Upon declaring war on the Kilrathi, TCN immediately moved across the frontier to strike at the known Kilrathi bases. Most of these took them into the former systems of the Varni. One such engagement took place at what Confed called Baird’s Star, in the coreward region of the Vega Sector. The Kilrathi installations there were small, but it did have a sizable civilian population. The Prides that had colonized Baird III numbered some fifteen million. The fact that this system was once populated by a hundred million Varni less than a decade ago said volumes about the Kilrathi’s ability to kill and their ability to repopulate the system. The scars of the Kilrathi invasion of the system still were visibly clear. Because of concern over Varni kept on the planet as slaves, Confed HQ marked the planet itself as off-limits.
A Confed task force built around the carrier Revenge and battleship Norman struck at the forward Kilrathi post orbiting the fourth planet. The Kilrathi had few defender, which despite a fierce defense, were brushed aside by the Confed task force. The outpost was boarded, but destroyed in the process. Whether the station was badly damaged or the Kilrathi defenders had waited until Confed Marines boarded to set it off, is not clear. Only a limited amount of information was gained from the venture, such as complete star charts of the Kilrathi owned parts of the Vega Sector, though no force deployments or reports were taken.
The tragedy of this so-called victory was that it targeted Baird’s Star instead of Dakota, which was but a jump away. Had the task force hit there, they would have discovered a Kilrathi invasion force assembling in the system for its eventual jump into the Port Hadland System, a strategically key system in the coreward part of the sector.
Further skirmishes took place in the Loki System, that did bare fruit. At it was later discovered, the Kilrathi did plan on assembling in this system to invade the Blackmane Station, another strategic nexus of jump points. The Kilrathi were in the process of assembling there, with hundreds of transports already in station. Believing rightly that this was an invasion force, a task force under the command of Admiral Mason van Melon, centered around two carriers, Vespasian and Phoenix struck at the gathering of troop transports, supply ships and landing craft. The utter destruction of the latter put off Kilrathi plans for Blackmane. Hundreds of thousands of Kilrathi soldiers were killed in the attack.
The small force guarding the invasion force until more powerful ships could arrive from deep inside the Empire, mostly destroyers and a pair of Fralthi-class cruisers, were eighter destroyed or crippled by van Melon’s task force. However, the Kilrathi got in many good shots, including a successful attempt to destroy the Vespasian, which was scuttled upon jumping back to the Blackmane System. These early victories will turn out to be disastrous for Confed as it bred a sense of invulnerability in TCN. These early actions lead many to believe the Kilrathi were not as fearsome as portrayed, and their victory over the Varni was due only to sheer numbers. Some media commentators and government officials made the old prediction that the war would be over before the year was out. How close to correct they came to being—
Two months into the war, Confed Intel intercepted many Kilrathi signals from their side of the frontier. Leading a team of cryptographers, Ches Penney managed to break parts of the Kilrathi code. He discovered the Kilrathi were planning to deploy most of their Vega fleet against the McAuliffe System, the forward Vega Sector base for Confed. The Kilrathi were scheduled to arrive in the system on Confederation Day, the anniversary of the founding of the Terran Confederation in 137 A.L. Penney deciphers that the Kilrathi strike force would consist of at least two carriers and a dozen cruisers. It was seen as a pitifully small force, and Confed decided to deploy twice as many ships around Alexandria Station to spring a trap for the Kilrathi.
There were some in Intel that warned that the message was wrongly interpreted. The Kilrathi numerology system would later be revealed as a main cause of the misreading of their signals. The counting of two carriers was also believed to be two carrier fleets, though Penney dismissed these concerns. Others voiced concerns that the code was broken with such ease (albeit by quantum computers) that it must be a trick, bait designed to lure prey in for the kill. In 2634, there were few experts on the Kilrathi, Banbridge being the closest Admiral to be called such. Banbridge delayed his retirement for the duration of the war, one he did not believe would be quick or painless.
He attempted to convince Confed HQ to send more ships, but was vetoed by the Naval Chief-of-Staff, Karl Chengdu. Banbridge was put in command of the 2nd Fleet, assembling in the Proxima System for its own strike into Kilrathi space. His fleet would have only three carriers, three battleships and thirteen cruisers. The fleet was intended to jump behind the Kilrathi invasion force, and capture its own supply bases, thus trapping the Kilrathi. However, this was not to be.
On Confederation Day, 2634, the first sign of the imminent invasion occurred when the listening post and commercial traffic from the Gimle System abruptly ceased. Gimle was not defended by any Confed ships, and the few militia vessels failed to send a signal. Picket ships were stationed at the jump point leading from Gimle to McAuliffe, as a means of advance warning of the Kilrathi invasion. Admiral Long, commander of the McAuliffe Ambush, stationed only one frigate at each jump point leading across the frontier, believing it could easily sound the alarm when the Kilrathi began to jump in-system, one ship at a time.
In the morning of October 15, a small courier ship jumped in from Gimle, showing signs of damage. The TCS Peregrine, the frigate defending the Gimle Jump Point reported that a militia ship had just jump in-system at high speed, before going offline, only two minutes later. The loss of the Frigate was assumed to be a collision between the two craft that damaged the transmitter, and not the ship sent through on auto-pilot with an annihilation (anti-matter) warhead placed inside it.
Upon losing his eyes at the jump point, Long immediately recalled all his personnel and began to deploy his ships. Hours later, the entire Kilrathi invasion force had jumped into the system, commanded by the Crown Prince, son of the Emperor, as well as important heirs of all the Eight Prides. It was immediately clear that the Kilrathi had eight carriers leading their invasion force, and not the two originally predicted. The Kilrathi struck immediately at the Confed fleet in orbit of McAuliffe VI. The Kilrathi anti-ship missile, launched from bombers, were far more powerful than Confed had first believed. In the initial strike, the carriers TCS Manticore and Java Sea were destroyed outright, at the loss of half the Kilrathi strike force.
The Battle of McAuliffe lasted for four days, with most of Long’s force being utterly destroyed. Even the arrival of reinforcements lead by carriers Ark Royal and Concordia were not enough to turn back the Kilrathi tide. The Concordia launched a feint against the Kilrathi carriers, at a great lost to their own fighters while the Ark Royal’s fighters and bombers struck at the Kilrathi landing ships approaching the planet. Only ten percent of the hundreds upon hundreds of landing craft were destroyed, but one such ship contained General Metrik nar Tr’Pak, King of the Tr’Pak Pride (one of the Eight), instantly killing him and his staff. This one fluke was enough to delay the Kilrathi’s drive towards Earth in the starting days of the war just enough to save the Confederation.
The reinforcements, which did arrive on the fourth day, were so ravaged by the Kilrathi that they were forced to retreat after only a single pass at the Kilrathi. Recall orders were sent by Banbridge, who was preparing his own defenses. The Kilrathi took this as a sign of Terran weakness, but the confusion caused by the loss of Tr’Pak forced the fleet to stop in orbit of McAuliffe while a new General was selected. While the debate was happening, Kilrathi cruisers finished off Alexandria Station, while other ships began to pound cities and fortification on the surface of the planet. The initial Kilrathi invasion force, those that reached the planet, numbered some ninety-three thousand. They stormed the fortifications that were directly “below” Alexandria Station in a matter of days. With this as their base of operations, the Kilrathi began to steadily bring in more soldiers for their months-long conquest of McAuliffe VI.
Aside from the McAuliffe System, the systems beyond the frontier, as well as several within Confed jurisdiction fell to the Kilrathi over the course November and December as there were no TCN forces to defend the planets or hope of reinforcement. Several systems, including Delius, Pephedro and Trimble simply surrendered. The Kilrathi were unsure what to do with an enemy that simply gave up. This caused more delay in their invasion as system commanders sent messages back to Kilrah, requesting instruction. In the case of Delius, which had a somewhat large industrial infrastructure, the planet’s population was put to work for the Kilrathi war effort. Other words fought back. The most notorious of the year was that of Carlin II, site of the Carlin Massacre. This planet had only three hundred thousand persons living upon it, and was largely agrarian. The Kilrathi had no use for plants, but made great use of the herds of cattle living on the planet. The planet’s militia, fought bravely with Confed Army forces upon the planet, but the total population of the planet were outnumbered by the half-million Kilrathi that landed upon the planet during the month of November. The defenders were killed almost to the last, but this was not the massacre. That happened when Kilrathi priests landed upon the planet and oversaw the construction of a temple to Sivar. The few who escaped the planet reported that the Kilrathi priests sacrificed the surviving two hundred thousand people to their War God. Afterwards, the planet was open to Kilrathi colonization.
The Trimble System, despite surrendering, suffered a similar fate. However, it was the inhabited stations scattered throughout the mostly lifeless (one planet did have primordial ooze) system. Five million humans were killed as the Kilrathi cleared the space of these useless stations, and focused their efforts on the moons of Trimble VII, which also had two jump points (one in high polar, and the other some ten million kilometers distant) orbiting it. Again, the Kilrathi used the surviving locals as labor pool. Slavery among the Kilrathi was very different than that of human history. Perhaps forced labor would be a more accurate description. The Kilrathi simply saw them as a useful resource.
The Kilrathi not only drove deep into the Vega Sector, but made incursions into the Epsilon Sector, which itself was largely beyond Confed’s border, and sparely inhabited by humanity. Most planets the Kilrathi ended up occupying in the first year of the war were uninhabited, and immediately opened to Kilrathi colonization.
Battle of Enyo
In the last days of December, 2634, the Kilrathi fleet moved on from McAuliffe, which was largely under Kilrathi domination by then. The fleet’s original mandate was not simply to destroy Alexandria Station, but to cut a swath of destruction all the way to Earth. Like a spear, the fleet was to penetrate the prey’s hearth and bring it down quickly. However, tough resistance at McAuliffe delayed the Kilrathi enough for Banbridge to bring his fleet into the Enyo System, a heavily populated system that sat before the jump point to the Proxima System, and beyond that the Sol Sector.
Banbridge managed to bring together five carriers, including the Arc Royal. The Concordia was so badly damaged that it exploded shortly after entering the Enyo System, fortunately after much of its crew had evacuated. After McAuliffe, it was clear that Confed fighters were grossly inferior to Kilrathi fighters, but capital ships could match each other rather evenly. Banbridge’s plan was to neutralize the Kilrathi carriers immediately, then go in with cruisers and battleships.
On December 30, the Kilrathi fleet jumped into Enyo. Immediately, their carriers launched all fighters and bombers to sweep the system. The Kilrathi did not anticipate Confed moving a second fleet into place so quickly after the destruction of their McAuliffe fleet. This cost the Kilrathi dearly. The McAuliffe-Enyo jump point sat in the middle of a Trojan asteroid field at the L-5 point between Enyo and Enyo V. It was here that Banbridge hid most of his fighters and bombers, keeping just enough back to act as point-defense for the Kilrathi bomber strike he knew was coming. Confed strikes, lead by a Commander Winston Turner, crippled two Kilrathi carriers and gutted two more in a matter of minutes. The ambush forced the Kilrathi crown prince to recall his own attack.
The battle did not unfold the way Banbridge had wished. Most of the Kilrathi ships that were destroyed or damaged on the day were hit during the first few minute. The 2nd Fleet did move at high cruising speed to engage the Kilrathi, however the L-5 point in the Enyo System was notoriously hazardous due to the unusual density of small asteroids. More Confed and Kilrathi ships were damaged by collisions with house and car sized asteroids than by the annihilation warheads of anti-ship missiles.
By Terran naval standards, the Kilrathi should have withdrew immediately, however Kilrathi politics would not allow it. If the Crown Prince showed weakness, then the males of the Eight Prides might see it as a chance to take control of the Kilrah Pride. Should this happen, the Kilrathi would plunge into a civil war that would all but hand victory to the Terrans. Kilrathi cruisers were sent forward as a screen to defend the damaged carriers, as technicians worked to repair the engines of the two damaged. Skilled personnel from the two gutted ships were shuttled over, while the rest were left to fend for themselves.
Kilrathi bombers returned to the fray immediately, but with minimal fighter cover. Fighters were retained to defend from another sneak attack from behind asteroids. This was the first time the Kilrathi began to realize Terrans were not the prey they initially believed, and it would not be the last time they learned this lesson. Kilrathi underestimation, rather than Terran resolve, had much to do with the course of the war. Of the two hundred bomber sent forth, only twenty-three reached their target. Most anti-ship missiles were shot down, but not all. The carriers Independence and Lake Eire were both destroyed, while Victory took significant damage.
In ship-to-ship engagements, the battleship Alexander engaged and destroyed two Fralthi-class cruisers as well as three Ralatha-class destroyers before being forced out of the battle by an anti-ship missile to its bridge. Losses on both sides were high that day, but the Kilrathi, with half of their offensive force either gone or disabled, where finally forced to retreat. The Crown Prince, who would later pay with his life for his failures, sited a serge of guerilla activity on McAuliffe VI as the official reason for retreating. Several Kilrathi ships were too damaged to jump and were finished off by TCN before noon of December 31. Those ships were crippled, not dead, and caused a great deal of damage.
The battle ended in a strategic Confederation victory, as well as the safe guarding of three hundred million Terrans living in the system and its industry. The entire system’s industry quickly went into war production and building the systems fortifications. By the New Year, it was clear to both sides that the war would not be over quickly, nor that their enemy was a pushover. This came as a greater shock to the Kilrathi, who have never had an attack thwarted in all their conquests. For the Terran Confederation, it was the start of decades of hardship and rationing as the entire industrial base of the Confederation was shifted in fighting what would be a total war against the Kilrathi. In this first year of the conflict, several million Terrans were already dead, the majority civilians. Billions more would join them before the war was over.