Horus Heresy Battle Report: The Defence of Redoubt Upsilon

c. Games Workshop

Redoubt Upsilon, Iapetus orbit, dawn of the Solar War

The klaxons wailed, signalling yet more hull breaches as enemy lances pierced Redoubt Upsilon’s void shields on its starboard flank, rupturing the reinforced hull and sending depressurized atmosphere and dozens of crew hurtling out into the void. Centurion-Castellan Gallemand swore and punched a gauntleted hand down against the nearby console, silencing the infernal alarm– he didn’t need to have a klaxon shrieking in his ear to know the situation was bad. In response, the lance-turrets and missile racks of the station returned fire, tracking the VIII Legion ships that were circling them like opportunistic vultures. Gallemand took a measure of satisfaction as he saw one of the nimble escorts take several direct hits to its aft, before listing onto its side and then detonating in a spectacular fireball.

A drop in the ocean, he knew, and what a terrible ocean it was.

It had been mere hours since the Warmaster’s invasion fleet had passed the Kuiper Belt, and the ships of the traitor vanguard had plunged deep into the Sol System’s defences like a knife through a breastplate. Intense void battles now raged all across the outer sphere as the invading battle fleet contended with squadrons of defense ships, defense monitors and missile-bastions. If Gallemand were to look out the armourglass viewport to his left, he would have seen the rings of Saturn ablaze with pinpricks of fire as thousands of void war churned all across the orbit of the gas giant and its many moons.

Gallemand could not even begin to calculate the casualties that the invaders had sustained thus far, or the terrible losses that the system defences had taken. What he did know was that three other redoubt-stations orbiting Iapetus had been lost already, either destroyed by enemy fire or boarded and captured. And he knew, with a sick certainty, that this was but the vanguard of the enemy fleet: Horus hadn’t even committed his full strength yet.

They could not hope to prevent the traitors from reaching Terra. They were never going to in the first place: their role was to slow the rebel advance, to bleed the enemy’s approach to the throneworld. That was all they could accomplish today, Gallemand knew with a sick certainty: trade their lives for time. This was what Lord Dorn and the Emperor expected of them.

The operations center shook again as another lance-strike shorted out more of the station’s void shields. The backwash of overloading circuitry caused one of the monitoring stations to explode, shredding the tech-adepts stations nearby. The alarms sounded all over again, and this time, irritated though he was, Gallemand did not try to stop them.

“Incoming boarding torpedoes on the starboard side!” one of the naval attaches at the auspex station shouted. “I’m counting at least two dozen, Night Lords ident-markers!”

Of course, Gallemand thought grimly. He knew enough of the VIII Legion and their grisly way of war to know that they wouldn’t content themselves with blowing this missile-redoubt to atoms from space. No, Curze’s bastards would want to kill them all up close, to hear them all scream as the died.

Looking at the tactical display, Gallemand saw the incoming wave of boarding torpedoes screaming towards the station. He saw the interlocking arcs of defensive fire from the flak-turrets burst to life, high-yield autocannon rounds ripping the torpedoes from the void in puffs of flame. And yet, many torpedoes were clearing the net. Too many.

It was no surprise, then, when he heard one of the other officers shout that the torpedoes had breached the mid section of the station, and was even less surprised when reports came that Night Lords were now pouring into the crew decks. A second after that, the bridge lights suddenly died out as one, plunging the operations center into darkness. Only the view of the flickering void-war and the guttering flames of ruined stations gave any illumination.

“Get backup lights online!” Gallemand snapped, and a second later, the lights came flickering online again. He tapped the vox bead set into his corner. “Brothers, arm up and prepare to repel boarders!”

No sooner had he given the order, however, when his auspex officer whirled around to face him. “Castellan, we’re receiving a vox-transmission from the embattled deck!”

Gallemand spun in the direction of the human officer. “Put it through,” he ordered. At the back of his mind, he knew that the Night Lords were no doubt savaging the human crew down in that area. He held out the hope, however, that perhaps one of the crew was voxing them, to give them an outline of the situation. Any information, however scant, would be welcome before engaging the boarders.

What came through on the vox-channel, however, was something else entirely. An ear-splitting scream suddenly flooded the operations chamber, causing causing Gallemand to nearly jump. It was a long, keening howl, a sound full of bottomless sorrow and raw, predatory hunger. It was a sound forged in some terrible abyss, deep at the root of human memory, and for all of his post-human training and psycho-conditioning, Gallemand shook as the sound touched some deep, primal part of him that automatically gave in to terror.

“Cut the feed!” he snapped, immediately suppressing all emotion, but noting all the same that both of his hearts were pounding. The sound instantly cut out, and Gallemand was at that point conscious of the hollow, frightened looks of the mortal crew. That inhuman noise had terrified them all close to death, it seemed.

Steeling himself, Gallemand unclamped his helmet from where it was mag-locked to his thigh, Gallemand marched to the turbolift to join up with his demi-company. Let Curze’s mongrels play their little terror games in the dark all they wanted, he thought angrily to himself. The Imperial Fists would be all to happy to throw them out into the lightless void.

*****

So a few days ago, since I’ve been unable to get any gaming in thanks to COVID-19, I started testing out the various ways to play 40k online– namely Tabletop Simulator and Vassal. TTS is a game I’ve had sitting in my Steam library for ages, and it has been only recently that I have taken to exploring how it works, and how to play the wargames I enjoy on it (though the less said about my first outing on it, the better– let us simply say that Harlequins are a tougher matchup for my Sisters of Battle than I had first thought). It is a fun system, albeit one that will take a while for me to get the hang of.

Vassal, on the other hand, is a program I already have a long familiarity with. Not long ago, as I had expressed an interest in exploring other game systems, Adrianna, a player from a local gaming group invited me to do a test game of 30k on Vassal. While the Horus Heresy has always been a system I’ve been intrigued by, but could never make the jump to get into (in part because of how exorbitantly pricey Forge World models are), the virtual environment of Vassal seemed like a great place to get my feet wet, so to speak.

To keep things relatively simple, we settled on a 1000 point Zone Mortalis game to keep things simple, especially since I was new to the rules (Adrianna was new-ish to 30k as well, so we were both confident that we would make a horrendous number of rules errors). While I initially toyed with the idea of playing the Thousand Sons (who are the best legion, and I will not hear anyone say otherwise), I felt that having to learn the intricacies of the 30k psychic phase was not a good idea for a starting game…and while the Horus Heresy did borrow heavily from the rules for 7th edition 40k, I was figuring I would be forgetting about 70% of how 7th edition worked anyway. So, to keep things simple, I settled for my second favourite legion:

IMPERIAL FISTS:

Centurion- bolt pistol, power fist, boarding shield, artificer armour, Delegatus
15 Tactical Marines- vexillarius, Sergeant w. power fist and artificer armour
10 Breachers- 2 graviton guns
10 Phalanx Warders- power axes, Sergeant w. artificer armour
Contemptor Dreadnought- Kheres assault cannon, heavy flamer, extra armour

Rite of War: The Stone Gauntlet
Warlord Trait: Coordinated Assault

The general idea of this list was to take advantage of the Stone Gauntlet rite of war as much as possible with units like Breachers and Phalanx Warders, while at the same time still having plenty of bodies and bolters on the field as I could bring (especially since Imperial Fists get that sweet +1 to hit with all bolter weapons). Oh, and a Contemptor, because Contemptors are cool.

Adrianna, meanwhile, took the following:

NIGHT LORDS:

Praetor- Cataphractii Terminator armour, combi-melta, power sword, digital lasers, Trophies of Judgement
Centurion- plasma pistol, Nostraman chainglaive, refractor field
5 Terror Marines- boltguns, Headsman w. plasma pistol & power fist
5 Terror Marines- boltguns
5 Terror Marines- boltguns
5 Terminators- Cataphractii armour, dual lightning claws

Rite of War: Terror Assault
Warlord Trait: Master of Ambush

I knew very little of how the Night Lords worked, save that they could turn night fighting on and would get very nasty if they outnumbered you in combat. Beyond that, my general plan against the Night Lords was to shoot them to death with superior bolter fire, and use my dedicated combat troops to chop apart anyone who got took close.

SCENARIO AND DEPLOYMENT:

I apologize if you have to squint to see the units.

For the scenario, we decided to, again, keep things simple, and went for the Assault Mission scenario, with our primary objectives being Seek and Destroy. To make things easier, we also rules that all doors could be opened and closed as normal…though if I ever play Zone Mortalis 3k again, I should remember to include plenty of melta bombs in case I need to break down doors the hard way.

The scenario called for half of our respective forces to be put into ongoing reserves, and the other half to start the battle. With this in mind, I set up my Breachers (and accompanying Centurion) at the forefront of my battle line, with the Tactical Squad deployed further behind. Adrianna, meanwhile, deployed two of her Terror Squads fairly close to my own deployment,, in the table quarter next to mine. (Note: we both read the scenario rules as meaning that we could deploy in any table quarter we wanted, not necessarily the one diagonal from our opponent’s. Please let me know if we got this wrong or not).

Before the game began, Adrianna rolled to see if her Night Lords would be fighting under cover of darkness. Unfortunately for her, there would be no night fighting, which meant the Sons of Curze would have to fight under brightly-lit illumination and be blinded by the Imperial Fists’ shiny yellow armour.

TURN 1

Taking the initiative to repel the enemy, Castallan Gallemand led his Breachers westwards down the lengthy corridor, boarding shields raised and locked together as they anticipated an enemy ambush. Behind them advanced the legionaries of the Tactical Squad, though such was the squad’s numbers that they were forced to temporarily occupy two rooms as they marched down the length of the corridor.

The Night Lords responded quickly, with one of their Terror Squads suddenly bursting out of one of the doorways up ahead, followed closely by their brothers of the second squad. Howling like the wraiths of the damned, the Executioners fired into the Breachers. The Imperial Fists, however, had anticipated the attack well, and while the enemy bolter rounds sent armour chips flying outwards as they exploded against the locked boarding shields, not one of the Breachers fell, their formation proof against the enemy’s fury.

TURN 2

With sighting of the enemy confirmed, reinforcements soon came flooding into the sector as a squad of Phalanx Warders came bounding in from the north, boarding shields at the ready. Seeing the enemy right ahead of them, the Breachers moved forward to meet them with shields locked and bolters raised. Further behind, the Tactical squad moved up to support them, ready to provide their own fire and their numbers to the fight in case the Breachers needed it.

With perfectly-drilled precision the Imperial Fists returned fire. The difference in training between the two legions became apparent as the disciplined volley of bolter fire tore into the Terror Squad, punching two of the Executioners off their feet. The Night Lords, however, did not run, instead continuing to advance through the firestorm.

The reason for the Night Lords’ confidence quickly became apparent as the stench of ozone filled the air, and a flash of light erupted behind the Breachers. Suddenly, six figures in burly Terminator plate were standing in the corridor, lightning claws crackling as they unflexed. Further to the north, another Terror Squad arrived on the scene, their armour spattered with gore after they had been busy butchering the station’s mortal crew. Suddenly, Castellan Gallemand and his Breachers found themselves surrounded.

With numbers now on their side, the Night Lords poured bolter fire into the Breachers. Despite the rigidity of their defensive formation, the Imperial Fists could not stand for long against such a fusillade, and five of the Breachers fell, punched down by bolter shells or vaporized by plasma bolts.

The surviving Imperial Fists only had time to lock shields again as two of the Terror Squads came charging into them, the Night Lords emitting a collective howl that sent icy needles of terror into the hearts of the Fists.

For all of their fear, the Breachers held their ground, blasting one of the Night Lords off their feet with disciplined overwatch, before the Terror Squads crashed into them in a wave of ceramite on ceramite. The Breacher Sergeant drew his combat knife and lunged at the enemy Headsman, the two trading blows, while the Centurion leading the Night Lords whirled about with his chainglaive, sawing the heads from the torsos of two of the Breachers. Another two Breachers fell in turn, dragged down and gutted by Nostraman knives. Roaring in fury, Gallemand lashed out with his power fist and crushed the helmeted skull of one of the Night Lords in vengeance.

But by this point, the fight had turned against them, and the sheer number of the midnight-clad fiends was overwhelming. For the first time in centuries of service, Gallemand felt panic, and he turned, shouting for his last brother to fall back. He didn’t get far before the enemy Centurion’s glaive whirled out and claimed his head, while the last Breacher was dragged down and butchered.

TURN 3

Seeing Castellan Gallemand and the Breachers slaughtered before their very eyes, the Imperial Fists’ resolve wavered for a moment. That moment ended, however, when immense, iron footfalls were suddenly heard from the north of the embattled deck. Ancient Ludovicus, the station’s resident Dreadnought, had been aroused from his slumber and was striding forth to join his brothers. Emboldened by the Dreadnought’s arrival, the Phalanx Warders advanced up to bring the fight to the Terror Squads, while the Tactical Marines moved up as well, trying to get as many fields of fire as they could through the narrow doorway they were forced to navigate.

With disciplined, vengeful fire, the Tactical Squad unleashed a deadly volley into the Terror Squad being led by the Centurion who had slain Gallemand. The two remaining Executioners fell, ripped apart by bolter rounds, but the Centurion remained standing, raising his glaive to the Tactical Marines in a mocking salute even as bolter fire whipped past him.

Knowing that this matter would have to be settled up close and persona, the Phalanx Warders raised their axes and charged the fresh Terror Squad. One Warder was caught flat-footed by Night Lords overwatch and crumpled to the deck, but the rest of the Warders slammed into the Terror Squad, crackling axes rising and falling as they brutally hacked down three of the Executioners. Outnumbered and outmatched, the Night Lords nonetheless fought on with their trademark savagery.

Seeing yet more Loyalists in need of tormenting, the newly-arrived Night Lords Praetor led the Atramentar Terminators towards the Tactical Squad, while his Centurion second-in-command took charge of the remaining Terror Squad and moved up to deal with the Phalanx Warders.

Raising his combi-melta, the Praetor smiled cruelly and fired at the Tactical Squad, vaporizing one Imperial Fist in a flash of light. Caught up in the heat of the moment, the Centurion turned and directed his squad to fire into the Tactical Squad as well, his plasma pistol blasting down another. This crucial distraction, however, kept the Centurion from charging the Phalanx Warders as he had first intended…

Laughing diabolically, the Atramentar charged the Imperial Fists…and were met by a disciplined wall of bolter fire. Though most of the overwatch exploded harmlessly against their Cataphractii plate, one Terminator wasn’t so lucky and fell as a pinpoint bolter round blew open his chest cavity, felling him. Nonetheless, the Night Lords elite weren’t slowed as they crashed into the Imperial Fists, the Praetor’s power sword flicking out and decapitating one of the Loyalists with contemptuous ease, while the lightning claws of the Atramentar flensed apart another three of the Tactical Marines. In reply, however, the Fists fought hard, with one battle brother even managing to fell a Terminator with a close-ranged bolter shot. At the centre of the fight, the Imperial Fists Sergeant roared out a challenge, which the Atramentar champion accepted with a cackle. His laughter died in his throat, however, as his claws scraped harmlessly against his opponent’s master-worked armour, before the Sergeant’s power fist pulped his head in a welter of ceramite shards, brains and bone. Despite their losses, the Tactical Squad bravely held their ground, determined not to lose to these Nostraman curs.

At the north of the corridor, meanwhile, the fight between the Terror Squad and the Phalanx Warders continued. One Warder fell as an Executioner took the opportunity to jam a knife into his windpipe. The Night Lord’s victory was short lived, however, as the Warders’ axes rose and fell, chopping down both of the remaining Executioners.

TURN 4

Sensing that the momentum was starting to turn against the invaders, the Phalanx Warders advanced up to confront the Night Lords Centurion and his lackeys, followed close behind by the lumbering Contemptor Dreadnought. One of the Warders unhooked a frag grenade and lobbed it at the nearby Terror Squad: his aim was off, however, and the grenade instead bounced down the hallway, and exploded ineffectively against one of the enemy Terminators.

The Terror Squad chuckled at this poor throw…but their laughter ended as Ancient Ludovicus spun up his Kheres assault cannon. High-velocity rounds filled the air, and all three Executioners of the Terror Squad were churned apart into a red mist. The Centurion was not spared either, as one of the assault cannon rounds punched through his shoulder plate, grievously wounding him and coming within an inch of ending his life.

Then the Phalanx Warders were upon him, charging with a vengeance. Snarling, the Centurion raised his chain glaive…only for one of the Warders to swing his boarding shield into the Centurion’s face, shattering his face-plate and the skull underneath, and flooring him. (Note: my Phalanx Warders finished the Centurion off with their Hammer of Wrath attacks)

In the central fight, meanwhile, the Tactical Sergeant again roared a challenge, and this time the Night Lords Praetor accepted. The two combatants’ weapons crackled as they clashed again and again, but try as he might, the Praetor could not pierce the Imperial Fist’s thick armour, while the Sergeant could not land a telling blow on his skilled opponent. In the wider fight, the Tactical Squad again showed the Atramentar their mettle, with one brother managing to drive his knife deep into the eye-visor of one Terminator, felling him. In reply, however, the Atramentar responded with savagery and cruelty, their lightning claws carving apart five of the Imperial Fists, including their vexilarius, the squad’s banner falling from his severed fingers. At this, the squad’s resolve finally broke, and they fell back, the enemy Terminators lumbering after them.

Sensing that the battle was turning against him, the Night Lords Praetor led his Terminators onwards against the fleeing remnants of the Tactical Squad. Despite being dramatically under-strength, the remaining Fists nonetheless reformed in time to meet the Night Lords’ charge. Again, the Imperial Fists Sergeant roared a challenge, and once again, the Praetor accepted. For the second time, the two of them fought to a standstill, the Praetor unable to find a weak point in his opponent’s armour, and the Sergeant unable to get past the Praetor’s deft blade-work. The last three of the Tactical Marines, however, didn’t last nearly as long, as they were slowly sheared apart in horrific ways by the Atramentar. Seeing the last of his brothers fall, and realizing he now stood all alone against this terrifying foe, the Sergeant’s resolve finally broke, and he fled into the darkness of the station, followed only by the cruel laughter of the Night Lords.

TURN 5

Knowing that they still had the Atramentar to deal with, the Phalanx Warders moved up towards the narrow corridor where the Night Lords were hiding, followed closely by the lumbering Dreadnought.

Charging through the corpse-choked corridor, the Phalanx Warders crashed into the enemy Terminators, boarding shields slamming against Cataphractii plate as the two squads collided. Singling out the enemy Praetor, the Warder Sergeant raised his axe to the traitor in a challenge. Axe and blade clashed again and again, and while the Night Lord was faster and more skilled, he found again, to his frustration, that he was fighting an opponent whose armour he could not pierce. For his part, the Warder Sergeant’s blows were too slow, and he was unable to land a telling blow on the enemy leader. The Atramentar, meanwhile, responded to the intrusion with startling speed, their claws raking out and disemboweling one of the Phalanx Warders before he could shield himself. The Warders swung back, but their furious axe-blows could not pierce the thick Cataphractii plate of their opponents. Undeterred, the Warders carried on their assault, determined not to break against these fiends.

And carry on, the assault did. Even as the Praetor and the Warder Sergeant continued their furious duel, the Atramentar slashed out with their talons, but this time the Warders were prepared and managed to shield themselves against the Night Lords’ strikes. Closing in to ensure that the enemy Terminators could not escape, the Phalanx Warders chopped furiously into the Atramentar, this time finding the strength to cut through the enemy battle plate. Within seconds, both of the remaining Terminators had been felled, their armour split open by furious axe-strikes, and the Praetor suddenly found himself alone and surrounded.

Realizing that the attack had failed, the Praetor swore and decided he would rather take his chances telling the Painted Count of his failure than face a humiliating death at the hands of Dorn’s whelps. Activating his personal teleporter, the Praetor disappeared from the battlefield, leaving Redoubt Upsilon in the hands of the Imperial Fists…though their victory had come at a terrible cost. (Note: at this point, with only a Praetor left on the field, Adrianna forfeited)

RESULT: IMPERIAL FISTS VICTORY!

Thoughts: What an absolutely bloody game! I knew that Zone Mortalis tended to favour close-quarters firefights and swirling melee, but I had no idea the casualties would pull up this quickly. From turn 1, I thought I was in real trouble when my Breachers were not only shot to ribbons, but were then charged, failed their fear test, and were butchered along with their attendant Consul. I had been banking on the toughness boost from the Stone Gauntlet to keep my Breachers in the fight, but the “Talent For Murder” rule of the Night Lords, combined with the fact that I had failed my fear test, meant that they were hitting my poor Fists on 2s and wounding on 4s (as an aside, the ability for Space Marines to actually fail fear tests is a novelty that standard 40k has never had).

Despite my early losses, I persevered in true Imperial Fist fashion, and was rewarded when my Phalanx Warders proceeded to roll through most of Adrianna’s force, even managing to take down what was left of her Terminators in the end. Even my Tactical Marines did a decent job of tying up the Terminators for a few turns, much to my pleasant surprise. In the end, though both out forces were decimated, the defenders of Terra came out on top.

For my first game, I learned quite a few pointers about the Horus Heresy, as did Adrianna:

  • The Imperial Fists are really mean in Zone Mortalis. The +1 to hit that they get with bolt weapons works really well with reactive fire, and the Stone Gauntlet rite of war seems practically designed for the close-quarters confines of a Zone Mortalis map. However, the basic rules for Night Lords seem to be a natural counter for the Stone Gauntlet, as I found out the hard way.
  • My Breachers did not impress me at all in this game, though it’s possible that I grossly misused them. In retrospect, I am not even certain why I gave them graviton guns– it’s possible that I overlooked that they were heavy blast weapons, and thus could not be fired on the move or on overwatch. Next time, if I take Breachers, I’ll be better off giving them meltaguns instead.
  • My Tactical Marines performed decently in this game, though I’m a bit disappointed that I never got to use their Fury of the Legion rule (I decided I was better off saving for overwatch against a potential Terminator charge). However, in this game, they were constantly forced to straddle multiple rooms due to their large squad size. In future, for Zone Mortalis, I feel that squads of 10 may be the best way to go (and at that point I might as well just trade them for Breachers or Legion Veterans)
  • I was honestly surprised by how well the Phalanx Warders did. When I first put my list together, I was a little put off by how mediocre their stats were, especially when compared to other elite units like Terminators or Templar Brethren. However, their ability to take advantage of the Stone Gauntlet meant that they were able to dish out plenty of Hammer of Wrath attacks on the charge, and became toughness 5 in subsequent rounds of combat. I’m a little disappointed that the Contemptor didn’t do much, though it’s one round of firing its Kheres assault cannon was awesome.
  • If there was anything that this game illustrated, it is that artificer armour is worth its weight in gold (as Adrianna’s Praetor discovered the hard way). This, in my mind, underscores the fact that combat characters should always be given an AP2 weapon of some sort, such as a paragon blade.

All in all, though, this game was a fun introduction to the Horus Heresy. Adrianna was a fun opponent, and as the COVID-19 situation drags on, I might try yet more Heresy on Vassal and TTS (or other games, since gamers in my area have been looking with interest at Necromunda, Frostgrave and Age of Sigmar as well…)

MVP: The Phalanx Warders, without a doubt, saved the day for me, chopping their way through a Terror Squad, the enemy Centurion, and finishing off the Terminators. On the Night Lords side, the Terminators racked up the biggest kill count of all of the Night Lords force, even if their attendant Praetor was less than impressive…

*****

Almost as soon as it had begun, the battle was over. Warder-Sergeant Kleistes let his shield and axe hang low as he caught his breath, his superhuman lungs taking great lungfuls from his suit’s oxygen recyclers. His hornet-yellow armour was spattered with gore, and his twin hearts were beating like jackhammers. He ordered his squad to take up overatch positions, in case any other Night Lords were lurking in the shadows, and took a glance down the corridor they had been fighting in. It had been turned into an abattoir, with a long heap of mangled, power armoured bodies carpeting the floor, rich blood forming a red pool at his feet. Some of the bodies were of the Night Lords, including a few he had personally hacked in twain. Many of them were his brothers, Astartes with whom he had served and trainefor centuries.

He shook his head, numb from the horror of it all. It was one thing to hear of the evils that the traitors had committed– of their butchery of the loyalist legions at Isstvaan, of the unthinking hatred with which they sought to tear down all that they had once served. But it was another to actually fight them yourself. Up until this point, Kleistes had never fought another Astartes before, and the sheer slaughter that post-human warriors could inflict upon one another shocked him to his core.

This was not war like what Kleistes knew it to be. This was what Horus was bringing to the Sol system: slaughter. Butchery. Madness. Chaos.

At that moment, his vox bead suddenly crackled to life. “More boarding craft are coming in!” shouted one of the officers from the operations centre, the panic palpable in the man’s voice. “They’re getting through our defensive fire! They’re going to breach us!”

Kleistes swore. More of them were coming. He and his brothers had only narrowly managed to fend off one Night Lords assault. Their numbers were too few to hold off a second. This, he realized with a sinking feeling in his gut, was going to be it.

Then he remembered the communique that Lord Dorn had sent out the moment the enemy fleet had revealed itself. “Hold your positions, my sons, and hold to your last. Every minute that you defy them in the void is one more minute that Terra survives.”

Steeling himself, Kleistes stood up to his full height once more and exhaled the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. “Form up,” he ordered his squad once more, “and prepare to repel boarders…”

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