Big Game V – Chapter Fifty Nine: Grieve for the Dead Later
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Antonius ducked as three Hell Talon bombers streaked overhead. Fire bloomed in their wake, plowing through Space Marines. White contrails followed streaks of fire as missiles dogged the enemy aircraft. One exploded spectacularly, detonating its payload with a force that rattled Antonius’ teeth. Captain Ganendra had organized the remaining Azure Flames 4th company into a defensive line, which held back the oncoming Chaos and Ork forces, his orders coming in clipped, furious pace from the command bunker just southeast of Antonius’ position. If the line was breached, the battle for Julius was over. Antonius peeked over the barricade of debris. A shambling wall of horror approached from the north. Daemons, their numbers beyond counting; and behind them, the traitors themselves. Howling praises to their blasphemous gods, they came on behind a wave of snarling beasts and hideous mutated limbs. They were beyond Bolter range, but Antonius was tempted to squeeze off a burst, jut for spite. To the northeast, a black cloud of exhaust heralded the arrival of Orks. Imperial forces were outnumbered five to one.
The bombers made a startling flip-turn and came back at the lines. Antonius had his squad concentrate fire on them, but they were surprisingly agile, and evaded the bolter and missile fire. A huge payload separated from both, and Antonius felt his hearts seize as he watched them fall right into the command bunker. Captain Ganendra’s orders cut off mid-sentence.
“This is Antonius to all surviving Azure Flames! Bring down those bombers, at all costs! Tenth squad, concentrate Heavy Bolter fire at their undersides! Third Squad, move in to fill the gap in the lines where the bombs just fell. Grieve for the dead later. We still have a battle to win.” Squaks of assent came from the rest of 4th company. The bombers were brought down by shimmering streaks of fire, but it did not matter. The Orks had now caught up with the Chaos forces and were beginning to overtake them. “All Azure Flames fire on those Orks! Aim for bikes and vehicles. Seventh and eighth squads, break formation and cover our right flank from Ork survivors.”
The enemies came on, despite the hail of fire. They were about to enter bolter range. Antonius muttered a prayer under his breath, that his brothers be welcomed to the right hand of the Emperor, and be forgiven their failure this day. Ramshackle Ork vehicles wrecked spectacularly, and spun out of control, but the green tide came on, bellowing at the top of their lungs.
A shriek penetrated the air, for a split second. Antonius snapped his head to the Daemons, who had descended into a disorganized frenzy of movement. Shockingly, they began to dissolve into wisps of light, flames and black motes that seemingly vanished. In seconds, the wave of Daemons was no more. The Chaos Marines, exposed, began to set up firing positions without missing a beat. Antonius gritted his teeth, and commanded his men to sell their lives dearly. The Traitors may have won the day, he thought, but their cries of victory would be choked by the piles of their dead.
As he secured his last position and said a final prayer of deliverance, Antonius noticed a strange movement in the Ork lines. All at once, their charge faltered, and the hordes of green-skinned warriors milled about in confusion, many scratching their heads and looking around as if they had forgotten just what it was they were fighting.
Then, with a howl of rage, an enormous Ork pointed at the Chaos Marine lines, and the whole Ork army began to charge. Traitor Marine weapons teams attempted to re-align their weaponry, but they were too late. Completely unprepared for an assault from the side, the traitors were no match for the greenskins, who hacked through their lines in a mad frenzy of violence. The Chaos Marines were routed within minutes.
As the Chaos forces fled, the Orks turned back to Imperial lines. Antonius had not wasted the reprieve that the Ork assault had given them, and had ordered assault squads forward behind cover. As the Orks entered Bolter range, their center was bombarded, while Assault Marines, swooped down and covered the flanks of the xenos’ lines with purifying blue gouts of flame. Several dozen Orks made it to the main lines, and almost broke through, but Brother William leading several of his Dreadnought brethren counter-charged the greenskins and broke their resolve. The remaining Orks fled, leaving a battered 4th company under the command of Antonius, who heaved a great sigh of relief, and thanked the Emperor for such a miracle.