Sunday, July 5, 2015

Shatara Lost, a Prelude to the Raid on Pakeshi IV



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. The first stage of this conflict is Shatara.

This Narrative Battle Report first appeared on Episode 26 of Masters of the Forge.

~ * ~

The remnants of the WAAGH! Drillteef flotilla prowled the Pakeshi sector. It was an ornery lioness stalking a cage, daring anyone to test its mettle. Of course, although these Orks had chosen to stay with Mad Doc, many of the warlords under his banner had done so only to bide time until they could ultimately assume control themselves. Drillteef had to strike fast.

Drillteef and his chief advisor, Big Mek Skar ‘Ead had grand designs within the Pakeshi sector which he kept secret from most of his generals, though it was really meaningless. Any fight would do at this point and he set his intentions on the Shatara system.

Shatara is a lonesome Brown Dwarf which roams the emptiness between the stars of the Pakeshi sector. Its only habitable world, Shatara I, lies very close to the little star’s dim, red light. The resources on the world and its dozen moons have been mostly played out, but are still a good source of souls for the Imperial Guard. Indeed, one continent boasts lush Deathworld conditions and is full of horrific dangers which produce some truly unique and deadly soldiers. The other significant world in the system, Shatara III, is a huge gas giant which has scooped a massive path in the system’s enormous asteroid belt. Both the belt and the world are mined for raw materials.

Shatara offers very little resistance compared to other systems in the sector and it is within striking distance of the I’aden sub-sector and the WAAGH!’s penultimate goal, Pakeshi IV, in particular. Drillteef knew that a frontal assault on Pakeshi IV would not be successful; the resistance would just be too great.  Instead, he intended to take Shatara in order to build a steady resource stream for the forthcoming campaign. After that, well, he told few of his advisors those plans.

All hinged on Shatara I, though. Not only for his tenuous hold on leadership, but strategically for future conquests in the region. Therefore, Drillteef threw every Boy, Nob, and Battlewagon he had at the world. The rank and file embodied their Warlord’s desperation and zeal. They cut a ruthless swath from city to city, taking slaves by the millions and immediately setting them to work in the Manufactorums. It hadn’t occurred to the local PDF to destroy or sabotage their own infrastructure until it was too late. They had no reason to, of course, considering their knowledge of Orks was limited to the close-minded teachings of the Imperial Truth. Only when the factories started churning out soot-belching monstrosities of Orkin design did the Imperial forces finally start scuttling their holdings before every retreat.

~ * ~

A traditional combined force of Imperial units defended the world for months, trying to stem the tide of Orks swarming them.  The order was finally given to flee the inevitably lost system and exact Exterminatus upon Shatara I, if possible. Unfortunately, Exterminatus now seemed highly unlikely due to the heavy resistance being offered by the Orks in orbital space. It was almost as if the Orks had sensed the impending fall-back and stepped up their swarm of Fighta-Bommas and Torpedo barrages.

The Imperium held a few Cruisers as well as a handful of lesser transports in a tenuous orbit above the last remaining defensive cordon. A small, but mighty cadre of defenders volunteered to hold the ground position in order to give the Imperial Commander as well as other high-ranking officials a chance to dust off to relative safety. This force consisted of several different sub-factions.

The group in charge of this operation were a small contingent of Blood Ravens who had recently been operating throughout the Pakeshi Sector. They were already deployed on Shatara I when the Orks attacked, though they had offered no explanation as to why. Throughout the months of fighting, they had grown dubious of Drillteef’s motives in the sector, convinced that there was more to the warlord’s motivations than pure conquest.

Bolstering their numbers was a mixed force of the remaining PDF and House Militia.  They used whatever prefabricated defenses they could to fortify their position, hoping to create adamant speedbumps for any advancing Ork vehicles. Rounding out the local guard was a venerated Shadowsword with its support team led by a Tech Priest.

The Shadowsword remained on this doomed world because no heavy lifting capacity could be found or brought on-planet in the end. Due to this, three Imperial Knight Paladins joined the last stand. The Knight pilots vowed to fight to their last breath so that their families and patrons might be spared. In all cases, the pilots of all these great warmachines were ordered to scuttle the vehicles before they were overwhelmed so that the Orks would not loot the vehicles for their own.

~ * ~

After receiving a report from by Kommandos from the defensive position taken by the remaining Imperial forces, Drillteef knew just the Ork to take out this seemingly-impregnable wall of heavy metal: Boss Wagonkrumpa. Wagonkrumpa was notorious throughout Ultima Segmentum for suffering from a lack of temper and ambition, yet was still a true terror on the battlefield, snapping into a crazed fury when roaring to war in one of his many kustom Battlewagons. Wagonkrumpa was one of Drillteef’s most celebrated and successful warriors and the blitz on Shatara was right up his alley - it wasn’t a calculated battle of attrition Drillteef needed, but a hammer’s strike!

Two squads of Wagonkrumpa’s best ‘Ard Boyz and another two teams of fanatical Tankbustas mounted their roaring Battlewagons and smashed through the city followed closely by a swarm of Trukks including Wagonkrumpa and his Nobz, a team of Lootaz and several teams of Gretchin (for managing the spoils of war, of course). They were also accompanied by one of Drillteef’s personal MegaNob squads jaunting about in their own slim Battlewagon.. Big Mek Skar ‘Ead, while he didn’t join this particular fight, donated a pair of Kannon Wagons for the battle.

In due course, they were screaming towards their quarry. Black exhaust trailing behind them and a din of roaring engines echoing through the broken ruins were their heralds.

~ * ~

The Battlewagons ripped through the skeletal remains of the little city. They were a cacophony of screeching metal, exploding masonry, and screaming engines. In the distance, a space transport was pushing itself through the air on a pillar of plasma flame. “FASTA!!!” Wagonkrumpa roared.

Nearby, on the other side of a fast, little river, stood the defenders. Three tall Imperial Knights stood as monolithic shadows under the sun’s pale, red light. The gray Shadowsword growled to itself. It was almost invisible to the eye regardless of its colossal girth thanks to the dim light and the machine’s gray hull.

“Ready!” called out one of the Angels of Death. The order was voxed throughout the detachment.

Outside, even through the echoing din of the approaching Orks, the sounds of heavy ammunition rotating into the three Knights’ rapid-fire Battle Cannons and the whine of the cycling of the Shadowsword’s mighty Volcano Cannon could be easily heard by the few remaining House guard troops scattered throughout the ruins. It gave them heart.

“FIRE!”

Thunder and lightning ripped across the battlefield. Girders and plascrete buckled and melted under the barrage of Lascannons and Plasma Cannons from two flanking Blood Raven positions. The Knights held their ground on the center and right flanks and pummeled the oncoming Ork convoy with a staccato burst of heavy ordnance.

The Battlewagons barged through the ruined hab blocks even as they were blasted by Battle Cannon shells. Suddenly, the world was full of light as the Volcano Cannon found its mark and melted the engine compartment of one Battlewagon, stopping it dead in its tracks. The Tankbustas inside seemed oblivious to the hot radiation, however, and simply began launching Rokkits at a tasty-looking Knight.

Somehow, Wagonkrumpa’s Trukk, grumbling up the Imperium’s right flank, was spotted by one of the Knights and then blasted into pieces, sending Nobz and Boss careening out of its broken husk. Instead of being left stranded behind his own lines, he reached out with his massive Power Klaw as the Meganobz’ own slim and agile Battlewagon screamed by. The engine was clearly too small for the load it was carrying, but the liberal use of high-energy fuels in the vehicle solved that mechanical conundrum with delightful ease. Fire roared out the pipes as the machine blazed towards its quarry.

The Ork advance was implacable. Although a Kannon Wagon was engulfed in a terrible ammunition explosion, cratering the general vicinity, the rest of the Battlewagons weathered the storm with relative ease, shells blasting full-force on their front armor and leaving only scratches. The Shadowsword threw everything it had into the oncoming horde, obliterating one Battlewagon which was pushing towards its position on the Imperium’s left flank. Over a dozen Orks clambered out of the wreckage, thankful for their ‘eavy armor and the administrations of their Painboy.  A sizzling Weirdboy also emerged from the Battlewagon’s ruin, grinning from ear to ear and floating, never touching the ground.

However, the arrival of a trio of tank-busting flyers spelled doom for another Battlewagon loaded with Boyz. Coherent light lanced into the behemoth’s front quarter, melting the engine and ruining its front axle. Twenty Orks, also led by a Weirdboy and tended by a Painboy, cheered with mad glee and careened out of their decimated conveyance.

The pilot of the most brazen of the three Imperial knights swore an unsavory oath as his tactical display lit up with hundreds of incoming projectiles. It was too late, though; the missiles were all fired iron-sights rather than with a target lock, thus making the early detection systems nearly useless. The second Battlewagon full of Tankbustas had pushed up the Imperium’s right flank before pounding the glorious machine’s hull. This was followed by Tracer-lit, high-impact rounds out of the Lootaz’ trukk. Even with its carapace shredded and its klaxon’s screaming in pain, the Knight was a brazen beast, pushing forward.  It came face to shield with a Kannon Wagon which had pushed right up the center of the field. A single shell from the grinning tank’s gun crumped out of its breach and slammed into the pockmarked hull of the knight. The Knight’s death throes bathed the dimness in white heat.

Although a single Battlewagon did manage to breach through the Shadowsword’s position on the left flank, the Boyz within had bitten off more than they could chew and were faced with a greater force of house guard and Space Marines along with a lumbering Dreadnought. They held their own in close combat for a short time, tying up the heavy weapons in those units, and scissoring a hapless Librarian in two with a Power Klaw, but they never made it to their ultimate goal. When the dust settled, the position was held and the Orks were naught but spore factories.

The two squads of ‘Ard Boyz with their Painboyz and Weirdboyz tried desperately to push through the wall of oncoming Battlecannon fire. Shells exploded all around them even as the flyers dropped in graduates of the Solar Progenium all around them. The Orks faced these threats with zeal, although, the Scions did plenty of damage to the remaining Orks and vehicles.

At great length, a small group of five Orks and a Weirdboy did manage to push through the middle and launch itself into assault with a squad of harrying Blood Raven bikes. Green fire poured out if the Weirdboy’s eyes and mouth as the Orks all around him seemed to impact the Space Marines with unnatural force. The Weirdboy’s staff was a nuclear blast of force, incinerating the squad Seargent with a single blow. However, they were only three by the time they broke away from the bikers. Although they eventually did launch themselves at the Shadowsword, hammering at its hull with Warp-infused strength, the Techpriest within cycled up the Volcano cannon and closed its breech, incinerating the tank and everything around it.

Meanwhile, the Imperium’s right flank proved the weakest as the Tankbustas on that side and Wagonkrumpa along with the Meganobz roared into assault position, using the momentum of their transports to launch themselves into the two remaining Knights. Wagonkrumpa cackled with glee when he heard the rumbling explosion of the Knight engaged by the Tankbustas. As for himself, he hamstrung his Knight with a single Klaw-swipe, bringing one knee crashing down. The Meganobz surprised the knight pilot with a surprising nimbleness as they swarmed over its carapace, cutting and smashing at key components. Wagonkrumpa wasn’t really paying attention as the second knee came down right on top of him, crushing his bones.

The last knight pilot was alone, in a kneeling position, and watching the carnage around him.  He could feel the Orks swarming his machine, ripping and tearing. He prayed his thanks to the glorious Emperor of Mankind and detonated his machine, incinerating his assailants.

A quiet fell over the battlefield. Only the dim buzz of two fleeing Trukks full of Gretchin and Lootaz and the sick burning of priceless Imperial war machines could be heard over the sounds of the escaping transports blasting off from the nearby spaceport.

The Blood Ravens, accompanied by some of the Scions, rummaged through some of the debris in search of survivors. They hadn’t explained, however, that it was Ork survivors they were looking for. They found Wagoncrumpa beneath the leg greave of the smoking debris of the Knight he’d helped bring down. He was alive, but barely. The surviving Librarian also found himself a treasure. The Weirdboy had somehow survived the blast of the exploding Shadowsword. The Xenos’ eyes had burned out of its head and it was horribly disfigured. He ordered that both of the Orks be taken and kept sedated for questioning. He wanted to know why they’d come to this particular backwater world of this particular sector.

Once the prisoners were secured and the wounded had been given the Emperor’s Peace, the Scions’ transports lifted the survivors to the safety of their orderly retreat.

In the end, the world never suffered Exterminatus, but a more dangerous threat to Drillteef’s plans was at large; the Blood Ravens now knew he was looking for a way to summon forth Tuska and his horde and the answers to that riddle were on Pakeshi IV.



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