Big Game VI – Chapter Twenty One: Battle Joined
Octavius cursed under his breath as another of the makeshift bunkers his men had established erupted in fire. Surviving members of the Cadian 401st sprawled from the ruins, coughing and patting fires from their uniforms. Damn, but the enemy was good, refusing the western flank and catching the defenders in a pincer between south and east. Gorath’s men knew the craft of a siege. Those bunker kits had cost him all his remaining goodwill with the Departmento Munitorum, and the Iron Warriors were destroying them as if they were made of compressed particle board. Waves of Tyranid Gaunts exploded from artillery barrages, only to be overrun by fresh ones leaping over the wall of corpses their comrades had left behind.
Silhouetted in the dim starlight, Traitor Astartes tanks advanced with a roar that sounded like the wail of tortured souls. Crimson beams of death issued forth from an approaching Land Raider. El Capitan, the Leman Russ Vanquisher that had been the anchor of Octavius’ left flank, absorbed them all and came apart in a brilliant fireball that illuminated the twilight battle.
Not yet, Octavius thought to himself. He wouldn’t give that order until the last possible moment. He ordered men to shore up the left flank, as the rapid snaps of lasguns crackled through the air. Closer, the enemy came, seemingly ignoring the precision fire of the Cadian 401st. He opened the private Gold channel on his vox that led to Captain Edgard of the Azure Flames 3rd Company, Lieutenant Talon of the Angels Sacrosanct, and Princept Mandragoran of the Knight Titan Pride of Malkier.
“Eastern flank, condition Amber.” He said.
“Confirmed.” Mandragoran replied. “The Golden Crane flies for…” he cut off as another explosion rocked Octavius from behind. Shocked, he spun on his heel to see the proud Knight collapse.
“Southern flank condition Red.” Croaked the mechanical voice of Edgard. “Western flank Green, reporting Auspex inconsistencies.”
Auspex inconsistencies? What the hell does that mean?
“Tower entrances secure.” Talon voxed. Of course, they were secure. The Angels guarded each entrance with two towering Dreadnoughts.
Octavius switched his vox to channel green two. “Second squad and fourth heavy, redeploy on the triple to eastern combat zone.”
“KZZZZK-firmed, Colonel.” Green two replied. “Should we leave any… GOD EMPEROR OF MANKIND!”
“Report!” Octavius shouted.
“Giant Xeno monster just emerged from the regolith, sir! It must be at least twenty meters… SWARMS! Gaunts incomi…” the signal cut abruptly. Panicked, Octavius switched back to the Gold channels.
“…dition RED, repeat, western flank condition RED.” Edgard croaked. “Multiple Xenos incoming.”
“Finally.” A voice that held the weight of millennia crackled over the vox.
“No! Brother Abraham, we must hold the doors!” Talon shouted.
“Lecture me not on sieges, boy.” The voice Talon had called Abraham replied. “Brothers! War calls the dead to serve! Let the Angels Sacrosanct answer! FOR SANGUINIUS!”
Octavius heard that cry over the vox, then echoing through the air. A shrill roar answered, as a squadron of three Eldar fighters zoomed overhead. They performed a nimble flip-turn as they made a strafing run on the Traitor Astartes tanks coming in from the east. As they fired, they tumbled like leaves, then gracefully rolled to one side and barely missed the monolithic form of the Omega Station Command Tower.
“Emperor be praised…” Octavius whispered as the Eldar fighters continued their attack run. The Xenos has bought them a few moments, but only a few. The implacable enemy advance would not be stalled for long, and even He on Earth could not help them if that bastard Gorath made good on his plans…
Irruit sighed in ecstasy as the Brightlances of the unfamiliar Nightwing at his command ate into the primitive boxy vehicles of the mon-keigh. Once, he would have exulted in spilling blood, excited that slaves would be forthcoming. But he served a new mistress now, and she had entrusted him with a task. Clear the skies, the Yvraine had ordered, and so Irruit and his squadron would. He suppressed a shudder as he considered his wingmen; both had recently been followers of the limiting paths of the Craftworlds. Now, all of them served a new and terrible god that would bring glory to the guttering light of the Eldar.
“Ahead, enemy aircraft.” Gaerradh said.
“Are you sure?” Aeson replied. “It appears to be some sort of floating root vegetable.”
“Such harsh words, brother.” Gaerradh chuckled. “At least root vegetables supply needed nutrients.”
“Then his metaphor is apt, for it shall sate my hunger.” Irruit cut in. “Come about to put the rising sun on your left aileron. Select targets at will, but the aircraft is mine.”
Bemused chirps of confirmation answered Irruit, but he paid them no mind. Despite serving Ynnead, he still felt the thrill of the hunt that had been bred into his bones. Though he may never see Commoragh again, he would feel it every time he made a kill.
Irruit shouted an oath long forgotten by his Craftworld kin as ground fire took his prize moments before he could fire. In a rage, he raked his Brightlances across the hull of a silver Land Raider. Disgusted by the taste of such slow-moving prey, his eyes darted in his skull, searching for a worthy target to kill.
A monstrous form writhed out of the ground to the west. Surrounded by a swarm of vermin, it advanced on the fortified positions of the mon-keigh defending the tower. Irruit swiftly turned, trusting his wingmen to follow, as he put the monster’s face in his sights.
Edgard grimly issued target priorities to the few Azure Flames that held the line. The day seemed lost. Movement caught his eye as a hulking form in black dashed toward the newly arrived Xeno threat. With a towering banner than flapped in the thin air, Brother Abraham of the Angels Sacrosanct thundered forward, followed by two other Dreadnoughts. Edgard did not know whether to praise them or curse them as they abandoned the doors and charged heedlessly into the chittering xeno horde.
The air in front of the charging dreadnoughts became opaque with glittering blackness as a cloud of beetles coughed from the bio-weapons of the Gaunts. The cloud enveloped Abraham, who emerged on the other side smoking and sparking, but no slower. Greenish ichor dripped from his colossal form as he unleashed a gout of fire into the invading Gaunts.
Edgard swept his attention south as reports came in of more Traitors advancing. A twisted mockery of a Crozius, held aloft, heralded their arrival. The ruddy reddish armour of the Word Bearers surged forward as the traitors marched towards the tower. Edgard called for a counter assault. The day was not lost. Not yet. And while one Flame still drew breath, it would not be.
Sporadic reports over the gold channel confirmed heavy assaults on all sides. Pouring from their ruined tanks, the Traitor Astartes charged towards the Cadian positions, spitting a withering fusillade of Bolter rounds. Huge winged Tyranids peppered the dwindling Guardsmen with crystals that shattered into toxic plasma.
The Guard Colonel felt the ghosts of time begin to weigh on him. How many times had he delivered the command, asked the brave men and women under his command to stand firm against the impossible, to sacrifice themselves in a desperate defense? Too many times. He closed his eyes and forced the memories to evaporate.
This was it. It was time. No matter the cost, he would have to ask it of them, at least once more.
“Octavius to all units.” He said over an open channel. “Fix bayonets.”