Katya’s hull rang with the impact of energy bolts that clawed at the outer hull, desperate to pierce it. Sorin’s face was lit a garish green in the light of the tactical display. He could feel the sightless eyes of Walker boring into him, and it was disturbing him. He didn’t even know Walker’s first name yet, as the Astropath had been assigned to them just this morning. He was another of Commissar Price’s “suggested” innovations, and as disturbing as Walker was, he was already proving his worth.
“Are the penal legions in position?”
“Yes, Captain. They have advanced past the broken lines of Angel Company. It seems either that they have not been spotted, or that they have been dismissed as a minor threat by the Eldar in comparison.”
“More likely the second. Still, have them proceed with their mission. Forgiveness is theirs to be had, even if it’s found while wearing a martyr’s collar.” More impacts hit the hull, one of them causing the hull to glow an intriguing cherry red to the captain’s right. “And see if we can have the 57th do something about this insistent knocking.”
Seconds later, a roar that was felt as much as heard filled the cabin with insistent drum beats. The artillery pieces had been concealed in the hills behind the battle-lines of the 42nd Valhallans. The patter of the Eldar’s energy weapons stopped. “Finally! I can get some Mark 1’s on this situation! Pop the top.”
Katya’s top hatches were thrown back. Grabbing his field glasses, Captain Sorin cautiously raised his helmeted head into the grey light of Quentin III. The sight of a war-torn charnel house was his reward. High command had triangulated this area as the center of the Eldar raids, and had postulated that this heavily wooded area was either their base camp or an area of interest to them. Resistance had been heavy in their push to take the woods. Sorin saw the smooth hulls of multiple Eldar tanks burning in the killing fields between the rocky hills they were trapped in and the woods the enemy held. Sorin saw his men, the men of Faith Company, were huddled behind the rocky outcroppings approaching their objective. Borisova’s Angel Company had been mauled on the left, but at least Katzev’s Chain Company was pressing on the right. No matter how well Katzev's boys are doing now, they will falter without support. Faith Company had to press or else the assault would stall and fail. He could hear Commissar Price’s voice exhorting the men to advance, but if the men advanced now, they'd be cut down. It was reaching a point of no return.
“Vox a message to the 57th. Let them fire danger close on those wooded positions ahead of us. Dead of our own shells or dead of xenos weaponry… It makes no difference if we can’t advance. Vox the sergeants leading the assault as well. Tell them they better be 30 seconds behind the shells, or Price will be the least of their worries. And bring those ipaccing Demolishers forward. We need their hulls to cover the assault!”
Captain Sorin, paused, weighing the odds. It was now or never.
"And we need to button up. Order Lt. Revnik to bring his Chimera up to support the Demolishers. We need his flamers to burn the those bastard Eldar out. We're going, too."
That last bit of news made the vox operator look stricken. Sorin resisted the urge to slap him. Corporal Nikitin was new to the 42nd, brought to the front to replace his his old vox-op who had taken a sniper round in the shoulder. His hands were more used to grinding coffee than digging fox-holes, and the fear showed in his eyes. "Pull yourself together, Miska! Did you think you'd see war from a comfy seat here in Katya's hull? You're a son of Valhalla, boy! Time to earn that greatcoat!" Nitkin didn't seem so sure, but prepped his lasgun anyway.
Katya rumbled forward, progressing slowly over the rocks ahead of them. The roar of the 57th's guns firing was eclipsed by the sound of their shells hitting home 100 yards ahead of them. The demolisher's cannons added their shells to the roar, and their heavy bolters spat death into the half-seen Eldar holding in the woods. Sorin checked the workings of his chainsword, pushing down the fear he felt with practiced ease. The eyes of the company would be on him, and he had to keep their fighting spirits high.
Suddenly, Katya lurched to a halt. The cabin's heat rose perceptibly. Sorin sensed danger, yelling "Hit the deck!" not a moment too soon. A beam of pure light cut through the transport compartment at gut height. Petrachkov grabbed the company standard and threw it to the deck, and was caught by the beam. It cut into him, the heat from the beam caused him to explode. Nitkin wretched, but had the common courtesy not to soil the company banner any further than Petrachkov had. "It looks like we need a new banner bearer, Nitkin, and it looks like you've just volunteered. Get that banner unfurled! Hold it high, for the Company's sake! Walker, stay here and hide. Katya's down, but she will protect you from stray shots. Men of the 42nd, we go the rest of the way on foot!" With that, Sorin kicked the broken ramp down. He drew his chainsword and strode forth, touching Katya's aquilla icon for luck. He hoped to the Emperor his men were following him.
To be continued...