Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Star League Part 24


Though the five Houses of the Inner Sphere adopted a neutral attitude toward the coming storm, their citizens did not. The coup and its horrors were felt deeply by the average citizens in all five realms. The Houses’ refusal to join General Kerensky shocked and angered billions of people. Demonstrations in support of General Kerensky and against their government’s decision were common and often violent.

Some people were not satisfied with just protesting. Thousands of men and women left for the Republic so that they could fight alongside General Kerensky. Though the Steiners, Davions, and Mariks did nothing to prevent this, the Kuritas and Liaos did. Meanwhile, sympathetic traders smuggled whole shiploads of men and women to the Republic or a Star League base. Many volunteers had been soldiers and officers in the House militaries who risked court-martial or even summary execution for going AWOL. Some MechWarriors and AeroSpace Pilots escaped with their vehicles.

The unexpected response deeply moved General Kerensky and the rest of the SLDF. Everyone was allowed to join. Even the very old and young were given tasks to keep the SLDF supplied and fit. Boot camps and makeshift military academies were created to train those able-bodied enough to fight. General Kerensky set up a MechWarrior school on Circinus. Its graduates received new ‘Mechs from factories in the Free Worlds League and the Lyran Commonwealth.

By the time General Kerensky was ready to launch his offensive, there were 36 Loyalist regiments. They became among the most impassioned fighters, with casualty rates two or three times higher than the average.


You have your orders. All I can add is that I hope and pray some sort of sense will come out of this horror story because I certainly can’t see any at the moment.

-From General Kerensky’s address to his commanding officers, February 12, 2772

The Star League Defense Forces began leaving the Rim Worlds Republic in early 2772. They had spent a year and a half resting and preparing for the offensive, but that time could not replace the men and women who had been lost fighting in the Periphery. Most units were severely understrength. On paper, the General had 300 divisions and more than 200 independent regiments, but barely half that number in reality.

As the units began loading onto their DropShips and transports, General Kerensky received messages from the Inner Sphere that the leaders of the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns would allow the Star League soldiers to pass through their realms without challenge. These messages were not unexpected; each has provided shelter and information to SLDF units probing the Amaris defenses. The Free Worlds League, which had allowed the presence of the Eridani Light Horse, now refused the SLDF permission to use League systems as staging areas. Thus did Kenyon Marik again act on an old grudge against General Kerensky stemming from an incident when Marik served on General Kerensky’s staff. Later in the campaign, Kerensky repaid Marik by using the Oriente system without the leader’s consent. The loss of Marik support was partially offset by an offer of help from the Capellan Confederation.

With the aid of three realms, the General could shape his strategy. He divided his troops into three major elements, one to travel through each of the accommodating Houses toward the Hegemony. Once all were in place, the three forces would launch their attacks. The first objective was not to strike for Terra, but to link with each other and encircle Stefan Amaris and his troops. Only after the three had linked up and drawn their forces completely around the Hegemony would the General begin to move on Terra.

Some questioned Kerensky’s strategy, arguing for a sudden thrust for Terra. The General had chosen the slow and cautious approach because intelligence reports indicated that Amaris had been successful in hiring mercenaries and had amassed more than 40 divisions. This, coupled with the lethal Space Defense Systems and the Castles Brian, made him a force to be reckoned with. Besides, the General was still worried that the Draconis Combine might side with Amaris and was not sure about the Free Worlds League.

General Aaron DeChavilier was given command of Task Force Sun, which was to travel through the Federated Suns. Admiral Joan Brandt was given command of Task Force Commonwealth, leaving Task Force Confederation to be commanded by General Kerensky.

The campaign for the Hegemony began on July 14, 2772, with SLDF divisions assaulting border worlds and with groups of warships venturing deep into the Hegemony, hoping to pick off a few enemy ships or bombard enemy positions. Worlds on the Hegemony’s border with the Draconis Combine were lightly defended. With Minoru Kurita maintaining a nonviolent stance toward Stefan Amaris, the Emperor stationed few units facing the Combine. Sabik, Lambrecht, Kervil, Telos IV, and Murchison fell quickly. With Republican troops retreating before a superior enemy and with General Kerensky still afraid to expose his back to House Kurita, the SLDF paused to consolidate its gains. House Kurita, always ready to exploit a situation, sent Combine units to occupy the worlds the Amaris troops were vacating. When Star League forces later advanced, they were surprised to be fighting Kuritan troops on Vega, Imbros III, Styx, and Altair. Wanting no war with the SLDF, the Combine forces gave ground readily, only to return after General Kerensky’s offensive had moved on.

Because Hegemony relations with the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth had always been cordial, the Camerons had built fewer Space Defense Systems and Castles Brian on those borders. The Regular Army used its superior training, equipment, and numbers to overwhelm Republican troops on such planets as Mallory’s World, Ozama, Syrma, and Zebebelgenubi. These fronts were where Star League troops found the first evidence of atrocities, the massacres of artists on Helen and of scientists on Zebebelgenubi.

Though this gave the SLDF an even greater sense of mission, General Kerensky’s troops were bogged down on the Free Worlds and Capellan fronts. They also found more and more defenders as they attacked planets closer to Terra. Though Star League troops had a year and a half to train and plan, they were still largely stymied by the Castles Brian and the Space Defense Systems. The long and costly campaign to recapture Nusakan was a prime example.

Republican soldiers changed the access codes on the Space Defense Systems, thwarting SLDF efforts to break through the security and into the computers. Other SLDF strategies, such as drawing drone warships away from a world with a decoy fleet, also failed. For the first two years, the only way for General Kerensky’s soldiers to deal with an SDS was to fight with every drone. Though this worked, it was accomplished at the cost of at least three major warships for every planet protected.

Castles Brian proved equally difficult. Soldiers had maps of each world’s Castles, but they did not know how the enemy would use the fortresses. The castles had miles of tunnels, large enough for BattleMechs to walk through, leading to at least 20 concealed exits. This made it virtually impossible for Regular Army units to be sure that Amaris troops were not popping up behind them. The interconnected bunkers and strongholds were concealed so well that it often did not matter if a platoon of soldiers knew that a bunker was ahead of them; they could not attack what they could not see without sacrificing themselves to draw fire.

The early successes produced prizes for the SLDF when they captured several key planets, such as Oliver and Ozama, more or less intact. As General Kerensky’s troops began to meet stiffer resistance, however, they also gained less from worlds closer to Terra. The woeful conditions of liberated worlds revealed how horrible life was under Emperor Amaris. Food, water, and power had been reserved for Amaris troops. The Republicans drained the resources and supplies from cities they did not need, often causing the loss of thousands of lives. Living in the countryside was no better. Farmers were told to triple the yield of their farms or die.

Government buildings were destroyed or defaced. On Saffel, the local garrison, in a fit of ill humor, painted the government buildings in harsh day-glo colors and gave them to prostitutes from the Republic. Universities and instructors suffered as well. Any research project that might have military application was moved to Terra so that the Emperor’s scientists could monitor it. The rest of the university was destroyed. Professors who were of no value to the military were either killed or forced to build defenses for the local garrison.

By the end of 2774, General Kerensky’s troops had seized only eleven worlds and were contesting another ten. They had lost 30 divisions and 40 major warships. Morale among the troops plummeted as the soldiers realized how terrible life must be for those still living under Emperor Amaris and how long it would take to free them.


In November 2774, forces from Task Forces Sun, Commonwealth, and Confederation linked up. Emperor Amaris was surrounded by a ring of worlds, each thick with Regular Army units.

The military value of this ring is debatable. Even General Kerensky admitted that the idea of encircling Amaris was strategically impossible. The psychological effect of being surrounded did have a profound effect on Amaris, however. Once he heard that his troops had lost Slocum and Connaught, the final two worlds in the ring, he reconsidered his defensive strategy.

From recordings made by automatic devices in Unity City, it was later learned that Amaris was slowly losing his sanity. Gone was the exultation of those first few months after the coup, when he had staged huge parties and forced his high-born hostages to attend. By 2774, he was walking through the deserted Court with a laser rifle in his hand, firing at anything that reminded him of Richard Cameron or General Kerensky.

After the encirclement was completed, Emperor Amaris gathered his high command and ordered them to withdraw from worlds without either fortifications or an SDS and to pull back to worlds that did. He felt that this limited withdrawal would strengthen his hold over the key worlds. He ended his meeting with his officers by remarking that “I can’t look at the stars anymore. Every time I do, they seem to constellate the face of Kerensky.”

Emperor Amaris’s orders were carried out in late 2774 and early 2775, as his forces pulled back from twelve worlds. Amaris was pleased that this would use his troops more effectively. When General Kerensky found out about the pullback, he had reasons to be happy as well.

The SLDF gained control of worlds scattered throughout the Hegemony. Officers and sailors of the Star League Navy quickly realized the importance of these worlds because their locations allowed Star league ships to jump across the Hegemony without using enemy star systems. Two of these worlds, Bryant and Asta, were within one jump of Terra and later became important as mustering points.

Recapturing another world, Carver V, provided psychological lift as well. The SLDF units arrived to relieve the remnants of three Marine regiments that had been holding out since the coup eight years earlier. The units had received emergency supplies from the Eridani Light House that had allowed them to continue their fight.

Star League troops quickly garrisoned the twelve worlds. Amaris’s forces had left plenty of minefields and booby-traps for the troopers to deal with, and the SLDF spent months removing and evaluating what the enemy left behind. On some key worlds, such as Graham IV, all that was left was nuclear devastation.

What Kerensky did find, however, led to a turning point of the war. Before the war, the planet Nirasaki was the headquarters of the Nirasaki Computers Collective. The NCC had been one of the major developers and contractors of the Space Defense Systems. It had had the responsibility of developing the incredibly intricate computer communications network that linked drone warships, ground weapons, and supply centers. When General Kerensky and Admiral Janos Grec, commander of the Star League Navy, heard that Nirasaki had been abandoned, they sent troops and scientists to the NCC research facility hoping to find something they could use against the Space Defense Systems.

At first it did not look promising. Most of the NCC buildings had been destroyed and the scientists rounded up and taken to Terra in the first year of the Amaris occupation. Searching the levels beneath the buildings revealed much of the same. The computer memories had been dumped and wiped clean. The paper files had been burned.

When a soldier discovered a small portable computer in a cleaning closet, it turned out that the computer’s contents had been hidden by Professor Catherine Glimp. When Nirasaki was being seized by Republican troops, Professor Glimp realized that the Space Defense Systems would be major stumbling blocks to anyone trying to rescue Hegemony worlds. She filled the limited memory of the portable computer with information that she and her colleagues thought might help.

Unfortunately, they had no way to defeat an SDS. In their own words: ”We just did too good a job, never once imagining we might one day wish the stupid things were more vulnerable.” The data Professor Glimp provided, however, allowed engineers and communication specialists to devise an electronic countermeasure. It was a device that swamped the primary communication channels of an SDS with static, forcing its computers to use backup links. The hope was that these secondary channels would be less effective in coordinating the various weapon systems. The device was also supposed to hamper the targeting of the SDS weapons.

General Kerensky had no way to test the effectiveness of the new ECM device except in battle. In March 2775, he led an attempt to invade New Home, an SDS-protected world just a few light years from the important world of Keid. At the head of a large fleet of warships and transports, the General anxiously watched as the new ECM was tried. At first, it seemed to have little effect. The nearest drone warships responded to their presence and attacked. Other warships around the planet, however, and the missile and laser batteries on the planet, seemed confused about how to respond. Their ineffectiveness allowed the General to drop his troops with few losses. New Home fell quickly, and Kerensky finally had his first break of the campaign.

He wasted little time in exploiting his new advantage. From mid-2775 through late 2778, the SLDF launched a series of attacks against SDS-protected worlds. Terra could not be attacked directly because of its advanced and extensive SDS, and so the worlds around it became the General’s targets. Because many of the worlds attacked were not protected by Castle Brians, the fighting on these worlds was relatively straightforward for the Regular Army.

On worlds like Dieron and Procyon, where there were Castles Brian, the fighting was especially difficult because there was no high-tech answer for overcoming an enemy firing from inside a bunker or for ’Mechs popping up from a hidden tunnel entrance. General Kerensky could have bypassed the mountains, where most castles were built, but that would have left whole regions vulnerable to attacks and atrocities from Republican troops, who thought nothing of killing civilians to hurt their enemy. The only solution was to break into the forts and hunt the enemy down. On Dieron, Republican troops had entrenched in the cities, too. The campaign for Dieron lasted two years, cost millions of lives, and devastated the planet and its economy.

In 2775, some of the mercenary units hired by Stefan Amaris began to surrender to the SLDF. Seeing the Space Defense Systems neutralized and the Regular Army’s new tactics for combatting Castles Brian took much of the fight out of many Amaris soldiers and mercenaries.

Also in 2775, some of the Star League member states began to participate in General Kerensky’s campaign. Supplies from the Lyran Commonwealth, the Capellan Confederation, and the Federated Suns began appearing at worlds held by General Kerensky’s troops. While most of the aid was for the many millions of refugees, there was also considerable ammunition and other equipment for the SLDF. Some of the soldiers cynically thought that the member states had begun to contribute only after General Kerensky and his army had gained the upper hand.

Despite recent successes, General Kerensky felt far from certain of victory. For every world like Keid, where Amaris had destroyed the military installations but had found the planet too useful to ravage, General Kerensky captured another like Caph, once a jewel of the Hegemony and left in ruins by the Rim Worlds forces. The General had lost more than a third of his forces and almost half of his navy. He did, however, control all the worlds closest to Terra. He could turn his attention and his remaining forces to the awesome task of seizing the most heavily defended place in the universe.


The Reagan Space Defense System was many times larger and more powerful than the others, and the engineers and scientists of the SLDF could offer General Kerensky no short cuts to defeat it. Brute force was the only way through the Reagan Space Defense System.

The General and his staff spent months of conferences to shape the plans for capturing Terra. Code-named Operation Liberation, the resulting risky plan was to swamp the Reagan Space Defense System with so many targets that most of Kerensky’s forces would be able to reach Terra’s surface.

While his troops were preparing for the operation, General Kerensky issued a statement to Terra giving Stefan Amaris a chance to surrender. Amaris, by then almost totally insane, sent a long, rambling reply that, among other curious things, called General Kerensky the angel of death. Taking the reply as a no, the Regular Army continued to prepare for the assault. This could be the final battle and no doubt the biggest.

On January 23, 2777, soldiers on eight worlds loaded onto their DropShips. General Kerensky, in his flagship, the McKenna’s Pride, watched as ships began gathering around the zenith jump point of New Earth. Twenty minutes before Operation Liberation was to commence, a taped message was flashed to all ships.

“Soldiers of the Star League, I’ve a few words to say before we begin. We’ve come a long way, my friends. From the far Periphery to just outside home, we have fought battle after battle. We’ve seen our enemy fall before us. We’ve seen our friends die. Now tired, bloodied, and battered, we are about to enter a battle that many have said is impossible to win. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps freeing Terra from the Usurper is humanly impossible. If it is, I’m not worried. I have long known that the men and women whom it has been my honor to command are more than just flesh and blood. That they are more than the sum of their physical parts. An unalloyed spirit runs through you like the sparks in diamonds. It is hard to put this into words but when I look into the eyes of even the lowest-rank trooper, I see the Star League. And I know that the worth of the Star League lies with the fact that it gave birth to and nurtured men and women like you. Friends, it is time to go home. Godspeed to all of you.”

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