Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Star League Part 13


DESPERATE MEASURES


In May 2578, General Charles Mainstein Wexworth responded to the Taurians by leading the four Star League corps into the Hyades Cluster, hoping to capture the many Taurian industrial centers in an ever-tightening net. Though the SLDF won several important battles, the Taurians always made them pay dearly for their wins. On world after world, the SLDF would land with barely time to form up before Concordat Regulars began to storm the League ‘Mechs in wave after suicidal wave. Perhaps because of this fierce resistance, the Star League finally declared war officially in 2578. Cameron and his High Council knew that now they would have the popular support they needed. In making that announcement public, First Lord Cameron stated that the Star League Defense Forces would no longer be bound by the Ares Conventions. When combating barbarians, he said, one must fight fire with fire.

By 2582, the Star League had captured more than a third of the Taurian systems, with heavy losses on both sides, but the Taurians had succeeded in tying down the majority of the Star League’s best troops for four years instead of six months. The Taurian troops would simply not give up.

It was in this same period that the atrocities began in earnest. On Brussart, the Taurians revenged themselves for the destruction of the cream of their navy at Robsart by introducing slow-acting poison into the League’s water supplies. On Weippe, they torched the food stores that would have fed the Federated Suns force for months, and on Pierce, they planted bombs in the sewer system under the League forces base.

Two years later, General Amalthia Kincaid replaced Wexworth after the elite Eighty-eighth Light Horse suffered 5,000 casualties in the Battle of Corigan. It was Kincaid who masterminded the development of the strike regiment to respond to the unconventional tactics of the Taurian guerrillas. In 2583, the indomitable Taurians launched Case Black, an elaborate plan that got an assassin close enough to Admiral Kincaid to kill her with a new weapon.

In summer 2584, General Amos Forlough was called in and given a free hand. Because of Forlough’s policy of creating planetary blockades in orbit while his troops scorched every inch of territory on the ground, Taurian worlds again began to fall before the SLDF. In response to Forlough’s brutal tactics, the Taurians attacked the SLDF on Diefenbaker. It was the largest Mech battle of the entire war and lasted for some five months. Though Forlough broke the back of the Taurian navy in this battle, the League lost many of its best warriors and the war dragged on for another three years.

Winning was all that mattered to General Forlough, who next sacked Hanseta, pillaged Victralla, and massacred civilians on Carmichael. By 2588, the Taurians could claim only a half dozen scattered star systems outside the Hyades Cluster. When Star League casualties rose to thousands in the seven-month-battle of New Vandenburg, Ian Cameron sent in Lord Damien Onaga to replace Forlough. Beginning in January 2590, Onaga led the elite Star Guards nearly unopposed through the last of the Taurian worlds.

The fierce Taurians did not surrender until September 22, 2596, six years after New Vandenberg. The Taurian War was finally over, though both sides were battered and bloodied. The next morning, Taurian Protector Marantha Calderon committed suicide.

HORRORS OF WAR

General Shandra Cameron stepped down from her post as Commander-in-Chief of the Star League Defense Forces in November 2575 when she suffered a heart attack. Replacing her was General Carlos Dangmar Lee.

General Lee had served for over 40 years in the Hegemony Armed Forces before becoming the SLDF’s second Commander-in-Chief. After beginning his career as a common trooper from Northwind, he rose quickly in rank to receive more demanding assignments. Before his promotion to Commander-in-Chief of the SLDF, General Lee was head of the SLDF’s Strategic Simulations Department.

Once in command, General Lee was immediately beset with the problems created by the Periphery military’s victories. He reacted by strengthening chains of command and severely punishing anyone lax in following orders. Though this had little effect on his own troops, his stern warnings and reproaches quickly upset the allied units from the House militaries.

As the war moved beyond the opening surprises and settled into the monotonous hell of a more common and less flashy conflict, disturbing patterns were emerging. When First Lord Cameron renounced the tenets of the Ares Conventions in 2579, his enemies followed suit.

The most common horror was the massacre of civilians on many Periphery worlds and the wholesale destruction of their farmlands and industries. On the Periphery side, their desperate response was the use of Human-wave tactics to slow down technologically superior Star League units. Concealed until the last possible second, hundreds, sometimes even thousands of Periphery troops, most armed with a laser rifle and a satchel charge, would charge an advancing Star League force. Firing their lasers, the soldiers would charge straight into the teeth of the Star League force. If a soldier was shot down, another behind him would grab his satchel charge and continue on. Though most of these troops never reached their target, those who did were numerous enough to cause many casualties among the SLDF.

In 2579, the Dog-Face Company of the 45th Royal Battle Regiment was the target of a Human wave attack while fighting on the small Concordat world of Werfer in 2579. Caught without infantry support, the Dog-Face ‘Mechs could not prevent the Taurian soldiers from reaching their position or from detonating their explosives among the legs of the ‘Mechs in an effort to cripple the machines. Some troopers tied a satchel charge onto a BattleMech’s ankle, or more often, held the explosives to the ‘Mech’s leg in a suicidal hug. The Dog-Face Company lost the use of ten ‘Mechs, all with destroyed ankle joints. Four of the ten MechWarriors piloting the ‘Mechs were killed when Taurians rushed the cockpit section of the fallen ‘Mechs, opened them, and tossed in explosives.

OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE WAR

The war against the Taurians kept the majority of the Star League’s Expeditionary Force busy from 2575 to 2581, when Admiral Janissa Franklin broke the back of the Taurian navy in a two-week long battle on Robsart. Though the Taurians fought on for another 15 years, the victory at Robsart allowed the League High Command to begin their offensive against the Outworlds Alliance.

Grigori Avellar, President of the Outworlds Alliance, had no more intention of joining the Star League than any other Periphery leader, but he also knew that the Alliance military could never hope to defeat the Star League in combat. His was a mostly agrarian realm, with less than 120 light ‘Mechs to defend it. Indeed, many of these ‘Mechs were little more than beefed-up AgroMechs.

As elements of the Star League’s Second and Fifth Corps and auxiliary Draconis Combine troops began to deploy along the Alliance border in June 2581, Avellar sent a secret delegation to Lawrence Davion of the Federated Suns. He hoped to make a deal that would keep his realm from being too badly damaged by the fighting. Meanwhile, General Amos Forlough and the Second Corps Regulars easily took the mining systems of Groveld and Bryceland in July of that year. Not long after, the Fifth Corps and a Draconis brigade made short work of Weissau, Schrimeck, and Tabayama.

By early October, General Forlough was planning to drive directly against Alpheratz, the Alliance capital. He did not expect to meet serious resistance. What Forlough did not know, however, was that Lawrence Davion and Grigori Avellar had struck a deal. In one of the strangest twists in history, Davion mobilized three regiments of his most elite and trusted Household Guards to create a “special” unit. This unit was known as the Pitcairn Legion, after Commanding Colonel Elias Pitcairn, and they would fight secretly for the Outworlds Alliance against the Star League.

How and why did such a strange turn of events occur? When Alliance President Avellar approached Lawrence Davion in the summer of 2581, he offered the Federated Suns “protectorship” of a dozen agricultural and water-rich worlds along the Davion/Alliance border when the war was over. At that moment, Lawrence Davion felt betrayed by the League because it had not provided enough financial assistance to bail out the Sun’s ailing economy and because the Star League had not yet honored its promise to formally declare Davion ownership of the Chesterton worlds. These and other political/economic considerations made Davion receptive to the deal that Avellar offered.

Control over the rich Alliance border worlds would assist in postwar recover, and would also keep the Draconis Combine from conquering these same planets. In exchange, Davion pledged to work both covertly and overtly for an end to League military aggression against the Outworlds Alliance.

In October 2581, Lawrence Davion dispatched the Pitcairn Legion to the planet Sevon, where they encountered General Forlough on his deep-space drive toward Alpheratz. Both sides took heavy casualties. Because of that damage, Forlough was forced to wait for reinforcements of Kurita Galedon Regulars before he could resume his attack on Sevon. Though the SLDF finally captured the planet, the Pitcairn Legion escaped offworld.

Just two days before Forlough’s final thrust toward Alpheratz, the League High Command called off the offensive. After the defeat of the Federated Suns fleet off the Taurian system of Tentiva earlier that summer, Lawrence Davion had demanded that Ian Cameron reassign Star League units to the Concordat front. Because Forlough’s units were the only forces available, he had to give up a third of his fleet to another front.

Though no longer able to strike against the Alliance capitol, Forlough and his Kurita auxiliaries took several more planets in early 2582. These easy pickings ended when the Fourth Rasalhague Brigade lost out to the Pitcairn Legion on Budigen. Frustrated and angry, the Combine troops went berserk, destroying property and massacring civlians. The brutal Forlough showed no mercy, either. On at least a dozen Alliance worlds, he ordered 10 percent of all civilians executed as an example to those who opposed the Star League.

The Outworlders, who had not believed themselves strong enough to challenge the Star League, now wanted nothing more than to fight these cruel invaders who murdered their people and destroyed their lands. Thousands joined the Alliance militia. To train these farmers and merchants in anti-‘Mech warfare, Pitcairn assigned Captain Joshua March. They learned fast, but still had to depend on guile as much as military training.

Forlough was constantly frustrated by Lawrence Davion, who sent troops to occupy several worlds that were part of Forlough’s attack plan, claiming they were under Federated Suns protectorship. In some cases, Davion commanders even refused Kurita units the right to land or resupply on certain of these planets. In reaction, Hehiro Kurita ordered his commanders to take as much territory as possible, which often left Forlough stranded.

While Davion and Kurita played out their own game of conquest, the newly trained and courageous Outworlders began to embarrass Forlough with their stiff resistance. Believing he could starve the Outworlders into submission, he put the torch to every world he encountered all through the spring and summer of 2583. Backed by Pitcairn’s Legion, the Alliance forces responded with an ambush of Forlough’s force on Tellman IV. In the day-long battle, the Alliance troops took out more than 200 Star League ‘Mechs, losing about 100 of their own recently acquired machines. Neither side would ever fully recover from this Day of Vengeance.

The war against the Outworlds Alliance ended with a whimper rather than a bang. When General Kincaid was assassinated on the Concordat front, the brutal Forlough was transferred to command of the Taurian theater. His replacement, Major-General Franklin Barnex, was never able to obtain enough troops for a push on Alpheratz and seemed content to hang onto the worlds Forlough had conquered.

In 2585, the Alliance and the Star League signed the Peace of Cerberus, which granted the Alliance the right to govern itself under the supervision of the Star League. Though the Alliance had demanded the right to try General Forlough for war crimes, the League refused. It is estimated that 12 million people, mainly civilians, died before the two sides sat down at the negotiating table.

WAR AGAINST CANOPUS

Upon reading Ian Cameron’s Pollux Proclamation, Magestrix Crystalla Centrella of Canopus asked her ministers, “What can he offer us that we cannot already buy?” No one knew that better than the Lords of the Star League, who lusted after the wealth and stability of the Canopian worlds.

The Magistracy of Canopus had grown from a handful of planets to a wealthy, unified realm of more than 50 star systems by concentrating on one major industry: pleasure. No matter how immoral or illegal something might be in other states, pleasure-seekers could find what they were looking for in Canopus-provided it did not hurt anyone else. The Canopian pleasure palaces brought in billions for the ruling House Centrella. Life was good, too, for the citizens of this realm.

Under the command of Captain-General Marion Marik, the Star League marshalled the 30-plus regiments of the Seventh Corps, plus twelve regiments of Marik troops, against Canopus. The Canopians had 17 ‘Mech regiments, 12 Home Guard regiments, and two fleets of small ships. Though they had money to fight a war, the Canopians knew they would have difficulty replacing ‘Mechs and other material because they did not have the industrial capacity to replace combat losses. They would have to guard their resources carefully.

The Canopian campaign began in June 2577 when Marion Marik took Gouderak, followed by the fall of Umka in October, after a three-month struggle. Because the Canopians could not afford to slug it out unless they had to, their fighting strategy was to stay mobile, using hit-and-run techniques and evasion rather than brute force. This kept the Canopians somewhat scattered throughout the interior of their space, which at times worked to their advantage and at times did not.

The Canopian Colonel Adam Buquoy is credited with developing the strategy that kept the Canopians from being overrun by the well-supplied might of the Star League armies. Seeing the League commanders so dependent on high-tech equipment and on supply lines that had already grown very long by January 2578, Buquoy masterminded a raid that set the SLDF back six months. In a hard-fought but successful attack against Meadowvale and neighboring supply depots, the Canopians destroyed the League’s major supply point in the region.

Marion Marik responded by constructing depots and staging bases all along her supply line. This slowed the Star League offensive for six months, but did not stop it. The turning point of the war occurred in the summer of 2583 in a two-day aerospace battle among the outer planets of the Thurrock system, one of the League’s important supply centers. The Canopians had attacked, believing they had the advantage of surprise. Marik’s squadrons were ready and waiting, however, and were able to virtually destroy the Canopian navy. Now was the Marik’s chance to pounce on the capital world of Canopus IV, which she captured in April 2584 after a month-long battle that left heavy casualties on both sides.

The Canopian campaign dragged on for another four years, as one by one, Marion Marik took every last remaining Magistracy world. This campaign was as hard-fought and protracted as the others in the Periphery, but one major difference was Captain-General Marik’s scrupulous adherence to the Ares Conventions. This prevented random destruction and helped to dispose the conquered Canopians to cooperate with the Star League.

RIM WORLDS WAR

Gregory Amaris, Lord of the Rim Worlds Republic, ruled over a people who resented the loss of their democratic rights and the truly republican form of government that had once existed. Amaris, with his dreams of power and conquest, hoped to build the Republic into a state equal to any of the Inner Sphere governments. Unfortunately for Amaris, he so alienated the people with his arrogance and misguided policies that they finally revolted against him.

The rebellion had already begun to heat up in the period just after the birth of the Star League when Amaris showed his support of the League in many public actions. At the same time that he approved the Pollux Proclamation in 2575, he also issued the Manchester Directive outlawing membership in the Rim Republic Army. Though the RRA was now little more than an honorary society, it was the Rim Worlders’ last link to their former democracy. Amaris’s agents rounded up and arrested, without due process of law, anyone suspected of being an RRA member.

The final straw came in April 2575 during a worker’s strike at a ‘Mech factory on the politically volatile world of Apollo. When Amaris called in the Fourth Amaris Dragoons to break the strike, the demonstrators (many of whom were RRA) overwhelmed the troops and declared themselves the Rim Provisional Government and Apollo as their base.

Amaris declared the whole planet to be under martial law and sent in every ‘Mech he had to destroy the rebellion. Colonel Katherine Dormax, commander of the Seventh Amaris Legionnaires, refused the order to fire on her fellow citizens, however, and placed her unit in service of the rebel government. Shortly afterward, the Eighth Amaris Fusiliers followed suit. The whole northern continent came under the rebel banner. Amaris withdrew the remaining loyal units from Apollo and called on the Star League for help.

The SLDF had its hands full in the Taurian Concordat in 2575, and soon the Canopian campaign would begin to heat up. Thus, it was not until 2581 that the League could turn its sights on the Rim Worlds, where Amaris had been holed up at his private residence deep within the Republic.

The Star League called the Rim Worlds Offensive Operation Mailed Fist. With the intention of driving toward the heart of the Rim Worlds, the League mobilized 18 regiments of League Regulars, six Free Worlds regiments, and three Lyran regiments.

Though the Rim Worlders had few ‘Mechs or MechWarriors, the strength of their army had always been based on numerous wheeled, tracked, and hover vehicles. Patriotism and the love of freedom would also fire these motley irregulars to great heroism. As the months went by, Combine units arrived to bolster the sagging campaign. The rebels became even more determined because the Kuritans were often brutal toward civilians.

The months wore on, with the League capturing only a third of the Rim Republic eight years into the war. In March 2595, Archon Viola Steiner-Dineson arrived on Apollo in command of the Fourth Royal Guard. She had a clever plan to draw the rebels away from the capital, leaving it vulnerable to capture by her units plus Amaris reinforcements. The trap might have worked but for an unexpected failure in communications that left the Archon and her Guards trapped among three enemy ‘Mech regiments. The Rim Worlds rebels destroyed most of the Fourth. Viola Steiner-Dineson was so badly wounded that she died a month later.

The Star League was simply too powerful, however. By 2596, the SLDF forces had hunted down the last of the rebels. The Rim Provisional Government surrendered in September of that year.

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