Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Since 1975, drivers from around the world gather to compete in a global race that is one of the three international events, behind both the Olympics and the World Cup. Racing is not a new phenomenon; in fact the first automobile race was started in France in 1911; the Grand Prix. In European Monarchies, racing has been considered a gentleman’s sport, with the nobility largely competing in races while the rest of the populous watched. In European Republics, that have no peerage, it is largely the domain of the wealthy. In the United States, any able driver who can find a sponsor can race. The National Stock Car Association of Racers, with roots going back to the Confederacy and alcohol smuggling between the wars, is looked down upon by European racers do to its heavy reliance on sponsors and commericialization.
Those who race in the Automotive Cup are decided by various means and are mostly limited by rules demanding racers use cars from their own countries. In most European nations, the racers are selected by parliaments from their own members. In France, they are elected by the National Assembly, and usually are the winners of the previous year’s Grand Prix. The Greek government owns its own racer (Greece has been granted exemption from the national-only cars, since Greece produces no high-speed automobiles, but rather the state produced Greeco), and usually employs the winner of the Greek Army’s own racing events. The United States decides its competetior by whoever wins that year’s Stars and Stripes 500 (held in Dayton, Ohio). Since commercial sponsors are prohibited from advertising on the cars (which are traditionally painted in their nation’s colors), American racers who are not independently wealthy rely upon private sponsors and donations.
The races are not the classic ovals, but rather closed courses with many bends and turns, designed to test the skill of the drivers. The Cup is held in a different country, where a new race track is design and built.
Year: Host: Winner:
1975: Germany: France
1979: Sweden: Italy
1983: Brazil: Italy
1987: United States: United Kingdom
1991: Arab Republic: Sweden
1995: Germany: Italy
1999: Italy: Germany
2003: France: United States
2007: Poland-Lith: United Provinces
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The final year of the Kilrathi War.
Following the disaster at Earth, both sides reassessed their situations. For the Emperor, the Kilrah Pride was bankrupt, expending so much in rushing the Hari Project, and at the loss of a good portion of that investment. Worse yet, the Emperor is diagnosed with cancer. Kilrathi medical science has always been lacking, and he has been given less than a (Terran) year to live. The Emperor has reigned over the Empire for 36 years, longer than virtually all Kilrathi had been alive. He was well over sixty, and ancient age for the short-lived Kilrathi. Not only are many planetary Prides clamoring for victory, but the Emperor wishes to face Sivar and the other gods, only after leading his people to victory.
Confed’s situation was dire. The Terran Confederation Navy was effectively broken, even with a pair of new battleships and a single super carrier of their own coming on line. They were still outnumber two-to-one in carriers, and lacked the ability to defend the frontier. If the Kilrathi came from several vectors at once, they would win. It was that simple. Even if they came as a single thrust, which was expected sometime during the year, Confed was still unlikely to keep back the Kilrathi. Times were so desperate, older ships were forced into frontline service, including the surviving Concordia-class carriers (light carriers by the 2660s standards). Anything with guns was pressed into service.
Over the past decade, Confed Intel and R&D have developed several covert projects, all of them doomsday devices. The most prominent was headed by Tolwyn; the Behemoth project. Behemoth was to rushed into service as fast as possible. Various parts of the ship would remain unfinished as all effort went into make engines, shields, and the main weapon operational. Even after the terror of thirty-five years, some in the meeting of January 7, were reluctant to release such a weapon upon the galaxy. But, hope for a conventional victory against the Kilrathi was all but gone. As Tolwyn said at the end of the meeting, "The war is drawing to a close. In six months, either Earth or Kilrah will be in ruins." With that, Project Behemoth was put into action.
The Kilrathi struck at several worlds during the next few months, pasting each with the Life-Eater virus. The first on their list was Locanda IV. The planet had been occupied by the Kilrathi before, but was no longer seen as useful. Instead of simply abandoning the planet, they would exterminate its population before leaving the system. Despite efforts by the Victory task force, the Kilrathi succeeded in bombing the planet. Afterwards, they struck at worlds in the Delius System and at the Epsilon System. Millions were killed on each planet, and the whole systems were quarantined by Confed.
The Behemoth Project
The TCS Behemoth was the largest warship Confed ever produced. It was two kilometers in length, and most of that comprised of amplifiers. Behemoth took the PTC design to an extreme, and with the amplifiers, built up a beam from the most powerful PTC to well over 500,000,000 gigawatts. Not only would this vaporize any ship it hit, but it would easily punch through the crust of a planet, and likely the mantle as well. Kilrah was a very unstable world in the geological sense, and the fly-by with tractor beams in 2667, only made it worse. If the Behemoth could fire at Kilrah, and burn down to its core, it was calculated that the planet would tear itself apart, and possibly explode.
Behemoth was a planet-killer, there was no two ways about it. The ship was rushed into service, with several shield generators that were designed to overlap. The shields were powerful, new multi-phase shielding, and could hold off Kilrathi attacks long enough to get its one shot off at Kilrah. After that, what happened to the ship did not matter. The shielding was not perfect, as there were gaps in the shielding. To test the biggest gun in the universe, the Behemoth was escorted to the Loki System, not far from Kilrah. Loki VI was an unstable world, similar in some geologic respects to Kilrah, and was also home to a Kilrathi garrison. The escort ships and fighters, including the carrier Victory, cleared a part for Behemoth which successfully destroyed the Kilrathi garrison, and punched clean through the planet’s crust. The gun was so powerful, it destroyed the planet.
Tragedy struck as the Behemoth was moving into Hyperion System, and preparing for the jump to Kilrah. A large Kilrathi battle group intercepted the Behemoth and its smaller ships. Due to more Kilrathi sleeper agents, the location of the weapon’s weak spots were located and exploited. Behemoth was destroyed before it could even reach Kilrah. The destruction of the ship was a deathblow to Confed morale, and Admirals made ready for a final battle, believing the end was nigh.
The Kilrathi Armada
With the completion of the Hvar’kann, and the Emperor’s impending death, Thrakhath ordered that the Council of Eight (now seven following purges that greatly weakened the Ki’ra Pride) send their own fleets to assemble in order of Kilrah. Centered around the lone dreadnaught were twelve Kilrathi carriers, thirty cruisers, and on the surface of the planet, ten million Kilrathi soldiers assembled for the final battle. Thrakhath would conquer Earth and offer it to Sivar.
Behemoth was not the only secret weapon in Confed’s arsenal. One of the craziest ideas cooked up was a tectonic resonant frequency weapon, code-named the Temblor Bomb. The device could not bust a planet, but Confed Intel gathered enough information about Kilrah, especially from cloaked probes in the system, to pinpoint a location on the planet were several faults converge. Over the past five years, a Doctor Severin worked out the math and designed a weapon that would hit the planet’s resonant frequency at that very spot. He was unsure if Kilrah would explode, but the shifting of the planet’s plates would level everything on the surface.
His bomb was ready in 2669, after Severin was freed from Kilrathi captivity in the Alcor System. The bomb was small enough to be carried by a single fighter. Confed planned to deploy a squadron of Excaliburs, the newest Confed fighter and the only one to deploy Confed’s first cloaking device. Admiral Turner’s plan was to deploy the last of Confed’s naval forces in the Munro System, in a desperate attempt to finally drive the Kilrathi out. While the battle raged, the cloaked fighters would slip into the Kilrah System in a roundabout route. If all went according to plan, the fighters would deliver the T-bomb and destroy the Kilrah Pride, thus destabilizing the whole Empire.
Leading the squadron off of Victory, which jumped into the Freya System to get the fighters as close to Kilrah as possible, was one Captain Blair, known for his actions on board Tiger’s Claw and Concordia, and known to the Kilrathi as the Heart of the Tiger. The Excaliburs reached Kilrah undetected, and discovered the giant armada in orbit of the planet. There was little they could do against that firepower, but Blair knew a failure here would spell the end of Confed.
The fighters dove into the atmosphere, and were detected as they decloaked to make their attack run. Kilrathi fighters were upon them in an instant, lead by the Crown Prince himself. In a dogfight over the skies of Kilrah, Blair shot down and killed Thrakhath in single combat. The epic battle brought the other Kilrathi to a halt, as they tried to figure out a way to defeat a pilot so mighty as to slay their own Crown Prince. That delay was enough to allow Blair to deliver the T-bomb precisely on target. As he pulled out the atmosphere, the T-bomb’s resonance set off a chain reaction inside of Kilrah. The earthquakes were so strong, that the plates were forced apart in areas, and the mantle exposed. The pressure was explosively equalized as Kilrah blew itself apart.
In orbit around the crumbling planet, the Kilrathi Armada was caught by kilometers-size chunks of crust and mantle being flung outwards. Not only did the T-bomb destroy the Kilrathi homeworld, but it resulted in the virtual annihilation of the Kilrathi Navy, as well as most males of the Eight, and the entire Kilrah Pride. Blair was picked up by a surviving cruiser, commanded by Thrakhath’s former retainer. The Kilrathi viewed Blair’s success as divine retribution, at Sivar’s displeasure in the Kilrathi. Blair was seen as the warrior who single-handedly brought down the Kilrah Pride as well as the Empire. His life was spared out of respect for his might, and the retainer Melik, personally surrendered to him.
The Treaty of Torgo
Kilrathi survivors that rallied around Melik met with Confed Supreme Commanders and Joint Chiefs in the Torgo System for the signing of the instruments of surrender, and peace treaty. For the first time in thirty-five years, humanity had known peace. Unlike the false peace, the Kilrathi navy was simply gone. Even before the meeting, planetary Prides across Kilrah turned on each other as the stronger vied for the throne of their lost homeworld. The Kilrathi were already on the road to civil war that the removal of their most powerful oppressors had unleashed.
The military points of the treaty, such as withdrawal from Confed space and decommissioning of their fleets did not move according to Confed’s designs. Kilrathi warriors were already moving back into the Empire on their own, seeking to do battle with their own kind. The same was true with the surviving ships, which sided with various Prides. The treaty also stipulated the end of slavery and freeing of slaves. Not just Terrans, but all slaves under the Kilrathi heel. The Empire would not be occupied, nor would Confed impose its will upon them. Many admirals and generals believed the Kilrathi would eventually destroy themselves
The raid on Kilrah in 2667, was followed by several other raids against other shipyards across the Empire. More were destroyed, along with the ships under construction. Fighter plants were also targeted, as well as anti-matter production facilities and even ground vehicle assembly plants. The Kilrathi killed three of the escort carriers, but by the start of the year, Confed had seventeen more deployed. It was far easier to target and destroy a couple of strike carriers instead of a couple dozen escort carriers. Cost for cost, Confed throwing away an escort carrier was more than worth the exchange of a Kilrathi shipyard or assembly plant.
A worse blow came from the constant attacks on convoys throughout the Empire. The escort carriers would jump in, destroy the convoys and move on before the Kilrathi Navy could respond. The fact that the CVEs were small enough to slip through narrow jump points made their attacks that much more unpredictable. The Kilrathi had to pull front line warships back to protect convoys, and even this was not a guarantee against the Wakes. Losses in shipping were so high in the first months of 2668, that the Kilrathi lines in the Epsilon Sector were in danger of collapsing due to lack of supplies.
Once again, the war was swinging in favor of Confed. The disaster at Vukar Tag did not help the Kilrah Pride in the least bit. Though they were still in control of the Empire, another Vukar Tag might tip the balance of power enough to rectify that. Confed attacks were also threatening the Hari Project. On the opposite side of the Empire from Confed, the Kilrah Pride had a second shipyard. In it, were nine Hakaga-class carriers, each carrier with six reinforced flight decks. The ships themselves were 1.6 kilometers in length. Even these were dwarfed by the Hvar’kann Project, a dreadnaught of ridiculous proportions (22 kilometers) and enough firepower to destroy an entire fleet. This one ship, under construction for two years, would not be completed before 2669 even if accelerated. Thrakhath would not be denied a chance to use his personal flagship. Five Hakagas could within a couple of months, with the rest on-line by the end of the year, again if the project was accelerated and corners cut.
None of this was possible if the supply lines were cut, or worse yet, Confed Intel discovered the shipyards in the Hari System, and struck before they were completed. A way was needed to keep Confed off their backs long enough to commission five of those carriers at the very least, ideally all of them and the dreadnaught. However, the Kilrah Pride was quickly losing support and the Emperor feared a coup if the war drug on much longer. Thus entered Jukaga nar Ki’ra, King of the Ki’ra Pride. With his Pride’s long standing study of the Terrans behind him, he formulated a plan that was promised to work.
June 11, 2668 A.L., The Kilrathi sent an armistice proposal to Confed. Many politicians in Congress leapt for it, seeing peace finally around the corner. The armistice called for immediately cession of hostilities as well as demobilization along the frontier. Congressmen from the Vega and Enigma Sectors opposed the armistice, suspecting a trap. They had first hand account of Kilrathi tenacity. They might fall back, but they do not give up. Suing for peace was totally out of character. When the vote was held, there was still an overwhelming majority in favor, and the armistice was accepted only days after receiving it.
Kilrathi living within the Confederation were appalled at how fast Confed’s government accepted the peace, and warned that any respect Terrans had earned in the Kilrathi’s eyes after decades of resistance was all but destroyed by this move. Counter-arguments from pro-peace factions in Confed stated that the Kilrathi were losing their ability to wage war and decided to get out while they were still in a position of strength to hold their own Empire together.
Banbridge was against the armistice, knowing that if Confed pressed the war for even one more year, they could have broken the Kilrathi. Now, the Kilrathi would pull back into their borders and rebuild. Banbridge was determined to do the same. He issued the order to the fleet to cease hostilities, as well as demobilize. However, he took the old Concordias completely out of service, and demobilized several carriers and battleships that were in desperate need of an overhaul. The Kilrathi did a similar thing, decommissioning all of their obsolete ships– for the time being.
Reception of the cession orders were sporadic. In the Munro System, Tolwyn was leading an attack on Munro III, planning to finally clear a path to conquering the planet. Both sides of the conflict received the orders, and the Kilrathi carrier in orbit of Munro III obeyed, even lowering its shields. Whether it was a communication error, or the temptation of an unprotected Kilrathi carrier was too great, but the carrier was destroyed by bombers off Concordia and Tarawa (only recently put back into action). An unshielded Kilrathi carrier could be killed by a lone bomber with no losses to Confed, where as a defended one would cost many fighters and pilots. Tolwyn was brought before a court’s marshal and found guilty of disobeying orders. He was removed from command, but not cashiered. Instead, Banbridge put him in charge of a covert operation deep into Kilrathi space, to learn just what they were up to.
Public reaction to the armistice was explosive. A majority of the population never knew a time before the war, and could not believe it was over. POWs were released by both sides. The Terrans came home by the shuttle loads, and were quickly debriefed by Confed Intel, as well as analyzed by them. Kilrathi personalty plant technics were known, and many of the former POWs were believed to have been brainwashed. Kilrathi POWs were not so eager to return home. They were captured in battle and had no future. Even if they won a Pride from other males, the Pride females would not accept a King who once was prisoner. Some refused to return to Kilrathi space, knowing what was in store for them during their debriefing. The issue of Terran slaves held by the Kilrathi was not resolved, and would not be until the peace conference planned later that year.
The euphoria of the civilians with the Sol Sector was met with hostility to those on the frontier. Those who once lived under the Kilrathi wanted the Kilrathi destroyed, and knew they would not co-exist with any species. The Landreich flat out rejected the armistice. It did not demobilize, in fact it approached Confed in attempts to purchase older ships that were decommissioned. A flood of aging Ferrets and Sabers entered the Landreich, as the older fighters were replaced by newer ones.
Confed also had to figure out what to do with the hundreds of million of soldiers that would be returning to private life. Not to mention retooling the Confederation’s entire industry for civilian use. On a plus side, so much money was saved due to lack of consumer goods, that Confed hoped for an economic boom to offset the release of so many unemployed soldiers.
The Hari Project
With the use of an ultra-secret communication device (so secret that its developers had their own deaths faked in order to cover it up), a small fleet of four escort carriers, Tarawa, Normandy, Round Hammer and Overlord, sat at a far edge of the Kilrathi Empire. They traversed the far frontier of the Empire, starting in the Landreich, and slowly came into range of the Hari System. The Hari were an old enemy of the Kilrathi, and before the Terrans, offered the most resistance to the Kilrathi. It took them two years to conquer the Hari, and that was only due to the size of their territory. Smaller, jump capable ships (such as modified Sabers) jumped further into Kilrathi space. Communications of the Kilrathi were intercepted and easily decoded by the new machine.
The Hakaga-class carriers were uncovered in great detail, making all in the fleet who learned of their capabilities sick. This was the reason for the false peace, so the Kilrathi could complete the ships unmolested. A dreadnaught was uncovered, but the Kilrathi transmitted little about that, except it would be some time before it could be completed and it would not be participating in the final battle. Another bit of Intel was received, all of it was decoded except one Kilrathi word. Kilrathi Intel officers serving in the fleet were summoned to translate it. It was but two words: Life-Eater.
The Life-Eater virus was learned to be a new biological weapon. It was fast spreading and quick killing. How it worked was not well known, except that it destroyed all cells with Earth primate DNA. If enough were released high in the atmosphere of a planet, then the whole human population would likely be dead in the space of a couple of weeks. The Life-Eater was ready and was being installed on a Kilrathi cruiser (later revealed to be the flagship of Jukaga). With this information, the Intel Fleet jumped back towards Landreich and Confederation Space as fast as they could, sending jump capable fighters ahead of them.
Cease Fire Broken
In October of 2668, the Kilrathi ambassador (a rare creature if there ever was one) met with several high ranking Confed officers and the Joint Chiefs, including Banbridge (who is the head of the JC), on Earth. The point of the meeting was to discuss the repatriation of slaves from the Epsilon Sector. However, the ambassador was one of the many brain-washed individuals the Kilrathi had spread across space. Not only did they do this to aliens, but to their own people as well. Along with brain-washing, the ambassador had a devices with a few milligrams of anti-matter stored in his chest. Shortly into the meeting, the bomb detonated, killing most of those attending, including Banbridge. General Grecko was the highest ranking survivor, and now head of the JC. With Confed’s military leader ship crippled, Thrakhath made his move.
The Kilrathi armada, with five of the Hakagas and more than a thousand fighters, was first spotted in the Eddings System. The local militia were swept aside and Eddings Station destroyed before the Kilrathi jumped into Weslyn. The Weslyn System fared worse. Weslyn Station was destroyed, along with all fighters launched from it and from the planets in the system. One of the planets was targeted with Life-Eater, which resulted in the death of tens of millions of Terrans.
Confed could not mount a defense again the invasion until the Sirius System, deep inside Sol Sector. Tolwyn was reinstated (due to lack of senior officers) and given back Concordia, as well as four other carriers. November was a black month for Confed. Two of Tolwyn’s carriers were destroyed, Waterloo and Austerlitz along with several other smaller ships. One old Snakier was knocked off the Kilrathi fleet, but that was barely noticed. Tolwyn had little choice but to jump back to Sol System, where ships were being mobilized as fast as possible. This was a great sacrifice, for without the fleet, Sirius Prime was wide open.
A partially terraformed planet, Sirius Prime was larger than Earth and home to twice as many Terrans. Sirius militia fought a fierce battle, with some pilots choosing to ram the Kilrathi ships rather than be shot down. They did little damage, but orbit fortress’s sensors detected weaknesses in the Kilrathi shielding. It was not the defensive shields, but rather the force fields that held in atmosphere inside the flight decks. The information was transmitted back to Sol, before the fortresses were destroyed. With the last resistance gone, the Kilrathi unleashed Life-Eater upon Sirius Prime, killing all of its inhabitants.
Battle of Earth
The Kilrathi fleet jumped into the Sol System in December of 2668. Sol had a formidable defensive wall, but the Kilrathi bypassed Jupiter and a partially-terraformed Mars, and headed for Earth. Confed launched all of its ships, including unprepared Concordias. The Viking had only a couple of squadron of fighters, and was easily destroyed, along with the TCS Mackinac. The Kilrathi divided their attack force, with one wing headed for the shipyards of Mercury, another for facilities on Luna, and the largest straight in for Earth.
Facilities on Mercury and in orbit were all but destroyed. The TCS Arc Royal was still on the planet’s surface when it was destroyed. The battleship Emperor of India attempted to hold off the attack on Mercury, but was broken by a swarm of fighters. Ancient cities on Luna, the oldest off-Earth settlements of humanity, were wiped clean of the moon’s surface. The Kilrathi showed no interest in taking the facilities, but only in finally destroying humanity.
In a desperate gamble, Grecko used the information from Sirius to formulate a plan to board the monster carriers. They might not be able to destroy them from without, but a fusion warhead would do the job from within. To cover his shuttles, he ordered thousands of fighters, bombers, corvettes, transports, anything that can fly, into service. There job was to draw off fire while the shuttles breached the defenses. Drawing fire was a suicide mission, but all involved knew Earth was doomed if they did nothing, so they were dead either way.
Not all Kilrathi bombers went after ships. A handful of them made attack runs on Earth, with anti-ship missiles. Earth Station was destroyed, as was Luna Station. Bombers hit Forts Arnold, Carson and Braxton, destroying them all. Remaining fighters targeted the planet itself. The annihilation warheads they carried would be more than enough to destroy cities. Of all the missiles launched, twelve broke through, destroying Confed HQ in Damascus, the Capital in New Delhi, Earth’s academy in Recife, as well as Chicago, Kiev and a dozen other cities. These fighters returned to their carriers to rearm.
Grecko and his Marines managed to pass through the force fields and land inside the Hakagas. Three of the five super carriers were boarded (one carrier fought off the attempt, and the fifth was at Mercury). Grecko knew the mission was one way, but Marines on all three ships fought deep into the carriers before setting of their fusion warheads. Three of the Hakagas expanded like balloons before shattering completely. Unfortunately, Thrakhath had launched in one of his Bloodfangs before his carrier was destroyed. With three of their five super carriers destroyed, the Kilrathi assault began to lose steam.
Tolwyn managed a counter-attack against the fourth ship. Though it was not destroyed, its escorts were, along with a lighter carrier. The Tarawa task force jumped into the system on the last day of the battle, and dove straight into the Kilrathi fleet. Jukaga’s cruiser neared Earth, as it has Sirius Prime, preparing to fire. Nobody is exactly sure what happened, if the cruiser hesitated due to technical problems, its captain concerned of leaving his own flank exposed during the attack run, or even if Jukaga had a change of heart. The important thing is that his cruiser did hesitate, long enough for fighters from the four escort carriers to catch up with it and destroy it.
With the damage done, to both Confed and his own fleet, Thrakhath order his fleet to fall back for the time being. Confederation power was broken, and the Crown Prince decided to prepare a second and final attack on Earth, but only after his new flagship was finished. The losses to industry and military facilities in the Sol System, as well as over two billion dead during the whole attack (most on Sirius Prime, but a hundred million on Earth), he considered the attack on Kilrah avenged. He planned to return the following year, this time to end the war.
One Last Casualty
The Kilrathi fleet did not retreat in good order. The Hakaga that attacked Mercury escaped with its escorts into the Enigma Sector, while the rest of the fleet made a straight line back to the Empire. Concordia was ordered to pursue. Tolwyn was reassigned to Jupiter Station, the new Confed HQ, to organize some sort of recovery effort in the Sol System, as well as to bring more ships on line. At another shipyard in the Sol Sector, the first of the Dreadnaught-class battleships was being rushed into service, along with the carrier Maui Strait. Tolwyn did not believe these would be enough to offset the destruction to Confed, and for the time being, the balance had tipped decisively into the Kilrathi’s favor.
Concordia caught up with the Kilrathi super carrier in the Vespus System. The Hakaga carried on it a flight of Strakhas which it deployed to trap Concordia. After the Kilrathi carrier made a close fly-by of Vespus III, Concordia pursued. It was when it was closest to the planet that the Strakha decloaked and struck. Destroying the Concordia’s engines, the ship was unable to alter its course. Concordia plunged into the planet’s atmosphere, crashing off the Vestal Coast and killing all on board.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
In a last ditch offensive in the Enigma Sector, the Kilrathi made a swift strike once again into the Pembroke Station. The goal was not to split Enigma and Vega Sectors, but rather to bypass both and strike into the Sol Sector. The Kilrathi fleet arrived a day before Confed, and was able to strike at Pembroke Station. The Station suffered heavy damage, as well as losses in fighters from the five Kilrathi carriers, but was still fighting when Tolwyn jumped in from his mopping up missions further out in the sector.
With rebellions within the territory, the Kilrathi did not have the ground forces to take any of the planets. Instead, the fleet had hoped to breakthrough into Sol Sector and tear the place apart. This failed when the Kilrathi were unable to capture Pembroke Station. Tolwyn’s four carriers met the five Kilrathi carriers on the third day of the battle. The Kilrathi managed to deflect the bomber strikes on their ships without losing a single ship, though they suffered heavy damage. The biggest threat to Confed was when Mandarins on board Pembroke Station attempted to hijack Morningstars based there and defect to the Kilrathi. The entire fighter compliment of the Concordia was diverted to destroy the Morningstars, and succeeded with hours to spare.
Taking part in the battle was the Kilrathi Crown Prince himself, flying his Bloodfang, a limited production heavy fighter, built only for the Emperor, Crown Prince and immediate royal cousins. Thrakhath was forced to eject from his own fighter while personally leading the attack against the Confed fleet. His incapacitation caused the centralized Kilrathi to lose steam. He was retrieved by his escorts and tractored back to his carrier, the whole time swearing vengeance against the pilot who shot him down, the same pilot who was part of the final raid against Mang Station, and was one of Confed’s ranking aces. Thrakhath knew not his name, but would find out. Until then, the Confed pilot was known as the Heart of the Tiger.
With the Kilrathi attempt to breakthrough at Pembroke thwarted, the Kilrathi were finally ejected completely from the Enigma Sector. Rebellions with the Epsilon Sector blocked any further advances into Enigma. The victorious campaign was a major morale boost, but it came at a high price. Over ten years of fighting, Confed lost half of its capital ships. Confed was left with 13 front line carriers (and six secondary ships, as well as 13 escort carriers by the end of the campaign) while the Kilrathi had twenty fleet carriers (at least five of those were gold-plated carriers of the Kilrah Pride’s fleet). Confed still outmatched the Kilrathi in battleships, but Kilrathi cruisers were starting to outnumber both Confed BB and C.
Despite the victory in the Enigma Sector, Confed HQ believed that they could not survive another full scale invasion of either Enigma or Vega Sector. While the Kilrathi forces were focused on the Enigma Sector, Vega had been relatively quiet. Now that the Kilrathi were back in their own space, Confed expected that to turn. Banbridge worried not about all twenty of the Kilrathi’s carriers, but only five of them. The Imperial Guard, the personal fleet of the Kilrah Pride, was what kept the Emperor in power. Despite being comprised of the best spacers and pilots, the fleet seldom left Kilrah. What Banbridge sought was a means to draw out the Emperor’s personal guard into open battle and destroy them, along with the Kilrah Pride’s hold on power.
The first part of Banbridge’s plan called for Confed to attack and take a planet several jumps behind the Kilrathi front lines. The planet had no strategic value, nor much of an industrial base. It could not be turned into a forward base or staging ground. In fact, it could not be held for very long. However, the world of Vukar Tag was the ancestral birthplace of the Kilrah Pride kings, with the first of the Emperor’s male blood line being born there. It was also home to training grounds for the Kilrathi Army, as well as facilities orbiting the planet to handle the Kilrathi fleet during its exercises and training missions. It was out of the way, perfect for the Kilrathi to train, and to pray. On the planet was also one of the holiest sites in the Empire.
More over, when Tolwyn jumped into the system, the Matriarch of the Kilrah Pride was on the planet at the temple. The "Empress" as Confed Intel dubbed her, was rushed off the planet back to Kilrah, with a number of Kilrathi pilots taking a missile to protect the transport. Confed’s attack was enough to make the Kilrathi believe they were seriously making an attempt on the life of the Emperor’s favorite female. Along with Concordia, Congress and Austerlitz, an escort carrier, the TCS Tarawa took part in the attack on the planet, after escorting Marines to the system. Barracks were hit with fusion bombs, and the orbital facilities were captured by Marines. The success in the attack came from total surprise, the Kilrathi never expecting an attack so deep within their territory.
The shrines, palaces and the Temple of Sivar were captured in tact by General Duke Grecko, a veteran who fought through most of the war. These were left untouched by explosives, but Terran desecration of these holy sites was documented and transmitted in the clear. When the Emperor received the reports of what had happened, he would have little choice but to respond personally to the insult with his own private fleet. To do otherwise would show weakness, which would invite a challenge from any of the Eight. The stage was set for Operation: Backlash.
Backlash was a two-part plan. The first part involved Vukar Tag. Capturing the planet was the easy part. Now Confed had to hold it against the inevitable Kilrathi attack. The Emperor was expected to command the fleet personally, and would no doubt bring in his best soldiers to take back the sites on the planet. Banbridge counted on this. For part one of Backlash, Confed was going to spring a little trap for the Kilrathi. Three more carriers would be joining Tolwyn, one bringing Banbridge to personally command the battle, the Wolfhound, Gettysburg and Trafalgar. These seven carriers, as well as seventy other warships would be waiting in high polar orbit of the system’s star, striking only when the Kilrathi were committed with attacking the Marines on the planet. Banbridge was uncertain as to how many other carriers would be joining the Kilrah Pride’s fleet, but hoped to destroy all of them.
Part two of Backlash involved the Tarawa and one of the aspects of the escort carrier’s design mission. They were also designed for quick and potentially suicide missions. Thanks to recent defectors from Kilrah itself, Confed gained vital intelligence on the Kilrathi’s central shipyard, orbiting Kilrah. Destroying the Imperial Guard was not enough for Operation: Backlash; Banbridge wanted that shipyard as well. Tarawa, as well as the destroyer Intrepid and corvette Kagashima would use a narrow gauge jump point to slip into the Kilrah System, land Marines at the shipyard, plant annihilation warheads inside of it, and blow it to pieces. Banbridge estimated the chance of Tarawa and its company escaping as nil, but the chance to break the Kilrah Pride was too great to pass up.
Banbridge’s hope for an ambush were perfect. The Kilrathi jumped into the system with ten carriers, half their estimate number, and dove straight at Vukar Tag. Their attempts to retake orbital facilities cost them thousands of crack soldiers, as no installation was defended by Terrans, and each was rigged to explode. This enraged the Kilrathi, blinding them to the danger rapidly approaching from above the system’s ecliptic plane. Confed struck as the Kilrathi fighters and bombers were inside the atmosphere, escorting and covering four legions of Imperial Guard soldiers as they landed.
Without fighter cover, the Kilrathi carriers were vulnerable to attack, a weakness that Banbridge wasted no time in exploiting. Confed’s first strike was decisive. Of the ten carriers, four were destroyed outright while trapped in orbit, with sixteen other Kilrathi warships suffering the same fate. When the Kilrathi fighters were ordered back to space, they had to fight gravity while Confed fighters picked them off with IR missiles. Hundreds of Kilrathi pilots, their best pilots, were killed trying to escape the atmosphere and face Confed in space.
A fifth Kilrathi carrier was destroyed by a second strike, which also took out four cruisers. Kilrathi attempts to strike back at Banbridge were fierce, but their numbers were too weakened by the ambush to make an effective weapon. The carrier Trafalgar was destroyed in the attack, and the Gettysburg was so badly damaged that it would spend nearly a year in dock, but a trade of one carrier for five carriers, and three of those the gold-plated Kilrah Pride prizes. A fourth Imperial Guard carrier escaped, and the predicted fifth one was nowhere in sight.
On Vukar Tag itself, Grecko’s Marines were dug in deep enough that not even the four legions of Imperial Guards, commanded by Imperial Cousins Rusmak and Gar commanded two of the legions. After two hours of fighting on the planet’s surface, and a number of fusion warheads bursting over their heads, the dug-in Confederation Marines suffered heavy losses, but the Kilrathi Legions were killed to the last warrior. The Emperor survived the attacks on the carriers, and was preparing another strike against the Terran fleet when news of a disaster at Kilrah reached him, forcing him to retreat back to the homeworld with his fleet battered and ruined.
Tarawa slipped into the Kilrah System through a seldom used jump point, and precisely where the Kilrathi were not looking. By the time the Kilrathi had noticed them, the carrier was already within striking range of the Kilrathi shipyards. The shipyard was built into an asteroid parked in orbit of Kilrah. Humanity’s first glimpse upon the enemy homeworld failed to impress. It was an arid world, without the large areas of blue, green and white that Earth possessed. Tarawa also learned that Banbridge had failed to lure all the Imperial Guard out of the system. Thrakhath was in command of the fifth Kilrah Pride carrier, and was hurling towards the fleet from his station on a jump point in the outer system.
The strike force had a short time to fight, and immediately launched all fighters and assault shuttled. The shuttled reached the shipyard, and Marines moved quickly to force their way in. The most distressing sight was that of six carriers in the shipyard, in various states of completion. If the Kilrathi launched these, they would offset any losses suffered in Vukar Tag, and would likely be in service before Confed could complete its own replacement carriers. Fighters circled the shipyard, fending off attacks from the surface of Kilrah while Marines moved their charges into place.
The workers at the shipyards, mostly Pride females, put up a fierce resistance. The Marines easily breeched the shipyard and reached its reactors due to surprise. Once the Kilrathi realized what was happening, they were determined not to allow the Marines to escape. The Marines would not surrender. Instead, they completed their mission, detonating the charges while fighting of Kilrathi workers. The explosion within the core of the shipyard was enough to fragment the asteroid and completely destroy the shipyard and its six carriers. A nearby cruiser yard was destroyed when debris from the carrier yard collided with it.
Tarawa attempted to escape, but was intercepted by Thrakhath and forced to take cover inside the atmosphere of a gas giant. When the Kilrathi in orbit were on the opposite side of the planet, the strike force leapt out at full cruising speed. Tarawa and its escorts headed directly at Kilrah at full speed, leading Thrakhath to believe they planned a suicide dive on Kilrathi as 5 PSL. The Kagashima was destroyed when it collided at full speed with a Kilrathi fighter, vaporing it and the Kilrathi. In order to draw off fire for their escape, Intrepid launched anti-ship missiles at Kilrah, causing many Kilrathi pilots to throw themselves at the missiles. One near Kilrah, both ships used their tractor beams on the planet, and slung themselves towards the nearest jump point, all without slowing down. The effect of ships traveling at over 5 PSL, using their tractor beam on the inherently unstable Kilrah, resulted in earthquakes across the planet as one plate was lifted millimeters out of place. Kilrah already suffered from frequent earthquakes, and little to no damage was caused by this one.
Tarawa escaped to the Baragh System, where the ship raided a Kilrathi relay station, stripping it of spare parts and supplies. Thrakhath was in full pursuit, nearly over taking the Tarawa. Intrepid was overtaken, and destroyed while it bought Tarawa time to escape. A second carrier jumped into the system. The Tarawa survivors were ecstatic to learn that the new ship was the Concordia using a Kilrathi transponder code. Concerned that Concordia might be the first of many ships in a follow-up attack on Kilrah, Thrakhath retreated to Kilrah to link up with survivors of Vukar Tag.
All in all, Vukar Tag was a disaster for the Kilrathi. The loss of the shipyards in orbit of Kilrah weakened the Kilrah Pride even more. The loss of the blood of the Eight caused outrage against the Emperor by the Council of Eight, where as other planetary Prides began to demand blood for the loss of the finest males those Prides ever produced. At the end of 2667, the Emperor and his Pride were in a fine mess, with a total of eleven carriers (finished and otherwise) destroyed in the space of a Terran week. To add insult to insult and injury, when the Kilrathi withdrew from Vukar Tag, so did Confed, but not before destroying every building on the planet they had captured.
Tarawa was in such a sorry shape that Banbridge wanted to simply scrap her. However, the President of the Confederation over rode his decision, demanding that for the sake of public morale, that the first ship to Kilrah be repaired and restored, ready to fight another day. Celebrations raged across the Confederation for nearly a month as the euphoria of striking the Kilrathi at their very heart slowly wore off.
Emperor of Romania
The first, and so far only, Tsar of unified Romania started his life on January 17, 1918, in the village of Scornicesti in the Wallachian Balkan Socialist Republic. Unlike many future leaders in the Balkans, Nicolae Ceausescu was born a peasant on the eve of the U.B.S.R.’s founding. Little is known about his early years, save for the official biography commissioned during his reign as Tsar. At the age of fourteen, he left his hometown and was relocated to work in the factories during the industrialization process along the Danube. Working conditions were tough, though nowhere near as difficult in the labor camps or those that Ceausescu would later impose upon his enemies.
During World War II, the official biography runs accounts that has Ceausescu leading his own resistance band against Nazi occupation and their Fascist puppet state of Rhomania. There is little evidence ever fired a shot against the Nazis, or was in the resistance. Gestapo documentation recovered after the war reports that Ceausescu was arrest and interned for his membership in the Wallachian Worker’s Party. It is said that much of what he inflicted upon his countrymen later in life, he learned first hand from his German captors.
Following the war, the Balkan Union tore itself apart in civil war, as the German occupation brought back ancient ethnic rivalries and vendettas. Ceausescu did participate in these wars, rising quickly through the ranks of the Wallachian People’s Army, obtaining the equivalent of Colonel by 1960. It was around this time he began to become deeply involved in the Worker’s Party, rising in rank as quickly here as in the army. By 1965, he was within the Party’s inner circle, and by 1967, he had enough support from Party men and the army to launch his own coup.
His enemies were dealt with quickly; some 20,000 alone were executed in his first year as General Secretary. Most of the 1970s were spent in reforming Wallachia, and streamlining the previously inefficient councils. By 1978, Ceausescu had turned the country into a one-man dictatorship. His Romanian National Front soon eclipsed the decaying Worker’s Party as the new face of the state. During his first decade in power, he encouraged a cult of personality around him, elevating him to the Communist pantheon, along side Marx and Karadordevic. His influence expanded well beyond his own borders, into the third incarnation of the Balkan Union, as well as Moldova, Transylvania and Bulgaria.
On January 7, 1980, juntas organized by Ceausescu and his foreign supporters took control simultaneously in Moldova and Transylvania. One of the RNF’s long standing goals were the unification of the Romanian people under one ruler, that being Ceausescu himself. On May 8, the three Romanian states, one independent and the other two with puppet regimes, signed a treaty of unification, establishing Romania. A month later, Ceausescu crowned himself Tsar Nicolae of the Romanian Empire. His first act was to purge Transylvania of its Hungarian minority.
Bulgaria, not being Romanian, was reluctant to join this empire, though it had much support within the government in Sofia. It took the Valentine’s Day Invasion of 1981, with the Tsar in personal command, to make Sofia sign the treaty. Bulgaria was a short-term resident within the empire. The Bulgarian people proved most uncooperative to the Tsar’s plans, and the drain on the Romanian states continued until 1984, when Bulgaria was let go.
During the early 1980s, the Tsar worked thousands to death on constructing the Palace of the People in Bucharest. This palace still holds the record as the largest administrative building in the world, and is only outsized overall by a few aircraft assembly plants. The palace cost ten billion Dutch Guilders, three thousand lives and four years to complete. Several districts of Bucharest, including some dating back to Medieval time, were bulldozed to make room for the neo-classical monstrosity.
Life was not all good within the Palace. The heir designate, Nicu, took over reigns of the puppet parliament, and his sister Valentina was placed in charge of the Ministry of Industry and Technology. Both proved to be as ruthless as their father. In the case of Valentina, when the workers in a Sibiu Steel Mill went on strike, she ordered army units in the region to break the strike. Leaders of the union, as well as other Steel Unions, were put on trial as traitors to the Empire and executed between May and July of 1987. The only one of the Tsar’s children who was not cold-hearted and cruel, was Zoia, whose defection to the Italian Federation in 1988, hit the Tsar hard.
What brought down the Emperor was not the will of the people or outside invaders, but his own socialist planning– or at least his own concept of socialism. By 1989, the total debt collected during the Imperial Years nearly equaled the country’s annual income. Banks began to stop handing out loans, and a few demanded payment. Cuts were made across the board, with the Army being the only exception. During the summer of 1989, hard times hit the country as stores ran out of goods and queues wrapped around city blocks. Some citizens were forced to wait in line all day for their bread rations.
Popular uprisings spread like a wildfire across the country in the Fall of 1989. The Tsar became more and more erratic, and in October of that year, turned against his own army chiefs. He went as far as to accuse General Michael Romani of treason when he refused to fire upon crowds of hungry Romanians. When he attempted to have Romani arrested, the Army mutinied. Like Ceausescu before him, Romani had the support of the Army when he pulled off his own coupe.
The Tsar, his wife, and children still in Romania, were put on trial on October 8. The trial lasted for only two hours, and ended with the Imperial Family found guilty of crimes against the people. By the end of the day, the Tsar was taken out into the courtyard and shot. At the end, his iron will that he worked so hard to project broke down, as he offered the guards taking him to his execution two million guilders each if they helped him escape.
Friday, December 24, 2010
In 2665, the Naval Budget that should have been allocated to the newer, and giant Maui Strait-class carriers, with four reinforced flight decks was diverted to an escort carrier project. Instead of three giant carriers, it went into converting twenty freighters into escort carriers. They were smaller than even the old Concordias, and able to slip through the narrowest gage jump points that most ships have to avoid. The flight decks on the Wake-class escort carriers were small and could barely hold its forty-eight fighter compliment.
The carriers were fast, but lightly armored, and were not intended for a full on fight. Instead, they would free up heavier carriers for front line action. Since they were second-line ships, they were equipped with Ferrets, Rapiers and Sabers for combat missions, but could ferry any fighter to reinforce the compliments of the fleet carriers. Their speed and agility also left open the option for high risk raids. The Wakes were made cheap because they were declared expendable. The loss of a single escort carrier would cost Confed far less than the loss of a larger fleet carrier.
The decisions to shift focus on the Wakes and delay the Maui Straits caused an uproar among naval pilots as well as the admiralty. Banbridge, well over ninety years old, nearly had a stroke during his argument with the design bureau. A fleet carrier extra could tip the balance during a battle, while these glorified transports could not hope to stop a Kilrathi task force, much less a fleet. They did release heavier carriers for combat duty as early as April of 2666, which allowed them to take part in the strike on K’tithrak Mang.
With the Kilrathi in disarray, Confed struck at the heart of the Kilrathi power in the Enigma Sector, K’tithrak Mang. Tolwyn lead the attack from the Concordia and had to fight its way through the Racene, Rar’karahk and Bradbury Systems, clearing each of these outer systems of Kilrathi ships. Losses were heavy, including the destruction of the carrier Fredericksburg in the Racene System. Like with the Venice System, years before, the goal of Confed was simply to destroy Mang Station.
Upon entering the system, Tolwyn launched a full scale assault with fighters from all four of his remaining carriers. The first attack failed, with Confed losing some fifty of its fighters. The Kilrathi counterattack was not much more successful, with the Kilrathi losing some sixty-eight fighters. However, all Mang Station had to do was hold out until Kilrathi ships could reinforce it. Tolwyn was pressed for time, and had to destroy the station before a Kilrathi fleet equal his own could tip the balance in their favor.
The second strike fared slightly better, in that it did not lose as many ships. A Kilrathi task force jumped into the system during the second flight, striking at Tolwyn with only a lone carrier and two cruisers. It was enough to abort a third attack and turn the fighters against the new and more immediate threat. Defying orders, Sabers from the Concordia diverted from the Kilrathi ships and made their own run on Mang Station. The attack coincided with the bulk of Mang Station’s own fighters being away from the station, and aiding the three ships. The station’s point defenses had a single flaw in that they could not be turned directly above or below the vertical axis of the station. This opened a very narrow space, wide enough for fighters to come in one behind the other. This was enough, for all of the anti-ship missiles launched reached their target, and breached ammunition and fuel stores, gutting Mang Station.
With the Station destroyed, the Kilrathi ships attempted to make a break for it, scooping up as many of the Station’s fighters as possible. The carrier and a cruiser escaped, covered by the second and what fighters that could not be retrieved. Instead of dying peacefully in space, the Kilrathi fighters made one last run against Tolwyn, with several fighters colliding with Confed ships. Confed carriers escaped damage, but at the loss of six frigates, three destroyers and the cruiser Ceres.
Strangely absent from the attack on Mang Station was the TCS Gettysburg, which had flown several missions along side the Concordia. Instead, the Gettysburg was placed on patrol duty within the Epsilon Sector, doing all it could to thwart Kilrathi attempts to retake Ghorah Khar. On the rebellious worlds, not all the Prides were in favor of separation with the Empire. Those that were not, fought fiercely against the rebels, and those not killed were forced to flee the planet.
The Gettysburg encountered such ships during its patrol. The captain of the Gettysburg order a flight of Sabers launched to destroy the convoy. However, when it became clear that the convoy they were pursuing was full of refugees and not Kilrathi soldiers, the pilots refused to attack. More over, they refused to launch. When pilots from other squadrons were ordered to take over, they too refused. The captain ordered the pilots arrested, and sent Marines from the ship’s platoon to arrest them. The Marines were divided on the issue, but followed orders. When the pilots resisted, the Marines were not so eager to fight back against their own kind. They had no love for the Kilrathi, but enough of their humanity remained after decades of war to know the difference between the butchers in the Imperial Army and Pride females and cubs.
When the pilots decided to take their grievances to the bridge, the Marines did not stop them. Nor did they aid them. These Kilrathi might be civilians, but that did not mean the Marines liked them in the least bit. The Captain attempted to have the pilots removed from the bridge, which resulted in a fight between pilots and bridge crew. The pilots eventually won the struggle, and placed the Captain and Executive Officer under house arrest, before taking the Gettysburg out of the system.
Word of the mutiny spread fast, and Tolwyn sent in the carriers Waterloo and Mackinac to take back the ship. Marines from both carriers boarded the Gettysburg, which surrendered without a fight. The pilots were arrested and brought before a court marshal. Though all of the pilots were eventually acquitted on charges of treason, they were all transferred from the Gettysburg and placed on duty on board escort carriers. The Captain was also brought up on charges of issuing illegal orders, but he to was acquitted and transferred back to Confed HQ on Earth.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Fanning the Flames
With Ghorah Khar achieving de facto independence from the Empire, the resentment towards Kilrah spread to a neighboring system in the Epsilon Sector. The N’tanya System is home to millions of Kilrathi, as well as millions of Terrans held as slave. The revolution did not start in the slave quarters, but amongst the high ranking Prides of the planet. If Ghorah Khar could be free of the oppression of the Eight, then why could their world not be so as well. Rebellion in N’tanya was not as organized as Ghorah Khar, but the Prides did manage to overwhelm Imperial garrisons on the planet. The planet’s industrial output, though owned largely by the Kilrah Pride, was vital in producing munitions for the campaign in the Enigma Sector. This alone prevented the Imperial fleet from bombarding the planet.
Confed did not move into action in favor of this system. However, two aging Bengal-class carriers, as well as half a dozen Gilgamishes did raid into the system, catching the blockading ships with their gaze downwards instead outward, where any sensible captain would be looking. The Kilrathi destroyers blockading were destroyed to the last, with minimal loss to Confed. As with Ghorah Khar, the Kilrathi began to pull units out of the Enigma Sector in order to restore order behind their own lines. Confed was not about to let millions of Kilrathi soldiers go peacefully. Across several systems, Confed carrier task forces struck at Kilrathi convoys, killing untold hundreds of thousands of Kilrathi soldiers in space. After such a prolonged war, the Kilrathi are beginning to have problems filling recruiting quotas.
Battle of Gwynedd
On the road to winning back the Sector, a Confed fleet moved into the Gwynedd System, aiming on destroying the Kilrathi presence in the system. With it clear and Enigma’s flanks secured, K’tithrak Mang would be wide open to attack, as well as systems beyond Ghorah Khar being isolated from reinforcements. With Concordia as his flag ship, Tolwyn commanded a fleet of four carriers, two battleships, seven cruisers and an assortment of smaller vessels. He faced off against the Kilrathi star base and a few ships that had yet to join in suppressing rebellions inside the Empire.
The battle was a tough one and stretched over a week, ending with the invasion of the Kilrathi Starbase. Kilrathi fleet loses were high, losing two of their carriers as well as three of their cruisers. Confed suffered its own losses, including the carrier Congress and cruisers Ganymede and Rhea. Taking the starbase was expensive, with the Marines suffering 40% casualty rates, enough so that fleet security (naval personnel) were called in to reinforce the corridors. The Kilrathi attempted a relief mission, but was turned back by Concordia.
Early in the year, a Confed fleet, built around four carriers, entered the Ghorah Khar System. Only a few Kilrathi warships, at least those still loyal to the Empire, remained. These were swept aside, but not before they inflicted severe damage upon the cruiser Warspite and carrier Kyoto. Six of the new Gilgamish-class destroyers saw battle in the first weeks of the contest for Ghorah Khar,, one of them, the TCS Merlin managed to destroy a Fralthi in single combat (with the aid of its light fighters). The aging Admiral Turner was put in charge of the Ghorah Khar mission, and went immediately to the planet’s surface to meet with the Ghorah Khar Pride. Though he came with a heavily armed escort, ready to fight, the Pride females treated the Admiral with all the dignity of any diplomat. The Kings of the Pride were not so friendly, though after discovering one of Turner’s Marine escorts was also a veteran of Repleetah, gave the man their upmost respect.
Turner’s first move was to start the construction of a station orbiting Ghorah Khar, to protect it from another Kilrathi attack. Olympus Station had its core structure built in several modules and transported into the system. The armor, and extensions were built and provided by the Kilrathi. They also provided various electronic and optronic equipment, along with sensors. These were not installed, but rather secreted back to Confed Intel for analysis. Standard Terran units, more efficient than Kilrathi ones, were installed instead. The station, when completed by the end of the year, was home to over two hundred fighters (included five squadrons of Epees) as well as a dozen corvettes.
His second move was on the various crystal mines upon the planet. There was little in the way of construction concerning stealth technologies upon the planet, but several of the mine workers were also refiners of the crystals, knowing how to cut and polish the raw material into something that can allow a cloaking device to do its thing. This was another prize worth the risk. Though Turner was doubtful a Confed cloaking device could be ready in less than five years, the material and technical knowledge was hoped to give Confed new means of tracking cloaked targets.
Confed and the Ghorah Khar Kilrathi had trouble working together. It was understandable, with both sides being at war with each other for thirty year. The Terrans believed, like Terran cats, the Kilrathi would turn on them quickly, where as the Kilrathi were brought up believing Terrans to be prey, and weak. Both sides proved the other wrong. The Pride females were quite trusting, and Confed never backed away during a Kilrathi raid on the system (a number of which happened in 2664 alone).
End of Tragedy
2664, saw the last battles on the doomed planet of Repleetah. The planet’s formerly weak ecosystem was shattered, and the indiscriminate use of chemical and nuclear weapons slowly but surely wiped out defenders. As the year drug on, various fronts collapsed as soldier die-offs rendered them useless. The closing days of this act came when only division size units remained, each clustered around a single fortress, both separated by a few kilometers of no-man’s land. Around the same time Confed reached Ghorah Khar, the Kilrathi general on Repleetah ordered one final attack, committing all his soldiers to destroying the Terrans.
The battle started an hour before local dawn, with the Kilrathi marching through no-man’s land. Few vehicles remained on either side, and only a limited capacity to produce ammunition locally existed. When the Kilrathi attacked, they did not open fire until they were upon the fort, and too close for artillery support. Over the next three days, both sides battled each other around the fortress and inside. The final report sent from Repleetah to Confed HQ cited high casualties and severe damage to the Kilrathi. The station went off the air an hour later, as each side annihilated the other. The Kilrathi received no message from the planet following the general’s proposed plan. This lead both sides to believe that if anybody actually survived the battle, they died shortly after on the desolate world.
Final Generation of Fighters
Space is vast and rich in resources, but the easily extracted war materials were becoming depleted. At the start of the 2660s, a new generation of fighters were slated for production, and eventual replacement of the 2650s models. Arrows began to slowly replace the Ferrets, which were now largely used for garrison duty. The Rapier II was finally showing its age, as newer models of the Dralthi (the Dralthi IV) began to take its toll. Tomahawks packed more firepower, but pilots complained that they were not as responsive as the old Rapiers.
The Sabers would still see combat all the way to the end of the war, but the Thunderbolt VII was slated to phase out the old sword by the end of the decade. The lumbering Broadswords, which some were replaced by smaller, more agile Crossbows, would be supplanted by the sleeker Longbows. Again, pilots complained because the new bomber had only a tail gunner and not the three turrets of the giant Broadswords.
What was to be the final world in space superiority fighter came down to a competition between the Morningstar and Excalibur projects. The former packed more fire power, but the later was quicker. At first, Confed awarded the contract to the Morningstar, but only because Confed Intel wanted the Excalibur for their own use. They planned to use much of the captured Kilrathi technology from Ghorah Khar to produce a fighter that would win the war.
Friday, December 17, 2010
After years of running the mines on Ghorah Khar ruthlessly, and as well as keeping their claws upon the throats of the colonists, a spark finally hit the Kilrathi world of Ghorah Khar. One of the three largest Prides upon the planet, with support of virtually all the minor Prides, lead an attack against upon the garrison. There were three major Prides upon the planet, and not wanting to risk either getting to strong, scions from the Kilrah Pride took over all three Prides. Only a month before the rebellion began, the M’krah Pride was taken over by a pair of veterans from Repleetah, after they successfully defeated the previous three Kings (which happened to be Imperial Cousins) and laid claim to the Pride. Without having anyone from Kilrah looking over their shoulders, the Pride females organized a rebellion.
The garrison defending the largest of the mines was overran before they realized what was happening. Imperial soldiers were accustomed to fighting aliens and Kilrathi males. When a hundred thousands angry Pride females descended upon them, they hesitated, moving to defend themselves only after it was too late. Junior officers upon Kilrathi warship in the system launched their own coups, deciding to side with the Ghorah Khar rebels. Their motivation was not widely known, for Kilrathi will turn upon their own kind if they see an advantage to their own blood line. It is entirely possible these officers hoped to claim a Pride of their own.
As soon as the other two major Prides were defeated, and taken over by local males, the M’krah Pride declared itself the Ghorah Khar Pride, and Ghorah Khar declared its independence from the Empire. Normally, a rebellious planet would be ignored if a greater threat existed, or simply blasted off the face of the planet. However, Ghorah Khar was one of the few places known were a certain crystal vital for cloaking devices could be mined in large quantities. Envoys from Ghorah Khar reached for Confed lines, bringing a message to the Confederation. For the first time, an entire planet was willing to defect. The only thing worse than losing the mines would be losing them to Confed.
Due to the rebellion on Ghorah Khar, and mutiny in its defending ships, Kilrathi forces in the Novaya Kiev System packed up and headed back to Ghorah Khar, effectively abandoning the system. When the TCS Wolfhound, on duty in the Enigma Sector between 2661-64, entered the system to raid the Kilrathi, it discovered it devoid of enemies. The Kilrathi did not even bother to destroy everything in sight while they retreated. Confed assembled a rapid response force, with a landing party of only ten thousand Marines, and entered the system. True to Wolfhound’s report, the system was abandoned. Similar reports across the Sector claimed Kilrathi forces were thinning on the front line as the Kilrathi moved back to secure their rear.
The Ghorah Khar rebellion not only deprived the Kilrathi of the ability to produce cloaking devices in large quantities, but also pulled off forces that were pressing in on Confed. The fighting in Ghorah Khar was fierce, and the rebels gained a victory when the crew of an old Snakier rose up and killed their senior officers, all scions from one or another of the Eight Prides. It was a slight boon, since the newer Brantkara-class carriers, much larger than the old Snakiers. A number of Kilrathi pilots switched sides during one engagement, causing chaos in the Ghorah Khar System. Seeing a chance the Kilrathi might recapture the system, Confed rushed its own forces into Novaya Kiev and massed for a fight.
Last Survivors of Repleetah
With both sides pulling out forces due to shifting balances of power, the last of the Repleetah veterans to ever escape the planet were pulled out in later 2663. The Kilrathi pulled out 200,000 soldiers while Confed moved 300,000 of their own. There were still four million total soldiers left on the planet, and rapidly spiraling into savagery. Over the next year, virtually all of the four million soldiers, regardless of species, would be dead either by enemy fire or a degraded environment.
With attempts to take Enigma itself thwarted (on more than one occasion), in 2662, the Kilrathi attempted to bypass Enigma altogether. By taking the Heaven’s Gate System, the Kilrathi would have only to jump to Callimachus and be able to hit the Sol Sector from there, with Sol itself just being two jumps past the Ella System. The Kilrathi struck the system with complete surprise, overwhelming the destroyer picket and storming Gates’ Station with the minimal loss to themselves. With only a pair of carriers and four cruisers, the Kilrathi took control of the space around the planets of Heaven’s Gate.
Confed reacted as fast as it could, sending the Waterloo, Fredericksburg and Resolution into the system only a week after the Station had fell. At the time, the Kilrathi were preparing to invade to ocean world of Paradise, with its tropical beaches and fertile agricultural land. The Kilrathi cared for neither, of course, and merely wanted the only habitable planet in the system as a staging area for a planned invasion of the Sol Sector. The war had taken its toll on both sides, and Confed was finally starting to feel the loss of ships. An engagement like this only a decade before would have included twice as many capital ships.
The Confed fleet struck at the Kilrathi carriers while they were resupplying near Gates’ Station. With their flight decks full of cargo shuttles, they were not able to launch fighters. Escorting cruisers launched their fighters, a squadron each, to help thwart Confed’s attack, but Rapiers and new Tomahawks kept them busy while Broadswords closed in on the carrier, and destroyed both targets. With their striking ability destroyed, the remaining Kilrathi ships broke in confusion. Without a strong, central commander, individual captains began to look after their own interests. A few ships stayed with Gates’ Station to defend the holdings, but more broke and ran. One cruiser even charged straight for the Terran Fleet, hoping to get within Skipper range. That cruiser made for great target practice for a squadron of Sabers.
The Kilrathi ships around Gates’ Station also never made it anywhere near the Terran fleet, as fighters made short work of them. Confed did move its fleet into weapons’ range to bombard the station. The Kilrathi had moved fast to reinforce it with more shields and point-defense weapons. Confed lost a destroyer to the station’s defenses. Fighting to retake the station was fierce, and virtually the entire station’s civilian population were killed in the process, mostly by hungry Kilrathi soldiers. Out of roughly seven thousand Kilrathi, only sixty-one were taken into captivity, and most of these were incapacitated. Nearly thirty years of war, and the Kilrathi still fought as viciously as they did at McAuliffe.
With the PTC proven reliable, a new class of battleships, the Dreadnaught-class, were put into production at shipyards on the other side of the Confederation in respect to Kilrah. With several PTC turrets, the new battleships were expected to have a firepower almost equivalent to the old arsenal ships, but without their vulnerability. Even while the PTCs were recharging, Dreadnaught would have plenty of other armaments, including improved grasers and rapid-reload missile launchers. The new battleships would also carry a squadron of fighters in each of its two flight decks. The class of warships was originally intended to be launched by 2663, but a series of technical problems continue to push the release date back further and further.
Over the decades of war, Confed lost hundreds of destroyers in various actions, ranging from fleet battles to small raids. The Gilgamish-class destroyers, the first ones launched in 2662, were an improvement over the previous designs. Not only were they larger, and hosted heavier shields, but they also came with their own flight deck. The Gilgamishes could hold a squadron of Ferrets, Epees, Stilettoes or the new Arrows that were preparing to make their debut, or a half squadron of Sabers. Virtually all future captains would opt for the squadron of point-defense fighters to protect his ship against Kilrathi missiles and fighter attacks. These destroyers were designed to operate alone, striking deep into Kilrathi territory, as well as in fleet actions.
Following the Exchange, which destroyed hundreds of old cities, including Rome, the Catholic Church was in a state of exile. Like hundreds of millions of survivors of the nuclear war of 1 A.L. (2090 by the Church’s own calender), surviving bishops and cardinals were forced into life as nomads. Like a majority of those hundreds of millions, many surviving leaders of the Church died during the first years of the Lunar Calender. Unlike those refugees, the Church had a means of escape. For over a century before the Exchange, humanity had a permanent presence on Luna. During the 2070s, Pope Pius XV appointed the first Bishop of Luna, based in Fort Recife. During the following decade, Catholicism grew slowly on the largely secular moon.
After surviving devastation that wracked Earth completely untouched, a small percentage of Lunatics turned towards religion for answers. Various fundamentalist orders were prohibited from the moon, even before the Exchange, due to the dangerous nature of living on Luna and the volatility such sects can cause. During the first decade of the Lunar Calender, the only denominations on the moon that had enough members to be counted were the Catholic Church (largely in Dutch, Italian and American colonies), the Swedish Orthodox Church (in Swedish colonies), the Lutherans in the German colonies, Shia Islam in the lone Iranian outpost, and a handful of Buddhist monasteries and shrines scattered across all but the Iranian and German settlements.
What drew the Church away from Earth was not religion upon the moon, but the safety and stability that was now found on the airless world. The irony of safety on a world that could kill you with one false step was not lost upon Giovanni Campelli, Bishop of Luna. With so many elder cleric dead on Earth, the surviving College of Cardinals elected Campelli as Pope Benedict XVI. The new Pope decreed, that instead of wondering a rapidly cooling Earth, that the administration of the Church would relocate to Luna. The Church operated out of offices in Gatestown for two decades while funding was raised to create an independent habitat of its own.
New Vatican, called the Holy Crater, was built in a ten kilometer wide crater near the anti-orbitward terminator near the equator. New Vatican took nine years to complete, with most of the money going into programming the nanites, and most of the time taken by actually assembling the dome, molecule by molecule. Unlike fundamentalist sects, the Church did not view nanotechnology as good or evil, but just another tool of man. They did, however, frown upon taking them into the body. Nor did they use it in the habitat’s life-support system; instead depended upon the artificial ecology, supported by carbon-dioxide scrubbers.
By 34 A.L., the Cathedral of St. Benedict stood in the middle of the carter. The Cathedral is best known having one face of its structure made completely out of glass. The reason for this is symbolic. The side made of glass is also the side that faces Earth, which never moves from its spot above the horizon. When mass is held, all eyes face the Pope, and the blue marble of the homeworld which hovers above and behind him. Eyes tend to focus on Earth, rather than the gray landscape below. Though the cathedral has a window of real glass, the habitat’s dome is made of a considerably stronger transparent material.
New Vatican has a small permanent population, mostly of Church officials, but also technicians to keep the equipment running. Priests tend the aeroponic farms as well as the parklands. Thousands of pilgrims from across the moon visit New Vatican annually. The Church uses its new secure bastion to further its own goals of aiding the destitute on Earth. By the time St. Benedict’s Basilica was consecrated, the Atomic Ice Age gripped Earth.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Battle of the Tanhausen Nebula
In an attempt to stem the loss of systems in the Enigma Sector, Confed launched a daring strike behind enemy lines in the Epsilon Sector. The Trafalgar System had much in common with its oceanic namesake on Earth. It was a bottleneck of traffic for the Kilrathi, and cutting the line here would add weeks on to any resupply mission. Even a single day could alter the course of a battle. Banbridge sent Tolwyn with the Concordia and its years long sidekick the Gettysburg into the system, escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers. Losses in the Enigma Sector Campaign allowed for little in the way of offensive strikes, not while the Kilrathi were threatening to kick down the back door to Earth.
Tolwyn successfully slipped past Kilrathi patrols and sentries in the Telamon System, entering the Trafalgar System with no difficulty. The system was a young one, not more than a hundred million years old, that still resided within the light-years wide nebula that spawned it. Trafalgar’s age, being the youngest star on the jump point network, gives a minimal age estimate to the network’s existence. Because all known jump points start in one system and end in another, and the statistical fact that virtually all should end in the middle of nowhere, lead many to believe jump points to be artificial in nature.
The Kilrathi had a large supply depot and communication relay center located in the thick dust of the system. Approaching through a nebula was both a boon and a curse. A curse because ships easily stirred up the dust and left a trail. A boon because the dust obscured reliable sensors. The Kilrathi knew something was approaching, but the depot commander assumed it was his own side’s ships. The first hint that these were Confed ships was when the first of the Kilrathi cargo ships exploded in dock.
Battle is too strong of a term to describe the action in Trafalgar in 2661. For over a week, Tolwyn and his two carriers had free reign of the system. The supply depot was destroyed, not only cutting supplies to parts of the Enigma Sector, but also eliminated the means by which Kilrathi could relay messages between jump points. Without that, messages would take hours to days longer to reach Kilrah from the front as they were re-routed through other systems. As soon as the station was destroyed, Tolwyn ambushed several Kilrathi convoys headed towards the front, carrying anything from ammunition to replacement personnel. This "battle" forced the Kilrathi to recall three of their own carriers to patrol the system, but by the time they had arrived, Confed was long gone.
The Forgotten Battle
By the middle of the year, both Confed and the Kilrathi had withdrawn all fleet support for the ongoing war upon Repleetah. Ground support from orbit was no more, and supply convoys were growing less frequent. Supplies were still being shipped in, but reinforcements became sporadic, with the Kilrathi adding only two hundred thousand during the year. The soldiers, for the most part, were now on their own. War industries appeared upon the planet on both sides of the front as the warring factions strove to augment their meager supplies with homegrown ammunition and weapons.
The planet, after years of warfare, was no longer worth anything. It was once a marginally habitable planet, but now it was little more than a wasteland, with fall out from fission weapons (that were used for area denial), as well as dust from earlier planetary bombardments, and toxins from the unrestricted chemical warfare. In the words of a Chaplin of the old Catholic Church, humanity had finally discovered Hell. That being said, the few Confed soldiers transferred to Repleetah wondered just who up the chain of command they offended to get stationed on such a brutal world.