Battlefleet Gothic Battle Report: The Morlock Station

The Morlock Raid
The Imperial victory at Cryvan was followed by a period of relative calm. Fleet intelligence posits that this lull reflected internal disputes amongst the Eldar pirates after their initial setback. It was expected that once these leadership issues had been resolved, there would be an increase in shipping losses which would indicate an renewal of the piracy campaign. Chillingly, in parallel with the expected rise in attacks, there were confirmed reports of additional, unknown Eldar warbands transiting into the region. The newly founded Cryvan Command suspected that a major attack was imminent and ordered the bolstering of garrison fleets at all critical stations.

The Morlock Station, orbiting a terra-compatible planetoid in the Morlock Sound, was the primary supply point for patrols into the Cryvan Expanse. The surrounding asteroid fields and gas clouds greatly complicate space travel in the near vicinity which made a full colony unviable. However, these same factors, in conjunction with its location, made it an excellent fleet facility. The only viable approach to the station was quite open but was, in turn, overlooked by the massed guns of the station and its outlying defence systems.

The Eldar warband involved in this action remain largely unknown but clearly shared some common characteristics with the original Cryvan raiders. The core of the fleet was a Void Stalker battleship and a pair of Shadow and Eclipse cruisers. Three distinct escort types are present, a pair of Hellebores, four Nightshades and five Hemlocks. Some of these individual craft have been confirmed to be amongst those which fled the Battle of Cryvan.

The Imperial defenders could thank the Emperor that their commanders had recently modified standing orders in the region. The station was protected by a permanent garrison of a Tyrant and a Dictator cruiser. In reponse to the increased threat, Cryvan Command had ordered that one patrol group remain with the station at all times. This meant that the standard garrison had been joined by two Tyrant and a Dictator cruiser. This brought the total to five capital ships.

The outlying defences were built into the asteroid fields to complicate enemy auspex locks and provide an additional measure of protection and concealment. The space station itself dominated the main approach, with an orbital weapons platform and orbital defence laser platform on its right flank.
The opposite flank saw an orbital weapons platform and orbital defence laser platform protecting an orbital dock. The latter facility, in conjunction with the space station, could put eight squadrons of attack craft into the void. This was an unusual configuration as a single station would normally be considered to provide sufficient fighter cover. The construction of the orbital dock was intended as a secondary command centre in the event of the destruction of the main station.

The first inkling of danger was the arrival of unknown contacts on the edge of the sensor net. Brief contacts had been made in previous weeks but the scale of the incursion indicated a major attack was underway. A distress signal was sent by the duty astropath and the crews roused to action.
Klackons rang out across the Imperial cruisers as thousands of ratings scurried to man the gun batteries and fire up plasma containment units. It's a testament to the size of the vessels that several crew were killed and injured in various accidents during this process.

The Nightshades closed in and launched a combined wave of torpedos at the right-hand flanking laser station. The Eldar could only have intended to eliminate the Morlock Station and force Imperial patrols to stage from Cryvan itself.
Two large swarms of Darkstar fighters converged on the station to suppress the squadrons of attack craft in its hangers. Although Eldar capital ships are delicately built, their fighters are quite resilent.

With their deadly payloads in the air, the Eldar moved back out of the Imperial threat range.

The Imperial response was traditional, using massive firepower to compensate for a lack of finesse. The orbital platforms opened up at long range, destroying all the torpedoes on their approach.

A wave of Darkstar fighters also found themselves in the wrong part of space and were shattered by a well-aimed volley of large-calibre rounds. The odds of any particular barrage detonating amongst the Darkstars was low but the weight of fire available did compensate for this.

The Imperial reponse was faster than average, Starhawk bombers roared forward with Fury interceptors sprinting to cover the lumbering attack craft.

As the Imperials scrambled to react to the first strike, the pirates had reloaded and prepared for another run.
Again, their tactics were cautious as they halted at extreme range to fire torpedoes and launch attack craft. The experience at Cryvan had left them wary of Imperial firepower at any range. Imperial analysts believe this strategy to have been gravely flawed.

A dogfight ensued in the central approach as Imperial Furies duelled with Eldar Darkstars. The Eldar shredded their counterparts in the unequal fight and moved on.

The Imperial ships had lumbered forward, forming into a tight formation to discourage any direct aggression.
Once more, the Eldar fell back. Again, their commanders clearly underestimated the ability of the garrison to destroy torpedoes and bombers in flight.
With their interceptors outclassed, the Imperial moved to a more scattershot approach, Starhawk bombers being launched in smaller waves of single squadrons.

The sheer weight of Starhawk bombers was deemed likely to overwhelm the Eldar's ability to shoot them down.

Four squadrons of bombers swept past the gas cloud, in a bid to keep the Nightshades out of torpedo range. They did not expect to close on the fast escorts, merely to force them back.

Another four squadrons closed on the main fleet, however, their intent was on destruction rather than deterrence. The enemy capital ships were almost within range.

The reponse was brutal. Eldar Darkstar fighters managed to annihilate most of the first bomber wave. Their pilots revelled in the target rich enviroment, emptying their cannons but the second wave was sweeping by. Eldar fighters racing home found themselves interspersed with Imperial bombers on attack runs.

The Eldar registered the Imperial target. The bombers were clearly bearing down on their overworked Eclipse cruiser. To protect their main source of fighter cover, the fleet reformed to screen the key assets.

With the Imperial attack craft dominating the approaches, the Eldar fleet were herded into a close formation and away from the station.

The defending ships, increasingly confident, began moving into the outer reaches to allow the timely deployment of new bomber waves. It was clear that continuing, unrelenting pressure would undermine the enemy's nerve. The fleet split to prevent the pirates from moving along the flanks of the station, the regular garrison broke sunward and the retasked patrol took the opposite path.

After suffering massive losses, three bomber squadrons managed to engage the enemy, catching the tail end of the enemy formation. The pilots make their runs against the escorts, targeting a Hellebore and two Nightshades.

But the attack proves entirely fruitless as the Eldar holofields disperse all of the ordnance, filling this area of space with shrapnel. The surviving Starhawk pilots, both relieved to have survived and disappointed by their failure, disperse and flee towards their home docks.

The larger fleet element moved to prevent an advance against the station on a new axis and complete the encirclement. With bombers swarming past their fighter screens, operating in the knowledge that any single bomb could cause devastation, the Eldar fleet begins to show some hesitation.
Some captain attempted to retake the initative and the Hellebores moved through the residue of the bombing raids. One is unlucky enough to trigger some stray ordnance and the resulting explosion tears it apart.

Disaster follows disaster as the Tyrants manage to clip the Shadow cruiser with their long-range batteries. The volley results in secondary explosions and the cruiser appeared crippled, it movements slowed considerably.

With the events of the earlier battles still fresh in their memories, some Eldar crews have little stomach for what is likely to develop into a fleet engagement. With first blood to the mon-keigh, echoes of that defeat begin to resonate. The Nightshade squadron are the first to crack, breaking away from combat and disappearing into the void.

With the departure of the veteran crews, the fresher Eldar crews take their cue and turn away from the station, scattering into open space. Their failure to inflict any substantial damage was demoralising and preceded another lull in pirate operations. Any Imperial pursuit was deemed futile.

With the threat past, the station staff breath a sigh of relief. This shifts to shock as the proximity alarms go off. At last moment, near disaster. One Eldar torpedo had passed unnoticed through the defence grid and closed on an orbital weapons platform. The operators watch pale-faced as it approaches inexorably and barely misses a weapons platform.

The Imperial fleets prowled in the outer system, some captains felt frustrated by the lack of major combat while others rued the loss of hundreds of flight crew. But the personnel of Morlock Station and Cryvan Command thanked the Emperor for their unexpected victory.

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