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Opening Moves on the Antine Front

Opening Moves on the Antine Front

M41.250213
Marshal-General Muroth peered down at the map, his brow creased. Small flickers of electricity arced across the augmetics at the back of his head, and the slaved tactica-servitors nearby twitched in sympathetic motion. Muroth had made his rank through the ork culls. There was none of the solid, honest grind of artillery and pressure here.
 

Damn these blue-skinned monsters! Their fluid battle-lines swelled and withdrew like a tide, probing at Imperial strongpoints and fading away before counter-attacks could be launched. In the past four months, his army had arrived to relieve the four million reservists, militia and mercenaries in the cities and hab-groups that remained under Imperial control. Over twelve million Guardsmen and PDF were under his command, besides tank regiments from his homeworld Marathon and the mighty God-machines of Legio Validus. An impressive force, but all for naught, if Muroth and his staff could not co-ordinate them to engage the Tau.
 

The extent of the forces ranged against him was equally impressive. The Starblade Expeditionary Force had deployed a massive force that had swelled over the past years. Over four thousand separate Cadres identifed fighting across the mountain fronts, seven thousand across the plains, and dozens of Kroot kindreds operating amongst the dust forests and coastal areas in support of their employers. Vespid, Ghast, and Silverskin Atolline forces were dug into former Imperial cities like ticks. Worst of all, to Muroth's mind, were the traitorous humans and fifth columnists that had spread like an infection, weakening resistance and disrupting his armies. The Shas'O conglomerate in charge of the Tau invaders were canny. For all their strength, Nnuuttuu was too large to occupy. They were all here with a single mission – to destroy the Siculan Government in Exile; a group of heroes that had resisted the Tau with every breath in their bodies. Seven Imperial Commanders of worlds lost to the Tau, three more of planets under occupation and a number of experienced Guard battlesmiths made up their number.
 

Fewer than fifteen men. Fifteen men that millions had to die to protect. With their deaths, Imperial resistance across the subsector would crumble.
 

Muroth would not let that happen.
 

His mouth twisted into an ugly sneer. The stalemate of the past years was gone. No longer would the Government in Exile be forced to skitter from city to city like rats. Now Muroth could force the tau to battle. He reached forward, and began shuffling the army groups out from the cities. All across the Antine front, voxes sprung to life as his orders were forwarded. Guardsmen shouldered their rifles and began to advance.
 

+++
 

Shas'el Cil'ifrit took a moment to compose himself. Behind him, Fire Caste troopers rushed to and fro under deployment orders, and members of the water caste jittered back and forth in frightened groups. Cil'ifrit sipped at his curoocan ti and closed his eyes. The reports were damning. Command Network had failed to root out those cursed Imperial governors, and now they had run out of time. Imperial reinforcements were streaming to the planet, and the Tau had been placed on the back hoof.
 

The skirmishing of the past few years was over. The Water caste's efforts to turn the populace had been moderately successful, and the Network now controlled large swathes of the planet. Nevertheless, it was now the Fire Caste's time to act. Cil'ifrit savoured the thought of taking to the field of battle again, then mentally admonished himself for seeking conflict and glory. He dismissed the live report feed from the infopad, closed the deployment patterns of the attacking gue'la, and summoned the sayings of O'Wu.
 

'War is not to be sought with eagerness, but with regret. When it is brought to the table, nevertheless, treat it like a gift.'
 

Cil'ifrit calmly placed his ti flask down and rose. He reopened the deployment patterns from the Network and peered closely. His mouth twitched with guilty pleasure. A whole front was opening up across the desert plains, with the starport Governance left invitingly lightly defended.'Cunning, Gue'la Mu'Roth; but your opening is poor', Cil'ifrit murmured to himself. Raising his voice, he contacted the Network. 'Honoured 'O and 'El of the Command Network; we have an opening. The Gue'la Mu'Roth seeks to draw us to the starport – let us meet him instead... here.' His finger jabbed at a loose cluster of cities known to the Imperials as the Honduran Hives. With the gue'la forces expanding across the plains, these cities would be critical to keeping them supported.

 

+++
 

Muroth hesitated. If the Tau suspected a trap at the Starport; they would move to counter the Antine front. He redirected the Legio to the Starport. Huge as the god-machines were, their small numbers would be easy to hide amongst the warehouses. If the Tau took the bait, they'd be torn apart by the Braun Fourteenth and the Engines of Validus.
 

+Query+ sub-voxed one of the tactical support staff.
 

'Go ahead', the Marshal replied.
 

+Redeploy existing forces in Governance?+
 

The Marshal-general nodded irritably, flicking up info on the force there. Regiment-strength: Lamb's World CCCX.
 

'Move them to...' he paused. 'Move them to Honduron Tertiary. I suspect we'll need that area safe.