Shas’Vre Velk’han Tsuaot flipped down his view finder surveying the imperial advance. The enemy had brought their full armored might to bear, smoke and dust billowing up from behind the scorched hill. As he watched the first imperial tank rolled into view.
“Open fire”, he ordered, and at his command the Fire support Cadre around him released a barrage of missiles towards the enemy vehicle. A second and third imperial tank appeared. Soon the entire horizon war red as a great wave of mechanized devastation rolled towards the Tau line.
When they had arrived at the starport thick woodlands separated it from the nearby city. Now a half mile stretch of burned ground separated the Tau position at the starport from the imperial line, dotted with smoking snags. The missiles collided with the first tank the early morning illuminated by the explosion. It continued to roll down the hill, smoke billowing from it as the wreck burned. From the molten wreckage came the Space Marine, red and black in the predawn gloom the light of the burning Rhino reflecting off their power armor.
Tsuaot quickly changed comm channels, “Pathfinders, mark the target,” switching again, “Warriors open fire.” The Fire Warriors to his left and right knelt and took aim, far to his left Tsuaot could see the red beams of the marker lights cutting through the smoke towards the advancing space Marines. Volley after volley of pulse rounds lanced out at the advancing Marines, several fell but the unit continued to advance without hesitation. As the enemy advanced they began to open fire, soon hot lead rattled past and over head. Tsuaot ducked behind a low wall as a white hot beam slashed out from one of the larger tanks.
The imperial line was a closing ground rapidly, the near constant barrage of missiles and pulse fire was taking its toll but the sheer weight of the imperial assault was more than the Tau could stop. “Steady, steady.” Tsuaot called out as the imperial forces neared. The Fire Warrior right beside him caught a slug in the chest falling back blood spurting from his fatal wound. Cursing Tsuat took aim at the Marine who had fired the shot firing a few rounds with his pulse carbine before ducking back into cover.
Michaelus rubbed his shoulder, his body ached, though the apothecaries had sealed his wounds and taken him from the brink of death he still felt weak. He had been encouraged by Apothecary Baldas to wait for his wounds to completely recover before rejoining the fight but Michaelus was determined, his nemesis would not escape. The hold of the thunderhawk shuddered, they were flying low as to avoid the flak coming from the Tau batteries at the Starport in front of them. He double checked his jump pack. Though he had made combat drops before it had been sometime. The death company around him checked their weapons one final time. Their sergeant stood calling out the drop order, they would reach the drop point soon.
He had spotted the Tau Commander amongst the battle lines walking amongst his troops. His heart had filled with rage at the sight, he had prayed then for swift and bloody justice and called upon the Death Company. The door alarms blared as the back hatch of the thunderhawk lowered, they were right above the Tau lines, howling the first Death Company lept from the ship followed quickly by his squad mates and Michaelus their jump backs bursting to life propelling them towards their targets below.
Michaelus frantically scanned the Tau ranks, where was he. He could not see him. The Tau lines had noticed them now. He saw pulse rifles turn skyward and soon blue pulse rounds sizzled past him. All around him the death company howled and cursed their enemy in a frenzy, they beared down on the Tau. The pulse rounds started to find their marks. Michaelus swerved violently to avoid colliding with a Marine blasted off course by a shot. Michaelus hit the ground. His brothers landing all around him, many simply colliding with the ground slumped and lifeless. Michaelus heart was filled with rage, it blinded him his vision blurred. To his left and right the death company fell their war cries cut short as they were gunned down. Michaelus lept towards the nearest Tau bearing his sword in the xeno. He spun incinerating the next Fire Warrior with a shot from his inferno pistol, turning again Michaelus found himself alone, all of the death company lay dying. Michaelus screamed out in agony.
The Tau were regrouping, a Fire Warrior knelt taking aim at Michaelus, before he could fire the Fire Warrior was enveloped in flames. “Captain,” Brother Drustorn called out. Michaelus could barely comprehend the words his mind still clouded with anger. “Captain!” The sergeant shouted at him. Pulse round whistled all around them. “Are you alright sir?”
Snapping out of his trance Michaelus realized that the main advance must have reached his position. Far in front of him he could see a Landraider crushing its way through the Tau line an unstoppable force, then he saw his enemy. The Tau Commander was high in a ruined building to his left. Michaelus barked orders, “On me, into the ruins! Charge!” He fired his jump jet launching himself through a window into the second story of the building. Fire Warrior were all around him he slashed left and right cutting through them, making his way straight toward the Tau commander. The Commander drew a sword as Michaelus approached him. They stood for a moment across the cold metal room from each other, Michaelus was covered in blood. The blood of his brother, the blood of his enemies. He raised his power sword pointing it at the Tau Commander.
He opened his mouth and from it came a cry, something visceral, a manifestation of his deepest rage. Then he leapt at his enemy, their swords met, they met again. The Commander was skilled for his kind, but not match for Michaelus, Michaelus parried a low blow then followed up with a cut to the Tau’s shoulder his power sword easily cutting through the xeno’s armor. The Tau commander staggered back, falling against the wall. Michaelus stood over his enemy he raised his sword…
Jila swore under her breath. They were getting decimated. Everywhere she looked her Cadre were locked in desperate combat with the enemy, many were dead, dying wounded. “Pull everyone back.” She ordered. “Pull everyone back!” She dodged left as another high energy beam flitted past her from the large imperial tank. It had crushed their line, try as they might the Tau weaponry just did not have the punch required to pierce the hull of that metal beast. Jila had connected several missiles from her missile racks into what she thought were weak points on the vehicle to no avail.
Her Cadre was breaking cover, all around her the Fire Warriors ran back, stopping from time to time to cover their brothers in arms. Firing off a few pulse rounds before continuing to fall back. Many dragged or carried their fallen comrades. “We are launching in 10 minutes.” Shas’vre Tsuaot voice broke over her private commander channel. “Get back to the ship Jila.”
“I’ll make it.” She replied jetting towards a nearby group of Fire Warriors who struggled to retreat while carrying their fallen comrades. She landed amongst them picking up two of her fallen men with her powered battle suit she launched back towards the transport. In two jumps she made it to the ramp leading up into the ship, setting down the wounded she jumped back towards the battle. Quickly taking aim she fired off a few missiles at the nearest imperial forces. She saw Shas’El Al’xo. He was high in a ruined building, as she watched some powered armored Gue’la rushed the ground floor of the building firing flamers into the windows. She saw a Fire Warrior run burning from the building he only went a few steps before collapsing. One lone Gue’la jumped from the rest into the building heading straight for Al’xo
“Get out of their Al’xo!” Jila jumped towards the building. Al’xo did not reply, he disappeared into the building out of her view. Jila rushed as quickly as she could towards the second story where Al’xo had entered the ruin. She made one last leap landing in the building.
Al’xo lay on the ground his sword grasped in his hand, blood seaping from his shoulder when the Gue’la had cut him. The Gue’la stood over him his sword glowing ominously in the man’s hand. As Jila landed the Gue’la looked up at her. In his face she saw a deep unforgiving hatred unlike anything she had ever seen. A powerful emotion, fear overcame her. She bent down in a flash picking up Al’xo and boosting out of the window. Pain shot through her leg and she tumbled off balance in thin air. Gasping she corrected with her thrusters and fired again towards the transport ship. The survivors of her Cadre were aboard, the rest were lost, everywhere she looked Gue’la and their tanks streamed towards the starport. A transport launched in the distance about 200 meters from the ground two beams of light connected with it and it exploded.
For a second Jila was blinded, she didn’t know which way was up or down. The force of the explosion knocked her off course. She fell hit the ground hard, Al’xo still clutched in her suit's arms. The transport was only a few meters away now. “NOW JILA.” Tsuaot again over her comm channel. Somehow she managed to right her battle suit she readied to fire her thrusters, warning flashed across her display, she was being targeted. To late she tried to evade. A beam from the largest imperial tank rocked her. It lanced through her armor, the battle suit slammed into the ground her displays dark. Barely conscious Jila fired the emergency ejector. The front of her suit opened and she spilled out of it. Al’xo was lying a few feet away unconscious, his leg was badly bent most likely broken, blood still flowed from his shoulder. A shadow fell over her. To weak to face her death Jila closed her eyes. She was lifted, opening her eyes her vision blurry she realized she was staring at Tsuaot. “Can you walk?” He asked.
“I think so she replied.” Leaning against him she tried to step towards the ramp to the shuttle. Pain shot up her leg, looking down she saw a large gash along her leg where the Gue’la must have cut her with his sword, she nearly passed out again.
“I need some help here,” that was Tsuaot calling to the rest of his team. She saw several Fire Warriors carrying Al’xo up the ramp into the transport. They were almost their. The air was filled with a blood curdling cry. With a crash the Gue’la with the sword landed behind them. His eye still burned with the rage Jila had seen he raised the sword above his head, aiming it for Jila’s heart. Tsuaot dove between her and the blade it caught in his side he let out a soft grunt collapsig to the side. “No!” Jila shouted falling on her bad leg, she desperately scrabbled with her pulse pistol raising it she placed three pulse rounds into the Gue’la’s chest, he fell away.
“Help, help!” Jila cried. Desperately trying to drag herself towards Tsuaot. He lay motionless. They Fire Warriors were all around them now, lifting them up and carrying them up the ramp. The Transports hatch closed behind them and it launched thrusters igniting it launched.
Lord Commander Achilus survived the report from his seat on the bridge of the Proclamation of Wrath. Hestus had been easily retaken. Maybe the Tau were less of a treat then he had originally considered. The Tau forces had only really put up any defense around the starport as a stalling action. According to the report some had escaped but many transports had been destroyed. The Tau fleet that remained was headed towards the nearby planet of Wrath. Achilus had long had his eye on Wrath, according to the records the planet was hospitable to human life and its location, near the warp ways made it ideal as a bastion against attacks coming from deeper in the Jericho reach.
The planet had no continents instead its land mass was made up of thousands of small islands ringing the equator, each of which could be easily fortified turning the world into a massive impenetrable fortress against the tides of darkness. The report ended with. Awaiting orders. Looking up Achilus beckoned to his astropath. “Send word to the fleet, they will pursue the Tau and take the planet of Wrath.”
Captain Lazarus stood on the bridge of his ship the Red Rage. The Emperor Class Battleship was near the front of the crusade fleet on their approach to Wrath. Tau resistance had been minimal, the warp way had deposited the Imperial starships near the Island world. Upon their arrival the Tau fleet was nowhere to be seen, scans of the planet revealed Tau activity across the central island belt around the islands equator, it seemed the Tau were trying to erect some hurried defenses. The war council had unanimously agreed to Lazarus’s pleasant surprise on an immediate all out assault on the Tau defenses. The ship vibrated faintly, they were entering the low orbit. In a ship of this size it was barely noticeable.
Brother Nammon Lazarus’ astropath spoke. “Captain so far the invasion is going as planned, the fleet is in position in low orbit, shall we commence the transport launch.”
“Proceed.” Lazarus nodded. From the displays across the bridge Lazarus could see the fleet spread around the planet. As he watched transport vessels and assault craft broke away from the larger warships descending down towards Wrath’s surface. Lazarus had no doubt that this invasion would end in a quick victory. From the reports he had seen the Tau here were even less prepared for their invasion then they had been on Hestus, easy pickings.
“Captain, unidentified ship signatures closing fast.” Lazarus eyed the displays.
“Three, five no wait.. There are more!”
The long range scanners flashed as blip after blip appeared on the edge of the display behind the imperial fleet. Lazarus frowned, was it the Tau? Impossible how could they be behind the fleet. It had to be something else, but that thought was possibly even more troubling. “Stop the launch.” Lazarus ordered. “Turn the ship around.”
The Red Rage slowly broke formation and began to turn. “Get word to the rest of the fleet order them to call off the assault we must engage this unknown enemy.” Lazarus instructed Nammon. Brother Nammon turned to his communication array quickly working to contact the nearby ships.
The ship next to the Red Rage the Winged Victory was launching its landing craft and assault boats when the ion blast connected with it. The bloody Tau Lazarus thought to himself. A flash of brilliant light off the starboard side of the Red Rage. The force of the explosion rocked the battle ship. Lazarus braced himself against a nearby railing as the ship shook.
“Activate void shielding, ready main batteries.” The next ion shot connected with one of the landing craft in a flash the troop transport was reduced to white hot debris raining down into Wrath’s atmosphere. Lazarus heart sank, hundreds if not thousands of men had been on that transport. In that moment Lazarus understood the trap that had been set for them. The Tau had lured them in with their minimal defenses, and now as the vulnerable troop transports entered the atmosphere their real force struck.
While not as heavily armored as any imperial vessels the Tau navy ships were notorious for their fire power, armed with powerful ion and rail gun batteries. As the Red Rage came about the full Tau fleet came into view, while small compared to the crusade fleet Lazarus was still surprised by the size of the Tau fleet. The sleek starships dotted the star strewn expanse in front of his battleship. As Lazarus watched the warships fired another volley of deadly ion towards the Imperial fleet.
“Target all guns on that Protector Class Cruiser.” The “Protector Class Cruiser” as they had been named by naval intelligence was by far the most common class of Tau ship the empire of mankind had come across. The Red Rages dorsal mounted batteries unleashed a punishing barrage of fire towards the nearest Tau craft. More imperial ships were breaking away from the planet strike formation not to engage the enemy.
The next hour was chaos. The Tau fleet hit the descending crusade where it hurt. Driving a wedge into the imperial formation. They came again and again strafing at the imperial grav shoot drops headed for the planet's surface and targeting troop transports and landing craft wherever they could. The air above Wrath was filled with imperial assault ships, escorts and fighters caught in desperate dog fights with Tau craft of all kinds. Breaking away from the main imperial formation the Red Rage joined with a group of Dark Son’s Strike Cruiser’s and mounted a counter attack towards the heart of the Tau fleet.
Try as they might the Tau weapons could not penetrate the powerful void shielding protecting the Red Rage. Larzarus aimed the prow of his ship toward the what he assumed to be the enemy's flag ship a colossal Tau vessel colliding with it. The reinforced hull of the Red Rage cutting deep the fragile Tau battleship. To his surprise the Tau ship was not destroyed instead the two starships were stuck together. The slim profile and proximity to the Red Rage made firing the the frontal batteries at the Tau ship an impossibility. Alarm lights began to flash on the bridge. “Intruder alert... Intruder alert.” Lazarus was stunned. Boarding action, where, for what purpose? Questions filled Lazarus mind.
“Enemy battlesuits are making their way along the outer hull.” Came the report, “Their headed straight for the void shield generators.” Dear god, Lazarus thought to himself, if the Tau are able to disable the void shield generators it would only be a matter of time before the enemy fleet destroyed them, though the Red Rage’s armor was thick Lazarus did not like their odds unshielded.
“Captain Michaelis,” Lazarus barked, the captain stepped forward from where he had been standing watching the naval battle unfold. Lazarus had been watching the young captain for sometime. He had been impressed by his successful assault through the Tau lines at the Starport on Hestus. When Lazarus had fought his way through the Tau he had found Michaelis, badly wounded but alive amongst two score Fire Warriors he had slain.
“Gather your men, go greet our uninvited guests.”