Taldryan Army Staging Area
Elos Vrai, Arx
Erinyes’ head snapped up from her datapad when Vodo’s voice rolled through her mind. Through the AT-AT’s cockpit viewport, she saw a blazing blue-white column erupt from inside the Collective camp. In the Force, a locus of darkness vanished. Behind her, the transport’s communications officer spoke up. “Consul, we’ve lost contact with Warlord Biask–”
“He’s dead.” Erinyes rose from her chair and stepped as close to the cockpit viewscreen as the control consoles would allow, her gaze transfixed on the explosion. She absent-mindedly lifted her wrist comlink when it chirped about an incoming transmission. “Report.”
Nihlus’ voice crackled from the comlink. “Erinyes, we have a limited advantage. Aylin uncovered some data on the hive mind, and we managed to temporarily disrupt their networking.”
The Consul quirked an eyebrow. “How long do we have?”
“They’ll be fighting with minimal efficiency for the next twenty minutes.” The transmission cut off, leaving Erinyes to wonder whether Nihlus was busy or simply anti-social.
Erinyes didn’t really have time to worry about it either way, with her newly-announced deadline, and turned to her communications officer. “How much longer until we’re ready?”
“Five minutes at most.”
Before the Consul could reply, her earpiece comlink crackled to life. “Erinyes, it’s Aylin. There was a massive explosion, and now Nihlus is going on a rampage and I can’t reach Vodo. What should I do?”
“Get out of there. Nihlus can handle himself.” Or at least, Erinyes knew the Battlelord wasn’t going to answer his comlink so she could tell him to stand down, so there was no point in wasting time on it. After hearing Aylin’s acknowledgement, Erinyes cut the link and turned to the communications officer. “The Hive Mind is offline for another fifteen minutes. I want us moving ASAP.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The communications officer set about relaying the message, and Erinyes returned to gazing out the cockpit window, wishing she could survey her troops like a general in a fantasy holovid. Alas, the AT-AT she was riding in was part of Taldryan’s vanguard, assigned to spearhead the assault along with the Taldryan and Vornskr tank companies. It was hard to gaze out the front window at your army when most of it was behind you.
Within minutes, Erinyes heard the faint boom of artillery reverberate through the AT-AT’s walls. The plasma shells were followed moments later by enormous bolts of coherent energy, fired from a quartet of AT-M6 artillery walkers and timed to land at exactly the same moment as the rest of the barrage. More fires erupted across the Collective base where waves of plasma washed over tents that weren’t quite flame-resistant enough, and plumes of dirt rose high enough into the air that Erinyes could see them from the Taldryan staging point.
Erinyes instinctively ducked as a black-and-grey blur shot out above the walker’s cockpit; a TIE/sk atmospheric fighter, she belatedly realised, on its way to rain proton-bomb death on the Collective. Then another signal came through Erinyes’ earpiece, and the tank platoons lined up in front of the AT-ATs began trundling forward, followed closely by the rest of Taldryan’s armoured vehicles.
It didn’t take long for the Collective to respond to Taldryan’s attack. Trails of orange-white exhaust rose from the enemy camp and streaked through the sky, followed by blue-white beams lancing through the air, several of which struck Taldryan’s AT-ATs. The walker to Erinyes’ left exploded when a turbolaser cannon blast struck its power generator, and the debris pelted Erinyes’ walker like a horizontal hailstorm, each impact echoing through the cabin. The blast was soon followed by a salvo of concussion missiles slamming into the ground and detonating, blowing a pair of Taldryan tanks to pieces and sending shrapnel bouncing off the AT-AT’s cockpit.
If this is what it looks like after we hit their artillery, I would’ve hated to see how it’d have been if we hadn’t, Erinyes mused. Meanwhile, streaks of orange and green light flickered above the Collective camp, followed by several fireballs that seemed to appear spontaneously in mid-air—signs that not all of the Collective’s combat speeders had been caught in the Taldryan artillery barrage. At this distance, though, the Consul couldn’t be sure which side’s pilots were dying.
It took several more tense, interminable minutes before the remaining AT-ATs—several more of which had fallen to Collective turbolasers—arrived at their objective and began disgorging their troops. Erinyes was one of the last ones out, and slowed her fall with the Force rather than occupy her hands by holding on to a zip-line. The twenty-odd-metre fall gave her plenty of time to watch as Taldryan’s tanks and walkers saturated the encampment with laser cannon fire, shooting through or over the prefabricated plasticrete wall panels as though they weren’t there.
The walkers, being the largest and most accessible targets, took the brunt of the Collective’s return fire. Salvos of concussion missiles from the Collective assault walkers slammed into the AT-ATs’ heads and bodies, silencing their guns with massive fireballs. As the remaining troops of the 11th Walker Assault Battalion rushed forward, Erinyes shouted into her commlink. “Frag the missile walkers before they cut us to pieces!”
“You got it, boss! Woohoo!” To Erinyes’ surprise, a 2-M repulsortank in Vornskr colours went sailing over the wall of the encampment, doing a donut in midair as it fired its own lasers and missile launchers. Then it vanished behind the wall, and the whine of its engines disappeared in the direction of the Collective assault walkers. The Consul stared dumbfounded for a moment as the rest of the Vornskr Battalion armour followed the leader, whose gravelly war-whoops filled her earpiece until they were overridden by Zentru’la’s dour baritone.
“Bale, your mic is hot.”
The battle-cry abruptly cut off, but the Iridonian Hammer’s exuberance had already energised his comrades. Leading the charge with lightsaber held high, Erinyes shouted her own rallying call across the Collective’s battlements.