The Fifth Year
The fifth year of the Kilrathi War, already lasting far longer than either side had initially, and optimistically, predicted, was to be the pivotal point in the early war. Kilrathi forces had massed a fleet the same size as their initial invasion fleet, five year previous, in the Kharak Tur (called Venice by Terran cartographers) System with the aim of breaking the Alliance-Hubble Line. Attempts to flank the line by taking the Hubble Star system resulted in the Kilrathi Army becoming bogged down in a quagmire. Unlike humanity, the Kilrathi’s solution to the problem had been to wipe out the guerilla’s support; i.e. exterminate the human population in areas of resistance. This had only caused the entire population of said area to rise up in rebellion– which tended to result in bombing from orbit of the town or city, removing it from the map. Just why the Kilrathi did not wipe out the entire population is unclear, though the cost in manpower (catpower?) would have been one reason.
Kilrathi strategy called for a full-scale assault on the middle of the line, at Enyo. The reasons were not fully strategic in reasoning. Enyo was also the sight of their defeat in late 2634, and the Kilrathi planned to avenge their earlier humiliation, before moving on to Proxima, then Sol. The attack reduced Kilrathi reserves sector-wide, as well as pulled of ships from defending systems they already held. The Kilrathi would use as eight carriers in the Vega Sector, as well as have over a million soldiers ready to land on Enyo II, and secure important regions of the planet. The Kilrathi Emperor decreed that the Empire’s soldiers shall be marching on Earth by the next Sh’rik.
The Enyo Engagement
The Enyo Engagement, also called the Second Battle of Enyo, or just Second Enyo, kicked off on February 3, 2639, when three Ralatha-class Destroyers entered the system and fired upon the new fortress built near the jump point. A spread of anti-ship missiles fired as soon as the ships jumped into the system, caught the defenders of Fort Relief off-guard, and caused considerable damage. The fortress was all but destroyed when several more destroyers, along with two Fralthi jumped in to add their firepower to the battle. Distress calls were sent and warned Confed of what was approaching. The moment Kilrathi carriers entered the system, they threw up a fighter screen to avoid a repeat of First Enyo.
As with earlier in the war, code-breakers had already determined the Kilrathi were moving on Enyo. In anticipation, Admiral Turner had four carriers on station, three of the new Vanguards and the TCS Victory. Intel correctly guessed eight enemy carriers were on their way, and reinforcements were being sent to Enyo. However, the distance between jump points in-system makes reinforcing the system a slow process. Turner immediately ordered the fighters of his carriers, and Enyo Station, to launch. As soon as the last of the strike force was clear, he ordered his fleet into a solar orbit, some two million kilometers away from Enyo II. His ships would not be caught in orbit when the inevitable Kilrathi counter-attack happened.
Even at cruising speeds of 5 PSL, the strike force took several hours to reach the Kilrathi. Slowing to combat speed, they were met by nearly six hundred Kilrathi fighters of every make. Even with the addition of a hundred fighters from Enyo Station, the Confed fighters were seriously outnumbered. Scimitars cut a swath of destruction through ranks of Dralthi and Salthi, allowing for sixty-three Raptors to commence attack runs on Kilrathi capital ships. Many of these ships were destroyed by a concentrated anti-spacecraft screening from all Kilrathi ships, but a number of anti-ship missiles did score hits, including the destruction of seven destroyers, one Fralthi as well as a Kilrathi carrier. Two other carriers were damaged, but were still able to launch and retrieve fighters.
Confed ships returned home as fast as possible, for the Kilrathi had their own bombers ready to launch, and out for blood. Two hundred of the fighters covering their fleet were sent forth to escort the bombers. These fighters were enough to deflect Turner’s own fighter screen. With many of the earlier attackers returning to Enyo Station for refueling and rearming, Confed was down more than a hundred fighters. Kilrathi bombers proved to be more devastating than Confed’s, partly for the reason that Kilrathi bomber pilots and crews would stay on course and launch, even as their own ships were being shot out from around them. Despite the brutality of the Kilrathi, the discipline of their pilots earned them a grudging respect from their Terran counterparts.
These single-minded attacks resulted in more destruction on the smaller Terran fleet. The carrier Vanguard and battleship The Seventeen Provinces were destroyed outright, along with three cruisers and seven destroyers. The carriers Victory and Saratoga were heavily damaged, with the former’s flight deck knocked out. The Kilrathi continued to swarm until the last of their anti-ship missiles were fired, before returning to their own fleet. With such damaged sustained, Turner was forced to pull his fleet back from Enyo II to Fort Tycho, on the opposite side of the system.
The Kilrathi’s second attack struck at Enyo Station itself, with devastating results. The station was not destroyed, but its offensive weapons were knocked off-line, as well as its flight decks. A third attack escorted Kilrathi shuttles and boarding pods to Enyo Station, where hundreds of Kilrathi "marines" boarded the station. The Battle of Enyo Station would last three days, and even with a steady stream of reinforcements, the Kilrathi failed to capture the station. Kilrathi soldiers would abandon the attempt by February 9, taking hundreds of Terran captives with them.
The Kilrathi fleet entered orbit of Enyo II on February 7, and proceeded to bomb the planet, softening up invasion sites. The Kilrathi landed forty thousand soldiers around the city of Celestria (population 250,000). The city was stormed, as was its spaceport, with minimal effort, falling on the first day of the invasion. Additional land forces began to jump into the system. However, several of these ships were destroyed after running into a recently laid minefield at the jump point. A flight of Raptors snuck around the Kilrathi fleet, mining the jump point. These fighters flew from the TCS Arc Royal (was it already destroyed?), which operated behind Kilrathi lines, destroying supply ships and transports, as well as pulling two Kilrathi carriers away from Enyo II to hunt them down.
At Fort Tycho, both the damaged carriers were repaired to the point that flight operations could once again take place. Other damage was temporarily fixed with simple patches. On February 7, while Enyo II was facing invasion, Turner was reinforced by Admiral Wright, and the carriers Ranger, Tennessee River and Resolution, as well as the battleships Simon Bolivar and Alexander, nine cruisers and fifteen destroyers. This new force combined at Tycho Station and set off to save Enyo II. Turner came up with a unique route to strike at the Kilrathi. Since standard space combat takes place within a system’s elliptic plane, Turner would send the fleet high above, and strike down the north pole of Enyo II, hopefully catching the Kilrathi where they were not looking.
Turner’s gambit did, in fact, catch the Kilrathi by surprise. Raptors launched from the new carriers, including a wing commanded by Captain Geoffrey Tolwyn off the Tennessee River, struck directly at the Kilrathi carriers. Most of the Kilrathi fighters were inside the atmosphere, bombing Terran targets, and unable to return to orbit in time to save their ships. With their ships in orbit, the Kilrathi could not maneuver to their advantage, and were hostages to orbital mechanics. Confed bombers took advantage of this, hitting all the Kilrathi carriers, as well as half their cruisers. Of the carriers hit, three were destroyed, with one exploding outright, and a further three crippled. Of the crippled, one had its engines destroyed.
When the Kilrathi fighters returned to orbit, they were greeted by Confed fighters. The Kilrathi were at a severe disadvantage in climbing out of a gravity well. Scimitars intercepted the climbing fighters, chewing them to pieces. Though a small portion of the Kilrathi’s total fighter stock was destroyed, the loss in skilled pilots was far larger. To encourage their pilots to do their best, Kilrathi fighters tended to lack ejection pods, so when a fighter was destroyed, so was a pilot. A second wave of Confed fighters finished off another carrier as well as shot down many landing craft that had just reached Enyo II.
On February 8, the Kilrathi Admiral, a Mentruk nar Kilrah, ordered his fleet to break orbit and head back to Kilrathi controlled space. A small force was left behind to cover whatever transports could leave the planet and bring retreating soldiers with them. The Kilrathi soldiers did not retreat empty handed. Thousands of Terran civilians within Celestria were taken by the Kilrathi, many offered up to Sivar in an attempt to appease the angry war god. The rest would be put to good use in the Kilrathi war effort.
Balance of Power
The Enyo Engagement effectively broke the back of Kilrathi offensive power in the Vega Sector. After the battle, the Kilrathi would be unable to launch an offensive in the Vega Sector for years to decades. Confed’s own losses in the battle– apart from a carrier and battleship, and two damaged ships, the Kilrathi did manage to track down and cripple Arc Royal, and Kilrathi pilots left behind (due to lost carriers) made suicide runs on Confed ships, heavily damaging the Ranger and Resolution– made it impossible for them to immediately capitalize on the stunning success at Enyo.
Both Kilrathi and Confed fleets retreated to their own sides of the front lines, repairing damage and replacing ships. For the first time in years, Earth and the other inner worlds could breath a collective sigh of relief, as imminent destruction was no longer their leading fear. Attempts to negotiate a cease-fire failed, in that any peace feelers sent across the frontier simply never returned. With peace not an option, Confed had to make its own plans for retaking lost worlds and pushing the Kilrathi back to the Kilrah Sector.