Battle of First Contact

The many weeks of the Adrilles War are fertile ground for historians and artists from which they can cull and craft numerous accounts of battles fought. Indeed, in the many years since the war, history has taken shape not in official Imperium reports, but in scholarly writings,  poetry, paintings and other forms such as tapestries and tile mosaics. Philosophers on the fringe of thought are drawn to the Adrilles War because of the number of factions and ideologies involved. Some wars are straightforward in their purpose. The Adrilles War was not one such. The goals of the armies involved and the strategies of their commanders shifted throughout. Alliances were seemingly forged and yet often the allies never coordinated their strategies on the battlefield. Military historians catalogue the facts and figures of the Adrilles War– the dates and sites of battles, casualties, resources brought, resources lost, ground gained and ground lost. These are the facts that can– with the appropriate research applied– be determined and set down with plausible certainty. It’s the philosophers and the artists who try to understand the why at the heart of the war. The blasphemous Jagers versus the might of Imperium purity is the kind of stuff that makes both philosopher and artist froth. Regardless of one’s approach to the Adrilles War– fact or feeling– the heroic and horrific possibilities are still being explored and debated in some corners of art and academia.

The disparate nature of the body of work concerning the Adrilles War has made it easy to forget the sheer size of the operation launched by Arjac Rockfist five days after his Wolves entered orbit around the planet Adrilles. In the most simplistic of terms, the plan was the full scale invasion of the planet, the goal of which was to isolate, suppress and ultimately annihilate the Jager Corps operations. It has been argued that Arjac should have known of the presence of Necron and Chaotic forces on the planet and, therefore, should have altered his plan. Military historians– primarily those in the Imperium– state that Arjac’s actions in the moments after the moon Abfall exploded– thus signalling the awakening of the Rubicon Necrons– would suggest Arjac was caught by surprise. Official logs from the Wolves’ Strike Cruisers show an increasing amount of atmospheric disturbances over the whole planet. Ship sensors had difficultly penetrating the storms that raged. As a result, thousands of probes were sent to the planet’s surface. The data Arjac and his commanders used to determine strike points for their planetary assault came primarily from these probes. More intrepid researchers have cross-referenced ship readings with the data of the probes and then collated those against information provided by Imperial troops during the first day’s fighting. The results of these researchers show that data from probes was no more reliable then the data from the ship sensors. The combination of psychic and atmospheric disturbances ravaging Adrilles prevented accurate data from being obtained by any means. This meant Arjac Rockfist’s plan was most likely doomed before it even began.

Records from the days leading up to the planetary assault confirm that Arjac and his commanders had doubts about the accuracy of the readings obtained from orbit and from the probes sent to the planet. That intel was bolstered by Imperium psykers who claimed to be able to pinpoint with accuracy hotspots of psychic activity on the planet Adrilles. The psykers reported that these were the result of the Jagers’ psychic experimentation with Tyranids. Arjac and his commanders acted on this data.

Rockfist’s plan was twenty-seven simultaneous, military planetfalls. These were to occur on the heels of a twelve hours of orbital bombardment. An hour into the bombing, the storms over the planet increased substantially and readings suggested the psychic and atmospheric disturbances would grow exponentially worse. This caused Arjac Rockfist to launch his twenty-seven assault teams well before he had intended. The forces had already been assembled and briefed and were at the ready when the bombardment began. This meant that the onset of the planetary assault was well coordinated even though it was launched eleven hours early.

History has now shown the readings Arjac’s psykers had fixated on were not all facilities of the Jagers where psychic experimentation was occurring. Many of these were areas where Sautekh Necron tombs were coming to the surface. Others were sites of young chaotic rifts. The volcanic activity resulting from the awakening Sautekh Necrons spewed 124 megatons of thermal energy into the already turbulent atmosphere of Adrilles. Warp bleeds, rift tears, and portal implosions caused by the forces of Chaos further churned the atmosphere. Arjac Rockfist’s twenty-seven strike forces descended into this maelstrom. The ferocity of the storms battered and scattered the assault. Some transports and drop pods were torn apart or were so badly damaged they hit the surface like meteor strikes. Many– if not most– teams did not land at the intended targets. The well coordinated planet-wide assault was now scattered across the surface of the planet, disorganized but still resolute to perform the duty set out for them.

Then the moon Abfall exploded, throwing the Space Wolves orbital blockade into disarray. The Claw of Russ– Arjac Rockfist’s command ship– was damaged in the fire of enslaved star gods. The gravitational forces of Adrilles pulled on the crippled Strike Cruiser. The ship’s engineers and a legion of servitors swarmed through the ship’s inner workings like disturbed ants, working to keep the Claw of Russ from the planet’s deadly embrace. Meanwhile, over the din of the injured ship, Arjac Rockfist heard the disjointed combat reports coming in from the planet’s surface. His military mind filtered out of the babble and fixated on this distressing fact: The Jagers and their pet Tyranids were not the only enemy on the planet.

Arjac Rockfist decided– some would say too hastily– to scramble all of his reserves to aid in the attack. All would launch on his command and would follow in his wake. As the drop pod carrying Arjac Rockfist to the planet’s surface raced toward the atmospheric storms, he barked orders to the commanders of the Ire of Grimnar and Hammerfall. Hammerfall was to replace the battered Claw of Russ in a position of high orbit where planetary bombardment could commence if needed. Ire of Grimnar was to move into a position where it could engage with the remnants of the shattered moon and whatever threats emerged.

More than ten thousand Space Wolves and support personnel were deployed to the planet in this initial assault. Ten thousand to deal with the estimated three thousand troops and support personnel who followed Magister Militum Frans Ruldolf to Adrilles. Such an overwhelming show of force was in keeping with the Space Wolves tactics of eradication, but even ten thousand proved to be too few against the tens of thousands of awakening Necrons and the countless daemonspawn that descended on the planet like a plague.

Arjact Rockfist made planetfall in one of the few spots where Jager, Necron and Tyranid were already engaged in a vicious battle. This patch of  volcanic desolation would become known as the site of The Battle of First Contact.

****

Kaarle pressed his calloused knuckles into the base of his spine. He pushed as hard as he could, arching his back as he did so, feeling his lower vertebrae pop in a pleasing manner. He rolled his shoulders next, feeling the scapula grind. He was stripped to the waist, his bare skin slick with sweat and oil. His fatigues were as befouled as his skin, the cuffs tucked deep into his high-topped, black-soled deck boots. The laces were new, tied tight. His ankles ached. His sore back and shoulders were the result of today’s hard work– work that was not yet complete– but the shallow throb in his ankles was the result of age.

Blurred smears in his vision cleared as he wiped sweat from his eyes. The vast launch bay in the Claw of Russ was a mass of movement. Loaders carried ordinance to a long row of Drop Pods being fueled by crewmen in tight-fitting coveralls. The Drop Pod tech crews surveyed their craft, going through checklists with veteran efficiency. Weapon racks were stocked by armorers and scrutinized by the deck’s Masters-At-Arms. Hundreds of technical servitors buzzed among it all, performing programmed duties with cold indifference. Servicemen such as Kaarle moved with speed among the thousands of crates stacked taller than an Astartes. The crew worked in teams and sometimes in tandem with the loaders and other semi-autonomous machines that knew of nothing outside the daily routines of the deck.

Truth be told, many of the servicemen gave little thought to life outside of the hangar, too, except perhaps an occasional longing for a stretch of leave, of dice and drink in the barracks, and of gossip filtering down from other areas of the Strike Cruiser, a vessel so vast and so populated that it was like a city. Kaarle was one such. What did he care for life outside the Claw of Russ. His needs and wants were provided or could be obtained through barter. In return, he did his duties so the giant metal Warriors could go to war and return victorious. The cycle repeated. For Kaarle that meant routine during the time between war. There were other, additional duties during and after war. Kaarle performed all of these to the best of his capabilities. As he massaged his sore back and watched the finely tuned orchestration required to prepare the Vlka Fenryka for war he knew he was but one cog of many that formed a perfect machine whose purpose was to make war possible.

A bump against his leg drew his attention away from the busy tableau. A squat, many armed maintenance servitor was looking up at him with one dull red visual sensor. Its box-like body was an array of compartments. Hung in the space between the compartments were all manner of tools, each gripped by five metal claws. One claw was moving slowly toward his face as the servitor extended one of its multi-segmented arms. A spanner was gripped in the curled metal fist. The spanner was scarred, its metal dull and dented.

“You found it,” said Kaarle, taking the offered spanner. His hands moved along its familiar grooves. He slung it through one of the many loops along his belt. A simple spanner it was, but it was his most reliable tool. Whenever the proper tools for a particular piece of mechanical fix failed to do the job Kaarle would wail on the offending tech with his trusty spanner. Rarely did the violence fix the problem, but venting his frustration always managed to clear his head.

Kaarle was one of seventy-five mechanical crew assigned to this particular Drop Pod launch bay and the Drop Pod hangar attached. He was one in a crew of twelve tasked with servicing the track-line that carried the Drop Pods from the hangar bay to the launch deck. Each of the twelve servicemen were responsible for six tracks. Kaarle serviced tracks 1 to 6. Each track-line was a double row of heavy chain set into a recess in the deck. Each stretch of chain was one hundred and fifty meters in length. The heavy motors that pulled the chain like the treads of an Imperial Leman Russ battle tank were accessible through hatches set in the deck floor. A long stretch of metal stairs led to the gangways of the motor and chain housing. It was loud and poorly lit, but it was where much of Kaarle’s mechanical skills were needed. Clotted grease dripped from the chain at all times, a thick, persistent rain.

Each man had a servitor assistant. His was the one passing him the spanner. K-TOR was surprisingly nimble. It used its many arms to swing along scaffold or cling to the sides of the chain assembly. It hauled itself up the motor’s outer casing quickly and surely, waiting within the metal guts where servicing was required while Kaarle used the manual, rattling cage lift or the rung ladders affixed to the motor like scar tissue.

“It was right where you said it might be.” K-TOR’s voice module produced an affable tone. The center of its visual sensor constricted a fraction. The extended arm was contracting back into K-TOR’s central body.

[more to come]

****

 

 

 

Advertisements

About caperaway

I’m a publisher writer of graphic novels and short fiction. Published works include Acts of Violence: An Anthology of Crime Comics, The Grim Collection, Black Salt, and Psychosis. View all posts by caperaway

Comments are disabled.

%d bloggers like this: