The fleet reorganised in system. The Redemption class battle cruiser The Light of Heaven assumed High Guard beyond the gas giant Devos X. Imperial Fury class near space ion drive fighters shadowed all commercial traffic in and out of the system. The rogue trader Corinthian Summer arrived with an Ordo Hereticus Lady Inquisitrix arrived and the interdiction tightened. Frigates that had been flanking the moving fleet were released to board and inspect all of the passing trade.
The 1505th Imperial Transport Fleet moved into position. Since the Vindare Hersey, the Imperial Guard had been organised into blocks of roughly three thousand men, the size of the Navy’s normal troopship. The Optime II was the 1505th Transport Fleet. A gaggle of atmospheric transports – drop ships capable of carrying a few hundred men and their vehicles followed the Optime II through the warp like ducklings following their mother, although these ‘ducklings’ were sheltering within the geller field of the larger carrier.
The Lady Inquisitrix had some strong ideas about the conduct of the campaign. General Zhukov was not overly enamoured of Ordo Hereticus interference in his campaign. However, she had drop capable storm troopers in her household. And none of his staff expected the 50th Tactical Lift Wing to hang around once the shooting started. Planetstrike would be made without jeopardising any of the 73rd army groups’ limited assets.
General Zhukov waited on The Light of Heaven. It would send a clear message to the Witch Hunteress; that she was dealing with his subordinate, Gen Tolstoy. Tolstoy and the rest of 17th Battle Group HQ transferred to the Optime II.
The drop ship Diggavic swung into its low orbit. On board, Kaptian Ilich, Gen Tolstoy’s ‘eyes on the ground’ felt his pulse quicken as the sixty soldiers moved from their temporary billets, by squad in two ranks, through the corridors of the drop ship. The carapace armoured storm troopers moved without speaking, following their embarkation drills precisely. Codex grey armour marched past, quickly and without any fuss or mishap. Sergeants at the head of each squad, every man marked by the inquisitorial badge. Grav chutes in their jump packs, a few precious Elysian pattern weapons here and there amongst the Kantrel pattern ones. Demolition charges, grenades and spare ammunition and batteries adorning every spare space. Ilich felt a queasy mixture of pride, agitation and apprehension as the Inquisition and Navy kicked off the Imperial Guard’s Devos IV Campaign.
Service crews made the last checks as the crew masters, plugged into exterior vox ports, guided aircrews through their start up procedure. Low whining filled the cavernous hold of the Diggavic as each of the six Valkyrie started first one and then the other of their engines. Loadmasters ushered the storm troopers aboard.
Kaptain Ilich had been at the aircrew briefing. This was a one way mission, the Valkyries would use up not far off half of their fuel load holding the craft up for long enough not to be damaged entering the atmosphere. The 50th TLW would then swoop down on the starport to establish the bridgehead for the 73rd Army Group. If the starport wasn’t taken swiftly, the Valkyrie squadron would have to break for mainland Acer and hide until they could be secured.
The last of the storm troopers mag-clamped his melta gun to the roof of the rear Valkyrie. From his doorway, Kaptain Ilich stood to attention and saluted. The only person to notice was one of the load masters. As ground crew armed missile pods and hurried to clear the other trappings of a Valkyrie lift away, he stood at the rear of his bus and casually (as a navy man) returned Ilich’s salute as the tail ramp closed.
Claxons sounded and lights strobed as blast doors descended and the cargo bay opened to the upper atmosphere. Ilich could not see, but he knew, if everything were going to plan, every 23 seconds, one of the Valkyries left the hold of the Diggavic.
There was the hum and thump of compressors working as the hold re-pressurised and the lights and claxons ceased. The storm troopers descent would take 43 minutes. They would deploy, by grav chute, to secure the astropaths, orbital traffic control centre, the main and subsidiary gates and other vital systems. The Valkyries would remain on station for another 58 minutes, flying a loop around the star port, ready to respond to the storm troopers calls for assistance. After that they would have to start landing. At the starport.
Kaptian Ilich was already acting. He made his announcement over the tannoy and the next wave of soldiery was on the move. Behind where the Valkyries had been were the hunched forms of the 22nd Armageddon Steel Legion’s Sentinels. Even now the crews were unshackling the war walkers from their confines and climbing into their cockpits. Kaptain Ilich strapped himself into his drop couch.
The Sentinel screen for 4 Coy was chosen as the close support for the Inquisitorial Storm Troopers. Basically at random, they were the first unit he came to when Kaptian Ilich was instructed to find Sentinel support for the landing. It had been observed that they were not scout sentinels. The pilots did not have an open view, nor did they have close target recognisance training. They were armoured cabs with laser and plasma cannons, hunter killers; Stompa Hunters. Ilich noted that the Inquisitorial Storm Troopers were more heavily armed and armoured than most guardsmen. Nothing more was said.
The air filled with diesel fumes as the ten Sentinels of 4 Coy powered up. Air and hydraulic oil pushed the odd machines to their feet. This was the second wave. The Sentinels would be ok on their feet, between their own auto balancers and the Diggavic’s internal compensators, they should all still be ok by the time they reached the ground. Kaptain Ilich of course, knew otherwise. If the Diggavic was shot at and took evasive action, they would all fall over. And their chance of remaining upright depended on the smoothness of the landing. If the two lead Sentinels fell over, then the others would be stuck in the hold until they could be hauled out of the way. There were lots of things to go wrong.
Barely twelve minutes had passed since the last of the Valkyries had left the Diggavic. His stomach lurched as the Diggavic broke through the atmosphere and began its descent. The whole operation was proceeding exactly to time. ‘Planning is everything, plans are nothing.’ thought Kaptain ilich to himself as the drop ship began its journey to the planet’s surface.