THE TRIO OF Vindicators formed a superb rolling barrier and their effectiveness was soon put to the test when the first shots from the refinery gate turrets were fired. More than capable of holding up to the task, the massive tanks held their return fire. Once they were within range, Daviks and his Devastators would deploy from the Rhinos and take care of the guns. The tanks would use their shorter range weaponry to flatten the walls.
The highway leading to the gates of the refinery was well-used and as straight as a die affording the advancing company an unobstructed view of what lay ahead. The gates were closed and barred, but such things were not designed to repel Space Marines. Given the size of the approaching force the gates were akin to holding up a hand to stop a bolt shell.
As the vehicles moved, the ground beneath them shook, small pebbles flying and rebounding off the armour of the Silver Skulls beneath them with dull thud noises. The cloud of red dust that cocooned them was so thick it would have been choking without the filters of their helmets. Apart from the rumble of the Vindicators and the Rhino transports which followed them, combined with the sound of the Space Marine’s boots snapping against the rock, there was no other noise. There was no out-of-place squeaking or groaning of over-stressed metal from the vehicles. The Silver Skulls’ attention to the repairs and maintenance of their vehicular support was every bit as minute as the care they gave their weapons and armour. Behind the well-armoured transports the company bikes cruised, their engines purring at a low ebb.
The two immense Dreadnoughts who marched with them did so without comment, hissing hydraulics and mechanical clanking accompanying their movements. The casing of the venerable warriors was etched in beautiful filigree work that depicted the honour tattoos they had worn in life. Each deeply worked groove had been crafted with care by the chapter’s artisans.
Occasionally, a sliver of steel-grey armour could be glimpsed through the red cloud.
High calibre shells spewing from the gate turrets began tearing up the road ahead, gouging out fist-sized chunks of plascrete and occasionally thumping harmlessly from the heavy armoured exteriors of the siege tanks. The fire was wildly misplaced, sporadic and inaccurate, but without the protective cover of the vehicles would otherwise have presented a serious threat to the Space Marines on foot.
At a hand signal, several warriors fanned out from the marching group, increasing their pace as they traversed the rocky outcrop either side of the road. No longer approaching in a column, the Silver Skulls began to form a v-shape attack squad.
‘Garnet, Onyx, report.’ Matteus sought for an update from the two assault squads who were even now making their way down the mountains either side of the refinery. Once the anti-aircraft weaponry was disabled, then the Thunderhawks could make their first pass and clear the gates and the front of the compound.
‘Target sighted. Estimate ten minutes to contact.’ Emareas’s voice was curt and clipped through the vox. Dyami suggested eight minutes. Emareas countered with seven. It seemed that the two squads were descending in relatively perfect symmetry. Matteus knew both sergeants well and didn’t doubt for a moment that they were engaged in what they referred to as ‘friendly’ competition as to who would succeed in their objective first. It was a moment of harmless frivolity that promoted enthusiasm.
‘Maintain contact,’ said Matteus. ‘Deploy together, whoever gets there first.’ He knew that they would, but it did not hurt to remind them.
The winding column of Silver Skulls advancing determinedly toward the gate had closed to within a few hundred yards of the structure, coordinating their approach with that of the flanking squads. Daviks’s plan called for the assault to be simultaneous on all fronts and that goal was within moments of being achieved. Closeted within the billowing plumes of dust and shielded by their tanks, the Silver Skulls presented difficult targets for the traitors manning the turrets. Such an incidental detail did not stop them pouring fire on their attackers.
Thunder rumbled once again in the mountains.