Following an order from Athena, these two groups of terran forces started pushing into the valley from the two ends.
Athena knew the whole idea of this campaign was speed. This was a lightning strike that sought to use the element of surprise and Athena’s inside information on the division to do as much damage to the Imperials as possible. She couldn’t afford to let this battle to drag on for too long.
The marines and marauders immediately took a shot of stimpack before pushing forward toward the Imperial formation. Marauders charged forward with a speed too fast for their size. Marines lifted their combat shields and followed, firing their gauss rifles as they moved. Their helmets completely hid their faces from their foe. Around them, hellions took the field for the first time, using their speed and rushing toward the Imperials before many of them had any idea what was going on.
Out of the three terran units, the hellions hit first. Fifty hellions rushed the Imperial position from the two sides. These one-man light scouting vehicles were much smaller than Imperial APCs and even MSVs. They maneuvered around the burning vehicles and other obstacles before turning their Inferno flamethrowers on the unsuspecting Imperial soldiers who have just stepped out of their troop transports.
Orange flames shot out across a distance of several meters, lighting up everything caught in their path. Within seconds, plasma fuel consumed dozens of Imperial soldiers across the two battlefronts. These Imperial soldiers screamed as their skin, flesh, and bones melted under the inhuman heat, their metal armor completely failing to keep them alive. Hellions were capable of burning even the most adaptable zerg units to a crisp. It would take a lot more than a layer of metal to deflect their touch.
The various armored vehicles were tougher targets. Hellions could still kill the troops inside given some time, but under Athena’s orders, they instead ignored the armored vehicles and continued to dive after the enemy infantry troops. The armored vehicles would be handled by the marauders that were not far behind.
A marauder pushed his way past what remained of a Blackbuck-class Multi-terrain Scout Vehicle before lifting the grenade launcher on his right arm in the direction of a Wildcat-class APC. A single grenade hit an APC on the side armor and blasted a large hole in the plating with ease.
The gunner operating the Eradicator mounted on the vehicle wasn’t directly hit by the grenade, but the explosion still knocked him off his feet for a second. By the time he recovered, just two seconds later, it was too late. Another grenade went through the breach caused by the first one and exploded inside the vehicle, killing the gunner and the pair of drivers.
“No no no!” An Imperial conscript screamed in fear as he watched his corporal and half of his squad get burned alive right in front of his eyes. His rifle slid out of his hand and hit the ground, not that he even noticed it. His eyes landed on another hellion coming right toward him. The young man tried to run, but his body had frozen in fear. All the young man could do was watch as orange flame poured onto his body, killing him the same way they killed countless of his comrades.
Another trooper hid behind a burning Bobcat-class APC and took a breath of relief when the hellions drove by without noticing her. Her relief was gone the next second as two figures in grey armor circled around the vehicle on foot.
“I surrender!” The trooper immediately raised her hand, knowing there was no way she could fight her way out of this ambush.
The reply she got came in the form of an 8mm gauss round to the head and a second one to the chest.
Within minutes, the battlefield was nothing but pure chaos. Hundreds died in so many brutal manners. Blown to bits by marauder grenades. Riddled by marine gauss rifles rounds. Burned alive by hellions. Hundreds of men and women who were optimistic about this mission just minutes ago died in various different yet similarly horrific ways.
The hellions were surprisingly effective. Using the shelter of armored vehicles and their exceptional speed, they quickly closed the distance with Imperial infantry troops. By the time the Imperial troops saw the hellions, they were already too close. Even before the troopers could raise their automatic rifles and take aim, the flamethrowers rained down plasma fuel on the troops indiscriminately. Veterans and recruits alike burned and died. Privates, corporals, sergeants, and captains. Ranks offered little protection against the barrel of Inferno flamethrowers.
“Death rides with me!” One of the hellion drivers said a unit voice line as he rained fire on four Imperial troopers who were desperately trying to turn a machine gun in the hellion’s direction. They were a little slow on that.
Athena saw the carnage from the eyes of the terran units, and she simply sighed.
Her forces were in no position to take prisoners. They obviously couldn’t bring the prisoners back to the terran base. They had no need for prisoners and the risk was too great. If they just left the prisoners here, these prisoners would tell the Imperials everything they knew about the terran troops. They would likely, by will or by need, pick up arms against her in the future.
A part of Athena hated the fact that she was even thinking about human lives like this, but another part of her, the more logical part, recognized that this mindset, like all the death and destruction here, was necessary if she wished to get what she wanted in this galaxy.
After setting over two hundred Imperial troops on fire, the hellions were finally stopped. Using the little time they had and information gathered from the drones, the captains leading the unit had their troops line their APCs into a column that acted as a makeshift roadblock, completely sealing off the path. Gunners readied themselves behind the APC turrets while mortar teams and assault drone operators readied themselves for action.
Athena didn't order the hellions to turn back. Hellions, by their design, needed some distance and time to make a 180 turn. There was no time for that, and it would also disrupt the formation of marines and marauders behind them. The hellions also wouldn’t make it far. After all, hellions were scout and skirmish vehicles that struggled in extended firefights. Athena never expected these hellions to return home alive after deploying them like this.
After all, Athena had experimented with them and confirmed that these terran units weren’t real people. She had some lines she refused to cross, but in the same way that she would never feel sympathy for a unit’s death in a ladder game of Starcraft 2, she wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice these units here.
Even as mortar shells, machine gun rounds, and assault drone missiles decimated their ranks, the hellions continued advancing, doing as much damage as they could. Their flamethrowers fired for the last time, setting the APCs ablaze and burning many gunners alive in their seats.
After the hellions fell, the marines and marauders started trading fire with the Imperials. Marines shot down assault and suicide drones. Suicide drones strapped with explosives kamikazed into terran squads. Mortar rounds and assault drone missiles blew terran marines into pieces. In return, marauder grenades blasted through the Imperial vehicles that made up the roadblock, allowing the terran infantry troops to press the assault.
As the battle dragged on, the Imperials were steadily losing ground. They were just suffering too many casualties. The 4th Regiment was already down several hundred men due to the siege against the Republic. The wave of widow mines killed hundreds and the hellions burned hundreds more alive. It was impossible to know the exact number of casualties, but the captains knew their numbers of dangerously close to being depleted.
Even in the Imperium, this level of casualties was enough to put the unit at risk of routing, but the Imperial troops in the valley were still fighting on. Part of the reason was there was nowhere to fall back to, but even more importantly, they were informed by their officers that help was on the way.
Indeed. Almost as soon as the ambush began, Colonel Kai, who was commanding the regiment from the safety of Prosperity, was notified of the trap by his captains. He made the report to General Pierre, who immediately sent two more regiments and portions of the 1st Armored Brigade to reinforce the reinforcements. At the same time, he contacted Commander Liam once again and demanded aid.
This time, Commander Liam finally agreed to send three squadrons of starbombers and two squadrons of starfighters to reinforce Valley C.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment was one of the two units to be sent out to save the 4th, but even as she was briefed by Colonel Gavin along with the other captains, Athena knew this would be meaningless. She wasn’t informed about the Navy’s air support, but it was something she more or less expected.
These further reinforcements were beyond what her terran forces could destroy, not that it mattered. The 4th Regiment wouldn’t live long enough to be saved.
There were many things that made widow mines an impressive machine of war. For one thing, unlike spider mines and most mines in this galaxy, widow mines weren’t a one-shot weapon. Instead, they could collect materials from underground and rebuild their missiles, and it seemed like another round of sentinel missiles was about to be ready.
“Ready yourself, men! Help is on the way! We just have to hold the line a little longer!”
Captain Matthew shouted into the company channel as the sounds of chaos and combat got closer and closer to his location.
His unit, the 119th Company, was fortunate enough to be in the center of the formation. This was why, even as most of the companies in the regiment were taking heavy casualties, with two of them more or less wiped out, Captain Matthew had yet to engage the enemy forces. Colonel Kai intended the two companies that were in the middle to serve as the regiment’s final reserve forces. If one flank breaks, these reserve troops could hold the line a bit longer and buy time for the broken units to regroup.
“Sir, we are out of drones.” Sergeant Diaz made his way to the captain and reported.
“Then tell your men to get their weapons ready for combat.”
“Sir. we are drone operators…” The sergeant’s protests were silenced by a cold glare from the captain. Usually, specialists like drone operators and engineers would remain protected, but there was no time for that now.
“Captain Matthew!” Colonel Kai’s voice suddenly appeared in the comms, and the captain bit his lips as he heard the words he was dreading. “Take your company to the vanguard and cover the retreat of the 117th. The 115th will reinforce the rear. Good luck.”
“I…yes sir.” The captain replied quietly. No matter what he thought inside, obeying was the only thing he could do. He tapped a key on the comms to switch the channel. As he was doing that, his eyes suddenly caught a glance of something on the cliffs. Something…moving rapidly.
The cliffs surrounding the valley were almost vertical to the ground. The Imperials tried to scale the cliffs to escape this trap, but they lacked the proper equipment to do so. Initially, Colonel Kai and the captains were worried the enemies would position their fire teams and artillery units on the two cliffs. They posted a few units of surveillance and attack drones to watch over the cliffs, but as the situation worsened, these drones were moved to reinforce the other battlefronts. Almost all have been destroyed since then.
And now, after their most effective counter was gone, the enemies started using the cliffs. The enemy commander must have noticed they were no longer sending out drones!
Captain Matthew watched in horror as dozens of figures suddenly tossed themselves off the near-vertical cliff. As they dropped, bursts of flames appeared from behind them, seemingly decreasing the speed at which they were falling and turning what could have been a mass suicide into a way to rapidly deploy troops in a rather unexpected manner.
“In…incoming!” The captain finally remembered to scream, and scream was what he did. Much to his relief, his words were heard, and dozens of Imperial troops around him noticed the figures coming down the cliff. Good. If they could react quickly enough…
A series of familiar explosions, ones that the captain didn't expect to hear again so soon, interrupted the man’s thoughts and destroyed any chance of a rapid reaction by the 119th Company.
Some of the Imperials saw the mines coming out of the ground with their own eyes, but the encroaching terran forces quickly caught their attention. Mines only go off once. This was common sense. No one even considered the possibility that these mines could fire again. What sane person would expect a landmine to explode twice? Sure, this was a missile, but…
Out of the 100 widow mines Athena buried in the valley, only a third of them were scattered throughout the middle of the zone. Only 12 were buried under the 119th Company, but against hundreds of infantry troops on foot, 12 was enough to do a lot.
12 sentinel missiles shot out from underground and hit the most valuable targets they could find. One-third of a squad was hit directly by one missile, with the rest of the squad pummeled by shrapnels. A Wildcat APC was completely destroyed when a missile flew into the open rear door and exploded inside the vehicle. Three mortar teams and two machine gun teams met their end before they even knew what was happening.
As the explosions died down, Captain Matthew collapsed on the ground. Right in front of him laid the body of Corporal Boris. A single piece of shrapnel hit him in the head, cutting through both the face shield and, judging from the blood and the piece of metal coming out of the back of his helmet, his skull.
This time, the captain saw the source of the explosions. The missiles. He saw with his eyes when they shot out from the ground and collided with their targets. Were these another round of underground missiles that the enemies decided to hide until now? Or was something else going on here? He didn't know and didn't care. The only thing that mattered now was one clear and painful fact.
The 4th Infantry Regiment was finished.
A few steps away, a trooper who was running his hand along his armored body to check if he was hit by shrapnel suddenly collapsed. The missiles didn't get him, but something else did.
Twenty steps away from the trooper, the culprit lowered his weapons. Captain Matthew could see that the figure was a man wielding a pair of odd-looking handguns. Instead of a bulky power armor common to most infantry troops, the man was wearing a lighter bodysuit that traded protection for speed and agility. There were a pair of metal attachments on his back. They were the source of the bursts of flames the captain saw coming from behind the man.
All around him, more and more of these figures have descended, their handguns picking off those in the 119th Company who survived the wave of underground missiles. Despite appearing to be handguns, the figures’ weapons easily punched through Guardian power armor with single shots. Veterans and recruits fell alike, caught off guard by the rapid aggression of the new attackers.
Their scrambled return fire did kill a few of these attackers, but the rest simply ignored the casualties and kept on advancing. Their jet packs, in addition to allowing them to descend from the cliffs, also allowed them to dash around the battlefield and jump over any obstacle in their way. Many troops were hit by bullets that came from impossible angles.
If there were reserve units left, perhaps they still stood a chance against these fresh skirmishers, but the regiment had no more fresh troops left. Now that these attackers have cut into the middle of their formation, they could easily flank either group of Imperial troops from the back. Any remaining troops in the regiment wouldn’t last long.
More and more men fell around him, and the captain knew he didn't have time to worry about the regiment. He was about to meet his own end soon. This realization hit him like a truck.
Captain Matthew had always wondered what he would do if he was defeated. He had always imagined the answer was simple. He would fight until the end. Only the weak, the cowards, would surrender. He wasn’t a coward. He was…strong.
It was with this thought in mind that he scoffed whenever captured prisoners of war were tortured and executed. Why would he be worried about suffering the same fate? He would never allow himself to be captured. Anyone who surrendered to them was weak, and therefore they deserved to suffer for it.
But as his brothers fell like flies around him and the enemies got closer and closer, Captain Matthew could feel his pride melt away like ice under the sun. He didn't want to die. For the first time in so many years, he understood why so many enemies had surrendered to the Imperial Army in the past. Promising to fight till the end was easy. Actually doing it while death was inevitable…not so much.
The veteran scoffed at himself. A part of him screamed at himself to pick up his rifle and fire at the enemies. Be a brave, loyal Imperial soldier and take at least a few of them down to hell with him. If he had to die, he would die a martyr.
Yet his body refused. In the end, he was still the same boy who witnessed his father’s beatings and, instead of fighting back, simply fled his home and left his poor mother to handle the abuses of his father alone. He was never the tough warrior that he had tried so hard to be.
Just like that, as countless of his men fought to their death, their captain raised his hands in the air and opened his face shield.
For a second, there was no reaction from the reapers. The captain stood there awkwardly for a few seconds before a reaper noticed the captain. The captain drew in a deep breath, but before he could say anything, the reaper raised his dual pistols in his direction.
A pair of gunshots later, the body of Captain Matthew of the 119th Company collapsed on the ground right next to Corporal Boris and dozens of other corpses of his men.
After all, Athena had no capability of taking prisoners now, and like all Starcraft units, the reapers would carry out her orders to the letter.
For the Imperium...wait that's not right
Reapers are nice, they can heal themselves out of combat so if they dont die, they can go again and again
Maybe once she gets a battlecruiser, those should have a proper brig, designed to hold prisoners, instead of trying to lock someone in a closet or something.
Maybe some unlock from actually taking the planet and/or disassembling various standard military base structures will let her unlock those options. Equivalent to the side objectives or environmental details in levels in the games, which would let her do things like capturing and storing prisoners. Probably wont be many options for what to do with them considering the game, but in that case it could still be done.
The problem is taking prisoners in itself will reveal things. These units are not human and don't act like humans at all. Anyone taken prisoner will be able to notice how oddly they act and might end up relaying this to the Imperium if they get back. The only people she could take as prisoners are those that she wants to convert to her own side that she'll put in charge of units that she leaves on planets. That's a bit away though since she doesn't really have any meaningful interactions with anyone at this point who would join her.
Battlecruisers are also a bit away, by the time she has them she will be in a position of power and thus capable of recruiting.
She wouldn't want that. She is only fine with sending her troops on suicide missions because they are NOT real people.
Honestly I don’t know it’s like wen you think your neighbor is a serial killer but then it turns out that he’s not that’s actually the other neighbor the serial killer you don’t have a real reason
That could work, and she could switch loadouts, like hero marines are way beefier, or could put on a ghost suit and just be invisible.
Spider Enjoyer ago
Pretty sure that the author said that's not going to happen. Maybe they changed their mind, but I wouldn't know that.
Thanks for the chapter!
It would be interesting if Athena got the ability to infest enemy troops, especially higher ranked ones to serve as spies.
Infestors and Dark Archons ;)
For the Empire!