Approx. 2900 words

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Copyright 2015   SJ

Distant Chaos:

The Pendulum of Doom


written by  SJ




    Sol7 Thanatos was the furthest Terran colonized star system in the entire Sol Frontier, 102.4 light years from Sol Zeta Draconis. Located 47.6 light years to the east of Sol7 Thanatos was the Behemoth star system, a Tyranid hive colony. To the south, 46.9 light years, was the closest Eldar colony; Terran’s on Thanatos-4 already knew they were being watched closely by them.
    Thanatos-4 orbited its K3 V 6.2 orange sun at a distance of 0.46 A.U.s (64 million kilometers). The planet was about 80 percent the size of Old Earth, but more dense, giving it a gravity of 0.98G; it was an older planet with greenhouse gases high enough so that some minimal breathers would be necessary. There was a small Terran colony located on the planet, with only one large town, and numerous villages, all located on the coast, where fishing and ocean agriculture was their primary source of food. Inland, however, was their major source of income: Mining. Even though the colonist were undeterred in their independence, they were leaning on becoming a part of Cartel 5...when it became a formal government Cartel, sometime in the far future.
    Thanatos-5 orbited the sun at about 0.69 A.U.’s. It was known to be a cold desert world with some lower animal life; however, once Tyranids were spotted on it, about a decade earlier, it was abandoned.
    Sol7 Thanatos had nine planets in the solar system. Thanatos-6 and Thanatos-7 were small gas giants, Thanatos-8 and Thanatos-9 were ice balls; each of them had observation satellites. The satellite orbiting Thanatos-8 spotted the unmistakable shape of Yarrick’s old command ship first.
    Thanatos-4 had four planetary defense guns, two equator, and two polar, but they were older guns and calculated to be only 60 percent as powerful as the guns on Tolstoy. However, their crews were better trained, and they figured they could do considerable damage to the Chaos controlled command ship, very possibly destroy it outright, if it got close enough. When they spotted a second Chaos spaceship, one just a little larger, that’s when they knew they would have to go into full defense mode and call for help, sending the message straight to the space station at Cornucopia.
    The General knew they had to handle the situation on Thanatos-4 delicately. They needed to make an attempt to defend the planet, but had to do it without alerting either the Tyranids or Eldar to any danger.
    In the past decade, communication with the Eldar had been, at least, somewhat cordial, which simply meant the Eldar acknowledged the attempt, sometimes with a thank you, a great leap above their usual, no response. Now, with the presence of two Chaos warships, they feared any diplomatic gain would be lost if there was a battle in space, or on the planet. The presence of Chaos, this time, could NOT have come at a worse time or place.
    Ever since the first landing on Cornucopia by the Cheyenne Rangers, their corsair transport, the Chaparral, had been upgraded to carry a few more troops, 33 percent better defense, and a 20 percent more powerful jump drive. Right after Colonel Gallardo had briefed his troops about the situation on Thanatos-4, he had them start loading troops and equipment: Four Scout squads, four Marine squads, all with fully-armed transports, plus two new Land Speeder Typhoons (combat Land Speeders each armed with two sets of Typhoon missile launchers, and a twin-linked bolter).
    Lana’s team was going to be designated as a far recon team, but they felt it was a little too under-strength, since she wasn’t able to have Gannon and Bull with her. The General had planned on sending Melinda’s team to Thanatos-4 in case they needed to do any investigation; instead, he reluctantly attached her team to Lana’s team, both teams being given brand new Land Speeder transports, with drivers and crewmen to man the twin-linked bolters.
    The entire mission was formally considered a reconnaissance in force. They were to bring a highly mobile force only. Both Colonel Gallardo and Major Taliaferro were going this time and were expected to have a space on one of the destroyers for their HQ and staff,
    The Chaparral first jumped to Proxima Altair, where it was joined by the General’s three destroyers. After a briefing, all four spaceships made the jump to Sol7 Thanatos, 96.5 light years, with a jump time of eight days. The General and his Marines were not going this time, staying behind to protect closer star systems. Yarrick had already chosen his force and had made the jump from the Comae Berenices system, a longer jump, but with his new command ship’s better jump drive, he was expected, as usual, to arrive before everyone else. He had wanted to bring a couple corporate warships with him, but, as the General explained, he didn’t want it to look like to the Eldar or the Tyranids that they were amassing some kind of an invasion force.
    The General’s three destroyers, and the Chaparral arrived at Sol7 Thanatos on the far outer edge of the solar system where they were quickly joined by Yarrick’s new command ship; he had arrived only about five hours earlier, and wisely decided not to make the approach to the planet with just his one ship. But, during that time, he had contacted Thanatos-4's leadership and had obtained some information.
    “Alpharius’ spaceship, (a.k.a. my old command ship) has apparently been renamed, the Legion.” Yarrick began. “The slightly larger spaceship, the one with the Eye of Tzeencth on it, is named, the Pendulum of Doom. On the planet, I’ve been in contact with a Captain Conrad Falconer, commander of the Thanatos militia. Last I spoke with him, most all the colonists have fallen back to the planet’s one major town, Zion, where they are fortified, armed mainly with auto rifles and about a dozen makeshift rail guns. They have four recon teams out scouting in front of the town in two-man sleds.”
    “Did they inform you if there are any Chaos forces on the planet?” Major Taliaferro wanted to know.
    “I was just about to get to that.” Yarrick continued. “At first, the two Chaos spaceships stayed out of range of the planetary guns, for several days, in fact, while they proceeded to destroy all the Terran satellites in the entire solar system. They then both closed in and it appeared that the Pendulum of Doom fired a torpedo--”
    “A torpedo?” The General, who was listening via FTL com link, was surprised. “At maximum planetary gun range, they had to be way out of range to target anything--”
    “Yes, yes, I know.” Yarrick cut back in. “The torpedo reappeared about 3000 kilometers above the surface of the planet where it launched nine probes, all which proceeded to the planet’s surface someplace. Two of the planetary guns fired on the Pendulum of Doom before it went out of range; they think they might’ve damaged it slightly. So far, they have no idea how many Chaos forces, if any, are on the planet. If there are any, I assume they have to be around where the probes landed...and since they lost their satellites before the probes were launched, they can’t be sure where that is.”
    “Did you get any information on the Pendulum of Doom?” Captain Anderson, flagship commander of the three destroyers, needed to know.
    Yarrick thought a second, then answered. “From what I was told, in comparison to the Legion, they said it was slightly larger, maybe with a little more power; but, it scanned as having  less armor. And it seemed to have four torpedo tubes. Captain Falconer made it clear that if the two ships attacked at the same time, they would probably only be able to destroy one of them.”
    “Which means the remaining ship could take out the two planetary guns guarding that side of the planet.” Anderson concluded. “But, they’re not going to do that. Those ships are troop transports as well as warships. With my three destroyers, we could probably attack and win--but the cost would be high.”
    “And that’s not considering what the Eldar would think of us afterwards.” The General sighed. “All they would see is us blowing up our own spaceships.” He became serious. “I want to avoid that if at all possible.”
    “There’s also the Tyranids.” Yarrick mentioned. “According to Falconer, he says they have at least two bio-satellites in orbit around Thanatos-5.”
    “Really? That’s something new.” The General pondered.
    Yarrick continued, thinking of something. “You know, the Behemoth hive system is closer to the Eldar solar system than it is to us. Yet, the Tyranids are here on one of the planets in our solar system. We have to consider the possibility that the Tyranids and the Eldar are working together; it’s possible they could’ve sent the Tyranids here--”
    “That’s a fairly farfetched assumption, Yarrick.” The General responded, countering. “We have no evidence they can even communicate with each other.”
    He shrugged. “But, yet...still a possibility.”
    “So what’s the next step?” The General proceeded.
    Captain Anderson answered. “We’re getting ready to move as a group to the planet where we will go into geosynchronous orbit above the town of Zion. Yarrick and Gallardo will land their troops; from there, they told me they’d send out scouting parties. My destroyers will remain within the protection of the planetary guns, which should discourage a space battle.”
    “Sounds good. I’ll contact you guys later.” The General signed off.
    Yarrick’s command ship, and the Chaparral (with Taliaferro onboard) both landed at a small airport inside the town of Zion. Imperial Guard troops were an Armored Fist platoon, made up of two squads. The platoon HQ had it’s usual command Chimera, with two squads of Sentinels (armed with multi-lasers) attached to it; each Armored Fist squad had seven Guardsmen, a Chimera (armed with turret multi-laser and hull-mounted heavy flamer), and an attached lascannon support squad.
    At this point, none of commanders knew where or when a battle would be fought. The most important part of this mission would be the scouting. There were two far recon teams: LaFong’s Team (Dakota, Ramcke, and Burns, plus Dion and her team: Petrovsky, Koufax, and de la Vega), and Shaw’s Mercenary Guard (his group made up of four hover sleds carrying two soldiers each, the fourth sled actually being a heavy weapons back up group with a lascannon and a Scout heavy bolter). The far recon teams would scout out in front of all the other forces with Anderson’s three destroyers being their eyes in the sky.
    Gallardo’s four Scout Marine squads were assigned to scout the coastal areas, two west, two east, where there were numerous villages. The four regular Marine squads would also have to remain strategically mobile so they could back up the far recon teams, and the Scout squads. Yarrick’s Armored Fist platoon would do the same, but be in position to back up Shaw’s team. If a large Chaos force was found, all the groups would need to be in position to quickly combine into a single force if necessary.
    The first thing the far recon teams needed to do were to go out as far as they could guided by the scanners of Anderson’s destroyers. And even though their first job was to locate enemy forces, they were also assigned the task of finding the nine Chaos probes, which was where they suspected enemy forces would be anyway.
    However, the closer they got, the less the scanners on the destroyers could help them. It quickly became apparent that the probes, shortly after landing, had began to emit particles of high-energy radiation into the air; it wasn’t dangerous, but it was interfering with the scanners, something the teams were not surprised at as they proceeded anyway.
    Having their scanners partially obscured by something Chaos had created was becoming par for the course. However, the probes themselves were, in effect, now giving off their own locator beacon: the emission of particles; just follow the density of those particles, and they would find the probes. Within a day, the location for six of the probes had been found by Anderson’s flagship and relayed to the far recon teams. As for the other three probes, they had no idea where they were.
    However, after another day, events were about to suddenly take a dangerous turn for the worse:
    Thanatos-4's planetary guns were located literally on the four corners of the world, the polar guns, obviously, on the poles, the equator guns on the equator, but in such a way so their arcs of fire overlapped the town of Zion itself, which meant the guns had to be positioned one quarter of the way around the planet from were the town was at. And since they were so far away from the town and the civilized area around it, the guns were operated remotely from Zion.
    When the crew in charge of the southern pole gun tried to make one of their standard diagnostics, they suddenly realized--they were not in charge of the gun any longer. Nothing responded. And even worse, the gun was changing its direction of fire--and powering up!
    When the planetary guns were built, it had been decided, at that time, for them to be connected directly by cable, with a wireless connection as a back up. Successful mining operations back them had given them ample materials to connect the guns by a direct route straight through the planet to Zion. If it hadn’t been for this decision decades earlier, the only way they would’ve been able to know the guns were under enemy control would’ve been AFTER they had fired, since the wireless connection was the first thing compromised.
    Captain Anderson had received the message that he was being target by the southern pole gun just minutes before it happened, giving him time to order all his destroyers to put full power to their defense, and time for him to start his escape out of range. And it was none to soon as both equator guns quickly came under Chaos control and began firing along with the pole gun; fortunately, they all missed. The only planetary gun Thanatos-4 had left under its control was the northern pole gun.
    As soon as Captain Anderson had made his escape, he wasted no time, quickly ordering his destroyers to position themselves between the Chaos ships and the planet. There was no longer the option of trying to avoid a battle in space; if the Chaos ships had made their way to the planet and taken position within range of the planetary guns THEY controlled, they could’ve used their main weapons to try and blast troops on the ground, and, with one torpedo, obliterate the town of Zion. As it was now, it was a stalemate. The Chaos ships kept their distance, but Anderson’s destroyers could no longer support ground troops.
    The battle for Thanatos-4 was now up to the ground troops as the three commanders discussed what to do.
    “It was those three other Chaos probes, that’s what it was.” Yarrick made himself heard loud and clear. “Those planetary guns should’ve been armed and fortified from ground attack.”
    “We should keep our mind on things we can do now, not things we should’ve done in the past, okay, Yarrick?” Major Taliaferro countered.
    Yarrick agreed with a grunt, then continued. “The eastern gun is on this continent. I can send my Armored Fist platoon over there and take the gun back.”
    “That’ll take at least three days.” Taliaferro responded. “And then, three days back; and that’s assuming you don’t encounter any Chaos resistance there, or on the way. Your Armored Fist platoon is just too big of a force too be missing for six days.”    
    “Then what do you suggest?” Yarrick sighed.
    The two commanders sat, thinking. Gradually they turned to face Colonal Gallardo, who had a few thoughts of his own. He spoke calmly and wisely. “Guys, it comes down to this. There is no right or wrong answer. We’re playing a guessing game here. So far Chaos has out guessed us every time; they’ve done things to make us overreact.” He smiled. “Personally I don’t think they have any forces defending those guns; just the probes themselves. I suggest sending one Marine Scout squad to each equator gun, where they will remain to defend it against any other probes, assuming Chaos doesn’t destroy the guns as soon as they arrive. The western gun is on an island anyway, where a Land Speeder will be needed to get there.”
    The other two commanders agreed.
    Then Yarrick mentioned the obvious. “That still leaves the southern polar gun.” It only took him a second to think of something. “I can have Shaw send part of his team over to the gun.” He looked at Gallardo. “Or you can send your man over there with a team: LaFong, I think his name is.”
    The Colonel frowned one eyebrow. “He’s a she, Yarrick. And all those teams are going to be busy searching for the other six probes.” He relaxed his eyebrow. “But...that’s not a bad idea. Once the equator guns have been neutralized, I will have my other two Scout squads ready to move to the south pole.”
    Once all the commanders had agreed, they left to start issuing orders to their troops.























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