Battle Report: Heretics' Ambush (2000pts, 8th Edition)
From the journal of Kapitan Vasili Usukov, 1st Company, 99th Rusovian Regiment
The landing on Dagob 4-H was uneventful, but as we dropped through the misty atmosphere into the muddy green of the planet's surface below, I couldn't help but feel a sense of dread at the coming battle. This would be my first action since the escape from Rusov, and if possible I felt less prepared now than I had then.
I had been issued a power sword and plasma pistol from the armory, armaments befitting my new rank, but for some reason I wished for the familiar hum and snap of the lasgun I had used in training. The sword hung heavy at my side and the holstered pistol was already hot enough to feel the warmth through my fatigues.
As we disembarked from the landing craft, our men formed a rough perimeter around the swampy clearing, as we had been trained to do. The air was oppressively hot, and so humid one could barely breathe. Alien creatures chittered in the forest around us, but otherwise the landing site was ominously silent. The Primaris Marines, some of them still with unpainted ceramite armor, formed up in neat ranks, their orders and conversations unheard to us.
Colonel Antonov bellowed to form up in parade column, and we began our march into the sodden jungle, following a rough dirt road that wound into the 83rd Catachan's territory.
We trod through the mud of the road, trying our best to peer through the fog for signs of our potential enemies. Our Rusovian greatcoats became soaked with sweat and mist, and many of us shed the garments, storing them in the company Taurox.
After several hours of marching, with the fetid swamp water beginning to seep into my boots, the Primaris Lieutenant on point raised a fist suddenly, and the column halted. Through the damp air came a muffled sound...the growling of engines.
After a few seconds of listening to confirm that the vehicles were approaching closer, I shouted for my men to "FORM UP!!" As they began to deploy into ranks, one on either side of the Taurox and officers' detachments, Colonel Antonov strode back to confer with me.
"Vasili, shouldn't we await contact before we deploy? These guardsmen are supposed to be our allies!"
I gave him a flat look, replying, "We'll await contact, yes. But I think we should be in battle formation in case that contact is hostile." Then to the rear of the column, I yelled for the heavy weapons teams and the Earthshaker cannon crew to begin deploying.
We formed into firing ranks and stood silently, peering into the mists as the rumbling grew louder. Suddenly, several large masses appeared through the fog, crushing the undergrowth under their treads and tires. Their profiles were strange to me, all of them seeming to be adapted to the swampy terrain.
Antonov raised a vox-speaker to his mouth and shouted, "MEN OF THE 83RD REGIMENT! STAND DOWN IMMEDIATELY AND APPROACH FOR PARLEY!"
There was no answer. The vehicles' engines idled as we waited with bated breath. Sweat trickled down my brow, and my plasma pistol hummed quietly in the silence.
Just then, a high pitched whistling sounded high above us, descending in tone rapidly. "INCOMING!!!!" I screamed, and dove to the dirt. A mortar round exploded next to the squad of veterans that had been leading the column. Immediately, the air was filled with the cacophony of battle. Lasguns snapped, the Earthshaker began to fire, more mortar rounds burst all around us. I saw men fall to the earth with shrapnel eviscerating their bodies.
I heard a sound that was as out of place as it was eerie: the whinnying of horses. I saw the Earthshaker cannon swing around to the left, and the charging cavalry got a round of grapeshot over open sights, like horsemen on some ancient, gunpowder-clouded Terran battlefield.
Through all of this, the Space Marines stood impassively, like stone statues in a rainstorm of steel. I resented them and admired them in equal measure in that moment; while my brothers were being scythed down like wheat, the Primaris were weathering the enemy fire as if it was nothing.
"FORWARD! WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!!" Antonov shouted in the confusion. Tanks, cavalry, and now infantrymen were swinging around our sides in a pincher movement. The forest ahead was much thicker, however, and I questioned in my mind the wisdom of moving into unknown ground, away from our support section.
The Taurox leaped forward and the Marines began swinging out and forward, their bolt rifles working with machine-like efficiency. Looking around the chaos of the battlefield, I saw very few of my guardsmen comrades still standing, piles of still forms lying where they once stood.
A dark-green tank with massive tires lurched forward from the enemy formation, and from its turret spewed a gout of flame. More infantry fell, writhing in pain, and even a couple of the mighty Primaris were engulfed in the inferno. Rifles, mortars, and artillery shells streaked in, focusing fire on the hellish tank, and my face was hit with an oven blast of heat and light as the vehicle exploded in a giant fireball.
We pushed forward, still under fire from the enemy mortars, and from the thicket ahead charged two squads of heretic guardsmen, pushing forward and swarming over the Taurox as it tried in vain to mow them down with its gatling cannon. The Primaris strode forward and quickly overwhelmed them, the Captain's thunder hammer cutting swathes in the ranks of enemy infantry.
In the rear, the support section struggled to hold off a flanking attack on the Earthshaker cannon, and I saw a heretic priest in the thick of the melee, spewing foul curses in some warp-tainted language. The big gun fell silent as grenades pelted the position, smoke rising into the sky as the bloody exchange continued.
With the last of the charging heretics thrown off the Taurox, the Primaris and remaining Guard formed up in a rough horseshoe around the vehicle, hoping to form a wedge that could break through the forest ahead.
It wasn't to be. Out of the treeline emerged three fresh squads of howling traitors, sprinting toward our bloodied lines. Behind them, a man I recognized as the legendary Colonel Trakken raised his sword and urged them on.
"FALL BACK!!" a vox-enhanced voice yelled, and I realized it was the Primaris Captain. Space Marine and Guardsmen alike began to give ground rapidly, and the Taurox covered our retreat with suppressive fire. On my way back to the rear, I passed tangles of Rusovian dead lying in the mud, their limbs twisted through each other like the roots of a mangrove tree, their eyes glassy and still.
I cursed Antonov for leading us here. I cursed this pointless loss of life. I almost cursed the Imperium for sending us to our doom, but Commissar Lievanov was running not far from me, and I wanted to take no chances. I settled for cursing the fetid planet and the traitor guardsmen who had attacked us. But it was over.
Our transport ships lifted off, much lighter than when they had arrived. I sat back in my jumpseat, remembering the dead stares of my brothers and friends. Welcome to the Guard.