Sunday, December 26, 2010
Wing Commander reboot, part 35
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.