The Aquila cut through the air; Ragnar strained at the controls avoiding the waves of antiaircraft fire that were slicing upwards. Avoiding the fire was stressful enought without the 20 tonnes of deadweight strapped to the underside of the lander. He banked hard to avoid a missile, the Aquila's wings cut its contrail mere feet behind the exhaust flame. Ragnar was flying purely by instinct. He felt the ebb of the thermals rising from the burning countryside, the stained pitch of the engine's machine sprit. His instructors at the Tactical Aeronautica would have have a fit to see him discard years of dogma. His rote memorisation flight classes never covered extraction from a hot LZ, surround by a raging battle, in the mist of a plantenary invasion by hostile Xeno, while lifting an armoured personal carrier into orbit. Perhaps he should write a letter and advise his old tutors to update their material. He reversed his turn, flipping the control yoke back in the opposite direction as another threat presented itself. As he gained altitude and the tug of gravity subsided he was confronted with a nightmarish scene. The Augers and Auspexs of the Aquila returned a cluttered mass of signals, his entire field of vision was engulfed by an naval engagement, macro-ordnance both explosive imperial warheads and massive bruitish canon shells streaked acros the void to slam into starship hulls, lance beams crisscrossed the darkness and peeled away layers of armour. The Redeemer was engaged in a vain attempt to halt an Ork Rok. Badly positioned and with the macro-batteries misaligned, the Rok was baring the brunt of the fire against its heavly armoured prow, by the time Ragnar would be able to get the captan back on board the Rok would have slipped by. The planetary defence ships were fairing worse, their smaller caliber cannons and lances were unable to significantly damage the huge repurposed asteroids. Ragnar starred in horror as the enemy ships continued to take a tremendous amount of punishment. Hull-cracking macrocannon bombardments lashed out at them and despite bleeding air and vomiting fire, the torn and damaged Roks continued their descent. The orbital plane surrounding Damaris was rapidly filling with debris, the larger objects were easy to visualy identify and avoid but the smaller faster moving rock fragments and adamantium shards were small enough to confuse the auspex and all but invisible to the naked eye. An unluckily placed impact could cripple an engine or puncture the armour glass of the Aquila's cockpit. Avoiding the obvious clouds of micro shards with deft manevouring, sweat rolled down Ragnar's forehead as he weaved between some large chunks of crippled spaceship. Ragnar sighed in relief as he cleared the worst of the debris and opened a Vox channel on the frequency assigned to the orbital defences. Hundreds of panicked voices screeched in his headset. System defence ships and planet side Auspex stations relayed enemy ship movements; requests for fire support and salvation signals filled the endless void. The calm voice of Commander Reynolds couldbe heard above the rable redirecting ships and coordinating the planetary defence lasers. The gruff master of the bulwark was one of the few citizens of Damaris that had seen space combat and he wore the mantle of command well. As Ragnar brought the shuttle into an approach vector with the Redeemer he received a challenge from the lieutenant commanding the defence turrents. He was silently thankful that the lieutenant was calm enought to verify their identity before opening fire, with the transmission of the correct security codes they were welcomed aboard by a crew over-joyed to have their commanding officers safley returned.
Luther squinted, the room was awash with dull green light from the massive holograph of Damaris. Blue icons marked the locations of the heroic forces defending Damaris the bulk of the ground forces were centred around Damaris city only minimal forces protected the minor outlying settlements. A sizeable portion of blue icons were detached from the green icons representing the civilian population centres. This offensive corps had spearheaded the counter assault against the brutish Xeno green skins. Buoyed by the cushing victory in the first ground clash of the war. The offensive forces had made significant progress. He wondered how the war would be faring if that first assault had been blunted by the Ork firebase eliminated by the timely intervention of the captan and entourage . With the threat of the crude Xeno artillery removed the Damaris Levy infantry battalions had serged forward and overwhelmed the lead Ork forces. Backed by the Leman Russ tanks of the Sphinx Heavy Guard’s armoured core, General Dante soon had his ground forces surround the first Ork Rok, the infantry hunkered down among the rocky rouble up thrust by the massive asteroid's inpact. Within hours the shell of the hollowed asteroid was begining to crack under the concentrated fire of the combined might of the Highland Wardens self-propelled earth-shaker equipped Basilisks and Griffon heavy siege mortars. When the Rok's structure finally imploded it still contained the bulk of the Ork hord. Luther had already drawn up a poster design showing the Havelock Aquila shuttle ascending over a field of Ork bodies being trampled by Damaris Leavy troopers. The liberal use of propaganda would be necessary to steel the population against the Xeno horrors they would be facing and when this war was resolved the name Atticus Havlock and not any other would forever be remembered as the hero who led the planet to salvation though its darkest hour. He just needed to construct a strategy to turn the departure of Commodore Naremmus and the failure of the orbital blockade to the captain's advantage.
Deep beneath the Governor’s Palace, behind adamantine bulkhead doors, inside the Daedelus Command Bunker, Lord Captan & Rogue Trader Atticus Havlock silently fumed. This defence council was supposed to be following his stewardship, not second guessing his decisions and bickering. Despite his outpouring of capital investment and personal allocation of thousands of armsmen to defend this young and burgeoning Imperial colony it's leaders dared to question his plans. Governor Kapak was ranting again. The sky's are burning! Xenos rock forts are decending upon us, they plan to slaughter us all! Where are our ships? don't we have ships? I remember commissioning ships! Orran! Orran Reynolds! I distinctly remember you and General Dantie constantly lobbying for countless hours in the parliamentary amphitheatre for more ships. I had to delay the expansion of the south wing because of the cost.
Before anyone could respond he launched into another rant, his voice rising in pitch and volume. Dantie what are the Levy even doing!? Every agri-collective operating on the great Western plains has requested military aid and fully half of the ore haulers from the southern mines have been ravaged by those vile Orks! The entire plutocracy is baying for my blood! Whom is going to convince them to attend my next banquet? What are you do.....
The deep forceful voice of General cut the governor off mid scream. Do not presume to command me in matters when it comes to the defence of this world! Perhaps if you had authorised half of the expenditure I had requested we would be able to hurl these Xenos back into the void. Perhaps if you were half the man you father or brothers were you would be competent enough to realise that we haven't the manpower or equipment to defend every inch of the planet! The ore haulers can be repaired, the mines rebuilt, the crops replanted. The lives of over a billion citizens are safe behind the walls of this city their lives can not be replaced. Those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who's going to do it. You Kapak? The plutocracy? I have a responsibility greater than you could fathom. You weep for the destruction of the outlying settlements and you curse the Levy. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That the loss of the outlying settlements, while tragic, saves lives. And my existence, while incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the responsibility because deep down inside in a place you don't talk about at your banquets, you need me on that wall. I have neither the the time or the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the very shield of protection that I provide. Then dares to questions the manner in which I provide it. I suggest you either let me do my job or pick up a weapon and stand a post!
General Dantie's face gradually turned deep red as he vented what seemed like years of frustration. As the General paused for a breath Lady Elizabeth Orleans cut in. Dantie I hate to interject, but I think you forget yourself. Is it not the military's duty to follow the direction of their superiors? I believe that Planetary Govener out ranks General as does a Rouge Trader. Perhaps...
Dante's voice exploded across table.. I RUN THE LEVY, HOW I RUN THE LEVY! I EAT BREAKFAST ON THE WALLS 300 YARDS FROM 10,000 XENO BEASTS THAT KNOW ONLY WAR AND SLAUGHTER! SO DON'T THINK FOR ONE SECOND YOU CAN COME DOWN FROM THE SAFETY OF YOUR SHIP WAVING YOUR WARRANT OF TRADE AROUND TO GET ME NERVOUS!
Atticus drew a breath, now was the time, he needed to end this bickering quickly. In a calm voice of reason he began. Fellow esteemed members of the defence council. I am aware of the deep devisions of misttrust that run between us. General you don't trust a civilian government that knows not the trials of warfare to lead us. Governor Kapak you weep for the loss of life outside the city walls. Lady Orleans you fear for the loss of your investment in the planets mining infrastructure. Atticus's soothing voice had calmed the council. Dantie you must relise that our current situation is a direct result from the failure of a military officer. Surely you would protect the outlying citizens if your forces were not so heavily pressed on the defensive fronts? Governor Kapak would you not be calmed, and your position with the plutocracy reinforced if the rain of Xeno forces could be slowed or halted? My fair lady Orleans you'd much prefer to follow someone who understand the risk of fiscal loss you face if the planetary infrastructure of Damaris is distroyed. People, I have personally led sorties and spilled the filthy Xeno blood of these barbaric Orks. My ship the Reademer is responsible for the destruction of more Ork vessels than any other. The wealth I have pored into Damaris’s coffers represents the single largest capital investment in the history of Damaris, since the original colony ships were launched more than one thousand years ago. Am I not the only one among us that can represent all parties without bias?
Orran Reynolds the commander of the bulwark stood at the table. Aye, you may be the only one here with his fingers in all the pies but what good does that good do us if you defence plans are faulty. The orbital blockade you arranged is useless, the planetary defence laser batteries could never hope to repulse the amount of Xeno ships that have penetrated the atmosphere.
Atticus smiled inwardly, yes you're completely correct commander Reynolds. Reynolds and the other council members seemed puzzled by Atticus's apparent admission of defeat. The orbital blockade did fail, commander Reynolds could you tell me where the largest concentration of enemie forces penetrated the blockade? Reynolds nervously responded. The Western Hemisphere. Atticus confidently continued. Yes the quadrant assigned to the naval Commodore. And where is this fine officer of the holy imperial fleet? I see that he is the only defence member not in attendance. His departure could be called cowardly, but for the recently descovered fact that he was ordered to return to Port Wander on Naval business. I am sure it pained him to abandon us. Perhaps I could have taken steps to strengthen the blockade if I had knowledge of his orders? Knowledge, that my Shenshal has revealed to me that more than one of the members of this defence council possessed and failed to pass on! Do you deny it? Silence echoed throught the chamber. I thought not, so it seems I am not only the sole member of this counsel that has a vested interest in every aspect of Damaris's defence but also I am the only one who has no ulterior motive.
Now let us talk about the redistribution of the defence forces.....