Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Star League Part 21


As 2765 dawned, anti-League sentiment was further on the rise throughout the periphery, spreading into worlds that had previously been loyal. The only exception to the disturbing trend was the Rim Worlds Republic.

General Kerensky and his soldiers were particularly puzzled by the constant violence in the Taurian Concordat because they had broken the TFA. The SLDF had expected a lull in the Concordat troubles and was caught flat-footed by the new violence. Many lives were lost in the new cycle of bombings and shootings. The worst atrocity was the destruction of Fort Simpson, home of the 265th Heavy Assault Regiment, by a terrorist in a car carrying a nuclear device.

Then New Vandenberg and 17 other Taurian worlds, with the permission of Concordat President Nicoletta Calderon, seceded from the Star League, though not from the Taurian Concordat. The Concordat itself did not secede, however. The Council Lords could not decide how to react. Finally, General Kerensky, under the mandate to suppress rebellion in the Periphery and to keep the Star League intact, landed on New Vandenberg and ordered the militia units there to lay down their arms. Because he had no evidence linking the militia to terrorist activity, General Kerensky considered the New Vandenberg units most loyal to the Star League. The General felt that if the SLDF could show the rest of the Concordat that the New Vandenberg militia calmly handed over its weapons to the Regular Army, it would be easier to ask the other militias to lay down theirs.

General Kerensky’s plans were shattered when the New Vandenberg militia refused to give up its weapons. Stunned, General Kerensky hastily began negotiations with the soldiers, hoping to change their minds. News of the militia’s defiance spread like wildfire throughout the Periphery. Anybody who had ever dreamed of defying the mighty Star League cheered them on. This celebrity status made General Kerensky’s negotiations much more difficult and much more important. Any failure or mistake would surely turn the new celebrities of the Periphery into heroes or martyrs.

The mistake occurred when a firefight broke out at Fort Gorki between a platoon of militia that had been patrolling the fence of the base and a squad from the First French Regiment, whose vehicle broke down just outside the base. The squad tried to retreat but was cut down.

Unit records showed that Lieutenant General Dominique Petain, commander of the First French Regiment and one of General Kerensky’s trusted friends, had no intention of retaliating for the incident. She knew that the delicate negotiations would be affected by how her troopers behaved now that they had been provoked. She did not want her soldiers to be responsible for another Periphery war.

The Concordat regiment inside the fort did not realize how conscientious and peace-loving Lieutenant General Petain was. The militia expected to pay a heavy price for the incident. Each hour that passed without retaliation increased the tension. Thirty hours after the initial firefight, the Taurians could stand the anxiety no longer. In a wave assault, the entire regiment attacked the Star League troopers.

Her forces split by the attack, Lieutenant General Petain had to either let her regiment fight or succumb. The SLDF regiment showed its superiority but faced desperate Taurians, who feared for their lives if they surrendered. Fighting was protracted and costly to both sides.

A military tribunal later cleared Lieutenant General Petain of guilt in the Battle for Fort Gorki, but that could not change the tide of events. The entire Periphery, except the Rim Worlds Republic, rose up in rebellion as news of the battle spread.


Like a wave of fire, the news of New Vandenberg’s rebellion sparked similar revolts. On worlds where terrorist organizations had once been the Star League’s only enemy, there now rose up whole regiments of men and women armed with weapons retrieved from secret caches. Worlds throughout the Periphery also seceded. Several SLDF units that had seen the injustices suffered by the Periphery joined the rebellion.

The rebels did not forget the guerrilla tactics their ancestors had used in the Reunification War. Suicide attacks, made by individuals in explosive heavy hovertrucks, or by whole crews in cargo ships, crippled many vital Star League installations. Communications and transportation centers were the prime targets of these attacks, and most were spectacularly successful. In one instance, a cargo ship laden with highly volatile fuel floated into an open cargo hold of the SLS Nebraska, a Star League battleship. The detonation split the ship in two, and one of the pieces collided with the SLS Cairo, a nearby battlecruiser.

Whole divisions were cut off from outside help. At first, the loss of assistance did not seem too important. Though well-armed, the regiments of rebel infantry that challenged the Regular Army were just brave citizens with only rudimentary training. The League troops’ real opponents were the professional soldiers in the various militia units, but they were refusing to engage in combat, as though waiting for something.

A month into the war, dozens of ‘Mech divisions arrived from beyond the Periphery boundaries and attacked isolated SLDF forces in all three rebel realms.

General Kerensky’s worst nightmare had come true. The years of unrestricted ‘Mech manufacturing by Periphery firms had allowed the creation of 50 full ‘Mech divisions. Personnel for these divisions had been recruited from militia units, mercenaries, and from colleges throughout the Periphery. The recruits had been sent to secret training centers, where mercenary units taught them how to use their ‘Mechs. To cover their disappearance, the future MechWarriors were signed on as crew members of the trading vessels of the Black Crow Trading Company, the White Star Liner and Mercantile Company, and the Far Side Convoy. During the five years it took to train personnel for the divisions, the leaders of the Star League had no idea of what was going on, a sign of how deeply the people of the Periphery wanted independence from the League.

‘Mechs and their crews had been hidden on key worlds. When news of the revolt reached their commanders, the ‘Mechs performed a variety of missions, the most common being to kill the commander of the local SLDF contingent. This tactic, essentially just another suicide mission, was successful and weakened many SLDF units. Had it worked on New Vandenberg, where a battalion of ‘Mechs attempted to kill General Kerensky, this tactic might have changed the course of history.

As the General left New Vandenberg for his flagship, his issued new orders for the entire SLDF. Divisions in the outer military regions of the five member states were to move “with vigor and force into the Periphery as soon as possible to relieve besieged units and take on enemy forces.” Units stationed in the Five House sectors nearest Terra and in the Hegemony were spread throughout the Inner Sphere to cover the planets vacated by troops heading into the Periphery.

Many divisions could not reach the Periphery quickly enough to save other SLDF units. Without support, most Star League forces in the Periphery could only hope to survive long enough to be rescued. Many units were forced to retreat to their bases for a final stand. Their opponents, the Periphery BattleMech forces, had no wish to waste their time on a beaten enemy and commonly issued the ultimatum: surrender and die. Few SLDF units surrendered. In most cases, Periphery forces dropped a nuclear bomb on the Star League troops and moved on.

Of the 50 divisions and regiments cut off by the uprising, 18 independent regiments and 13 complete divisions were annihilated.

By the end of 2765, more than half of the original 98 divisions in the region were lost or so severely mauled that they had to be disbanded. General Kerensky, faced with the possibility of being surrounded and cut off from the Inner Sphere, retreated with most of his forces back into the Inner Sphere.

Though forced to pull back in 2765, General Kerensky redeployed almost the entire SLDF and launched an offensive against the Periphery rebels the next year.


I had never seen violence. I know that sounds precious, but I hadn’t. Sure, I’ve seen an occasional fistfight, even been in a couple myself, but here in Somab we pride ourselves on being above violence, or at least we did. Hell, we didn’t even have a transceiver to pick up the news from Vandenburg. We had plenty of things to keep ourselves entertained: the mountain slopes, the streams, each other. We didn’t need anything from the city below. They came here for entertainment.

Then came organizers for the TFA. Spouting grandiloquent phrases like “freedom from the League oppressors,” or “justice and honest self-rule for New Vandenburg,” they tried to get us to join them. They eventually left our town in disappointment, and we went back to looking after our guests.

We had met people from the Inner Sphere, mostly officers and soldiers from the local SLDF garrison. They came to Somab to ski, rest, and flirt with us just like anyone else.

Then someone blew up Crystal Lodge. A gaping black hole in the white snow was all that was left of the hotel and restaurants. The force of the blast had been so great that we couldn’t even recover the dead.

The TFA was blamed for the explosion because many of the dead were soldiers from the local garrison. I looked at the list and saw that there were some important local politicians visiting as well, very vocal anti-League politicians. I guess the TFA was responsible, though. The League doesn’t need to resort to bombings to get rid of its enemies. It just arrests them.

It didn’t matter, really. A detachment from the 351st Dragoon Regiment, ‘Mechs and all, entered our town and stayed. They interrogated everyone.

Their presence became an eerie fixture in our town, metal monsters on street corners, soldiers with rifles walking through our buildings.

Huddled around the small holoset was how we heard the news about Fort Gorki. We saw the reports of the battle, saw the soldiers running in and out of the smoke and fire. Already we could hear the screech of AeroSpace Fighters high above us and the commotion of the troopers outside.

On a cold, snowy night a week later, the TFA returned to Somab with ‘Mechs and rifles. They slipped past the troopers guarding the town without being noticed. I was sitting in the bedroom of my second-floor apartment, and I saw their ‘Mechs walk past my window toward the center of town. From one of the side streets came a League ‘Mech, which was quickly riddled with gun and laser fire and put out of action.

The TFA ‘Mechs then fanned out and began hunting the League ‘Mechs. All I could hear was gunfire and explosions. I managed to get out of my building just before two ‘Mechs, rockingly embracing each other like drunks, crashed into it.

I couldn’t find a way out of the town without running into ‘Mechs, their features lit up by the flash of their weapons. Running this way and that, I finally found myself climbing up the slopes with a group of other townsfolk. We walked and walked until we knew we were safe. We sat in the snow and watched our town being demolished.

The fires burned for two days, and the smoke hung over the ruins for weeks. The ‘Mechs that survived the night’s fighting moved off to fight elsewhere. We don’t listen to the news anymore. No matter who wins, the Somab we loved is gone.

-From The Faces of War: Interviews and Anecdotes, edited by Collette DeNal, New Vandenburg Press, 2766


All the while the other three Periphery realms were aflame with dissent, Amaris’s realm, the Rim Worlds Republic, was almost ridiculously peaceful. On only a few worlds was there even a hint of rebellion, and these sparks were quickly and ruthlessly stamped out by the military of the Republic.

There was a report of only one major battle in the Republic, when one of the Periphery BattleMech divisions tried to invade the Rim Worlds Republic at Gotterdammerung. Twenty Rim Worlds regiments valiantly repulsed the invading BattleMechs. There was little, if any Star League representation in the Republic at that time (the SLDF having been asked to leave the Republic in 2755), and so there was no independent verification of the heroic stand by the Republican military.

Only decades later did it become common knowledge that all the glorious stories from the battlefield, which included live reports on the fighting and interviews with the wounded, were a complete hoax. There had been no Battle for Gotterdammerung.

Stefan Amaris, far from being the country bumpkin that he pretended, was a schemer of the first order. The reason the Rim Worlds Republic was suffering none of the ravages of war was because Amaris was one of the war’s chief architects. Years earlier, he had met with leaders of all the major anti-League movements and had outlined his plans for the Periphery rebellion. It was Amaris who had suggested how BattleMech divisions could be outfitted and personnel trained to use them.

To the Star League, Amaris was a rabid loyalist determined to see his realm free of any anti-League activity. To the Periphery independence groups, Amaris was the clever ally who had rid his realm of the SLDF and made it a haven for their activities against the Star League. The ease with which he betrayed the Taurian Freedom Army to General Kerensky made it plain that Stefan Amaris’s loyalties changed to fit the situation.

The need for fresh SLDF troops to relieve divisions that had been mauled in the Periphery required that more troops be called up from the Hegemony. By July 2765, more than 60 percent of the fighting units normally stationed near Terra had been called into the war, leaving behind increasingly fearful Hegemony citizens. At the urging of Stefan Amaris, First Lord Richard asked the Council Lords to use the House militaries to help put down the Periphery war. Because he had not held a High Council session in two years and because the First Lord’s Taxation Edict had been largely responsible for the rebellion, the Council Lords had no intention of using their militaries. At the request of General Kerensky, however, most of the realms provided transportation and other services for SLDF units.

With the Terran Hegemony underdefended, rumors began to fly of suspicious troop movements in the Draconis Combine. It was at the height of these rumors that First Lord Richard Cameron revealed the treaty he had signed with Stefan Amaris, allowing for units from the Rim Worlds Republic to defend the Terran Hegemony. Even Richard did not know that Amaris had planted the rumors and had targeted them against the Draconis Combine to destroy the credibility of Takiro Kurita, a long-time critic of Amaris.

Initial reaction to the treaty was negative. Many in the Hegemony could not accept even the presence of the foreign troops, much less entrust them with the defense of the Cradle of Humanity. Those who disagreed with the plan became even more vocal when they learned that General Kerensky opposed it. When the General had heard of the treaty, he immediately sent the First Lord an alternative plan. Kerensky said the First Lord could easily hire regiments from the more trustworthy member states, such as the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns, to assume some of the defensive burden.

Then news of the Battle for Gotterdammerung reached the Hegemony. The glowing reports of the heroism and skills of the Rim Worlds troops blunted criticism of Amaris’s intentions. Even General Kerensky, busy trying to control a growing disaster, said nothing further.

As soon as he received permission from the First Lord, Stefan Amaris had his best and most trustworthy units loaded onto transports heading for the Hegemony and Terra. Eager to show that he was a wise leader and had been right about Amaris all along, the First Lord celebrated the Republic troops’ arrival on Terra with great pomp. The first BattleMech regiment to arrive, the Fourth Amaris Dragoons (nicknamed “The Far Guard” by the appreciative First Lord), was assigned to join the First Lord’s personal troops, the Royal Black Watch Guards, in protecting the Court of the Star League.

Most of the Council Lords, preoccupied with their own affairs and trusting in the character and strength of General Kerensky, were unconcerned about entrusting the Hegemony’s safety to Rim Worlds troops. Takiro Kurita, however, had always distrusted Amaris and tried to rally other Houses to an agreement for joint action. This failed because the other Lords were far more suspicious of Kurita than they were of Amaris.

Hegemony citizens began to raise questions about the number of troops that Amaris was sending. The designated number of troops were showing up, according to the accounting, yet Republican troops seemed to be everywhere in the Hegemony. The First Lord and his close advisors remained oblivious to the apparent discrepancy. In fact, Amaris was shipping two regiments for every one and concealing the fact by having extra units arrive in the Hegemony under false unit names. By the time Amaris was ready to act, almost half the forces of the Rim Worlds Republic had been redeployed to the Hegemony.

The duties of the Republican regiments were quickly expanding. At first, Amaris forces were asked to guard only secondary military bases. After several “helpful suggestions” from Stefan Amaris, the First Lord allowed Rim Worlds troops to man more sensitive bases.

Republican units soon controlled more than half the Castles Brian, the massive fortifications built on key Hegemony worlds. The Republican troops were well-acquainted with Castles Brian, thanks to Richard Cameron, who gave virtually identical fortifications to the Rim Worlds Republic when he withdrew the SLDF in 2755.

Republican officers were also infiltrating the bureaucracy of the SLDF, despite the efforts of many wary Star League officers. After the First Lord ordered SLDF commanders to give Republican observers the run of the realm, they watched and asked questions about the workings of every branch of the Regular Army. They were especially curious about the workings of the Space Defense Systems.

Eventually, the questions about the number of Republican troops, the curiosity of the Rim Worlds officers, and the underlying distrust of foreign forces became too much, and a group of high-ranking officers and nobles approached the First Lord. Richard Cameron scoffed at their fears that the Republican forces were up to no good. He was so fiercely loyal to Amaris that he angrily threatened to imprison any officer or noble who ever again publicly doubted Amaris’s intentions. The First Lord then immediately sent a message to Stefan Amaris that his good name was being besmirched.

Deciding that the time for action had come, Stefan left for Terra aboard his private warship. He was eager and alert. All of his preparations had been completed, and everything was proceeding as planned.


General Aleksandr Kerensky’s response to the Periphery uprising involved almost the entire SLDF. Between one-half and three-fourths of Star League units actually fought their at one time or another during the crisis. About one-fourth of SLDF units were lost in the campaign.

Thirty ‘Mech divisions were destroyed, and nine were disbanded because of heavy losses. In all the SLDF lost units equal to 140 divisions, suffering more than one million casualties and even losing seven units who went over to the enemy.

General Kerensky mobilized so many units in the other military regions and sent them to the Periphery that he had to redeploy his remaining forces to cover the House districts. This left the Terran Hegemony so underdefended that few could object to bringing in troops from the Rim Worlds Republic.

With a strength of less than ten divisions left in the Terran Military Region, Star League forces were no match for the troops of Stefan Amaris. And thus did the mighty League topple.

-From The Rise and Fall of the Star League, by D.H. Rand, Tharkad Press, 2989

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