BATTLE REPORTS - The Hand of the King - 35 (Lumbering Behemoth)

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Vask (console): Prep for armored charge.

Hull: Deimos Command to all units, stand by to commence armored charge.

Vask (console): Are we ready?

Gunner: Weapon loaded, prepared for action.

Hull: Ready to go, sir!

Driver: Ready.

H41: Deimos One, standing by.

H42: Deimos Two, standing by.

H43: Umm... Deimos Three holding, sir.

H44: Deimos Four, standing by.

Vask (console): Enemy at 11-12-01.

Hull: Deimos Command to all units, enemy sighted at eleven, twelve, one.

H41: Copy enemy sighted.

H44: Copy enemy sighted.

Vask (console): D3?

Hull: Deimos Command to Deimos three, what is your status?

H43: Still holding, Deimos Command.

Vask (console): Transports?

Hull: Deimos Command to Marshal Theleos, are you ready?

Melchoir: Yeah, we're ready when you are. We'll follow behind.

H43: Deimos Three, standing by.

Vask (console): Finally.

Hull: Finally, Deimos Three.

Vask (console): Don't say that over the vox, you idiot.

Hull: Not saying it over the vox, yes sir.

H42: Deimos Two, copy again?

Vask (console): You weren't supposed to say that either!

Hull: Sorry, sir.

Vask (console): SB

Hull: This is Deimos Command, standing by.

Vask: Charge!

H41: Incoming enemy fire. Missiles and basilista.

H44: Confirming enemy fire.

H41: They're dug in pretty well, sir.

H43: Deimos Three, enemy vehicle down. Repeat, enemy vehicle down. I think it's just infantry now.

Driver: That's good to hear.

Gunner: Indeed. I like me my soft targets!

Melchoir: This is Melchoir. The chimeras are taking fire from the enemy. Shut down their anti-transport weapons, Vask.

Vask (console): Affirmative.

Hull: Copy that, marshal.

Hull: Deimos Command, shift fire to enemy quadcannon.

H41: They've still got their anti-tank weapons, sir!

Vask (console): G, see what you can do.

Gunner: Yes, sir.

Hull: Sir, we're approaching the enemy positions. They still have anti-tank weapons. They're dug in too tight, sir.

Driver: Request we reduce speed until enemy firepower is neutralized.

Vask: No.

Vask (console): Keep moving forward.

Hull: Deimos Command, keep moving forward. Neutralize enemy heavy weapons as able.

H44: We're taking pretty heavy fire, sir!

Hull: Repeat, keep moving forward.

Melchoir: Vask! We're getting killed here. Take off the pressure from that quadcannon.

Vask (console): RPO.

Hull: Deimos Command to Deimos One, Two. You are ordered to shift fire onto that defense gun. The lascannons can wait.

H42: Uhh... Affirmative, sir. Shifting fire.

Melchoir: Vask, we're getting outflanked.

Vask: Your orders?

Vask: Melchoir?

Melchoir: Keep advancing. I'll take care of this. You punch a hole.

Vask: You said outflanking?

Melchoir: They're coming in on the left, but I can't see anywhere else. You're on your own.

Vask (console): Order to watch for outflankers.

Hull: Deimos Command to all units, be advised. Enemy units are outflanking. Repeat, look for enemies on your fours and eights.

H44: What in the hell was that!?

H44: Enemy coming in from three! Our engine's been hit!

Driver: Lord Vask, we're almost on top of them. What should I do?

Melchoir: Vask! I said take down that quad cannon, dammit!

H43: What!? Aaaah! They're here.

H44: Enemy is engaging us, sir!

H43: What? No, that's impossible. Yes, fight him - Yes... Son of a bitch, HAND ME MY CHAINSWORD!

Driver: Vask, we're here! What are your orders?

Melchoir let out a deep breath. This was it... at least... he was pretty sure that this was it. This was the last line of defense. Once he broke through here, he'd be free.

With their losses earlier in the day, everyone was now bunched up into a single pack of armor. Everything except for their supply chimeras was now in a single, cohesive fighting force, ready to go. They had only one mission - to punch through.

Melchoir waited in torturous anxiety and anticipation. The dark cab of his chimera was dotted with lights filtering in through the wire hatches on the sides of the walls.

The vox next to him crackled and popped. The sunny voice of Lord Vask's surrogate struggled out into his ear.

"Deimos Command to Marshal Theleos, are you ready?"

This was it. The final charge.

He reached down and pushed the button.

"Yeah, we're ready when you are. We'll follow behind."

With a flick of the switch, he set the vox to talk to the chimera commanders.

"This is Melchoir. The tanks are ready to go. Whenever they advance, start following them. Keep close. They're there in front of you for a reason."

He let his hand off the button. The chimera began to shimmy as the engines switched into gear and revved up.

With a jerk, the chimera began to lurch forward slowly.

Blood pounded in the marshal's head, slamming into the back of his eardrums. This was almost it. It was almost over. Just one more push. He could do this.

The sounds of battle broke out from somewhere outside of the transport. He counted three, maybe four lascannons - it was hard to distinguish those of the enemy from their own - and at least a couple of missile launchers. Also, some sort of autocannon emplacement.

The shots bounced violently off of the russes in front of him. He'd stared down enemy heavy weapons fire on more occasions than he could count, but there was something unsettling about doing it inside of a chimera. Out in the open, he could always run. He could always duck behind something. He could always DO something, however futile. In here, all he could do was sit. And hope.

And pray.

He stood up and walked over the knees of the other soldiers up to the front of the cab and looked out of the main hatch viewport. He could see the back of the Leman Russ in front of him, belching smoke into the air from its tailpipes. Through the light sooty cloud, he could barely make out some of the enemy. They were behind some sort of a defensive line, bristling with firepower.

He reactively flinched as a lascannon round blew right in front of his visor. The shot just barely missed his transport and slammed into one of the ones behind him.

The laser blast ripped open a hole in the front of the vehicle and punched through the backside. The vehicle immediately came to a halt. Likely the crew had been killed. After a few moments, the soldiers inside got out and started to run for shelter.

Melchoir frowned. The tanks were supposed to absorb this kind of punishment, not the transports.

He reached down and activated the vox set.

"This is Melchoir. The chimeras are taking fire from the enemy. Shut down their anti-transport weapons, Vask."

"Copy that, marshal," came the surrogate voice of the command tank.

As the armored wall drove forward, Melchoir could finally see the enemy autocannon emplacement. After throwing fistfuls of steel bouncing off the front of the tanks, the defense gun swooped up and over the tanks, trying to target the transports behind them instead.

The fire was super accurate, and even being obscured at least 90% by the tanks in front of them, the chimeras started to take a serious pounding.

With a sickening blast of heavy weapons fire, the turret of the chimera to his left began to crumple in on itself. Shots started punching through, spraying a fine red mist out of the holes. The fire then swept over, knocking off both of the treads and then sweeping onto a second transport, causing it serious damage.

The men from the first transport, their ride now a wreck, got out and also ran for cover. Soon the other squad would follow.

Melchoir pounded his fist on the vox.

"Vask! We're getting killed here. Take off the pressure from that quadcannon."

This was not going according to plan. He could only hope that the tanks were doing their job, and that they'd be able to punch through once they got there.

He turned to one of the side viewports and looked at his retreating men.

Then he saw it.

From behind, the enemy was bringing in reinforcements. If they didn't make a breakout, and make it right now, they would be trapped.

He scrambled back to the vox set.

"Vask, we're getting outflanked," he reported, a note of alarm making it into his voice thanks to the fatigue.

"Your orders?" returned the rasping voice of the lead tank commander.

Melchoir closed his eyes, his mind racing. If the tanks helped against the outflankers, then they would all be gunned down at point blank range from the front. If the tanks made it through, but the infantry was entangled...

"Melchoir?" came the grating voice of Vask again.

There was only one thing that could be done.

"Keep advancing," he replied, "I'll take care of this. You punch a hole."

"You said outflanking?" came Vask again. He sounded distracted. Perhaps by the fact that he was about to run over a defense line.

"They're coming in on the left," the officer replied, "but I can't see anywhere else. You're on your own."

And good luck, the officer thought as he let his hand go from the button.

"All right, let's go!" Melchoir ordered to those in the cab with him. He started up his powerfist as the soldiers around him got to their feet and prepared to move out.

Suddenly, the chimera rocked violently under the explosive weight of enemy autocannon fire. A dozen rounds impacted onto the vehicle, nearly throwing the men off their feet. It would be suicide to run out into that, but who knew how long the chimera would last for?

"Vask!" Melchoir shouted into the vox, "I said take down that quad cannon, dammit!"

The chimera continued to groan and shake violently. Suicide or not, they couldn't stay here. That much was certain. He gave a nod to his men, and opened the back hatch. He stepped out into the bright light of day. The others ran out behind him as he drew his pistol and primed it.

Ahead of him, away from the defense wall, he could see enemy terminators charging in towards his troops. They had desperately attempted to form up a line against them, setting up around a ruined building.

As the enemy charged in, they met a withering display of meltagun and plasma pistol fire. One after another, they began to drop until only the biggest, angriest one of them remained.

Enraged, the enemy charged forward in great, bounding leaps.

With a loud growl, a mighty power axe was hefted high into the air. The guardsmen desperately tried to shoot into him, but to no effect. The terminator was upon them.

With one massive chop followed by another, the enemy cleaved all of the nearby guardsmen into bits. Terrified, those guardsmen at the back fled in a hopeless attempt to escape. This only made them more vulnerable as the enemy continued his gruesome chunking.

Once again, this would be something that Melchoir would have to handle personally. He gave the squad to move forward. As quickly as they were able, they began to pick over the ruined steel carcasses of the transports.

Just as they made it in, the enemy terminator broke out.

Melchoir looked to his left. The rest of his surviving infantry were ready there. Ready with anti-tank weapons. Ready to kill.

The air exploded in a shower of sparks as half a dozen meltaguns seared into the refractor field. The barrage of firepower was joined by lascannons and sunpistols.

These were amongst the finest guardsmen that Melchoir had commanded. They were the survivors. They were the ones who actually knew how to shoot. They were the ones that had scavenged the weapons from their dead comrades, and had lovingly restored them to perfect working order.

And they were good. The shots focused on the enemy like a laser beam. The concentration of energy easily bypassed the refractor and slammed into the armor underneath. With a howling cry, the enemy terminator began to smoulder and disintegrate.

Well, it looked like this would be one of those things that Melchoir wouldn't have to handle personally after all.

"Come on, men!" he shouted, pointing back towards the barricades in front of him.


The tanks around him continued to trundle forward. Their heavy treads climbing the slight incline before the wall itself. Their massive hulks prepared to crush over everything.

Those enemy that valiantly still held the line were firing their boltguns into the lumbering behemoths to no effect. As Melchoir and his veterans began to pour forward, they shifted their fire.

Then, to Melchoir's surprise, the enemy rose from their barricades.

With a great shout, they charged forwards.

Instantly the air burst into murderous pistol fire. A guardsman in front of Melchoir took three bolts to the gut. Melchoir aimed his pistol at the nearest marine and shot him in the face, blowing his head off. Gunfire bounced off of his refractor field while the tanks unloaded their massive sponson cannons into the enemy.

They were caught off guard by the barrage of firepower. They were slowed slightly. Melchoir took his chance to pounce.

Meltaguns blasted in at point-blank range as they closed the last few feet. The marines were swept aside in a gory blast of anti-tank fire.

Melchoir charged in. The enemy in front of him swung wide with his chainsword, but the attack glanced hard off of his helmet. In return, he lunged forward and grabbed the sword arm with his powered gauntlet. With a loud grunt, Melchoir managed to remove the arm from its socket, ripping the entire appendage clean away from the space marine. The enemy twirled around as the crude amputation completed itself and Melchoir bashed into the marine's power pack with his own arm. From the side, a veteran got in with a bayonet, and tackled the enemy to the ground.

To his right, the enemy warlord desperately fended off the veteran guardsmen as they pushed in. His psychic staff rippled with power, sending first one guardsman, and then another into shreiking, convulsing heaps. Melchoir lunged at him. For all of his power, the enemy rune priest lacked the gift of foresight.

He turned only at the last possible moment to see Melchoir bearing down on him. He tried to shield himself, only to find a massive gauntlet enveloping his face. Melchoir squeezed his fingers as hard as possible. The servo motors creaked and groaned. Then, suddenly, the helmet gave way. The metal crumpled in his hand, and the head inside instantly pulpified.

Melchoir looked around as his foe collapsed, twitching, to the ground. He looked again. Was that it?

As best he could tell, the enemy was defeated. Only the dying sounds of sponson fire seemed to betray the ragged scraps of an enemy force.

That was it. Melchoir stood bewhildered for a moment.

The veterans around him looked at him eagerly.

"Come on, boys!" Melchoir shouted, "We're breaking out!"

The few troops around him cheered, and the tanks around him groaned into action as they broke over the enemy wall.

The chimera squeaked slightly on its suspension as it rolled over terrain. The cabin was dark. Melchoir had turned the lights off, leaving only the starlight coming in through the hatches and a single status light to cast their faint glow over the cabin.

The guardsmen, despite being packed in like sardines, were largely asleep.

Melchoir's body jostled as his ride bumped along. His head lolled back and forth as his eyes stared out of the hatches at the stars high above.

They were out now. Five Leman Russ tanks and four chimera transports, and a wide expanse of open ground ahead of them. He could only hope now that they would be able to make it to Drop Zone Beta. The vehicles were slow, but they were constantly in motion. Perhaps they would manage to make it somewhere.

A cool night breeze filtered nearly imperceptibly into the chimera. Melchoir closed his eyes.

His fatigue-addled mind continued to run on what was left of his adrenaline. He still couldn't quite piece it all together. The Ecclesiarchy had sponsored a church-based overthrow of the reigning king of Folera. Usurpation was common. Ecclesiarchical support in said endeavor wasn't THAT uncommon. Melchoir had learned his history well.

But immediately going on crusade. That was strange. It was almost as if the Ecclesiarchy overthrew the king, not to restore proper order, but because they needed Folera's army. Theirs to direct.

And what about the kingsguard? A year ago, that had been all but a ceremonial position. Now it was an elite fighting force. Being trained by someone. Being very highly educated... for some purpose.

He hoped that his conspiratorial ideas would be assuaged once he got to Beta. Everything might just be set straight there.

Everything would...

... probably...

For the first time in over two days, Melchoir slept.