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Subject: The Army of Minerva - A Sister Ginevra Story
"Enemy T-Titan sighted starboard," the Sister-Sensor reported, as calmly as she could. "Reaver-class." ... "Out of range, of course," the Canoness-Marshall remarked, lounging back in her chair, "but, you know, I rather think it's trying to threaten us. That's adorable."
The full story follows in spoiler tags below to avoid Wall o' Text.
"Enemy T-Titan sighted starboard," the Sister-Sensor reported, as calmly as she could. "Reaver-class."
A hush fell over the command bridge of the mobile battle chapel Merciful Wrath. It wasn't silence, because you could still hear the groaning, shuddering sound of the huge engines and caterpillar tracks below. But it seemed as if everything human on the bridge had stopped breathing.
Except, of course, for Canoness-Marshal Minerva.
"Magnify Rosette Two," the crusade commander said. Her golden hair and golden armour shone as she turned her chair to face the circular scanner window on the starboard side of the command bridge. The transparex panes shimmered for a moment, the image of the world outside flickered, and then a nightmare filled the window.
It was a huge humanoid machine, more than twenty meters tall judging by the buildings beside it. It resembled the noble form of an Imperial war engine, but it was twisted, defaced, defiled, the once-clean lines broken by fetid swellings, the eagle insignia replaced by leering faces. The Traitor Titan stepped forward -- some of the people on the command bridge involuntarily stepped back -- and leveled one cannon-arm at them.
"Out of range, of course," the Canoness-Marshal remarked, lounging back in her chair, "but, you know, I rather think it's trying to threaten us. That's adorable."
She gestured at the mass of the battle-chapel extending fore and aft of the bridge: The Merciful Wrath was twice the Reaver's size. She raised her hands slightly to indicate the columns of Sororitas tanks -- from massive Flameblades to solid Predators to nimble Lucifers -- rumbling alongside the chapel's flanks, like hunting dogs accompanying their king on his war elephant. She arched her eyebrows at the Valkyrie variants and Avengers circling on combat air patrol high overhead.
People exhaled, and nervous laughter rippled around the room.
"Canoness-Marshal, shall I vortex it to death?" asked the commander of the Merciful Wrath, a slender Sister with huge goggles and wiry hair, cut short to accommodate the skull-plug that linked her to her craft. She rode in a high command throne that overlooked the entire bridge, even looming above Minerva's chair.
"No, Tilda, m'dear, let's hold off a bit."
"Canoness, why such hesitation?" A richly robed Ministorum Confessor stepped forward. Unlike the stereotype, he was young and handsome -- almost pretty -- and his face shone with fervor. "Surely we should erase this blasphemy against the Emperor at once, and the vortex missile is holiest weapon we have to do it!"
Minerva sighed. "Father Kirkland..." she began, then stopped. And smiled. "Ginevra?"
Sister Ginevra -- Coronet of the Order Minor of the Razor Rose, aide-de-camp to the Canoness-Marshal for all of two months -- felt the usual flash of panic at Minerva calling her name. She tried not to show it as she stood up straight and took two steps out from the back wall, where she'd been lurking with the other aides, pages, and flunkies. "Yes, Canoness-Marshal?"
"Ginevra, dear child, please explain to Father Kirkland why rushing to attack an apparently isolated and unsupported Titan might be a suboptimal plan."
"Yes, Canoness-Marshal," Ginevra said, walking closer to the Confessor. She felt the eyes of the staff converge on her -- she hated when Minerva put her on the spot -- and the threat of the Titan looming, magnified, at her back. What made the situation even more awkward was how she'd spent much of the last half-hour staring dreamily and, she hoped, chastely at the Confessor's features.
"I'm to be lectured on tactics by a child?" the Confessor said, no longer looking quite so pretty as he turned his glare from Ginevra to Minerva.
The Canoness-Marshal just smiled slightly and darted a sideways look at Ginevra. Ginevra knew that look too well: It mean, you're on your own.
"Not lectured, Your Grace," Ginevra said with a deferential bob of the head (a full bow would have been too much). "I'm simply to explain a different take on tactics -- and how well I do so is my test."
Another ripple of nervous laughter ran round the room, though eyes kept flicking up to the looming Titan.
"The Canoness-Marshal chooses her words carefully," Ginevra said loudly, before the Confessor could object again. She pointed at the ominous obscenity. "She said the enemy Titan is 'apparently isolated and unsupported.' Apparently."
Ginevra let that sink in. Then she pointed to the buildings on either side of the Chaos Reaver. "The only safe assumption is that the enemy, while a heretic and a traitor, is not a fool," she said, "and that he has emplaced infantry and heavy weapons in the built-up area, using the Titan as bait...."
The Confessor snorted.
"...to lure us into an ambush, perhaps even draw us into prolonged urban fighting," Ginevra concluded.
Well, she thought she'd concluded. Minerva arched one eyebrow infinitesimally and pursed her lips in what Ginevra had learned was the signal that she'd missed something.
Ginevra walked slowly towards the image of the Titan, playing for time. She sensed the entire staff waiting for some further pronouncement. What am I missing? She stared up at the monstrous war machine, feeling everyone's eyes boring into her back.
Ginevra snapped around and pointed. The Confessor stepped back, startled, as did half the staff, but the other half realized she was pointing over their heads and turned to look at the rosette scanner window on the port side of the command bridge. It showed a view of rocky hills, black and bare and seemingly empty.
"Or, while we goggle at the Titan, the enemy could be gathering his main force behind our backs," Ginevra said. "Or he could have both an ambush in the city and a mobile force in the hills. Hammer and anvil." She turned to the Canoness-Marshal, who was smiling. "That's what I'd do, ma'am."
"Very good, Ginevra," Minerva said. "Does that help, Father Confessor?"
"Yessss," Kirkland said warily, looking at the hills. "Though I don't see any...."
"Ginevra?" the Canoness-Marshal prompted.
"Father Confessor, I imagine the enemy has infantry hidden in the rough terrain," Ginevra said quickly. "Equipped with portable anti-armour weapons. Their heavy forces would be hidden in defilade on the far side of the hill -- walkers rather than conventional vehicles, given the difficulty of the terrain."
"Plausible...." Kirkland muttered.
"And your proposed approach, Coronet Ginevra?" the Canoness-Marshal asked.
Oh for crying out loud! Ginevra thought. She forced herself to smile.
"Ma'am, Titans typically have trouble tracking flying targets. I'd recommend an airstrike," she said. "Viragos firing Exorcist missiles from maximum range and covered by Avengers, in case there are anti-aircraft defenses hidden in the city. I'd hold back the Victorias until we're confident enemy air defenses are suppressed and it's safe to close to multi-melta range."
"I wouldn't send any ground elements in range of the city, Canoness-Marshal," Ginevra said. "You made clear your intent was to remain mobile and bypass urban areas."
"Yes, quite right, I did. And the hills?"
"Ma'am...." Ginevra paused, playing for time again, as she studied the terrain. "Sister-Sensor, magnify Rosette Four, if you please." The hills flickered and jumped suddenly closer. She still couldn't make out any enemy, but the ground was rugged, broken, and riven with ravines.
"Our mechanized infantry would have to dismount," she said. "An uphill infantry attack against a dug-in enemy -- could be very costly. I'd recommend the Merciful Wrath and our Storm Queen and Firesword tanks move close enough to conduct a reconnaissance by fire before the attack and fire support during." She paused, looked at a tall, dark-haired Sister resplendent in white armor with silver wings. "Jump infantry would have the mobility to strike key points despite the terrain -- Seraphim and Principalities like Canoness Anne's excellent troops."
The dark-haired, white-armored Canoness Anne looked at Minerva. "I can go get my girls ready now, Canoness-Marshal."
Minerva smiled. "Momentarily, Anne." She stood. Everyone around the room drew themselves up straight. The Canoness-Marshal smiled to herself and took a few slow steps towards the staff.
"I do have a few improvements to Sister Ginevra's plan," Minerva said. People laughed. Ginevra forced a smile. "The Coronet is very bright but also very young, and she lacks experience with forces outside the Sisters, so she may overlook or undervalue them. Father Kirkland!"
The Father Confessor startled. "Ah -- yes, Canoness?"
"Your Frateris Militia are the ideal light infantry: agile, fanatical, and frankly expendable," Minerva said. (Ginevra winced, but Kirkland just nodded sagely). "Theirs is the honor of the uphill attack."
"We are honored," the Confessor said with a half-bow.
"Seraphim will act as a mobile fire brigade, while Principalities and Repentia will serve as shock troops, held in reserve to assault critical points."
Kirkland's eyes widened. "Extremely honored. I will lead the attack myself."
"Brave boy," Minerva said. "Anne, dear, don't charge anything the Frateris haven't already tied down in close combat."
"I wouldn't dream of it, Canoness-Marshal," the white-armored Sister said.
Minerva turned to Ginevra. "This is the other bit you left out, dear." She turned to the Guardsman. "Colonel, do you think your artillery could lay simultaneous suppressive barrages on both the city and the hills?" She smiled. "You don't have to actually hit anything as small and elusive as a Titan, just the blocks around it."
More laughter from the staff. Ginevra felt bad for Ogarkov, who'd endured jokes about Guard marksmanship ever since a friendly fire incident earlier in the campaign that had killed six people and some Frateris.
The colonel sighed. "Yes, Marshal," he said, "I think even the Guard could hit such targets."
"Good!" Minerva rubbed her hands together. "That should flush out any hidden enemies. The rest of the plan is as Ginevra said, with the provision that we wait for the artillery to hit before we launch the fly girls at the Titan and the frat boys at the hills. Mirren, m'dear" -- she looked at her grey-haired, long-suffering chief of staff -- "you sort the details."
Minerva clapped her hands. The staff jerked to attention and began to bustle in different directions. Ginevra stepped up to her and said quietly, "Canoness-Marshal?"
"About the artillery bombardment," Ginevra said, not meeting her mistress's eyes, "there are probably innocent civilians still in the city...."
"Not for long," Minerva said cheerfully. "Now follow me."
Canoness Mirren was snapping brittle directions to some of the staff, but much of the rest was in motion. Canoness Anne took her power lance and storm shield from a page, then strode off to the door leading to the battlement; Ginevra guessed she was going to just jump off the side of the battle chapel rather than bother with an exit. Confessor Kirkland took his Eviscerator from an acolyte -- the boy was smaller than the massive chainsword he struggled to lift -- and headed for the lifts.
"I'll walk with you, Father," Minerva announced, catching up with Kirkland. She nodded slightly to Ginevra, who quickly fell in step behind them.
"Thank you, Canoness-Marshal," Kirkland said, a little suspiciously. He punched the servitor hard-wired into the lifts. "Nave," he told it.
"Nave," the servitor croaked.
"Oh, it's my pleasure," Minerva said, ignoring the exchange. "And there were a few more details I wanted to brief you on myself."
"Your lift," the servitor croaked as the doors slide open.
"What details?" Kirkland said, even more suspiciously, as they all stepped in.
"Well, coordinating jump troops and regular infantry is highly complex..." Minerva said, raising her voice over the rattle of the lift.
Kirkland scowled. "And am I to command the attack on the hills, or is Canoness Anne?"
Ginevra realized she'd never even considered the idea of the Confessor commanding Sororitas troops.
Minerva smiled. "Very insightful, Father Confessor. How extensive is your experience with jump infantry?"
"None," Kirkland snapped. Then he sighed. "Whereas I suppose Canoness Anne has extensive experience supporting ground troops?"
There was a pause. The lift creaked and squeaked and rattled.
"Well," Kirkland said glumly, "I suppose that answers my question."
"This is not a permanent arrangement," Minerva said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Show me you can be not just fanatical but tactical" -- she looked significantly at Ginevra -- "and I will entrust you with greater authority in the future."
"Ma'am," Kirkland said, then looked at Ginevra. Hard. "I suppose I must show as much tactical acumen as a twenty-something Sister before I can be trusted to command them." He looked back at Minerva. "Which I suppose is the point you meant to make by having her lec- -- explain the situation to me."
Ginevra flushed and muttered something unintelligible even to herself.
Minerva smiled. "Don't be too hard on yourself, Kirkland. Ginevra is rather special."
Kirkland looked at the young Sister again. "Rather."
Ginevra turned bright red and prayed for the lift doors to open.
That doesn't normally work, she thought.
They stepped out into the steel nave of the battle chapel. Instead of congregants in pews, it was filled with rows of Repentia: rag-clad, shaven-headed, seated on the floor, meditating over their Eviscerators.
"You will have direct command of the Repentia," Minerva said, gesturing at them. "Spend their lives wisely."
"I will," said Kirkland, bowing slightly. "Thank you, Canoness."
"Everyone in your task force will be expendable -- except yourself, of course," Minerva said with a small smile. "Natalie!"
One of the Repentia stood. She seemed at once terribly young and terribly scarred. "Canoness-Marshal," she said, bowing.
"You will join the Confessor's battle conclave as his personal guard," Minerva said. "You will advise him on Repentia tactics and ensure his survival." A smile. "Your own survival is optional."
"Of course, Canoness-Marshal."
"Again," Father Kirkland said, "my thanks." He turned to the Repentia. "Bring" -- he glanced at Minerva, who nodded approvingly -- "your fallen Sisters to my command tank, the Storm Queen Magdala. The one with the minaret."
"Yes, Father Confessor," the Repentia said, bowing.
"I'll go ahead and prepare the Frateris."
"As you command, Father Confessor."
"Good. Good. Well, I'll see you soon and we'll smite heretics together." Kirkland, looking rather chuffed, strode over to the three-wheeled vehicle -- a kind of enormous motorbike -- parked at the front of the nave and climbed aboard. "Canoness-Marshal Minerva," he called out, "your Sisters and my brothers will exceed your expectations -- this I swear!"
"Godspeed and good hunting, Father," Minerva replied, shouting over the roar as the chariot's engine shuddered into life. A sally port swung open in the great front doors and Father Kirkland drove out, waving. Minerva and Ginevra waved back.
"Going out the front while we're in motion -- isn't the chapel going to run him over, ma'am?" Ginevra asked.
"Sadly, no," Minerva replied, still waving. "What do you think?"
"You tore him down and built him up again skillfully, ma'am. I'm not entirely sure why."
"Because he started out debating my decisions and ended up desperate to please me," Minerva said, turning back to the lift. "He's now an instrument of the Emperor's will -- and of mine."
"A highly imperfect instrument, Canoness-Marshal."
"Aren't we all? Well, some more so than others." Minerva smiled a little smugly. "We are weapons in His almighty hand, cells in the body of His Empire. The difference is some of us get to be brain cells."
Minerva hit the lift-servitor. "Command bridge." She turned to Ginevra, her smile now wide and predatory. "Let's see how they're getting along with our plan to kill that Titan."
Updated to fix typos and add a few lines
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2015/07/21 12:25:08
"Unimaginably ancient xenos artefact somewhere on the planet, hive fleet poised above our heads, hidden 'stealer broods making an early start....and now a bloody Chaos cult crawling out of the woodwork just in case we were bored. Welcome to my world, Ciaphas."
Inquisitor Amberley Vail, Ordo Xenos
"I will admit that some Primachs like Russ or Horus could have a chance against an unarmed 12 year old novice but, a full Battle Sister??!! One to one? In close combat? Perhaps three Primarchs fighting together... but just one Primarch?" da001
Thanks, all. This one was a little constrained by the need to name-drop as many of my homebrew units as possible, since its meant to serve as an introduction to the fandex showing how they all work together.
I also just updated it with a little exchange between Minerva and Ginevra about collateral damage (guess how much Minerva cares!) and some other minor additions.
Trondheim wrote:A good read I dare say, but needs more Repentina action
I have vague ideas for a Repentia-centric Sister Ginevra story, but it's not baked yet. That said, one rule I've set myself for the Ginevra stories is that there is NO "action." There's been a mass execution (mostly off-camera) and a friendly fire incident, but never any actual combat. This is in fact the first story where we've seen an enemy combatant (admittedly a BIG one), and it's only there to drive the conflict within the staff....
Gogsnik wrote:frat boys... .
Yes, I enjoy making up obnoxious terms for the Sisters to call outsiders -- and each other. Depending on how provocative she's feeling, for example, a ground Sister may call a Seraphim "Angel," "Jump Bunny," or "Sara Quim." The Space Marines can be "Adept Ass-Tarts," Space Wolves "the Emperor's Furry." Someday I should post a glossary and invite everyone to contribute their factions' slang.
Just dont go too far with the name calling and what not, whenever I have included SoB in my own stories I have found it more than benefitial to keep somewhat close to the rather sombre nature of their nature. But good to hear that you are thinking about a more combat oriented chapter, a 40k story needs a fair amount of raw violence to work.
Subject: The Army of Minerva - A Sister Ginevra Story
What other God could she possibly mean? (Imagine I typed a smiley here). I tend to "translate" my characters' language, even their behavior, into something familiar for the reader, to emphasize their common humanity rather than their foreigness. Emphasizing the differences from the reader with lots of invented words and unusual language is a valid artistic choice as well, but not what I prefer. I like Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, where he translates as much as possible into familiar terms (e.g. the Hobbits speak English, the Rohirrim speak Old English) much better than the willfully strange Silmarillion. Then again, I prefer the King James Bible to most modern translations.