Not until March of 2643, was Hubble IV declared secure. Units of the Kilrathi Army continued to plague Terran forces even after all the major cities were liberated. Organized resistance ended in January, but individual Kilrathi units continued to resist up until the point where they were killed. Of the seven hundred thousand Kilrathi garrisoning the planet at the start of the Terran liberation, only thirty-two hundred seventeen were captured, and only because they were too wounded to fight back. The enemy’s lack of surrender hit morale. More so in the army than on the home front. The media was fed by Confed HQ limited amount of information, such as when cities were liberated and victories on the planet. This was not to say the media was a propaganda tool, for the people heard about losses as well.
Kilrathi willingness to fight to the death greatly concerned Confed. If they fought like this on a planet they conquered, then what sort of resistance would await an invasion of one of their own worlds. On the other side of the conflict, some twenty thousand Kilrathi civilians were on the planet as well. These colonists offered no fight, being minor Prides transplanted to Hubble IV. The females of the Prides had no interest in fighting, and no real loyalty to the Imperial Government. However, many viewed them as a security risk so close to the front lines. Plans were drawn up to relocate the Prides to both the Enigma and Gemini Sectors. Terrans living on the planet wanted nothing more than to kill them all. The total losses on Hubble IV were a badly damaged Hubble Station, one hundred seventeen thousand soldiers and upwards to four million.
The newest carriers in TCN, Bengal and Cobra’s Fang, lead an assault against the Lafayette System. This system sat off to the side of the Vega Sector, and was almost a side-show compared to the rest of the campaign. However, it did offer the Kilrathi the chance to strike into heavily populated systems. Only a small Kilrathi fleet presence was in system, and the new strike carriers proved more than capable of handling them. The single Snakier was taken out in orbit of Lafayette II, while refueling from the planet’s hydrogen reserves.
The system had a marginally habitable planet, that was in the process of terraformation. Terraforming was a process seldom used, since it succeeded in bankrupting the Martian government back in 600-700 A.L. The process of turning a dead world into a living one was very difficult, even if they used nanotechnology. However, Lafayette I was an arid world with a limited ecosystem. Instead of turning the dead into living, Confed just tried to turn the marginal into something that could sustain a higher population. Only a million colonists lived on this world so close to the former frontier. The Kilrathi, from an arid world themselves, loved the planet. So much so, that despite its proximity to the front lines, many persecuted Prides fled to it. Unlike the warrior, all males, the Pride females did not treat conquered peoples with cruelty. They would use them, as forced labor or even outright slaves, if need be, but otherwise were indifferent to those outside their own Pride’s territory.
The planet had only a garrison of ten thousand Kilrathi soldiers, in addition to a hundred thousand civilians. More than twice that of the Terran population was already dead. Kilrathi population tended to cluster around a lone spaceport, which itself was the garrison. Unlike many planets, the Battle for Lafayette I was a short battle, lasting only four days. During that week, nearly all the ten thousand Kilrathi soldiers were killed, as were ten thousand Confed soldiers. Upon liberating the planet, the Confederation Army had its first contact with the Mandarin Society. Thousands of Terrans voluntarily served the Prides, as both servants and remedial labor for the usually skilled labor of the Pride females. In Kilrathi society, rogue males would do unskilled labor until they were old and strong enough to claim a Pride of their own. In their absence, slaves of several species were used.
This first contact was no noted in the media, but those in Confed’s political structure wanted trials of treason for these Terrans. Many such Mandarins were taken by the rest of the Lafayette population and executed as collaborators upon liberation. Some Mandarins did rise up during the invasion, but where quickly killed by the Pride females, which were as vicious as the males when their homes were threatened. The rest were rounded up and placed into interment camps by Confed until they figured out what to do with these seeming traitors. As for the Kilrathi Prides, lack of logistics ruled out deporting them, and in any case the Prides refused to leave. A Confederation garrison of a hundred thousand, nearly equal to the number of Kilrathi on the planet, was installed and martial law established.
Oddly enough, the constant handing over of papers and inspections by Confed personnel was less oppressive than inside the Kilrathi Empire and their ruthless feudal structure. The Prides worked as willingly for Confed as they did for the Empire, and as will all Prides their own political concerns seldom left the family. That is not to say when the male cubs grew to adulthood, they did not flee the planet to join the war against Confed. War was seen a means to grow strong and eventually take a Pride of their own. However, a few of the young males (less than 10%) saw little difference in who they fought, and joined Confed’s armed forces. The reasoning gave by Kilrathi enlistee being that Terrans were not competition for females, while their own species was.
Tears of Warsaw
The Hubble’s Star invasion force moved further into the Empire, after jumping into the Vega System, struck at the Warsaw System in mid-June. Reports of the conquest of Warsaw II were that of devastating loss, and it was wondered if there were any survivors on the planet. Kilrathi forces in the Warsaw System were minor, but again Confed had to neutralize a mine field, which the Ragnarok did without effort. Kilrathi fortresses stationed around the jump point offered stiffer resistance, and succeeded in knocking out the destroyers Monroe and Hydra’s Fury, as well as inflicted damage on the Finback before being destroyed themselves.
The two fleets in-system met two AU from Warsaw II. The Kilrathi were familiar with the arsenal ship after its devastating debut in Hubble’s Star, and launched all their fighters to destroy it. The first wave of fighters, clustered in large formations, were destroyed by a volley of FF missiles. Raptors and Scimitars were launched against the Kilrathi cruisers, which were the source of the fighters, as well as a rebuilt and remodeled Warsaw Station. Hornets were deployed to intercept any Kilrathi anti-ship missiles launched towards the fleet. The Kilrathi fleet was destroyed after two days of fighting, but not before they managed to destroy three more TCN destroyers, the cruiser Vienna and causing further damage to Finback. The carrier was forced to retreat to Vega, then to Proxima for extensive repairs in space dock.
Though the invasion of Warsaw II was intended to distract from Confed’s main objective of the year, it turned into a war of its own, dragging on for more than a year and requiring reinforcements that could have been used elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of Kilrathi soldiers defended the planet, scattered across the globe. Each of the surviving cities had to be fought over, in some cases house-to-house. During the course of the reconquest, it was learned that only half of the original seventy million Terrans were still alive. The Kilrathi had a light colonization of the planet. The slaughter of Terran civilians made the Terrans trying to take back the planet less than sympathetic to the Kilrathi colonists, many whom were killed during the fighting.
A second fleet, built around five carriers and four battleships, struck out from Hell’s Kitchen to retake Pephedro at the same time as the fighting in the Warsaw System was raging. Taking Pephedro would bring Rostov one step closer, and the eventual outflanking of Kilrathi forces in McAuliffe and Deino. Though it was intended to be the main thrust of the Vega Sector Campaign for 2643, the invasion of Pephedro was but a small battle. There was no Kilrathi naval presence in the system, which worried Confed greatly when Kilrathi ships went missing. The fleet, under the command of Admiral Thomas van Oranje, who fittingly had his flag on the battleship Prince of Orange, ordered his fleet to attack the outlying planets of the system. The Kilrathi had garrisoned the three moons of Pephedro VII, all lifeless. In order to capture these bases, which van Oranje wanted in tact, Confed Marines had to fight the Kilrathi in a low gravity, and airless environment. Being so dangerous, the casualty rates were far higher for what would have just been wounds on a habitable world.
Only two of the three bases were captured. On the second moon, the Kilrathi commander blew up the station rather than let it fall into enemy hands, killing many Marines who were fighting in the station at the time. The innermost planet had its own bases, with agricultural tents (domed craters) as well as vast underground facilities. Van Oranje opted out of invading Pephedro I after the losses on the second moon. Instead, Confed fighters bombed defensive batteries and solar power stations. Van Oranje gave the Kilrathi the option of surrendering or starving before effectively bypassing the planet.
The habitats on Pephedro II, where Terrans mostly lived before the war began, were only lightly defended. Pephedro Station, at the stellar-planetary L2 point, was stormed by Marines in late August. Boarding pods hit the station at its docking facilities as well as its command center (on top of the station) and its reactors (on a boon on the bottom). This way, van Oranje had hoped to avoid having the Kilrathi blow up the station in spite. They never did, but nor did they surrender. Two weeks were spent in capturing Pephedro Station. The reason for such a prolonged battle on a starbase was due to most of the Pephedro II’s garrison being stationed there.
Thousands more were based on Pephedro II, but before Confed could begin the invasion of the planet, Kilrathi shuttles began to take off the planet, as well as larger ships, and made their way to Pephedro I, where the local Kilrathi commander believed he stood his best chance at holding out. Van Oranje, happy to see his real target abandoned, did not let the Kilrathi retreat peacefully. Dozens of shuttles were intercepted by Scimitars and destroyed. There was no invasion of the innermost planet, and the Kilrathi languished there until a relief fleet arrived in November. After fighting its way past van Oranje, the battered Kilrathi fleet evacuated Pephedro I before destroying the base. The Kilrathi did manage to score hits on TCN, damaging two battleships, the Prince of Orange and Ho Chi Minh, blowing a hole in the carrier Ranger, and destroying four destroyers and a cruiser.