Sunday, October 10, 2010
Wing Commander reboot, part 16
Blood of the Eight
With Planck’s Star firmly under Confed control, plans were made for a raid deep into Kilrathi space. In what the Kilrathi call the Trk’Pahn Sector, home to one of the Eight Prides (the Trk’Pahn Pride) sits that Pride’s homeworld. Trk’Pahn was but a single jump from the Varni homeworld, though this jump point was only discovered after their conquest. With this in mind, Confed placed some of the Varni serving in the Confederation Navy (the highest ranking of their species was but a Chief Petty Officer; no commissioned Varni existed in TCN, and none served in the Marines or Army) into the strike force as guides.
Forming the Trk’Pahn Strike Force were three carriers, Cobra’s Fang, Wolfhound and Kipling, escorted by five new strike cruisers. The goal was not the conquest of the planet, for it was too deep in Kilrathi space to support, but rather to upset the Kilrathi balance of power. If one of the Eight suffered a major defeat, Confed Intel believed that it was possible for a small-scale civil war to break out in the Empire as another of the Eight attempts to exploit his neighbor’s disarray. Trk’Pahn was also revealed to be the home of shipyard built into an orbiting asteroid, as well as armored vehicle factories and fighter assembly plants. Destruction of these would hurt the Kilrathi war effort, the same way the destruction of industry across the Vega Sector hurt the Confederation.
In February, the small fleet, under the command of Admiral Winston Turner, one of the more experienced task force commanders, set out from Planck Station. He had been fighting the Kilrathi since the war’s beginning. The fleet slipped into the Trik’Kha System. This system was loosely patrolled by the Kilrathi, and Turner was able to use the time honored tactic of a jaunt above the system’s ellipse, in order to reach the jump point to Trk’Pahn undetected. The trajectory extended flight time in the system to three weeks. It was not until March that they made the jump to Trk’Pahn. Before doing so, a flight of Rapiers swept the jump point of any sensors.
Upon entering the system, the cruiser Sedna destroyed two Pride frigates on picket duty before either could send out a warning. The Ceres-class cruisers were new, and the design unfamiliar to the Kilrathi. Though to humanity, this would send up warning flares, it was not seen as an obvious threat to the Kilrathi. The fleet jumped in and began its approach on Trk’Pahn. Turner waited until his fleet was a mere ten million kilometers from Trk’Pahn and its orbiting asteroid before launching all Rapiers, Raptors and Scimitars, keeping on the Hornets in reserve. The Rapiers gained space superiority around the shipyard, allowing the cruisers to move in and attack. The five cruisers unleashed two volleys of anti-ship missiles, more than enough for the job. Though the asteroid and parts of the superstructure were left intact, the shipyard was in ruins, along with three partially completed destroyers and the hull of a Fralthra.
The Raptors and Scimitars entered the atmosphere of the planet and commenced bombing runs on the fighter plant and tank facilities. The fusion bombs were set to 50 kT and leveled the factories, as well as a good portion of the cities around them. The fighters returned to their ships, rearmed and were launched a second time. They did not return to the planet, but instead eliminated targets of opportunity in orbit of Trk’Pahn, as well as destroying Kilrathi fighters launched from the orbiting station, while the strike force began to move out of the system.
When the fighters were retrieved from their second mission, and after the strike cruisers bombarded the planet on the way out, Turner ordered his fleet towards the Draga jump point at maximum cruising speed. There was some discontent among the Varni serving in the strike force. They wished to land on Trk’Pahn, or at least board the station, and free any of their people who were no doubt held in bondage on the planet. Thoughts of returning to their homeworld were minimal, since its population were long since victims of sacrificial rites.
In the Draga System, Turner’s force did encounter three Kilrathi cruisers hunting for them, as well as fighters from installations in the system. The race across the system was a week long running battle until reaching the jump point for the frontier worlds of the Maginot System. All of his ships returned, though all were damaged to some extent. He lost a total of 15% of his manpower during and following the battle, as well as 21% of his fighters. This was an expensive raid, that did much damage but failed to spark off an inter-Pride war, though the Trk’Pahn Pride lost much face in the eyes of the Eight. However, it did force the Kilrathi to redeploy its assets to areas they previously thought as secure.
Mandarins in TCN
Kilrathi losses had been lighter during the past two years because of a number of spies, some unwilling and even unknowing, within Confed. Many Terrans who escaped Kilrathi clutches were plants. The Kilrathi use a type of personality implant on some of their victims, then release them. With but a code word that could be passed along by a Mandarin, the implanted personality can take over from time to time, sending information along to the Kilrathi. After the deed is done, the natural personality returns, having no memory of the crime. One such plant made an attempt on the life of Admiral van Oranje in May of 2649, but was killed by guards before more can learned. The Admiral escaped with tissue damage to his shoulder.
Some of the Kilrathi’s agents were willing. The Mandarins believed the Kilrathi could be brought down only from within their own society. To resist them would cause countless billions to die. The fact that Earth would be sacrificed to Sivar in the event of Kilrathi victory did not mean much to them. The homeworld was only a medium populated planet with little industrial value on its surface. Some just hated Confed and Earth for meddling in their affairs.
Sabotage was also becoming a problem. Confed Intel routinely sweeps their ships for plants or Mandarins. The later were easy enough to catch but the former had commands implanted in their head, ordering them to kill themselves rather than fall into enemy hands. In the civilian sector, sabotage took its toll in 2649, slowing down the production of fighters and one event at the Trojan Four yards (at the Jupiter-Sol L4 point), caused a set back in Confed’s new fast carrier prototype, that was slated to be deployed by the end of the year. The damage was repaired, but its launch was delayed until next year. Mandarins also launched propaganda attacks across the Sol Sector, with many The End is Near broadcasts. Kilrathi Prides defecting was taken for granted, but the thought of Terrans defecting– which was once considered laughable– now concerned the Confederation government as well as its armed forces.
Short of Breath
By December of 2649, both sides of the war were wearing down in the Vega Sector. Both sides found themselves overextended, and the Kilrathi began to pull back to fortify more crucial systems, such as Venice, Cairo and Munro. Kilrathi fleets were made smaller, faster and able to ride out the war of attrition. Instead of a definitive line, the front became blurred with small task forces operating on either side of the official line.