Advent of Salvation Part 3

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Advent of Salvation Part 3

Postby Dweese » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:56 pm

As Chapter Master Aurelianus clandestinely made his way back to the transport that delivered him back to the Crimson Guard fleet waiting in system, below on the planet the battle continued to rage. At a dozen points, along a front stretching for nearly 200 kilometers were small yet deadly battles. The rebel pursuit of the loyalist forces that had started ten days prior and almost 250 kilometers to the east was only now finally nearing the capital district and ultimate victory.
A rebel reconnaissance in force, led by an armored battalion commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel Mahdi Wahid, clashed with the rear guard of the 2nd Obrian Infantry Regiment (Loyalist). The loyalist infantry, pinned in front by Wahid’s accompanying infantry, were surrounded on their right by the rebel armor which flowed around them. Realizing they were trapped the loyalists formed a close knit, circular defense among a line of rugged hills and wood lots. As the rebels pressed their advantage, the loyalist infantry commander, a Captain M’fon Odwalla, ordered the survivors to fix bayonets, grabbed the company standard and led a bayonet charge west towards loyalist territory. Troopers fell to both sides of him but they managed to wash their bayonets in rebel blood, enough so in order to forcibly plow a small hole into the surrounding rebel forces and allow some of them to escape the enclosing net. Captain Odwalla himself, however, paid the ultimate price to allow some forty of his men and women to break out of the trap. Knowing he was about to die he defiantly planted the standard in the earth and shouted the Litany of Imperial Protection as a tank ground down towards him. An escaping loyalist who passed the word of the tale on ensured that, in a way, Captain Odwalla would live on. Odwalla would receive a posthumous decoration and a twenty one gun salute by the orders of Montoya himself.
As loyalist artillery began to bracket the rebel reconnaissance force, Lt. Colonel Wahid wisely pulled back several kilometers while still being able to observe the leading edge of the reforming loyalist forces who began to dig in, by nightfall, along a natural range of hills ascending up into mountains along the northern spur of the ridge line known as the Abyssinian Range.
To Wahid’s right the rebel 7th Division, one of Lt. General Muskwe’s most reliable body of soldiery, edged to the foothills of the Abyssinian Range. However, a combination of exhaustion and lengthy supply lines conspired to rob the rebel 7th of its impetus within a few hours of skirmishing. By nightfall loyalist counterattacks, some of them from ad hoc battle groups culled from the disparate nearby retreating divisions, evicted the rebels from their lodgings. Despite this small scale victory the loyalists had to taste the ash in their mouths when they would discover upon a late night head count that their ‘victory’ had been bought at the cost of almost three troopers for every one of the rebels.
Meandering around the foothills of the Abyssinian Range, until it sharply turned north west to bisect the Range and frame the Manufactoria District to trailing around the northern edge of the Manufactoria till it emptied out into the Obsidian Sea was the Jarmuk River. Knowing she had to seize a crossing at one or more points across the river with which to expand a west bank bridgehead, General Muskwe ordered forward the armored elements of her 3rd Division under Major General Tuolo Obogi.
But what was true for the 7th was just as true for the 3rd: lack of supplies, low fuel stocks and sheer mind numbing weariness caused both an unwillingness to commit to major scraps as well as a serious failure in tactical on site leadership. Mistakes caused by both sleep deprivation and hunger allowed the loyalists to hold firm the crossings on the west bank. However, a spirited, though ill advised, counterattack by a fresh regiment of infantry, transported to the front directly from the mustering fields outside Obrias City (the worlds capital), and met with tragedy. The regiment, the 10th Obrias City Rifles, pushed three kilometers into the eastern side of the river and managed to press onwards into the city of Adowa. There, however, they were surrounded by the very same rebel formations they had pushed aside in their first enthusiastic rush who simply flowed into the void left by the advancing regiment which was slow in having its success supported. By the next morning the 10th Obrias City Rifles were trapped within the crumbling edifice of Adowa.
All along the front the battered, retreating loyalist forces threw out rearguards to cover the bulk of their divisions in order to bring out some kind of semblance of order along the Abyssinian Range and to, hopefully, secure the west bank of the Jarmuk River. Twenty kilometers to the north of Adowa the loyalist 12th Division, under the command of Said al Khalid, trudged wearily east, losing stragglers and deserters along the way. Still in Obrias City, though preparing to make his way to the front, al Khalid had to rely on Brigadier General Ahmed Muwatali to hold the slowly fragmenting 12th Division, which had had the farthest to retreat, pursued the entire way by victorious rebel forces, together.
The arrival of a company of the Adepta Sororitas which saved the 18th Obrian Reserves, demolished the pursuing force of the rebel 8th Division. By early morning, al Khalid would arrive at the front and direct his weary division into the already engineered positions prepared two days prior by engineers landed from orbit as well as a contingent of the Mechanicus assigned to the Crusading force. The weary 12th Division filed into the positions and collapsed into a stupor, though at least the entire division, what was left of it, received their first hot meal in almost a month and fresh supplies were distributed. All of the 12th Division that is save for the survivors of the 18th Obrian Reserves, which having stood as rear guard, found themselves cut off by a flanking force of the rebel 8th Division which struck through the vulnerable gap between the loyalist 12th Division and the battered loyalists of the 4th which had its hands full trying to figure out how to rescue their overly enthusiastic rookies in the city of Adowa.
With their line officers having been killed in the rearguard action, the command of the 18th Obrian Reserves fell to the senior officer on site of the Adepta Sororitas: Sister Superior Adventia.

The darkened Strategium aboard the enormous vessel failed to hide the assembled officers within the grips of its shadows. The light dancing off the faces of the line officers of the Crimson Guard Chapter of Astartes showcased their concern over the battle plans uploaded to the cogitators of their massive Battle Barge the Righteous Vengeance. In silence the ten Astartes watched the proposed battle plan play out from the holo display, and despite another viewing it made none of them feel any more at ease then the last time they had watched it. All of the officers showed looks of deep concern though none more so than Aurelianus’ First Captain. Aurelianus regarded him with a hooded gaze, watching his apparent discomfort with the plan.
“Montoya’s plan displeases you Brother Captain?” Aurelianus asked.
First Captain Silas Domitian pursed his lips and glanced up at his Chapter Master.
“Permission to speak freely my Lord?”
“When has not having my permission ever stopped you from doing so in the past?” Aurelianus asked wryly. Captain Domitian snorted a laugh and raised a hand to idly scratch the top of his bald pate.
“My Lord, this man Montoya, yes he is a Militant Lord General, however he is not an Astartes nor does he command Astartes. His operational plan is overly reckless and dependent upon his, alleged, capability to deploy his strategic reserves from orbit at precisely the right position at precisely the right time to unbalance his foe. Now don’t mistake me my Lord, I know Montoya, for a man he is a good commander, brilliant even. However this plan of his is too reliant upon too many variables and seems to me to be another excuse for him to satiate his nearly unquenchable thirst to gamble.”
Aurelianus tilted his head to the side and raised an eyebrow in question.
“I believe your unspoken concern Captain Domitian is that the Guard will do all the killing and we won’t be able to wash our blades in crimson.”
Domitian’s eyes narrowed.
“Imperial Guard win a battle before Astartes can earn their right for glory?” Domitian asked incredulously. Aurelianus nodded with a sly grin.
“Sheer blasphemy.” Domitian grumbled, crossing his arms over his armored chest.
Aurelianus sighed and switched off the holo projection and the multi-colored lines of light representing the opposing forces and the proposed outcome of engagement vanished.
“I understand both your concerns for the welfare of the world below and its people upon it as well as your hope for glory. Trust me Brother Captain, our blades will be washed in crimson soon enough. Besides, Montoya has baited me with a challenge…” Aurelianus said with a deep frown, allowing his words to trail off in annoyance. Domitian’s eyes narrowed as did those of several of the other officers aboard the Strategium.
“What kind of challenge?” Domitian asked darkly. Aurelianus offered his subordinate a bitter smile in return.
“The Crimson Guard were not the only Chapter of Astartes our friend Montoya beseeched for assistance in winning his crusade.” Aurelianus said after a pause. Domitian uncrossed his arms and grunted in thought.
“Crimson Fists?” Domitian asked after a moment’s thought.
“No, our founders have ensconced themselves on Rynn’s World, I’m assuming to prepare for a strike into greenskin territory within their sector.”
An officer near the back of the Strategium approached the holo projection unit and spoke to the others assembled around him.
“Yes the greenskins have been building quite the little empire near the operating sector of the Crimson Fists. Does Kantor believe the greenskins will hit Rynn’s World itself?”
Aurelianus shook his head in response to the Captains question.
“If any greenskin force, even one of tremendous size, were to attempt planetfall on Rynn’s World the Fists defenses, especially those of the Arx Tyrannus would blow them to perdition within a moment’s thought. So no, the Crimson Fists are not preparing for defense, my guess is that they are readying for a strike of their own to dismantle the greenskin holdings. Though I do share your eagerness Brother Captain Domitian with once again fighting alongside our progenitors. Wish that were the case…”
The Astartes officer who had spoken up turned to Aurelianus and faced him directly.
“If Montoya has baited us with a challenge then this means only two chapters. Two chapters that have had dealings with our chapter in the past that left a certain score to be settled.”
Both Aurelianus and Domitian glanced over at the officer who had remained silent throughout most of the briefing until recently. Captain of the Third Company Gaius Laelius shrugged and decided to speak the names of the two that he had thinking of.
“My Lord, Brother Captains, if this challenge is what I am thinking of then it can only be either the Consecrators or the Storm Lords.”
For a long moment there was silence and a gathering of scowling, frowning faces. Domitian turned to face Aurelianus and blew out a sigh.
“My Lord I was only a mere Scout when our feud with the Consecrators began and I have only, personally, had two dealings with them in the over two hundred years hence. However, I must say that despite their unjust arrogance in assuming the mantle of victory against the spawn of the dark gods on Veldor I would far rather deal with the sons of the Lion again than those unwashed barbarians of the Khan’s brood.” Domitian said with vehemence.
Aurelianus held his First Captain’s gaze and nodded in agreement. He hated the idea of working with the sons of the Khan just as much as did the rest of the Crimson Guard. The wound of the Storm Warriors brazen actions were still fresh, having been only a decade prior. Unfortunately, Aurelianus already knew who it was that had answered Montoya’s call for aid in the coming crusade.
“My Brothers I am afraid I am the bearer of truly terrible and uncomfortable news. Two other chapters of Astartes agreed to send forces in response to Montoya’s call for assistance from the Adeptus Astartes and half a dozen others have expressed interest in joining the Crusade at a later date should they still be needed and their own commitments are finished.” He paused to glance around at the other Captains, none of whom regarded with anything other than dread anticipation.
“The Iron Lords will be providing two companies in their entirety to the campaign but they are quite far away and it will take some time before they arrive from having navigated the warp. Montoya believes that the battle for this particular world will be over by the time their forces arrive. As you all know our entire chapter’s forces are provided for this crusade, I intend to see this crusade marked by the valor of our Brothers and to wash all of these worlds in the crimson of the heretic and rebel. However, and it pains me to say so…” He paused and he could see the look of near torment on the faces of his Brother Captains throughout the Strategium and decided, with a mental shrug, to merely go ahead and tell them.
“My Brothers, the Storm Lords have pledged half of their chapter, five whole brotherhoods to assist in the crusade, and their Chapter Master Subotai will himself be in command.” Despite the unpleasantness of the news Aurelianus was gratified that instead of anger he saw a wave of determination to best their arch rivals pass over the faces of his Brother Captains. Glancing around him he nodded in thanks at their confident and determined lust to outperform their rivals.
“Make no mistake my Brothers, in this crusade we will take losses. And if the dark gods are behind this sedition of an entire sector, and I do not see why they wouldn’t be, then rest assured that we will face once again daemons, warp spawn and better yet the traitors who formed the original heresy so many millennia ago. Do not let your need to best the Storm Lords overcome your need to destroy the foe. No mercy for the rebel. No forgiveness for the heretic. Only in death can our foes be called foes no longer and only in death does our own duty cease. For as long as we draw breath and wield our weapons in the Emperors name, the Crimson Guard shall spread the righteous fear of the Emperor and of the human race into all those who oppose His Holy name.”

Consciousness flooded back into him and he opened his eyes with a flutter. Glancing around at his strange surroundings he sat upright with a start. He had a sudden and truly desperate anticipation, as though he was missing out on performing a serious duty. Rather groggily, still slightly woozy, he attempted to stand and then noticed the strain, and pain, of a pulled nutrient line attached to his body intravenously. The memory of his injury dawned on him and he realized that he was in some kind of apothecarion. The structure was a makeshift field tent. And the further he glanced around he realized that it was in the process of being dismantled and stowed away for transport.
“Oh good, you’re awake. That will make moving you so much easier.” A female voice said behind him and he turned his head to see a small, robed woman. Her robes were the same colors of those of the power armor worn by the Sisters of Battle he encountered on the field. Black and red. And he further noticed, as she shifted position to unhook his i.v. line, flaring her robe open in the process, that she was wearing a lower class of power armor than those worn by the Sororitas who had rescued his unit from destruction. Her hair was cut short, shorn into a bob just below her ears and her almond eyes, he noticed, were the same as those of Sister Superior Adventia.
He had to admit that he had never before in his life seen a woman who looked like this one. On Obrias people were simply not that pale of skin nor were their eyes shaped in such a manner. That was when he realized that she had noticed him staring.
“My apologies my Lady, I wasn’t intending anything untoward. Just that people like you don’t exist on Obrias.” He said meekly, holding up a hand in a warding gesture. She smiled and shrugged.
“I take it you’ve never been off your homeworld before have you?” She asked, her voice surprisingly soft for someone wearing powered armor.
“No I haven’t.” he replied, wincing with pain as she took out the needle previously imbedded within his arm.
“I see you also haven’t had much experience with offworlders either.” The Sister asked, who his mind now realized was a Hospitaler.
He shook his head as he rubbed a hand over the spot where the needled had been rammed into his arm to feed the stream of nutrients to help him heal more swiftly.
“No not much really. The occasional Ministorum crew to take the tithe of food from the spaceports to the hive worlds. A few Mechanicus officials a few years ago when they expanded our manufactoria district. But never have I seen anyone like you.” He said pointedly. “What is your name if I may ask?” He then sheepishly inquired, not wanting to offend someone who was in charge of such things as needles and other such sharp and uncomfortable medical equipment.
She pulled down his undershirt from the front to check his sutures and bandages as she replied.
“I am Sister Mercy.” She said with a shrug.
With a knowing chuckle he shook his head.
“I meant your name. The one you were given at birth. The one you used to go by.” She paused for a moment in thought before offering him a shy smile.
“Nakamura, Taka Nakamura. I grew up on the world of Nippon, several months from here in warp travel.”
Benjen nodded appreciatively, understanding that he had an awful lot to learn about the universe at large. Such was the price one paid by being a simple farmer by profession and a soldier by happenstance.
“Why, if you’re a Hospitaler Sister, are you armed as are the other Hospitaler’s I see working around here?” he asked. She smiled and snorted a laugh.
“You do remember we are, after all, in a war zone correct?” She asked him in reply.
With a chuckle he was about to ask the little Hospitaler another question when he heard another Sororitas, he could tell by the soft, barely audible whine of her power armors servomotors as she walked, enter the tent and approach the two of them.
“I am sure that Sister Mercy would love to spend time chatting with you Captain Odili, she is the friendly sort. However duty calls and as of now you are needed back in your unit where you are expected to take command of your company.” Without even looking at her, had he only heard the sheer authority and the calm, commanding presence of the woman he would have known that he was being spoken to by Sister Superior Adventia.
The two Sororitas’, one Hospitaler the other of the militant order, looked almost enough alike to Benjen’s eyes to be related. Though as he took a brief moment to regard the two women he could tell subtle differences. Sister Mercy’s face was more angular while Adventia’s was more of a rounded in cast. Though both shared the same almond eyes and the shortened, raven black hair, Adventia’s eyes were of more of a severe angle than were Sister Mercy’s and she had a black, teardrop shaped tattoo under her right eye. There was, of course, also the difference of Sister Superior Adventia holding an ominously deadly looking bolter rifle. Benjen stopped his visual inspection of the woman and tilted his head in question.
“I’m sorry Sister Superior but I am only a Sergeant, not a Captain.” He said.
“Afraid that’s my doing Ben, most of the officers were cut down in the last engagement. Hell I’m a Major now. So if I have to have an unwanted battlefield promotion so do you. Besides both myself and the troopers respect you and unlike some of them you’ve been with the unit since the beginning of the conflict. You’re experienced and reliable. I need you at my side on this one Ben, no arguments.” Captain, now Major, Daniel Otunga said. With a weary sigh Benjen nodded and saluted his Major.
“All right then Major, what are your orders?” He asked. Otunga simply glanced over at Sister Superior and inclined his head towards her. She nodded in appreciation and made eye contact with Benjen as she addressed him.
“Allow me to place you up to speed Captain. Rebel forces have cut us off. We now this from both intercepted transmissions caught on our vox on our Rhino transports as well as a coded burst transmission from Canoness Susannah informing myself that approximately twenty kilometers to our south is the city of Adowa. It seems as though a loyalist regiment has been encircled and trapped there. Seeing as how we are ourselves cut off from loyalist forces and that the powers that be need the regiment in Adowa retaken we are going to kill two birds with one stone and do what the rebels won’t expect of us.” She paused and regarded both Otunga and Odili before continuing. Both men were paying rapt attention.
“You will form up your troopers as rapidly as possible and place them inside our Rhino’s, the ones who will not fit will ride atop the vehicles with the Sororitas. Gentlemen, we’re going to plow straight through to Adowa, break the encirclement there and then blast our allies out and back across the west bank of the Jarmuk.”
Dweese
 
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