The Tenth Year
The Kilrathi War dragged on into its tenth year with Confed on the offensive. Two fleet actions were planned for the year, with the 1st Fleet under the command of Robert Custer, and the 2nd under the command of van Oranje. The First, newly formed around the nucleus of the Hubble’s Star expedition, would be launching its assault into the Munro System. The Second, actually formed before the First, would strike first with a smaller attack on the strategically vital Rostov System. With the later in its hands, Confed can easily take back Deino and McAuliffe.
Despite setback and victory, the Terran public was beginning to grow weary of the war. The fact that Confed would not even consider negotiating cost the leading party in the Congress of the Confederation elections for 2645. Conspiracy theories stating that the Military Industrial Complex was running both the war and Confed began to circulate across the Sol Sector, as well as other sectors distant from the war. In the Vega Sector, and the minimal Confed presence in the Epsilon Sector, there was strong support for the war. Even in Enigma, where only a few minor raids have occurred, the public was in favor of the military.
Those sectors as yet untouched by war lived under the belief that the Kilrathi were not that different from any other enemy humanity has fought. Considering that virtually all of humanity’s enemies was humanity itself, their level of ignorance was substantial towards the nature of the Kilrathi. Many people were, but the full employment that war industries provided for some worlds was enough to keep the peace. Protests against the war were most prevalent in the parts of the Terran Confederation opposite of the Kilrathi Empire.
The operation in Munro earned the name of Custer’s Carnival by the total debacle. The 1st Fleet, with six carriers, four battleships and an arsenal ship, as well as twelve cruisers and twenty destroyers, entered the Munro System expecting a simple fight. Munro had been a bit of a backwater at the start of the war, for only one jump point connected the system with the rest of Confed, through Proxima. The jump point from Proxima came in at the L-5 point for the most distant planet. Just how the Kilrathi entered the system was unknown.
The system was far from a backwater in 2644. The Kilrathi had little to no presence in the outer system, but heavily fortified the two most inner planets, as well as scattered an assortment of fortresses in and between the two planet’s orbits. Munro III had a sizable garrison, as did the moon of Munro VI. Custer ordered the fleet to charge, making his flag on the recently commissioned Tiger’s Claw. Being closest to the Proxima jump point, the fleet struck at Munro VI. The battle for Munro VI was brutal, and far from short. What Custer had hoped would be a simple landing, turned into a prolonged campaign on an airless moon. For three weeks, Marines dug themselves into trenches and foxholes and traded shots outside of the habitat called Victor.
A stream of supply ships entered the system, with forces from the First diverted to escort them. It would do Marines, and later Army soldiers, little good to take the moon if they ran out of food, water or air. Again, McCoy’s Marines did a superb job of securing the habitats once they managed to breach Kilrathi lines outside and storm the Air locks. At the start of the war, only about thirty thousand lived on this moon. After the liberation, Confed accounted for just over five thousand survivors. Several habitats were destroyed during the conquest, and several more to deny them liberation. The survivors were put to work as miners by the Kilrathi, to separate ices from the rocks of the moon for shipment to the inner system.
Only after the liberation of Munro VI did the Kilrathi fleet react. Much to Custer’s surprise, the Kilrathi had a fleet of nearly equal size, though with no battleships and seven more cruisers. Kilrathi fighters targeted the Ragnarok, and just to prove they learned a little about the arsenal ship, two hundred forty Kilrathi fighters were accompanied by eight hundred drones, all with loud FF transponders upon them. Most of the arsenal ship’s first volley hit drones, with only 21% losses to the Kilrathi fighters. Scimitars were forced to intercept the Kilrathi, along with Rapiers. Hornets were held back to protect the fleet. The dog fight beyond the moons of Munro VI’s orbit was the largest to date.
Along with transponders, the drones were equipped with annihilation warheads. When they were hit, they exploded, violently. Several drones did break through the second salvo and homed in on the Ragnarok. Though all were shot down, three exploded sufficiently close to the ship to overload its shields. Rather than risking his interstellar shotgun, Custer ordered the Ragnarok to retreat to Proxima, and detached the Raj to escort the ship. This left TCN at a six-to-five disadvantage, offset only by the destruction of a number of Kilrathi fighters.
Once the arsenal ship was forced out of the fight did the Kilrathi fleet close in. The first fleet engagement lasted for two days, and cost Confed the carrier Tennessee River, as well as a pair of destroyers. The Kilrathi lost one of their own carriers and had a second’s flight deck destroyed. The Tiger’s Claw handled itself remarkably, suffering minimal damage to its shields. Though Bengal-class carriers were involved in the strike on Lafayette, the Kilrathi received so little data from the engagement as to still be unfamiliar with yet another new ship design.
By May, Munro VI was in Confed’s hands and reinforcements began to stream into the system. The Terran victory made Custer confident, and he ordered his carriers and battleships to pursue the Kilrathi. They did, right into a trap in the orbital space of Munro IV. The retreating Kilrathi were joined by a pair of gold-plated Snakiers, similar to those encountered at Venice. These two ships were from the Kilrah Pride’s personal fleet, and only the best pilots were granted the honor to serve the Imperial Pride. The Tiger’s Claw escaped with severe damage, having 75% of its propulsion knocked out, a loss of half its fighter compliment and requiring six months in dock to repair. Other carriers suffered similar losses, with the Finback having its bridge superstructure complete blown off. The battleship Seventeen Provinces was destroyed by a pair of Fralthi.
Custer’s forces were hounded back to Munro VI, where only the presence of reinforcements saved his fleet from destruction. With Confed’s drive further into the system halted, the Kilrathi turned back to their own system headquarters on Munro I. The large Kilrathi presence in the Munro System was a mystery until the defection of a Kilrathi pilot later in the year. The Kilrathi had discovered a jump point some 50 AU out from their home star some nine year previous. The Kilrathi were in Munro in such large numbers because Munro was their Proxima. A jump point close to Munro itself lead directly to the Kilrah System. Had the Kilrathi known of this jump point before the war started, they would quite likely have bypassed McAuliffe, smashed through Proxima and laid waste to Earth in a matter of months. This discovery lead to Confed reinforcing Munro VI, as well as fortifying it and the Proxima jump point. As a result of his losses, Admiral Custer was relieved of his command of the First, and the First fleet was turned into a garrisoning force for the Munro System.
The Bright Side
In July of 2644, when the Battle of Munro was still raging, the 2nd Fleet jumped into the Rostov System. The system was well fortified, but not to the extent of Munro. The Second managed to jump in an surprise the Kilrathi fleet stationed there. In addition to his carriers and battleships, the TCS Doomsday, another arsenal ship, was added to van Oranje’s fleet. Despite having four addition jump points leading into Kilrathi occupied territory, Rostov had only two carriers protecting its fortifications around Rostov III. As with the initial attack on Hubble’s Star, the Kilrathi fighters and warships were overwhelmed by the Doomsday, despite their own attempts at countermeasure. Kilrathi intelligence knew of the arsenal ship, but apparently believed only one existed.
During August, van Oranje used his forces to capture the Kilrathi fortresses as well as Rostov Station. The station had been rebuilt and significantly modified for Kilrathi use. The station was built from the wreckage of the Kilrathi starbase eliminated during a raid years before. Kilrathi attempts to blow the station failed. A mutiny had occurred in engineering by males from minor prides on Ghoran against the station commander, a scion from the Ghoran Pride (one of the Eight). Several of the mutineers were of the Tr’nik’fra Pride, a Pride that once numbered twenty thousand but was destroyed and absorbed by the Ghoran Pride. Again, the feudal nature of the Kilrathi worked in Confed’s favor. Though the mutineers defected, handing over jump point maps, as well as other data to Confed, they were still sent to POW camps as a precaution. A camp built in the Australian outback was used to detain and debrief defectors.
Rostov III had been a frontier world in 2634, with minimal Confed presence, if any. The largest city, Grey’s Town, had only fifty thousand inhabitants before the war began. Defectors tell that the planet was open to Kilrathi colonization, and Prides on the planet tended to ignore the humans unless they had need for labor. Kilrathi soldiers and sailors were known to go down to the planet to hunt the Terrans. The planet had no garrison. The bulk of the Kilrathi presence in the system had been in space, and van Oranje had eliminated it. Additional Kilrathi fortresses, one built to the jump point to Venice. The Kilrathi deployment in the Rostov System reflected the several Terran raids into the system over the course of the war.
By December 2644, Admiral van Oranje declared the system secure, though no invasion of Rostov III had yet to be deployed. The civilian leaders of the planet, the Grn’tahk Pride met with Confed officers to negotiate a settlement where the Prides on Rostov III would be allowed to remain on the planet in return for material support. Not all Prides agreed with this. This fact, coupled with that of the Terran colonists wanting revenge, lead to a two year long war upon the planet (civil war for the Kilrathi) that eventually required a Confed garrison of 250,000 to keep the peace.