Mission Log- Blackout

Operation Blackout

Entry I:
++Strike Frigate 'Hacksaw', Viewing Platform Beta++

Two years after the latest tithe fleet arrived in the Maelstrom and the so-called 'Tyrant of Badab' still refuses the Imperium's unjust taxation. Assigning funds to growing the defences of the area and preparing a new crusade Huron, Chapter Master of the Astral Claws Space Marines, had declared the Badab system outside the Imperium's usual tithes. The Trade Fleet that had been shouting impotently about their god-Emperor given rights to profit had been bolstered since Huron's declaration, now supported by nearly a hundred Rogue Traders. Alongside the hundreds of warships at their command a new foe had entered the field. Long jealous of the martial history of the Astral Claws the loathsome Firehawk Astartes now fly their battle barges alongside the voidships of the would-be thieves in the Trade Fleet. Dozens of minor skirmishes and space engagements had broken out at the outskirts of the region but many believe all-out war could still be avoided.

The Strike Frigate Hacksaw was part of the Tyrant's Legion defences. Covering the normal roles of imperial navy, imperial guard and planetary defence forces the Legion had shown themselves to be a well trained and resourced fighting unit. Hacksaw sits in geosynchronous orbit above the dusty red world of Vigil. Once a fortress world to defend the Magog Cluster against xenos invasion the world had been all but destroyed in a conflict centuries ago. Dusty planes of long abandoned cities are now filled with factories and scavengers who pick at the remains of this society. In orbit the signs of the past still remain, dozens of Archer-Class Defense Platforms ready to defend the world from attack. Vigil is a dusty red ball with only scattered settlements. These islands of humanity are only just visible from the Hacksaw's viewing port, where three massive figures look at the planet impassively.

Archer-Defence Platforms Omega and Epsilon above Vigil

Brother-Centurion Harkon and Brother-Apothecary Lothrik had fought side by side before as part of the Astral Claws 5th Company. They had both been awarded honours in the Lycanthros Drift in 780.M41. It was here that Lothrik gained the moniker "the bloody faced" for both his brutal efficiency in melee combat and his role as Chapter Apothecary. The third figure wears not the white or silver of the Astral Claws but the dulled blue-steel and brown of the Executioner chapter. Axe-Brother Oceiros is a butcher of some renown, his axe sending thousands of foes to see the Emperor's judgment. Oceiros had fought alongside the Astral Claws before and had been assigned to the Hacksaw as a sign of good faith. The three Astartes had been brought here without warning from their previous postings and ordered to meet at this spot as soon as the Hacksaw made full orbit.

Approaching the three Astartes is a man wearing the full battle plate of the Astral Claws. Ceremite painted dark-steel to show himself as a member of the Tyrant's Legion the Legate was the lord of Hacksaw and the man who had summoned the Space Marines before him. Pausing for only a moment to accept short bows, Legate Kolias begins to explain why the three had been brought here. The Lord Tyrant Huron was concerned about the introduction of new elements into the struggle for the system. He had approved the creation of small squads of Astartes to perform particular tasks beyond the remit of their normal responsibilities. Men who are utterly loyal to him and to the Imperium. They would receive special training and equipment to deal with the possibility of combat against the corrupted Astartes of the Firehawks. The Firehawks are legendarily zealous and uncompromising and the Lord Tyrant fears that their brutality may lead to the destabilisation of the system if something is not done about it. Further to these fears is the interference of an Inquisitor from the nearby Segmentum Solar. Inquisitor Vutulf of the Ordos Hereticus is a legendary firebrand who is urging the Firehawks on to acts of merciless slaughter against the populations of the system. But the continued use of these 'Retaliator' squads would hinge on the success of their first mission.

A relay outpost in the rust-hills of Vigil has ceased operating. Responsible for all astropathic communication from the world the station also keeps the gun-platforms aligned and is essential for the defence of the Magog system. Believing a local insurgency a squad of the Tyrant's Legion was sent to investigate. This investigation team experienced technical difficulties and were forced to make a hard landing with their malfunctioning valkyrie. Since then all contact has been lost with the group. As communication drops across the planet it is simply not an option to wait for a civilian response. Retaliator Squad Alpha would be assigned to investigate and destroy any disloyal elements among the troops guarding the array.

Entry II:
++Strike Frigate 'Hacksaw', Tyrant's Legion Armoury++

Retreating to their private quarters the three Astartes perform the holy ritual of donning their power armour. Servitor's bearing the heraldry of their Chapters work around them as the most holy artefact is bolted into place. Purity seals are applied and each man makes oaths of vengeance and loyalty to guide them in the mission ahead. Within the bowls of the Hacksaw the squad finds they had been allocated various assets for the insertion. A halo-lander is fueled and ready while a drop pod and even personal jump-packs had been prepared by the diligent crew of the Hacksaw. Brother Oceiros suggests that the group investigate the downed valkyrie first and so Brother Harkon requisitions a squad of technical experts from the Tyrant's Legion forces aboard. The men arrive not long after, combat veterans in void-sealed carapace armour. They bundle into the black painted rhino assigned to the squad.

The squad themselves take their personal equipment from the bio-sealed lockers. Each has a signature weapon gifted to them by their chapter, a sign of their prestige and respect. Harkon holds a modified bolter, Lothrik a power sword presented to him by the Lamenters as a sign of respect and Oceiros one of the renowned head-taker power axes of the Executioners chapter. Grenades and ammunition are assigned for the mission while Harkon is approached by Tech-Father Poil. An ancient tech-marine of the Astral Claws Poil presents Harkon with a clip of specially formulated bolter ammunition. An artefact of the Chapter, Poil had replicated ancient bolt rounds used in a schism long ago where space marine fought space marine. The Retaliators would pioneer the use of these 'vengeance rounds'. As the matte black rhino is picked up by the halo lander the doors of the flight bay aboard the Hacksaw slide open and the vehicle bursts out into the void.

Entry III:
++Vigil rust wastes++

Aboard the shuddering halo lander the Retaliator squad surges through the smog and pollution of Vigil towards its surface. Cresting the planet they fly through the night, passing over scattered cities and forges. Around these islands of civilisation is rocky red terrain scorched bone dry by the sun, split only by towering mountain ranges and sulfurous swamps. Flying through the night the lander eventually breaks out of the dust-bowls and into the hills, where green fungus and grass grows in defiance of the hellish landscape around it. With a click and a thump the rhino is disgorged from the lander, hitting the ground in an upsplash of dust. The engines kick in immediately and the black vehicle starts burning towards its target. One of the Legionaries guides the inbuilt servitor, VA-655 towards the beacon that indicates the crashed valkyrie lander. They discover the vehicle not long after, finding that as they approach the rhino's long range vox begins to crackle and hiss before dying entirely. The valkyrie has smashed fully into the third floor of a massive factory building, long since abandoned when the salvage and ores in this area ran dry.

A ruined Factorum on the surface of Vigil

VA-655 pulls the rhino to a halt and the squad spread out to search the area. Oceiros powers his jump pack and reaches the peak of a nearby building, taking up a scouting position while Harkon and Lothrik move forward with weapons out to secure the area. The crash site still smoulders and there are signs of the missing Tyrant's legion troops. Blasted bodies cover the area near the crash.

As the Astartes spread out to search the area the men who slew the Legion troops come out of hiding. A wave of fire washes over Harkon as a dozen small arms weapons spit red las fire towards him. Just as the bronze armoured figures come into view a heavy weapon opens up, bolt rounds smashing Oceiros out of the sky and sending him reeling. With established weapons positions it is clear these men had prepared to ambush whoever came to review the crash. But they had not counted on the Emperor's Finest. Oceiros triggers his jump pack mid-fall and boosts towards the heavy weapon position, smashing down among them and crushing several with his pure bulk. Harkon brings his bolter to his cheek and begins to mow down the men before him, explosive rounds detonating among the lightly armoured men. Their bronze flak armour is no match for the holy bolt rounds and bloody gibblets splash among their ordered lines. As the Legionaries move to support they are wracked by mortar fire. Predicting the trajectories of the rounds Lothrik rushes forward, drawing his power sword as he dashes through the ruined factorum. As more rounds fall atop the rhino Lothrik rounds a corner and rushes into the mortar teams, slaughtering the men manning them with his humming power sword. Meanwhile Oceiros does his bloody work among those who dared attack him, his axe cutting men in two as his combat shield bludgeons those who get too close.

As the original group of defenders falls a second appears from a building not far away. Red fatigues are worn beneath their bronze armour and each holds a short barrelled lasgun. Opening up the newcomers wrack Lothrik and Harkon with las fire while a missile launcher is lugged up and prepared. Harkon lays down a bloody slaughter among their ranks with his bolter, dodging a krak missile that soars past to destroy a building behind him. As a second missile narrowly misses the Astartes Lothrik appears in the right flak of the newcomers, slashing about him with his power sword. Meanwhile the final survivor of the original group was facing Oceiros. Drawing his knife the man shows bravery beyond sanity, even managing to turn aside a number of Oceiros' blows before the axe splits him from gullet to groin. Oceiros takes his combat knife out of respect for the mortal. As the rest of the men die around him Lothrik grabs one of the men by the throat, lifting him off the ground and preparing for an interrogation.

With the hostiles fallen the Legionaries move out of the rhino to search the fallen valkyrie. Oceiros identifies the men as Dragoons, the ship-borne troopers of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Dragoons are not ground forces and have no reason to be on Vigil. Meanwhile Lothrik interrogates the captured trooper. It seems they were sent to destroy evidence of the valkyrie being shot down. The ship had been deactivated by the Dragoon's master from afar, a feat of technical power that suggests something else going on at the array. Holding the man down Lothrik powers up his reductor and begins to go to work. The relay had been shut down, not malfunctioning. The man reveals that his Magos had determined this array to be a tactical weakness of the Astral Claws and had planned a strike. The array is to be repurposed to broadcast scrap code to the defence platforms and bring down the system defences. The Adeptus Mechanicus forces were here in service to the Trade Fleet, the cowardly tithe collectors having resorted to subterfuge where strength had failed them.

With the taking of the Array a genuine threat the Retaliator squad decides to make full haste towards it. Loading back into the rhino they are soon burning once again through the rocky plains. Eventually they run into a ground of Mechanicus forces coming the other way, no doubt intending to investigate the deaths of their sabotage squads. The infantry are cut down at once, Oceiros powering into them with his jump pack and smashing them asunder. But the men are accompanied by a bulbous walker, missile pods and multi-lasers dotting a red and bronze armoured tank. As Lothrik moves to engage more infantry Oceiros jumps towards the walker, slamming his axe into one of its legs. As Oceiros hacks off the leg in a shower of sparks Harkon thumbs his fire selector and sends a stream of armour piercing rounds into the creatures torso. Eventually one of them finds purchase, breaking the outer armour and destroying the pilot within. The protected missile storage is enflamed and the vehicle goes up in a blossom of flame and steel.

Entry IV:
++Vigil Array Station Echo++

Back in the rhino the Retaliator squad drives onwards towards the Array. Communication here is all but impossible, the slow techno-plague launched at the array starting to infect all around it. The relay itself is built in a city sized defensive area but none of the inhabitants are present when the Astartes arrive. There are signs of fallen PDF personnel but no sign of those who destroyed them. The array is broadcasting its foul signal but of the Adeptus Mechanicus forces that took the city there seems to be no sign.

The Vigil Array Station

In the relay itself only a few troops remain. Mechanicus Dragoons hold enforced positions alongside men wearing the purple flak coats and sigils of the Rogue Trader House Arckondis. The lightly armoured men are well set up, in defensive formation with heavy weapons and overlapping fields of fire. And the Astartes don't even stop walking. Lothrik and Oceiros rip through them with their power weapons while Harkon lays down explosive fire that rips the men to shreds. The human forces guard a central console set into the broadcasting pillar. Some sort of archeotech device is installed into the central console and with a burst of bolt pistol rounds Lothrik finishes the corrupting signal.

The machine spirit of this place groans as it returns to its original composition, the tower twisted as it realigns. As the tower realigns it reveals figures above who until now had been watching the actions of the Retaliator squad. Massive orange and red forms watch from above. Heavily scarred armour with flamed details reveal these Astartes to be of the Firehawks chapter and the men raise boltguns to aim at the Retaliator squad as the tower realigns. Harkon steps forwrd to speak, offering the men a chance to surrender themselves to discipline for trespassing on a world that belongs to the Astral Claws. The Firehawks stay silent for a moment before their leader steps forward and raises his chainsword: "die traitors!"

Bolt rounds impact off Lothrik's chest and send him sprawling backwards. Harkon returns fire, thumbing his fire selector onto the holy vengeance rounds he had been given for this very contingency. As bolt rounds impact into his armour, many exploding against his flesh and sending off sprays of blood, he returns fire. The vengeance rounds rip through even the holy ceremite of his enemies power armour. Two of the Firehawks fall to his burst fire rounds, helmets and skulls burst by modified bolt rounds. Meanwhile Oceiros and Lothrik leap among the remaining Firehawks. Power axe smashes against chainsword as the men try to hold off Oceiros' brutal assault. Lothrik duels a pair of foes with his power sword, shearing through one foe as the energised blade cuts a leg off below the knee. With multiple blows Oceiros breaks the defenses of his fellow space marines before eventually cutting them to pieces. Only seconds had passed and six Firehawks lie still. The array is heavily damaged from the titanic battle but the forces of the Tyrant had proven too powerful for the other Astartes.

Setting the array back into position Lothrik harvests the gene-seed of the fallen Firehawks. Just because their current command is corrupted does not mean that the Chapter is beyond saving. Once the Chapter Master responsible is brought to heel the gene-seed would be returned to the Chapter to rebuild. A Tyrant's Legion company arrives to secure the area as the Retaliator squad returns to the Hacksaw with the bodies of the fallen Firehawks. Few would know of the Astartes blood spilled here, but quiet in the halo lander on the way back to the ship it is apparent that the members of the Retaliator squad are fully aware of the gravity of what had just transpired.

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