his tactical readout he could see the Lieutenant was alive, but seriously wounded. He voxed one last order to his squads as he mashed his free hand onto the teleport recall command rune on his plate.

“Dusk Knights, fall back to grid Four-Gamma, Captain Iago’s position, and await further orders.”

With a blinding flash of light, the battlefield disappeared from his view, to be replaced by the stark lights of the teleport bay on the Dorn’s Vengeance and the concerned face of Apothecary Galeno.

“Get him to the infirmary, and get me a direct line to Chapter Master Regulo!” he gasped, the pain of his wound and the blood loss sending him crashing to his knees. “We need to find a way to hurt these heretics.”

- - - - -

So there you have it - I finally got round to writing up the first of the Golovin missions - hope you enjoyed the report, see the photos below of the forces involved and keep your eyes peeled for part 2 as the Dusk Knights and Alpha Legion both reinforce their positions and clash once more. Ryan and I both decided to reinforce as our after-battle reaction, meaning we would be fighting a tactical escalation next time.

As for injuries, Lieutenant Anselmo's enhanced physiology meant he escaped unharmed from the battle, as did the sorcerer he fought before crashing into the Chaos Lord. Sadly however, the damage done so Captain Alvaro would take longer to heal, meaning that for the remainder of the campaign, he would fight simultaneously with enemies when he charged rather than striking first...

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