Only War Episode 6

Recording: You know the drill with this one by now!

Tea: We seem to have located summer down the back of the Sofa. As such I drank cloudy lemonade rather than Tea!

At the beginning we thought that the Commissar wasn’t going to be played, but we later on found someone to play him. So for the first part the Commissar was assumed to be taking the Handler they drugged back to command for a vigorous interrogation by Delayne, who probably wouldn’t go straight to Castration as a tongue loosening plan. He returned soon afterwards however.
In the mean time the others dealt with the aftermath of the battle, dragging the various bodies into a huge pile near to the Sacristy of the Paupers. Jellin and Liana both took the time to examine them, and both discovered very worrying information. First the Tech Priest realised that the huge mutant was wearing the remains of a PDF uniform from the planet of Bayle, a planet that rose up against the Empire some 400 years ago and was punished by Exterminatus. Although the giant mutant was only “wearing” the armour in the loosest sense of the word, it did seem to belong to it. The Auto cannon it had been using like a rifle however was definitely not standard issue, having been torn off a Palaedeon 42nd Tank. This didn’t bode well for the Palaedeon’s and caused him more than a little consternation.

Not as much as the Doctor however, who decided to examine all of the cultists and the mutant. The Cultists were… human mostly, but at the same time all showed the stigma of mutation, they also were wearing Bayle PDF armour although marred by the symbols of the ruinous powers. The Large mutant however was another matter, having cut into the things body the Doctor still couldn’t be sure what was body and what was equipment, and he was even more freaked out when he found another body inside the first, this one a Bayle PDF trooper with no sign of mutation, looking as if he had been trapped in the other mutant’s bulk and had died trying to claw his way out…

Over on the other flank Vyn and Argatha took a look at the bodies of the other mutants who had attacked by the statue of Dorn. The weird right arm weapons they had carried, the slug like things with spikes and venom, were found to actually be creatures which had fitted over the mutants right arms. There were wounds all over their arms so the creatures obviously exacted a price for their aid presumably in blood. Although the creatures did not seem to be alive any more, Vyn wasn’t willing to risk it putting two revolver bullets in each. Argatha meanwhile searched the bodies for whatever it was his fire had hit that lit the mutant on fire. It was easy enough to locate, a huge flask of oil hanging from each mutant’s belt which smelled very strongly of flowers. He called the shaken Doctor over who took a look at it, and declared that it was some form of drug that if poured over the skin would deaden its nerves preventing pain from registering. The fact that it might also carry a good chance of mutation however led to Argatha to using it to booby trap what was left of the trap the Mutants had tripped although not very successfully.

The Commissar had returned and brought news that the entire Taelorn front line seemed to be under attack, much of it more heavily than their own. He had requested reinforcements, which had been denied, however he had been told that they might be able to receive a requisition drop. Gathering his command squad he asked them what they needed. All agreed that better weapons for close combat and some mantraps might be worthwhile. The Doctor was also very aware that Vyn was unable to use his hand any more, and realising that they would need every troop at top quality if they were to survive, requisitioned a bionic arm, finally Byarl and Argatha both requested flamers. The Cultists didn’t seem to have much in the way of sealed armour so they believed that the blessed flame of the Emperor would likely be a good choice.

Their decisions made, the Commissar called into command and placed their requests, and also gave a situation report to Commander Culchan with regards to the situation regarding the Palaedeon weapon they had found. Culchan responded that he would not be surprised as the Palaedeon 42nd had been heavily engaged ever since the green commander of the Hazeroth Burners who was in actual battlefield command had gone against the suggested battle plan and sent them forward to engage the enemy alone. He would have continued his rant, but someone (presumably Delayne) turned off the Open Channel Vox broadcast on which he was speaking.
The bodies piled back up the Doctor operated on Vyn, having been unable to get just a replacement hand he was forced to take the entire arm and then passed the patient over to the Tech Priest to try and improve the terrible quality of the arm they had been sent. Liana spent the rest of the night and the next morning tinkering before falling asleep, but by the time he did so the arm was up to a much better quality. When Vyn awoke nearly a day and a half later he had a mostly working left arm, and this one actually had fingers!

The day after the attack had passed fairly uneventfully. They had heard heavy fighting to the north which ended with a huge explosion and a bright light on the horizon. Liana and Jellin again felt as if something was watching them but they tried to push through it and continue their work. Byarl and Vyn decided to finally check out the back of the Tithery, taking Byarl’s meltagun to the door. Behind it they found a trapdoor down, but before opening it much the same way checked with the Commissar. He agreed that checking the room below was important and after putting a meltagun round through the lock they found it led down to a Ceramacrete room, one wall of which was dominated by a huge and complicated looking Vault door. Realising they couldn’t open it in a month of Sundays they left it, but kept the room in mind if they needed some form of bunker.

The morning dawn to the sounds of Titan battle-horns coming in their direction. Everyone was up almost immediately as one of the two Warhound titans they had seen before came sprinting towards them, knocking buildings and shrines out of the way, and dodging constantly. Behind it however was something that stunned all of the watching troops into immobility, a Warlord titan in green and blue livery and with the head of the other Warhound titan impaled on a spike on its shoulder. With a roar, the Warlord opened fire shattering a shrine as the Warhound, which the troops now saw was badly damaged with a dent in its chest armour, dodged round behind a building and fired it weapons back towards the larger titan.

Despite the huge blast of plasma it released from its main gun the Warlord kept coming, the splash of superheated gasses stripping off a couple of the enemies void shields but doing no actual damage. The Warlord responded with a hail of bullets from some form of huge bolter that stripped the Warhound’s shields, then as it staggered, a missile launcher high on the Warlords Carapace belched a rocket that hit the Warhound and lodged in its chest. The Warhound staggered again smashing into a building just 500 metres from the Taelorn lines. As the Warlord gave out a howl of triumph the missile emitted a pulse of light, as bright as a pict-collectors flash. The Warhound tried to stand, but could only just manage to push itself away from the building, then the missile flashed again.

The Commissar realised what was about to happen, and ordered everyone into cover. Squad 1 who had taken over from Squad 2 in the Primarcherie dived in amongst the statues of the Primarchs, Squad 2 followed the Command squad into the Tithery vault. The missile began to pulse faster and faster and then there was a bright bright light and silence, punctuated solely by the sound of rain and falling masonry. Jellin and Byarl had not managed to cover their eyes and along with most of squad 2 were struck blind by the flash. They were still better off than the last man of squad 2, who was left as nothing more than a shadow on the wall.

Vyn was the first to respond, leaping out of the Tithery with his requisitioned missile launcher he saw that the upper part of the Warhound had been vaporised and the rain that was falling was actually droplets of molten metal, all that remained of the venerable loyalist machine. He also saw that the explosion had wreaked a terrible destruction on the northernmost buildings of their Grid square.

The Statue of Dorn was destroyed, only the Primarchs head was sticking out of the pile of rubble that had been the cupola. On the other side of the square the Primarcherie had been badly damaged, part of the roof falling in on top of the barricades squad one had been manning. In front of it the statue of Sebastian Thor had snapped first at the knees and then at the waist, making the venerable saint look as if he had been forced to bow to the devastation. The Statues of the Primarchs were still standing however, so there was hope that squad one had taken cover amongst them. Of the Sacristy of the paupers (and all of the mantraps they had placed around it) nothing remained but a huge pile of rubble. The Fountain had been shattered and water was now pouring out of it, and down into a hole, that he could see reached the now exposed tunnels beneath the square. In terms of the tactical situation it was a disaster, where before the buildings served to funnel the enemy, now they would provide them with fine cover.

Far off in the distance the Warlord gave a baleful blare of a triumphant war horn and scanned the debris. Seeing nothing but the two legs of the Warhound still standing it turned and stalked off in the direction it had come from. As it did so the remnants of the Taelorn forces crawled out from their hiding places, Squad one miraculously had survived uninjured, hiding amongst the statues of the Primarchs they had passed through the devastation without casualties. Squad 2 was a man down due to the explosion and the rest of them had varying levels of blindness from the flash. They along with Byarl and Liana were taken to the priest house, where Jellin spent the afternoon watching over them and treating the few minor flash burns they had received. Liana attempted to call in the sighting of the enemy titan, but the vox was clogged, the seductive shattered patterns of Scrap-code the only thing he could pick up.

Jellin and Liana were still being bugged by the feeling that they were being watched, a feeling that something was viewing their every move. They tried to ignore it however when they fell asleep they both had very similar dreams.

At first they were pursued through a darkened wood that seemed like the hinterland forests of Taelorn by a pack of shadowy and insubstantial hounds to the sounds of a hunting horn. Finally exhausted both made the choice to climb a tree, and with the hounds baying around the bottom a man appeared. Portly and middle aged he wore a robe of iridescent green and blue with silk ribbons tied round the arms and legs. He stopped beneath the tree as the hounds prowled back and forth and in a light voice exclaimed that the prey was not exactly as he expected. In both cases he talked for a short while with the captive Taelorn. With Jellin they spoke of what each person wanted, the hunter mentioning that he considered fate his purview and that he hoped soon to meet another force that believed it could control fate. With Liana the conversation was much more philosophical, touching on the state of the Emperor and what would eventually come to pass. In neither case did they learn much about the hunter, but they both awoke at the very same moment with a gasp.

A gasp which Vyn and Byarl witnessed, and when the two men discussed what had gone on they reported it directly to the Commissar while asking Argatha to watch them lest some form of warp taint was in the offing. When he heard however the Commissar looked surprised, but not overly so, and immediately ordered the two men to be left alone so they could discuss what was going on. The others were surprised, but faced with the Commissars bolt pistol they could do nothing other than as ordered.

The men didn’t get to stay there very long however as soon they heard the sound of tanks approaching from the north. As could be expected this caused a good deal of consternation, the commissar called everyone to their position. Jellin and Byarl ran forward and placed two of the Krak mines they had in the areas where tanks would have to come. Then with squad 1 up in the second floor of the priest house, and squad 2 down with the rest of the Command squad except Byarl who hid in the Primarcherie ready to rush out and attack with his Meltagun. The roar of the engines came closer and closer, and the tension racked up and up as they waited, when suddenly the lead tank crested the rubble and the Commissar realised that they were badly damaged Palaedeons, and heading straight towards the Krak mine! The Commissar started waving as the Tech Priest dived to the Vox to get them to stop before they rolled over the mine. The message obviously got through at the lead tank skewed left violently, still setting the mine off but not suffering any major damage.

The tanks came to a stop, all of them showing signs of damage, some had sponsons torn off and two of the tanks had taken heavy hits in the turret knocking them askew. When the hatches opened the Palaedeon troops that crawled out of them were obviously shaken and exhausted wearing stained and crumpled uniforms. As the Commissar stepped forward the lead tank commander sketched a vague salute in the air.

The Commissar demanded a situation report, and the Palaedeon tank commander began to paint a picture of the terrible situation the Palaedeon 42nd had found themselves in as they pushed forward from the line earlier. As he spoke however his speech was interspersed with occasional eruptions of what sounded like static from his vox plate. The Palaedeon’s pushed forwards and a few hours in found an enemy force which they utterly crushed. Buoyed by this they pushed on, but began to be ambushed by hidden missile units and other booby traps until eventually they caught an enemy column of tanks. A sharp engagement occurred between the loyalist tanks and a combination of enemy Guard tanks, and obviously re-purposed Sisters of Battle Vehicles. Again the Palaedeons were successful, but the enemy tanks along with some fairly accurate artillery fire had taken a heavy toll on them. However when they called into command the Field Marshall of the Hazeroth Burners ordered them onwards, telling them that their target was of the highest importance.

They pushed on the next day and came to a large area in front of the target shrine. However this is where the tank commanders situation report became steadily less and less certain. He told of a wide open area before a mighty but despoiled temple, in the middle of which was a giant fire fed using living pilgrims. It was into this cleared area that the Palaedeon force had penetrated, to find themselves facing a much larger tank force made almost entirely of heretic guard tanks and also some more of the captured sister of battle tanks complete with sisters crucified on the front of them. Worst still was the numbers of enemy titans, the tank commander claimed to have seen three Warlords, two Reavers, and as he put it “there was a Warhound behind every building”.

The battle was short and these four tanks were the only ones to escape.

The Commissar looked behind the man to the three tanks parked up behind him as the tank commander twitched and gave out blurts of static. Realising not all was well with the man, the commissar drew the Tech Priest and Medic off to one side with him. It was fairly obvious to Jellin that the man was shell-shocked, but Liana was much more worried that they might have been infected with scrap-code. They moved them into the priest house while they called it in to command.

Delayne agreed, and instructed them to see if they could get the Palaedeons to leave them one of the three tanks they had as if the story they had been told was true they might well need the heavy guns of the tanks. The men would be redeployed into the other two tanks and should be sent back to command for… debriefing.

The Commissar mentioned this to the tank commander who in a sightly spaced out voice, twitching as his cyberware shorted, replied that he would leave them one of the four tanks that they had. The Commissar questioned them as to which they would be leaving, as he was requesting the one with the working battle-cannon turret. The tank Commander agreed saying that he would leave that tank but the other three would return to base. The Commissar tried to ascertain which was the third tank, ad the Palaedeon pointed to an empty space, which he informed them was the “Pain of Palaedeon” and was driven by the “Commander”.

Not wanting to pry further the troops sent them on their way, setting up the remaining tank in a strong position.

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