Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wing Commander reboot, part 34
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.