Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Wing Commander reboot, part 14
At the start of 2647, Confed began to refit its warships with the Md 2647 graser. This newer graser was designed to be 1.5 times as powerful as current weapons while using on 90% of the power. Thus more beam weapons can be installed on existing warships and newer designs. Ships in the Vega Sector were rotated off the line early in the year for the retrofit. Banbridge ensured that the ships that would be involved in the upcoming McAuliffe Operations were the first to receive the new weapons. As well as being more powerful, the new grasers also focused their beam tighter and altered their frequency while firing. This was intended to pierce the shields of Kilrathi ships.
Dock workers in Proxima, Vega, Sirius and other systems worked around the clock for more than a month, installing the new weapons on every ship in the Vega Sector. The biggest challenge was keeping the bases in Munro protected while other ships were retrofitted. Several batteries of the Md 2647s were delivered to the new bases on the moons of Munro IV, as well as Fort Necessity, in high polar orbit of the planet. Delivering the weapons required the escort of the Tiger’s Claw and three destroyers.
In March of 2647, the TCS Cobra’s Fang played a game of hide-and-seek with a Snakier task force in the Rostov System. The Kilrathi had not the ability to retake the system, but an enterprising Kilrathi Admiral, one Gilkarg nar Kilrah, the oldest surviving son of the Kilrathi Emperor (his older brother being killed earlier in the war). To prove himself worthy of one day claiming the Kilrathi Throne, Gilkarg lead his force into the Rostov System to raid the Terrans. He had not enough ships to destroy Confed presence. Instead, he used his carrier, escorted by a cruiser and four destroyers, in a commerce raiding role.
In one raid, the Kilrathi managed to capture a Terran corvette partially intact. Its self-destruct system, designed to keep the nanotechnology in the life-support out of Kilrathi hands malfunctioned. Instead of destroying the ship, it merely gutted it, leaving the hull largely in one piece. Gilkarg detached his Fralthi to tractor the Venture-class corvette back to Kilrathi space. Gilkarg continued his raids until the Cobra’s Fang was detached to hunt him down.
The Kilrathi Prince was an able commander. He eluded the Cobra’s Fang for two weeks, drawing it further from assistance an into the depths of the outer system. From this position, the only jump point lead to Port Hadland, still in Kilrathi control. He succeeded in luring the larger Strike Carrier far enough away from help. Once the Terran ship passed the point where the distress signal would take four hours to reach Confed, Gilkarg sprang his trap.
Gilkarg sent ahead heavy fighters to lay dormant in space until his own task force passed. The fighters were clumped together into a rough shape, making passive sensors believe it was just an asteroid. To be in formation would be a dead giveaway, and to have sixteen individual asteroids in one place would also be suspicious. Then, when the Terrans entered firing range, they would come to life and pounce. The two wings of Jalthi (sixteen in total) launched their own attack run on the Cobra’s Fang. The heavy fighters managed to smash through the Hornets and launch one anti-ship missile each.
Though most were shot down or detonated against the shields, as was the case in all battles, three did manage to elude destruction. Cobra’s Fang operated without escort, and had no aid when one of the anti-ship missiles reduced it to half-speed. Worse yet, the second missile destroyed the carrier’s jump drive, so it could not pursue the Kilrathi even if its captain had been inclined to do so. The third missile struck amidship, tearing a gouge into the carrier. With the carrier wounded, Gilkarg turned back to launch all his fighters and even sent in the three destroyers. Despite a valiant effort, the Cobra’s Fang could not fight off the attack. The Kilrathi left the ship in ruins. Cobra’s Fang was not destroyed, but its power was knocked out and the ship left adrift when Gilkarg jumped out of the system. Cobra’s Fang was rescued, but not before more than half its crew died.
In June, a small fleet under the command of de Chump jumped into the Deino System. His goal was to clear out the system and pave the way for an invasion. Only two carriers formed de Chump’s fleet, the rest either under the command of van Oranje or garrisoning Munro. Eagle’s Talon and Raj were accompanied by a battleship, three cruisers and six destroyers. Twenty corvettes flew out ahead as picket ships, reporting the location of any Kilrathi they came across.
Deino was sitting between Confed and Kilrathi occupied territories. Being such a forward base, the Kilrathi should have fortified it. Instead, Deino had been cut-off since the fall of Rostov. Confed decided to let the Kilrathi wither there, destroying any supply ships attempting to reach the base. The attack could not draw off forces, but it was intended to draw the Kilrathi into the belief that it was the main focus of this year’s offense.
During the meanwhile, the Kilrathi forces actually were discovered to have abandoned the system. Plenty of traps were left behind, but no active opposition. Sensing a large force would be cut off, the Council of Eight had decided to retreat from Deino. At first, this was seen as a blessing, and then as a curse. If Kilrathi forces were not tied up here, then they were deployed elsewhere. The stations, fortresses and worlds of Deino were reoccupied by Confed with minimal loss.
With his fleet upgraded, van Oranje jumped into the McAuliffe system from a staging area in Enyo. His fleet had five carriers, three battleships, the Ragnarok, as well as ten cruisers and an assortment of lesser ships. The Kilrathi kept their forces in reserve around McAuliffe VI, a world taken at the start of the war. Alexandria Station had been rebuilt, with a great deal of Kilrathi architecture designed into it. Where once was a graceful station, now orbited a fanged and clawed monstrosity. Kilrathi ships were few in the system; only two carriers and seven cruisers among the larger ships. With at least one arsenal ship still on the prowl, the Kilrathi decided it prompt not to place all their ships into one giant target zone. Kilrathi breaking up their fleets into smaller units would soon force Confed to do the same to compensate.
Kilrathi heavy fighters beat off the first two bomber attacks on the Kilrathi ships and Alexandria. Kilrathi counterattacks succeeded in damaging the Prince of Orange, van Oranje’s flagship. However, most ships were spared since the Kilrathi focused their attacks on Ragnarok. The arsenal ship fared better than her sistership did at Alcor. The Ragnarok only managed a single volley of anti-ship missiles, leaving the Kilrathi fighters to their Terran counterparts, before being ordered to retreat from the combat zone (though not the system). Most of the fifty missiles were destroyed, but seven hit fortifications in orbit of McAuliffe VI, destroying two gun platforms as well as one of Alexandria’s shield generators.
Van Oranje fought the Kilrathi around McAuliffe VI for over a week, having two of his own carriers forced out of the system for repairs, the Bengal as well as the Saratoga. Both Terran and Kilrathi destroyers dueled at close range, supported by fellow destroyers. Most of Confed’s fighters focused on the Kilrathi carriers, while the battleships opened up on Alexandria. The Kilrathi managed to deploy one hundred twenty-eight fighters from the station, enough to overwhelm the cruisers Shiva and Draken, destroying both. Instead of returning to the station, the Kilrathi fighters headed down towards the planet.
After ten days of battle, the Kilrathi admiral decided the battle was unwinnable and withdrew from the system towards Venice. The Venice System had a sizable force, and it was entirely possible, or at least believed so at the time, that the Kilrathi would return in force. Van Oranje sent corvettes, frigates and destroyers to mine the jump point to Venice, while the larger ships spent the next week clearing out orbital space around McAuliffe VI. The invasion and liberation of the planet was a hard and bloody affair, not complete until early 2649.
Some of the sights seen on the planet’s surface created life-long hatred of the Kilrathi by Terran ground-pounders. Many Terrans had been rounded up into camps, mostly for forced labor. Tens of thousands were exported to slave markets across the empire. A few of the camps were nothing more than ranches, where humans were used to feed the Kilrathi warriors stationed on the planet. Kilrathi would put to flight the captives, and hunt them the same way they would hunt any prey. Kilrathi scientists did extensive research into human biology, seeking out weakspots, and trying to find chemical agents that would kill Terrans but not Kilrathi. In space, TCN personnel had a grudging respect for their enemy. On the ground, soldiers did not take long to learn how to hate the Kilrathi, no matter their prowess in battle.
Since the first of the planet-hopping invasions, Terran soldiers and marines carried melee weapons as well as their firearms. Hand-to-hand combat in cities such as Doveshire were bloody, no-quarters affairs. Kilrathi civilians caught out in the open were killed far quickly than Terrans caught by Kilrathi. The fighting turned so savage, that some soldiers took to cutting out the claws of Kilrathi they killed as souvenirs. The Kilrathi kept their own kill counts, but took the identification tags of their victims. Neither side was above taking the hide of its enemy, Kilrathi rugs and belts made from Terran leather. When they lost a city, the Kilrathi would undergo scorched earth tactics, leaving nothing standing and nobody alive as they retreated.