Extract the Survivors
Following the partial destruction of the Administorum building and the Ork advance into the heart of the city, our third scenario has Militarum transports, escorted by Reapers 1 and 2, racing into the city to rescue any survivors they can find.
The low, murmuring conversations of the pilots in the briefing room all ended simultaneously as the unit commander stepped to the front of the room, the holomap projected on the wall beside him. The silence hung in the air for a moment as he paused to survey the men and women sitting in neat rows in front of him. Mostly rookie pilots and flight crews who had been on this planet only a few weeks, transferred from training programs to help with logistical movement of supplies, very few with any combat experience.
“This is a rescue mission,” he began, his deep, authoritative voice carrying around the room without him having to raise it. “You all know that the Orks are making a push into Parnassus Prime, starting with a strike against the Administorum building. We are getting communications from the remains of the building that there are survivors, and we need to get them out. That is the primary target.” As he spoke those words, a building on the glowing green map turned yellow. “But there are also Imperial citizens in the region who should be picked up if you get the opportunity. We will not waste resources; these people can be drafted into the ground forces to help repel the Orks until more Militarum forces can be transported into the area. We are sending in six transports – four Valkyries and two Vendettas, escorted by two Lightnings of Reaper Squadron.”
With the last announcement, a few heads turned to look at the side of the room where Sagna and Janek stood. The transport pilots knew that Reaper Squadron was the only active air combat group in this sector currently, and news and stories of their efforts had already begun to spread.
The commander continued: “Lucky 13, Bug Stomper, Emperor Protects, Death on Wings, Nice Doggie, and Predator”. For each Valkyrie or Vendetta he named, the two-person crew glanced at each other and either stiffened slightly, grinned, or sighed. “Good luck, good hunting, and may the Emperor guide your way. Dismissed.”
Approaching the city, the pilot of Bug Stomper, Farlow, keyed her vox to talk to her weapons and nav operator, Spakmyer. “When we get back, you should be able to finish that chess game with Cort. I moved the bastion over a spot so you can get your cardinal to a better position”.
“And my perfect record will remain!” Spakmyer replied.
“Bug Stomper, this is Lucky 13.You should stick to your intra-craft channel if there’s something you want to say without letting the rest of the squadron know.”
“Um… there’s a, uh… oh crap.”, came the response from Farlow.
“And Spak?”, Lucky 13 continued, “none of your wins count, now.” Several chuckles and admonitions followed from the from the various members of the squad, but were cut off by a new voice.
“This is Reaper 1. We’re picking up ground defenses and incoming aircraft. You know your jobs, and we’ll try to keep the fighters off you. Good luck.”
Two Ork dakkas came screaming between the buildings, side by side, trying to close to short range to unload their fearsome array of short range guns bolted to the front of their craft. The one that was slightly above and behind dove to get level with his wingmate and to the same altitude as the low-flying Valkyries. On the way down, the plane began to shudder, and a chunk of metal plating tore itself from the fuselage and spun away behind it and the reckless Ork pushed his craft beyond its limits.
Janek banked Reaper 2 to the right as he saw the pair of enemy fighters, and lined them up through a gap between two buildings. He triggered his multilasers, and a burst of las fire cut through the air between them and slammed into the undamaged Ork plane, just as Reaper 1 fired on the same craft from the other side, also hitting it, shredding its left wing. The combined fire tore off the left wing and shattered the cockpit, sending the ramshackle flying machine tumbling to the street below, its guns still firing, no longer pointing at their intended target, Emperor Protects.
The closest Dakka opened up with its guns, bullets ricocheting off the flank of Emperor Protects.
“The Emperor Protects… The Emperor Protects…”, the pilot, Darson, droned in the cockpit as the clanging of metal on metal rang in his ears. Just then, a gun emplacement on the ground, all machine guns and slug-throwers, started spraying the air around Emperor Protects. As more metal clipped the wing edges and tail booms of the craft, Darson kept muttering “The Emperor Protects…”, simultaneously watching the sky around him and the damage indicators on his panel, which did not light up.
Darson, Nice Doggie, Predator, and Death on Wings all targeted ground defenses in order to make a safer path to their goal. Their combinations of lascannon, multilaser and wing-slung rocket pods found their targets, annihilating a few crew members and blasting metal and dirt into the air, but the gun emplacements were dug in and fortified, so the attacking craft couldn’t cause enough damage to put them out of action. The crews stubbornly kept firing whatever they had into the air at the oncoming Imperial craft, knocking a hole in the side of Death on Wings.
“This is Wings… we’re hit, but we’re still good. We’re proceeding!”
“You need a sturdier craft like our Emperor Pro… dammit!” Darson’s jibe turned to a curse as bullets from a Dakkajet cracked his canopy and tore a chunk from the nose of his Valkyrie.
“With me, Emperor Protects! Take cover behind these buildings!” Lucky 13 flew up behind Darson’s craft, as they both turned toward a building ahead, attempting to get behind it to thwart the Ork guns, and to find survivors to pick up.
“Watch it Lucky 13, you’ve got one closing on you!”
“I’m on it!” came Reaper 2 over the vox as he unleashed a burst of las fire against the dakka that had just turned sharply around a building, along with his wing man. The white-hot streaks cut through the side of the craft, causing it to slide in the air slightly, just as its own guns exploded with flame and smoke, cascading metal rounds into Lucky 13. Sparks danced along the transport’s body and tail, scarring the paint, but leaving no significant damage.
“I’ve got them on all sides!” came Predator’s pilot’s panicked voice. He fired las cannon and rocket pods at the fighter bomber ahead of him, but his rockets all went wide, and his lascannon simply blew a neat and inconsequential hole through the Ork’s tail fin. The Dakkajet that had slid in behind Predator fired, spraying the Vendetta with deadly rounds, ripping chunks of armour plating and wing from the craft.
Sagna put Reaper 1 into a hard stoop, going past the dakka that was charging straight into the side of Predator, making a hard right turn, and then diving down to its level. Warning lights flashed on her panel as she was pushed hard back into her seat by the G-forces. ‘Come on… hold together…”, she urged through gritted teeth as she lined up directly behind her intended target. She fired her guns a moment before the Ork jet, ripping its tail in half and putting it into a spin so that its own shots missed Predator, even at point blank range.
“We’re hit! We’re hit!” Over the vox, the warning sirens could be heard over Farlow’s voice. Her cockpit was lighting up with damage indicators as a Fighter Bomber found her craft in its sights. She pulled left and right to throw off the aim of both ground guns that were also shooting at her, as well as the dorsal turret of another Fighter Bomber. Ground fire intensified, catching Nice Doggie and Emperor Protects, in spite of Darson’s vocal insistence.
“I’ve still got one on my tail!” came Predator over the vox. “I’m not shaking him! Someone get him off meeeEEAAAGH!” Predator exploded, showering debris on the street below.
“Reaper 1! You’ve got one on your tail! I’ll be right there!” Janek pulled back on his control stick to push his plane straight up while cutting his engine. As he lost speed, he pulled Reaper 2 over onto its back, throttled up as he put the nose down and rolled to level his aircraft, now behind the Ork jet that was tailing Sagna. He fired, cutting deep wounds into the tail of the winged junkpile, but couldn’t prevent it from firing on Reaper 1. Its guns roared and he saw puffs of metal shards leap from the wings of Sagna’s craft and tumble toward the ground. “Reaper 1!”
“I can hold it. It’s bad, but we’re still in the air. Finish him off!”
Janek sneered and fired again, this time shattering the Ork plane before it could also fire again and land its own killing blow on Sagna’s stricken aircraft.
“Doggie, this is Wings. Where are you? I haven’t seen that yellow mutt on your nose anywhere near the buildings.”
“I’m trying to take out this emplacement that’s in the way, and I’m being swarmed by effbees! Either my weapons or weapons officer are ineffectual!” The pilot’s voice was suddenly replaced by the weapons/nav officer sitting in front of her in the cockpit.
“Shut it, Morse, and try flying straight so I can line a target up.” Karden fired Nice Doggie’s fuselage-mounted twin lascannon that identified it as a Vendetta rather than the single-barreled weapon of the Valkyrie at the Fighter Bomber that was bearing down on them. Both beams lanced into the craft, one of them blowing out the back of the cockpit in the space directly between the pilot and the dorsal gunner, having no actual effect on the operation of the chunky plane. “Seriously!?” Karden armed the rocket pods and unloaded them on the Fighter Bomber, then watched in frustration as they all flew around the target. “Okay, I give up.”
The Fighter Bomber fired back as Morse juked the Vendetta, and its burst of deadly ammo skidded down the side of the aircraft, scratching paint, but little else. Unfortunately, the anti-aircraft emplacement below them was more accurate and heavy rounds slammed into the underside of Nice Doggie, but its reinforced cockpit deflected the bullets, preventing them from slicing through its occupants. Another Fighter Bomber, as it zoomed away, turned its tail gun toward Nice Doggie. Karden spotted the departing craft and what amounted to little more than an infantry rifle sticking out of the tail.
“If you think that’s going to make a difference, after what we’ve just survived… oh come on!” The Vendetta’s port engine spluttered and vomited flame and smoke as it was punctured by a round from the puny tail gun.
“We’re okay for now… can’t take another one, but I can still fly us out of here!” Morse called through the vox.
Darson rejoiced as Emperor Protects, too, came through enemy fire with no extra damage as the armoured cockpit did its job and insulated the crew from a hail of hot metal death. Death on Wings and Lucky 13 were not so lucky, however, as both craft were brought down by a deluge of ground fire.
“This is Reaper 1. I’m going to disengage. My bird’s rattling and I don’t think she’ll stay airborne much longer.” As Reaper 1 turned for home, Janek saw a Fighter Bomber turn to give chase.
“Go ahead, Reaper 1. I’ll cover your retreat. There’s an effbee tracking you,” Janek replied as he turned Reaper 2 to intercept the Ork plane. Before he could bring his weapons to bear, the Ork fired wildly, cutting the air behind Sagna’s retreating aircraft, while his dorsal gunner spun to take potshots at Nice Doggie.
“This is Doggie, and I’m with you!” Karden silently called upon the name of the Emperor and fired the lascannons, blowing a hole in the tail end of the Fighter Bomber that was large enough to see sky on the other side. Just then, Janek fired from Reaper 2, his las rounds ripping the cowling from the Ork’s nose, and sparking a ball of flame that engulfed the cockpit.
“Karden! You finally hit something! I’m proud of you!”
“Shut it, Morse and find us some people to rescue!”
“The Emperor Protects… The Emperor Protects…” Darson’s voice rose at then end of his mantra as an Ork Fighter Bomber targeted him and its cannon fire spattered against the hull of his Valkyrie, glancing in all directions, but not penetrating the aircraft’s armour. “Thank the Emperor!”, he finished the line with as he sped around the corner of a building, directly over a heavy flak battery. He didn’t have time to utter his protective litany as his craft exploded from a direct hit to the underside, the crew compartment and its contents shredded in an instant.
Farlow pulled Bug Stomper up fast into a stall to get altitude and lower the speed so that she could drop down onto the roof of the nearest building, where she could see a mass of huddled bodies, alternately trying to wave to get the attention of the Imperial transports, and hide to avoid the attention of the Ork flying machines.
“I’m going to be picking up some civvies here, so keep those greenskins off me!” she called into the vox. But the others were too busy as Reaper 1 throttled up to get back to the airfield, and a passing Dakkajet drilled a hole through Reaper 2’s tail. Trying to line up Bug Stomper with the roof for the cleanest loading, Farlow left them open for a pass by a Fighter Bomber, who showered them with bullets. Luckily, none of them penetrated the hull or severed any vital equipment. “Spak, get the back door ready to drop, but leave the sides closed. Our guests are going to need cover as they find their seats.”
“Bug Stomper, you’ve got one bearing down on you. I’m on my way, but watch it!”
“Thanks Reaper 2, but there’s not much I can do when I’m landed. I’m about to starting taking on passengers”.
Janek throttled up and turned toward the roof where Bug Stomper was vulnerable. The Fighter Bomber bearing down was almost at the extreme edge of his weapons’ range, but he didn’t have time to wait. He also didn’t notice the other Fighter Bomber that was out of his sight and opened fire on him. As the first rounds whizzed past his cockpit, Janek instinctively jerked his control stick, bringing him out of the line of fire, but at the same time, causing his own attack to go wide.
Undeterred by Reaper 2’s failed attack, the Ork Fighter Bomber charged in at Bug Stomper, who was sitting still on the rooftop, and fired. Bullets tore up the roof’s surface and slammed into the side of the Valkyrie, bouncing off the closed side doors.
“Let’s go, let’s go,” Spakmyer called into the internal voxcaster system, broadcasting his urging voice into the transport compartment. At the same time, the Fighter Bomber that had made the previous attack on them flew past at the level of the building roof. Although they were safe from its forward-pointing guns, the dorsal gunner rotated his turret and fired sidelong into them, chopping through the engine, which, with a loud pop, belched a spurt of flame, then detached itself along with the starboard wing from the body of the Valkyrie. As the craft tilted to the right side, rocked under the weight of the engine and wing twisting and tearing support structure while it separated, Spakmyer yelled “get out, get out!” into the voxcaster, desperately reversing his previous instructions.
Janek looked on in dismay as the closest they’d come to saving anyone failed. His Lightning fighter was damaged, and so was the one remaining transport, the Vendetta, Nice Doggie.
“Doggie, this is Reaper 2. Disengage. We have no hope of getting anyone out now.”
“Agreed, Reaper 2. Heading home.”
As Morse swung the damaged Vendetta around and throttled up to return to base, a damaged Dakkjet pulled up alongside. She didn’t know if these creatures had any sense of honour, but it appeared the pilot was saluting her, even with the maniacal grin on his face. She had no idea what the significance of two fingers held up in a “V” on one hand, and the single middle finger on the other was, but she returned the salute as the Ork jet turned away and zoomed off in the other direction.