Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Raid On Pakeshi IV Part 1 - Planetfall

We have been playing a campaign in which WAAGH! Drillteef is assaulting key locations in the Pakeshi Sector in search of information leading to their ability to summon forth Tuska onto the field of battle. This story details the Orks' landing on the planet and their initial assault.

This Narrative Battle Report first appeared on Episode 28 of Masters of the Forge.

~ * ~

Captain Nedry Blaise hadn’t quite gotten used to the acrid odor of the Pakeishi IV chem fields. The atmospheric scrubbers dotting the region’s landscape worked day and night to counter the outgassing of chlorine and other dangerous substances from the world’s massive standing pools of waste chemicals. While the air was technically breathable, they did little to negate the smell and, nevertheless, many of the rank-and-file wore gas masks which they were required to purchase with their own meager stipend. They were not provided as standard kit, though, as the need for a mask was negligible if a soldier didn’t fall into the solid fog clinging at ground level. For this reason, hazard barriers and lights dotted the landscape amidst the rest of the monolithic machinery necessary for processing and reclaiming the waste materials from the system’s Hydrochloride operations.

Captain Blaise didn’t take any chances. He stood atop one of the tallest structures between the city and the vast wastes beyond the reclamation plants. From his vantage point atop the rusted manufactorum’s skeleton, he commanded a view of the entire battlefield. It wasn’t quite a battlefield yet, but Blaise had seen the pict feeds from orbit and the inhospitable plains beyond. Xenos had arrived on Pakeshi IV and probably the last type he’d ever hope for: Orks. He’d faced the damned things on Shatara when they overwhelmed that world from top to bottom. He’d worried secretly that his new post on Pakeshi IV might see further action against this insidious foe.

He had channeled those annoying worries into productivity. He’d drawn up numerous battle plans and suggested several simple preparations in the event of an Ork invasion. Imperial Commander Falkes had seen the wisdom of the preparations and they had been carried out, including several combat drills. Just this morning, during the briefing before their forces were deployed, the Commander had commended him on his foresight. The rest of the Captains and Corporals shifted uncomfortably when she insinuated that he may be up for a promotion if they were victorious.
To his left, in the northeast and to his right in the southwest, vast lakes of liquid chemicals stretched as far he could see with his magnoculars. The roiling clouds over these lakes were a constant hazard to anyone attempting a crossing. Invasion was unlikely from these vectors. Just the same, his plans called for low air support reserves to patrol the lakes and aid ground forces as needed.

However, in three places, spokes of dry land radiated from the city which is where all the waste treatment operations were held and also where the likelihood of attack was greatest. He had suggested that they’d do well to disable the atmospheric scrubbers along the Industrial Spokes. Commander Falkes was a reasonable woman in all, but was reluctant to do so; they knew how to turn the scrubbers OFF, but it was unclear as to whether they could be turned back ON again.
So, Captain Blaise held the Southern Spoke. He did so with a full battery of towed artillery and several hundred brave Pakeshi PDF. Although the artillery wouldn’t be strong enough to penetrate the tough skin of many of the Ork vehicels, thankfully, some of the units were armed with tank-breaking weaponry from the surgical Rapier Destroyer Batteries to a few dug-in Cyclops drones. More reinforcements were on the way. However they would not arrive before battle was engaged. In the distance, Blaise could hear the sounds of the approaching rabble. Their engines roared and they plowed through the pipes and run-down facilities with wild abandon. He could not see the approaching enemy, but Captain Blaise knew their vehicles were fitted with strong rams and dozer blades which allowed them to all but take the intervening terrain out of the picture. Blaise had learned one thing from the Orks on Shatara; they did all they were direct, but not stupid. At least, not in a conventional sense.

He’d never tell Commissar Strag that, however. Thinking such might be some damnable Heresy or another. And where WAS Strag anyways? Blaise had heard the man was a local boy, born to a minor noble house, and cast out on the streets when his Mother and Father were both killed in action in service to the PDF. After two years scraping by, he’d been found and befriended by a local Priest and shipped off to the Solar Progenium. Now he was back and he was quite well-liked by the rank-and-file. His bolstering presence would be necessary for the tactics Blaise intended to utilize.

As the sounds of screaming Ork war machines grew louder, Blaise began to think he’d have to make do without the Commissar. He muttered in his vox unit to Corporal Fibb, his artillery commander; one of the few men left of his original command. “Fibb,” he growled, “begin teaching lessons in the Emperor’s justice, if you’d be so kind.” Immediately, the world was full of the music of heavy mortar fire.

~ * ~

Zog knew he’d love this. He knew this would be the best day of his life. It had been a bit of a short life, if he was being honest to himself, which he always was. He’d been on the Kroozer Grishnakh for a few months. He’d been born there, but he did remember the battles on Shatara just the same. Of course, it wasn’t called Shatara, was it? It was now called Toof Throne. It was quite a good name for the boss’s new world, if he was being honest. And he was always honest after all. It saved time.

Sure, he’d fought against other Orks loads of times on the ship. He’d also fought Grots sometimes. Once, he even fought pink jellies that came in from the swirling colors outside the Kroozer’s windows. That had been quite fun, but nothing could beat today. He and hundreds of his fellow greenskins rode screaming chariots of rusted steel, belching black soot behind them and crashing through the pitiful human habitations. Behind them, Big Mek Dreadnutz’s clanking Dreads strode through the holes they’d punched.

Oh, the exhilaration! The joy! His blood pumped through his body in a rush, excitement and pleasure mixing to a crescendo of potential energy he could hardly hold back. And then it occurred to him that holding it back was pointless.

He roared into the toxic wind, his swinging chain held high, as the Trukk he rode smashed through another brittle human barrier, “WAAAAAGH!” Simultaneously, the rest of his mates had joined in his exuberant cry.

Then the cacophony began. Artillery shells crashed and exploded in their midst. Flames licked his face, but he and his mob were unharmed. To his left, he saw two Trukks explode and Orks kareen in all directions.

Zog and the boyz, at the queue of their Nob, Boss Blacktoof, readied themselves to launch from the Trukk when it stopped, so as to use the momentum to throw themselves into the ranks of the enemy. To their surprise, the Humans rushed THEM! They screamed, “For Pakeshi!  For the Emperor!” as they leapt from cover and then slammed into the hulls of the speeding Trukks and Battlewagons. Although many weedy bodies disappeared under the hungry, ramshacke vehicles, Zog noticed the Humans didn’t have shootas or choppas in their hands. They had explosives. In moments, he was surrounded by a blistering conflagration.

~ * ~

Big Mek Dreadnutz and the rest of his bodyguard tumbled out of the battlewagon when it was halted by the suicidal humans. Some of the boyz were pushed directly into the press of enemy bodies and were cut down by flashes of las fire and rugged bayonets. For his part, the Big Mek was not in the mood to wade in against weedy humans today. He pushed to the back of the crazed mob and leapt onto the lower leg of his newest creation, Voltrork, Krumpa ov da Ooniverse. The huge metal monstrosity lurched and swayed as artillery fire and white-hot beams of light glanced off its protective forcefield.

Dreadnutz clambered up and into the crew compartment. Three other Meks were in there, operating the machine while a pair of Burnas did their best with the huge Dread’s blister of anti-personnel weapons. He called down the periscope and took stock of the battlefield.

The Boyz were leaping from their wagons and trukks to engage the enemy. “Good”, he muttered, “keep ‘em back.” He, then, scried the enemy position. On the enemy’s left flank, a formidable castle of artillery festooned a largely ruined but sturdy building. This is where the artillery barrage was thudding from, as well as the flashes of heavy laser fire.  As much as he wanted to assault that position to silence the guns, Boss Drillteef (and, by proxy, Big Mek Dreadnutz) had no designs for the eradication of the enemy at the city borders. His only goal at this stage in the war was to push through the outer defenses and dash for their objective within the city itself. The center of the battlefield was filled with infantry, many of them brandishing special weapons he knew were quite deadly to his wagons and dreads. To his left, the enemy’s right flank, was softer, and comprised of a smattering of Infantry squads. That side was also blocked by a hulking building tall enough to provide cover to the Dreads and remaining vehicles.

Dreadnutz unhooked the Talker and barked his orders into it, “Boyz, hook left, around the big building. Leave them big gunz be. We’ll git em later!” He twisted a knob and pushed a blue button on the Talker’s console. “Oi! Fang Squadron! Break off and make ‘umie meat puddles fer us over ‘ere!”
Mek Barork responded from his screaming jet, “We’z comin, Boss!”

~ * ~

Commissar Julian Strag knew Pakeshi IV better than any other military commander. He knew its people, their weaknesses and their strengths. Before they were deployed, he’d done all he could to bolster the morale of the men and women who would charge into the Ork advance. He thought the Captain’s plan was a good one and the courage of the Pakeshi PDF would hold. But there was only so much the small contingent could do to hold off the Orks.

He’d seen the intelligence reports from the Ork landing sites. They were loaded for speed and the space transports had taken off the moment they’d dropped their cargo. What’s more, they’d ignored the rest of the planet. They just wanted this one location; a city which didn’t even have an official name. It was simply PLX-47 on the maps. The Orks weren’t invading; they had a specific mission in mind.

He’d taken the time to rush over to the makeshift Imperial Command Office in the city center, to engage with the Commander personally.  The conversation was heated. Many preparations had been made for a full invasion and it had cost them a great deal in time and resources. He understood her reluctance to abandon a strategy which had been long planned for. Strag all but begged the Commander to pull back as many forces to the city center as possible to defend whatever key locations she could.

Whether it was his uncharacteristic emphatic pleas or her own assessment of the situation, she had agreed.

And now Strag was riding within the belly of the only combat vehicle he’d been able to commandeer on short notice… a breaching drill. He’d hand-picked a squad of Pakeshi IV’s finest to accompany him and they’d raced for the front line just as the Orks were sighted only a few minutes from their Company’s position.

The battle was already raging when they’d dipped the vehicle’s nose down and activated its melta drill. The earth yawned open before them, turning from solid to gas in an instant. They would make it to the battlefield as fast underground as above. Strag hoped it was fast enough to literally undermine whatever forces broke through their defenses.

~ * ~

Captain Blaise was pleased with the battle so far. Even without the ministrations of the Commissar, the men and women of Pakeshi IV had proven themselves worthy of the uniforms they wore. They’d thrown themselves into the maw of the enemy without fear, and they had all but halted the Ork advance. Casualties were heavy. Many soldiers were flattened by the rushing vehicles and many more had been roasted alive by exploding Ork technology.  Worse were those without gas masks who had been knocked prone and were now coughing up their lungs. Still, the center of the battlefield was awash in close combat and the line held.

Better yet, reinforcements began to arrive. A Leman Russ Exterminator roared onto the battlefield spitting a quarter ton of hot metal at the enemy every six seconds. Throne, he’d grown to adore that machine. The Exterminator was followed by a single Chimera Tank which he ordered forward into the fray.

He allowed himself a moment to take a bigger-picture approach to the battle at hand. He scanned the horizon for more Ork reinforcements and saw none. Curious. On a whim, he scanned to the East with his magnoculars. He uttered a foul curse for what he saw there.

A massive Ork hydrofoil was whisking across the northeast lake. He couldn’t see half the thing because it was obscured by the Chlorine mists, but it was easily sixty feet tall and probably twice as long. A swarm of Vulture Gunships were chasing the monstrosity, trying in vain to topple the thing with their rockets and lascannons. He shook his head. He was helpless to do anything about it. None of the weapons at his disposal had both the range and firepower to damage something like that. He muttered a quiet regret about his chances for promotion and returned his attention to his own battle.

Captain Blaise noticed a curious thing. The Ork Dreadnoughts and what remained of the bulk of the Greenskins were shifting to the west, taking cover behind a large building. On his left flank, a single unit of scrambling, smaller greenskins were struggling with the remnants of the infantry line on that side, but all the other Orks were bending to the right. The realization of the enemy’s plan blossomed into his mind even before the Ork flyers screamed in from the south and laid down a harrowing swarm of bullets into the infantry on his right flank. The Orks weren’t looking for a fight just yet. They were trying to break through.  He engaged his voxcaster once more.

~ * ~

Zog wasn’t angry. Boss Blacktoof wasn’t mad either. These humans were giving a great fight and the Orks fighting side by side with him were crowing with the glee. When he decapitated the last human with a powerful swing of his chain, they laughed in unison and Blacktoof set to finding more prey. Before he could, though, explosions blossomed around him again.

Now THAT made them mad. “COME ‘N FIGHT YA WEEDY COWARDS!”, Blacktoof roared before several shards of shrapnel, both manufactured and organic, filled him with deadly holes.
And, so, Zog stood alone. The zeal for combat drained from him and was instantly replaced with an impulse of self-preservation. “Zog it,” he muttered, “Umies ain’t goin nowhere.” He turned on his heels and began to run. To his dismay, a squad of guardsmen burst from cover and began chasing him down, laying down las fire as they did. Zog dove behind a chugging piece of tortured machinery and it choked and died to a swarm of coherent light. He gagged a bit on the heavy, acrid air at ground level, but he immediately picked himself up and kept running.

He barely had time to notice Voltrork looming to his right before it opened up with all it had at the squad pursuing him. Several Humans were reduced to ash, but the remainder were unaffected by the deaths of their comrades and continued their pursuit.

If Zog was being honest with himself, which he always was, he would have said he was scared.

~ * ~

Dreadnutz shouted challenges into the Talk box. The enormous Dread repeated what he said, but in a massive, booming voice. In his opinion, big, fat warbosses were fools of the highest caliber. Warbosses could lead, make no mistake, but Meks had cunning. Dreadnutz, in the command chair of Voltrork, was the strongest and most deadly Ork in the Sector. No Warboss could stand against him when fused with one of his creations. Why, he ruminated, was it that so many warbands were led by such blunt instruments and not madboyz like Boss Drillteef and great generals like Big Mek Skar ‘ead? Or even himself?

He was not feeling confident about their chances. His brain worked differently from the common Ork. He could see the cause and effect of his actions. He knew they were in dire straits. He gave himself time to wonder if that was why Drillteef had tapped him for the command of this mission. Perhaps it wasn’t his ferocious Dreads. Perhaps it was his ability to avoid taking stupid chances.

Far off, on the opposite side of the battlefield, the Gretchin and their fool of a Runtherd accompanied by the dumbest Mek in his service charged yet another squad of Humans. They were actually not doing all that poorly, but they were serving no purpose. They were acting on instinct. That should give purpose enough, and normally it would, but Boss Drillteef needed a specific job to be done and throwing themselves into the enemy artillery wouldn’t serve that purpose. Dreadnutz almost wished they were within range of Voltrork’s weapons.

Making matters worse, Old Greg was lost. The Weirdboy was supposed to assist him in the location of their ultimate prize. Instead, he’d suffered an inglorious end in the blasted-out ruin they’d been skirting around. A mortar shell had landed directly on him and his unit. Nothing was left of them but random body parts and a blackened pool of gore.

No time to lament his misfortune.

He directed the Voltrork and the other two remaining Dreads around the building. The enemy’s firebase was directly to his right now, but the enemy was quick to pivot their guns against him, pockmarking the gigantic Dread and ruining one of its big shootas. He was not fazed. He ordered the meks to start working on repairs.

Then, in front of them, a mass of enemy reserves poured onto the battlefield from several ruins to the north. They had advanced up the enemy’s right flank behind cover. Now a wall of human flesh and armor-tearing weaponry stood between the Orks and their breakthrough.  Dreadnutz subconsciously calculated the odds. A few units still pushed in from the center and threatened their exposed right flank, so he directed one of his Dread bodyguards to engage them.

The dread hurled itself into the enemy and wrecked one of their tanks, tearing it open with massive, crumping claws. A few desperate guardsmen inside screamed in terror and squeezed the triggers hard on their plasma guns. Bolts of superheated matter blazed through the rent in the tank’s hull. One lucky plasma bolt tore into the Dread’s underbelly as it loomed overhead and penetrated the fuel tank.
The explosion was incredible. A pillar of smoke and flame erupted into the pale, green sky. Shrapnel plunked off Voltrork’s hull.

The last remaining Battlewagon, Dread, and Voltrork itself pressed towards the Infantry standing between them and their objective.

“Okay Boyz,” he regarded the Meks and Burna Boyz in the compartment with a toothy grin. His slugga was drawn in order to punctuate the seriousness of the forthcoming order, “Get out an gimmie a path of dead ‘umies.”

~ * ~

The Commissar began to hear the thud thud thud of artillery strikes above them. They were faint at first, but they invariably grew louder. They were on the right course. When he thought the moment was right, Strag ordered the pilot to breach the surface. The magnetometer guided their breach away from obstacles and they pushed through. He all but pushed his men out of the hatch.

All was cacophony. Artillery blasted around them. Rapid-fire bullets buzzed overhead. Blasts of crackling energy following them. He looked up to their source and saw it… a massive, multi-colored Ork monstrosity of huge proportions. He’d heard of such things before, but had never experienced them. He screamed an order to his team and they released demolitions charges into the behemoth while he tried to score it with his plasma pistol. It didn’t even seem to notice them. It strode forward towards the fragile infantry line.

“CHARGE! Charge that thing and bring it down! The greenskins are stupid creatures. Are you afraid of a lesser life form so devoid of cunning! Into the fight!” He burst forward and his charges followed him along with the Breaching Drill, its business end still glowing hotly.

They raced towards the beast. As they did so, a small squad of Orks lept from the front of the thing and charged towards the Pakeshi lines. Promethium flames and white-hot energy blasts annihilated guardsman and Ork alike.

There was no time to think of that. The huge Dreadnought had to be brought down. As they made contact with it, other Pakeshi infantry charged into a smaller, red Dreadnought and also the injured remnants of a squad of Orks clambering out of a burning Battlewagon.

The bigger Dread swung at his team ponderously, but with great effect. Single, massive swings with its left arm bludgeoned some of his men to death while the cluster of spinning blades at the end of it rendered others into piles of sick meat, including the Drill’s operator. The Dread groaned as it killed. And cackled. Yes, the beast did, indeed scream a tinny laugh as it tore into his men. Good men.

Part of him was enraged, but he kept that part of him locked away during battle. He did not let it control him. He bounded for the Breaching drill in two steps and manned the external controls. He barely knew what he was doing, but he pushed the throttle forward and pressed it into the Dreadnought’s leg. The breaching drill began to EAT it, melting the metals and cooking off the impurities. His surviving troopers were able to attach a few explosive charges to the beast’s other leg as well. They leapt back.

A number of things happened in the four seconds the Dread had in this world. First, Commissar Strag noticed a hatch open in the crotch of the Dread and a hulking shape dropped out of it. It was a big creature, probably three times his size. It was festooned with belts, tools, and pouches. He wore mechanical goggles and had a ponderous pack slung on his back and he held a curious-looking axe and pistol which seemed to both be decorated with all manner of pointless, rusted baubles.

The Ork saw him and smiled. Smiled! That rather shocked him, but the Commissar wasn’t too stunned to raise his Plasma Pistol. Before he could squeeze a shot off, though, the Ork leapt away as the explosives placed by his troopers went off. He tried to leap out of the way as well and he did avoid the slowly toppling Dread itself, but the shockwave rolling from one side of the Dread to the other caused the molten metal streaming from the monster’s leg to vibrate and burst out out, splattering Strag with searing clumps of pure pain.

In spite of himself, he screamed. He screamed for what seemed like an eternity before the sweet release of unconsciousness took him.

~ * ~

Humility was a good lesson for anyone to learn. From his vantage point, Captain Blaise witnessed Commissar Strag learn that lesson well. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite tell whether the lesson was wasted on a dead man or not.

No matter. His victory here was complete. Not a single Ork had escaped the battlefield. Not one. The explosion of the massive war machine heralded the end of all Ork attackers on the Southern Spoke as far as he could tell. Nothing but heaping bodies and burning wreckage remained. “Well done, Pakeshi 4-323rd! The Emperor’s light shines upon us. Flamer squads! Begin purging the Xenos bodies. I want nothing to remain of them but ash.”

He, then voxed his status to the city center HQ. Corporal Gray replied, “Excellent, Blaise. Now get your damned troopers into the city. We’re under attack. Do not wait for further details if you don’t get any. I don’t know how much longer the HQ will hold. We need extraction for the Commander”
He cursed. The hydrofoil must have gotten through. He said, “Emperor be with you, Corporal. We will make haste.”

~ * ~

Zog ran and ran. He didn’t tire easily, but he eventually became aware of the uselessness in continuing to run. No one was pursuing him. He stopped and looked back. In the distance, pillars of smoke rose up. The only sound was the light breeze in his ears and the skittering of large, nasty-tasting insects. The air was difficult to breathe so far away from the human habitats, but he didn’t feel as if he was suffocating, though.

He was glad to have lived to see another fight and he tried to think of a way he could get back into the fray. These humans were the best he’d ever fought! Even though he’d never fought humans before, that sentiment still seemed to have value because he actually HAD fought humans before; on countless battlefields throughout countless centuries. This specific thought never really entered his mind, of course. He only knew he must fight. The urge was too strong to deny. He had to find other Orks.

He’d never SNEAKED before. And that was the truth. He never had. He figured today was a good day to learn. Zog began trodding back whence he came while munching on a dready supper of Pakeshi scorpions. Perhaps the humans would have moved on by the time he passed through. Perhaps he could loot the germinating corpses of his fallen comrades for some better weaponry. He might even pry a few teef out of their heads. Why not? THEY wouldn’t be using them.

Before he’d even taken his fifth step towards the city, his brain began to hurt. So much hurt in the brain was a well-known sensation to him. He’d felt it around Weirdboyz. He stopped and grabbed his head, and tried not to double over in pain. The air around him seemed to suck away and he was breathless for a moment. Then, in a puff of ozone, a squeal of tortured reality, and a green flash of light, Old Greg stood before him. And promptly collapsed.

The Ork was badly injured. His skin was blackened and peeling. He had at least three wounds where the flesh had been badly cooked off by las bolts. The Weirdboy groaned, but was not conscious. If Zog didn’t lift him up, Old Greg would suffocate and die.

He struggled with the decision for only a few seconds. Clearly two Orks were better than one and that was the plain truth. Only a fool couldn’t see that, and Zog’s survival had proven he was no fool. To celebrate, he decided he’d call himself Scragzog from now on. He picked up injured Weirdboy and threw him over a shoulder. Scragzog grinned. Yeah. There was lots more fighting to do yet.

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