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Eye Of Terror II - The Last Stand

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The trail had led them to this point. Through revenge, honour and rebirth in victory, to this bloody war. Three years of protracted campaigns in the Eye of Terror, all came to this; a last stand on Cadia, the remaining Imperial forces in the sector entrenched in one place, the combined forces of darkness arrayed against them.

Across the beleaguered planet, the imperial armies had been fighting for its survival. Quite literally in fact, thought Captain Kyle, remembering the helmet-vox report received just minutes earlier. The Planet killer would have a firing solution within the hour if the Imperium could not break the deadlock and re-mount some orbital defence. He and the Astartes under his command were always prepared to give their lives in his-most-glorious-name, but emperor be damned if it were in vain to achieve nothing.

The Hawks had space assets in reserve, but communications had become patchy since the chaos fleet arrived. The imperial forces on the planet were in disarray, unable to locate each other in the vox-confusion, and it was vital the second company re-establish contact with the strike cruiser. They desperately needed thunderhawk extraction so they could re-deploy. Kyle had an entire company of marines with him, and would lead a boarding action on the traitor flagship himself if necessary. Regardless, the Imperial forces urgently needed the comms back online.

Hawkeye scouts had identified a largely undefended comms tower near their position. Securing it would disrupt the traitor jamming in this map sector and could be rigged to pulse a narrow-beam signal to the Swordwind in orbit. Kyle had committed the entire forces of the second company to take the comms tower, recently freed from their quest and re-invigourated after satisfying their honour.

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They had been able to move fast across difficult wooded country without heavy armour support, but by-the-emperor, did Kyle wish he had a land raider or two at his disposal now.

He put down the ranging scope and looked across the low wooded valley that had become their battlefield. The baneblade was close enough to see through his helmet sensors unaided now. It had been horribly defiled by the traitors, painted a gaudy red with blood over its grey army livery, adorned with skulls and skeletons impaled on metal spikes at each corner. It beat a bloody path across the valley, churning up grass and mud as high as a man. On the left flank, the Dark Angel's infantry line was taking a hammering from its main gun, screeching a hellish roar as it unloaded shells towards their lines. Sammaels men returned heavy weapons fire, but even the cannon shots bounced off the hellish machines armour with no effect. The giant tank was flanked by two demon-spider machines, scuttling forwards with an unnatural gait, spitting more battlecannon fire towards their lines.

Kyle assessed the tactical situation. The traitor forces were concentrated in a long clearing along the valley floor, surrounded on all sides by woodland reaching up the slopes. The war machines occupied central position in the clearing, surrounded by three plague marine squads and what Kyle estimated as thirty or so berserkers on the right flank. Behind the traitor lines, rising out of the woodland rose the spires and dishes of the comms tower. With the strength of the enemy comms suppression, a small Dark Angels force had been the only other Imperials close enough to receive Kyle's coded command to take the comms tower. Quite why they had been in the area and what operation they were conducting, the commander wouldn't say. Their secrecy and lack of trust slightly irked Risius Kyle, but despite his personal misgivings, he valued their aid. They were tenacious warriors, and this was an urgent mission.

Forty metres to his left a large fireball erupted as the reactor in the Dark Angels land raider went critical. Kyle felt the shockwave pass through the earth of the low rise he occupied. The smoking barrel of the baneblade cannon seemed almost to smile daemonically in satisfaction at its kill. A dread screeching erupted from the beast machines as the flames of the wrecked tank reached skywards and Kyle watched as the accursed tank adjusted its turret for another shot. Recon had implied this position was lightly defended, but the metal monster had come crashing out of the forest without warning, some arcane ritual rendering it invisible to all their instruments.

A battlecannon shot pounded into the earth on the other side of his temporary observation point, flying wide of its intended mark. He dived backwards, the low rise of the hill shielding him from flying mud and deadly shrapnel. Kyle knew they couldn't take much more of this punishment. He needed his support. Fast. Oh, how he wished he had brought those land raiders.

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The ETA countdown in the corner of his helmet readout began to blink faster. 'Twenty cycles and counting'.

Having no armour to defend had meant that many of Kyle's men had been able to slip themselves in behind enemy lines without detection. He had deployed minimal forces, hoping to draw the traitors out into an ambush. It seemed to be working.

Ten cycles and counting.
He received the vox-encrypt from sergeant Tallion indicating that he was one jump away from the enemy. The baneblade halted in the middle of the valley, its turret drawing a line towards the Dark Angel infantry.
'Thats it, right there' thought Kyle, willing the tank to stay there just a little longer.

Five cycles.
The turret stopped, the open maw of it's main gun lining up with a tactical caught squad in the open. They scrambled to adopt loose formation as they realised what was coming.

Four.
Just a little longer...

Three.
Kyle trained his scope on the woods behind the traitorous machine.

Two.
Twenty small plumes of smoke rose rapidly from behind the trees as his men activated their jump packs.

One.
His two assault squads had been on intercept to the baneblade, circling around it on the far flanks. He'd ordered them to act as reserves for a rearguard action as his ace in the hole, little expecting to have to use them so soon.

Zero
Twenty of his marines; Adeptus Astartes trained in the art of war for centuries, the Emperor's finest warriors, able to best any opponent one-to-one on the field of battle, clad in full ceramite armour plate and with melta bombs in hand, landed in perfect formation behind the baneblade, surrounding its rear and side flanks. The jump was unerringly accurate. Kyle noted to commend Tellion later.
Kyle smiled to himself - there was a dread commander in that tank, suddenly faced with a terrible proposition and knowing there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. The beastly tank was a sitting duck.

The marines charged.

Even for an experienced commander such as Kyle, it was a remarkable sight to see; the perfect motion and choreography with which the marines enacted their terrible destruction. Each unhooked the mag-clamp from his bomb as he ran, placing his munitions and darting away in one swift, smooth movement that reminded Kyle more of some elaborate dance than an act of combat. The placement was perfect, spaced evenly around the once-great machine, finding weak points between the armour plating. Sergeant Tellion initiated a micro-jump, his pack propelling him onto the turret of the tank, unslinging his thunder hammer and bringing it to bear against the main gun in one motion. Barely contained energy arced and crackled from the hammer-head at the impact point, sending lightning across the surface of the tank as the main gun buckled and bent. He swivelled and swung the mighty hammer high above his head, preparing for another blow. Outlined against the sky, the weapon held aloft, Kyle thought he looked like a warrior of old from the chapter tapestries, stood on top of a mighty beast he had just slain. Tellion brought the weapon down hard onto the main topside access hatch, shattering it in two. He dropped his charge through the newly opened hole into the tank and fired his rockets to take him upwards and back to rejoin his men, now retreating to a safe distance and drawing their swords to engage a nearby plague squad.

At first Kyle thought the attack had failed, those few empty seconds of expectation seeming to stretch forever. Then an ear-shattering crack as the baneblade hull buckled and parts were thrown off. His helmet audio dulled for a few seconds as it auto-adjusted to the sudden noise. Blinding white light shined momentarily between the hull plates as the insides were engulfed in a fiery conflagration and a series of heavy explosions rocked the tank as multiple internal systems detonated. Flame flew out under the track guards and the wheels came off their mountings, driving the heavy tank down into the mud. Heavy bolter sponsons exploded outwards, torn into innumerable pieces by their ammo store detonations. The power regulators in the lascannons above them overloading and discharging inside the guns, consuming them in orbs of white hot light. As Kyle stood watching the cascade of destruction, there was an almighty boom like thunder and the giant turret was blown upwards at the fore of a great burst of flame, tumbling sideways to land next to the tank. The mighty machine lay burning, scorched wreckage on the valley floor. Kyle allowed himself a small smile of pride at the accomplishment of his troops.

One down...

A signal from the Dark Angels commander indicated his dreadnought cohort were also in rear flank position and commencing attack in support. Emperor knows how he got them behind the enemy lines, Kyle wondered. The Dark Angels certainly weren't in a sharing mood.
Perfectly on cue, four dreadnoughts burst from the tree line behind the remaining two Chaotic war-machines. Lances of heavy laser fire pierced the air as two of the entombed heroes engaged the defiler on Kyle's left flank. Multiple points of lights streamed through its engine and torso, vaporizing the internals. Its multiple legs buckled, the force controlling them no longer existing and it collapsed to the ground, immobile. The other two machine-brothers brought their assault cannons to bear on the remaining spider-daemon. Superhot high calibre rounds traced in an arc towards the machine, tearing into its torso, ripping pieces asunder, chunks of daemon-metal falling from the machine like flaking flesh. The lethal line of fire cut across the weapon mounts, causing a cascade reaction and igniting ammo canisters, engulfing the evil machine in flame. A horrible scream emitted from its core as the deamon inside was sucked back into the immaterium.

A great howling roar went up from the traitor forces on the valley floor as they lost their last war machine. Kyle counted only infantry elements left to engage. He saw a troupe of hideous green creatures, covered in pustules and distended body parts hanging loose, materialise next to the downed baneblade as a huge pack of crazed world eaters ran past them towards his position. The Dark Angels began to move up on his left flank to close with the enemy. Kyle flicked on his helmet vox and gave the command for his eight remaining squads to advance and engage from their concealed positions. Surveying the remaining chaos forces, he transmitted the situational data to his troops. Sergeant Singen reported the devastators positioned with a good field of fire in a rock formation on the western flank. Kyle saw three of his tactical squads emerge from the trees behind the world eaters on the right flank, their red armour suddenly in strong contrast to the dark wood as they moved into the bright sunlight. Vernassus was at their lead, his banner fluttering in the wind, giving the signal to open fire at the oblivious traitors.

Who needed land raiders?
Kyle smiled as he turned and walked down the low hill to his waiting razorback. He climbed aboard as the ceramite door slid shut behind him.
'Time to finish this'

Featured Dramatis Personae

Emperors Hawks