As the Vega Sector’s main line of defense continued to grow in strength, the Kilrathi spent much of the year 2636, aiming for weaknesses. Several raids were launched against Vega, Enyo, Alliance and Blackmane. The largest of these raids was against Blackmane in July. Blackmane Station had effectively doubled in size since the war began, and a series of fortresses were in the process of being constructed to guard the jump points. A Kilrathi incursion into the system included three carriers, five cruisers and a dozen destroyers. No transports or any sort of ground forces were moved into the system; it was strictly a raid.
The Blackmane System was currently guarded by a single Concordia class carrier, a battleship, three cruisers and six destroyers, all aided by Blackmane Station’s fighter compliment. The Kilrathi managed to destroy two fortresses guarding the jump point to the Ariel System, neither one complete, as well as many construction and support ships. Learning from previous engagements, the Kilrathi capital ships held back, as did half of the fighters, as the other half struck out towards Blackmane Station. The battle was short, and brief. The Kilrathi lost more fighters than Confed, but the TCS Havana, a cruiser, was destroyed. Confed fighters and bombers pursued the Kilrathi, but the raiding fleet jumped out before they could be hit.
The Epsilon Front
Part of the reason for the lull in the Vega Sector, aside from the massing of Kilrathi forces on their side of the frontier, was due to Kilrathi advances in the Epsilon Sector. In 2634, the Epsilon Sector was minimally under Confed control. Most of it was frontier, beyond the border, were a hundred colony worlds existed outside of Confed jurisdiction. Taking into account that the average world might have had a hundred thousand inhabitants at war’s start, the rapid conquest of the Epsilon frontier was not that impressive. Quite a few worlds, were in fact, uninhabited. These were immediately opened to Kilrathi colonization.
The biggest loss in the sector in 2636, was that of the Torgo System. Torgo had only one jump point leading into Confed’s Epsilon holdings, but four that lead into the Vega Sector, and an additional two leading into the Epsilon frontier. It would be a key system to strike at the Kilrathi, and the Kilrathi were quick to strike, but slow in conquest. Torgo II, a planet more than twice the size of Earth, had a population of over a hundred million, far higher than worlds beyond the official border in the sector, as well as over a million soldiers guarding it.
Confed had few ships to spare for the sector, and the Kilrathi easily destroyed the small frigates and corvettes serving as pickets. Their greatest spaceborne losses came in assaulting Fort Maurice, in high polar orbit of the planet. The Kilrathi lost six frigates in the attempt. It was costly mostly because the Kilrathi used little in their naval forces in the sector, focusing on the bulk of TCN in Vega. The initial invasion force of sixty-four thousand were chewed to pieces in a month long battle on the Plains of Bonaparte.
The Kilrathi sent in larger forces the following month, August. Repairs on Fort Maurice allowed for the Kilrathi to bombard the planet from orbit, including the plains. At the end of the month, an armada carrying an invasion force of over one hundred thousand hit the planet. Between September and November, the Kilrathi opened a constant stream of soldiers to Torgo II. By the start of 2637, the planet was still contested, but its fate was already sealed.
First Kilrathi Refugees
Since the start of the war, thousands of ships worth of Terran refugees have been flooding back across Confed’s front lines. On October 17, the first of the Kilrathi refugees arrived in the Orsini System. Of the three ships, one was destroyed outright by Confed fighters in the system. The Kilrathi began to transmit their surrender, which struck the system commander as suspicious. Kilrathi never surrender, and their language did not even have a word. In fact, the transmission used the Dutch word for surrender.
The two ships were boarded by Confed Marines, far from Orsini Station or any of the systems other stations or fortresses. If a bomb were on board, it could easily destroy the station (similar tactics were used at McAuliffe). On board were one hundred seven females, and two hundred cubs of various states of development. All of the females were technicians and machinists, some working in Kilrathi fighter plants. These were the females of the Shruki Pride, a very minor pride that had been forcefully relocated to the Valgard System in a colonization effort. Their lands on their original world were taken by the Marqi Pride, one of the Eight Prides.
Dispossessed and sent on their way, once arriving in Valgard, the Pride simply continued onward towards Confed territory. It was learned that the females of the pride cared little for their own people in general (a common Kilrathi trait) and had no loyalty to the Imperial Government (another trait of minor prides. The females’ main concern was the safety and health of their children. Much was learned about Kilrathi sociology from the Shruki Pride. When the pride was relocated to the Vespus System in the Enigma Sector and debriefed, much more was learned about the technical details of Kilrathi fighters. This was the first, but most certainly not the last pride defection of the Kilrathi War.