Assault In Void

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Kor'El Dal'yth Mar drifted gently into the bridge, and took his position on the command-couch. He let himself snuggle into the soft folds of the seat, and attached the restraining straps. When he was satisfied, he turned to the waiting Kor'La.
"Report."
"We've found a Gue'La merchant ship sir, they are transmitting a coded distress signal... 'pirates attacked and repelled, engines damaged but cargo and hull intact. Requesting assistance. Repeat, requesting assistance.' It's repeating on all standard frequencies."
El'Mar turned to a nearby Gue'La, strapped securely in one of the comm-seats. "If you please."
The Gue'La seemed hesitant, "this is the last time... I'll be hanged as it is for this."
"If you prefer the Tau Empire will give you and your family protection... however, if you do not keep up your end of the bargin, I will happily leave you behind in an escape pod for the Inquisition to recover."
The man paused again, then activated the comm, "This is Imperial CruiserNovarius, what is your cargo and destination?"
"Cargo is ores and raw materials from Prandus Tertius, destination Bad Landing Port."
The human turned back to the Tau captain, "it's a mining hauler. Prandus Tertius is mineral rich, I'd guess iron, titanium, gold, silver and platinum... probably other ores as well. Bad Landing is nowhere near here, so there's little chance of aid coming in time."
The Kor'El nodded, "set intercept course, and order boarding teams to prepare for assault."
*  *  * Captain Armitage watched his scanners as the Tau approached. Beside him, Captain Drenal of the Angels of Annihilation, a Space Marine and veteran of countless campaigns, smiled as the enemy took the bait.
The Merchant ship was running overgunned. Numerous hidden weapons, extra shield generators and plasma-lance drivers had been installed to give the craft extra killing power, retractable turrets studded every free space on the craft, and an entire company of Space Marines were ready to repel and counter-board.
The Tau "traders" had commited half a dozen acts of piracy within the Imperium, and Armitage knew their hold was filled with ores, gems, fuel and other valuable cargoes stolen from helpless craft. This time, it would be the Tau that were raided, and their craft would be dragged into Bad Landing as a trophy.
"They're coming," Armitage stated, "all hands make ready."
Captain Drenal turned away, and stalked from the bridge, "we will wait until they attack, then drive them away. Make sure the teleporters are charged, for our brother-Terminators will not appreciate being left behind once the conflict begins."
 The Tau launched their offensive with practised skill. A brief salvo of railcannon flared against the Imperial shields, and the order to surrender was given. They complied, and Tau boarders began their offensive.
As soon as the launch tubes opened, the Q-Ship showed its true colours. Hull plates rolled back to reveal gun ports, and turrets extended into firing positions from hidden alcoves. The assault boats were halfway across the divide by the time the Imperial guns opened fire, but the death-toll was horrific. May pilots were left overawed by the sheer weight of firepower, and gave up any hope of evading in favour of straight-line speed. Ironically, it was this very tactic that saved many, for the auto-trackers were programmed to scan for engine emissions, and thus any ship running on launch inertia had to be targeted by sight.
However, if the crossing had been costly, clearing the skin decks would be more so. Drone squadrons were deployed en masse, but instead of naval Ratings, they ran into Tarantulas and remote-turrets. By the time such defences were breached, the Drones were few in number, and the Naval Marines blasted those that remained. The Firewarriors were now forced to commit against well-armoured foes, better trained and more experienced in storming actions.
It was the Crisis Suits that began to make headway. Though not as efficient in the cramped corridors, their tough armour and heavy firepower made them excellent for shock-assaults, and these behemoths drove back the Imperial forces in several areas.
Once the Tau cleared the skin-decks, the Astartes joined the battle. Though only few in number, the theatre of battle gave them every advantage. Access Corridor 67/J was held for an hour by a single Space Marine; the maintenance walkway only large enough for a single man, the Firewarriors attacked, and died, in single file. Every attempt to remove the Marine failed, and by the end of the offensive, thirty-eight Tau were dead. Before heavier guns could be brought to bear, the Tau were surrounded, and forced to retreat and regroup in Mess Hall 4/C.
Walkway 19/F was the major turning point for the Imperial troops. Twelve Crisis Suits, led by Shas'O Vior'La Ukos, advanced towards the main shield generators, hoping to cripple them and allow their ship to cause some damage to the Imperials. Four Astartes armed with Meltaguns sprang a deadly ambush, two attacking from the front, and two from behind. The Crisis Suits, too large to properly engage, became trapped by the smoking hulks of their allies who died in the first salvo, and every single suit was destroyed in short order. Without their commanding officer, and no hope of now disabling the shields, the Tau began to evacuate.
By this time, five hours into the offensive, 70% of the Firewarriors on board were dead. By the end of the evacuation, an hour later, the death toll was 94%, with 5% of the Tau missing in action, presumed captured.
The ship had seen its share of the fighting as well. The initial Q-Ship volleys of Lances and batteries melted the shields and blasted the engine drivers into ruin. When it became clear that they could not hope to damage the turrets and guns of the Q-Ship enough to defend their assault parties, the Tau stopped sending warriors into the fray. 40% of their fighting force remained on board, and knowing a counter-assault was inevitable, prepared their defences.
Seven hours after the boarding action began, the Imperial guns roared into life once more, and the space between the two vessels became filled with Imperial assault boats.
 




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