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Chapter 3: War!

...[Signatories] hereby recognize the absolute equivalencies of rights and obligations manifest in the other participant nations and pledge to uphold these standards both in letter and spirit, taking as their first principle that of balance and harmonious equality...

The Iskandrian Partition and Intervention Treaty, Article 1A

The Balance of Power

The shape of the conflict on Kyklops resembles nothing else in human experience, an escalating war between all four of the Tripartite Powers of mankind and their mortal enemy, the Koralon. Alliances shift from day-to-day, treaties are subverted or thrown aside, skirmishes flare into full scale engagements and whole sectors are brought to ruin in this battle - a battle that comes ever-closer to erupting upon the galactic stage as a cataclysmic civil war.

The Iskandrian War, as it is already being described, began as a limited engagement in the wake of the Koralon occupation of the planet, relying primarily on irregular or makeshift forces intended both to meet the need for soldiers and to dodge the requirements of the VASA Partition and Intervention Treaty. This treaty delineates the nature of the garrison forces each of the Great Powers may maintain in Iskandria, indeed in the entire Arkadian-Helios Binary System, and it is the most important determinant in the complexion of the war as it has unfolded. While it may be true that had the Treaty not existed and the Great Powers been permitted the retention of their most powerful weaponry the armies of Iskandria would have fared better against the Koralon or, at the very least, may have been less willing to intervene in the neutral zone in the wake of the alien invasion, it is likewise clear that, as the conflict escalates in intensity, the limits of the Partition Treaty may be the only thing preventing a full-scale pan-humanic civil war.

The Partition Treaty arose from a need to jointly administer the newly occupied capital of the Great Tyrant Iskander following his assassination and the dissolution of his short-lived empire. The people of Iskandria, more than those of most cities, were of a highly diverse and cosmopolitan background, consisting of volunteer settlers from nearby systems, relocated populations of conquered worlds, and immigrant citizens of the Great Powers drawn to Iskandria for its opportunities. So, while the majority of the population looked to no outside power for guidance, there were many within the city who did and, in the political chaos following the collapse of Iskander's government and the defeat or defection of much of his empire during the General's War, many voices were raised to demand assistance from the four Tripartite Powers. A VASA fleet, fresh from its victory in the neighbouring Karnus System, swiftly arrived in Arkadia to accept the surrender of remnants of the Imperial government. But the call for intervention had been heard by the other powers, and when VASA convened the Territorial Council to decide the fate of Iskandria the other factions were on hand to demand their share of the prize.

And what a prize it has proven to be. Blessed with a potent grav-well in the form of the Helios white dwarf star, the Arkadia / Helios System was a natural centre for trade and navigation in a sector of human space that was, despite occasional conflicts, undergoing a demographic and economic boom. Iskandria itself was a staggering feat of engineering, possessing a robust and high-tech infrastructure built around a rational plan, constructed with the resources of Iskander's conquered planets, and largely populated by skilled and educated workers bought, borrowed, and stolen from worlds across the galaxy. It lacked only coherent and legitimate government and the stability to perform up to its potential. The Tripartite Powers soon brought it under their aegis and integrated it into their own material and economic nexus. Thus Kyklops became a rich but divided world and, as the centuries unfolded, the divisions only deepened into permanent partitions until each Great Power's administrative zone became a kind of exclusive enclave, a slice of the home planet transplanted onto one of the great city-continents of Iskandria.

As the Great Powers soon discovered military escalation and the rhetoric of empire - that bellicose face-off of the Tripartite Peace - was better left on the galactic stage, and it was agreed in a series of disarmament accords amended to the original Administrative Treaty to limit the nature and amount of weaponry and forces available to each of the powers in the system. This series of accords was to be collectively ratified as the Partition and Intervention Treaty, which allowed only limited, conventional forces to be present on the planet, restricted the scope and nature of interference within the greater part of the Iskandrian Free City (the area often called the neutral zone), and instituted a permanent program of arms inspections administered by the jointly run Agency of Assessment. It was a system that worked, all factions seemingly in agreement that it was in their best interest for Iskandria to remain untroubled by threats of war, and the city responded with a long period of growth and prosperity - until the coming of the Koralon.

One of the reasons the Partition Treaty was so successful was precisely because Kyklops was deep within a stable region of human space; it had never been a frontier planet, having only been settled long after its neighbouring systems. But in limiting the threat to one another the Great Powers also curtailed their ability to defend the system, and many of the more sophisticated and effective space-based weapons protecting other important worlds were lacking in Arkadia. The Koralon met with less resistance here than in any of the other Gateworld systems that they subverted during the Incursion, and their fleet incurred minimal loses. This, of course, was the other principal factor in determining the nature of the conflict on Kyklops, and the presence of a powerful alien fleet in the opening phases of the engagement prevented any intervention by the homeworlds.

But mankind did not stay idle, and within half a year of the invasion an enormous joint expeditionary fleet smashed the Koralon cordon and penetrated into the Arkadia / Helios Binary System, relieving and reinforcing beleaguered Iskandria.

The Reconquest of Arkadia

Ships are the backbone of empire.

Iskander, Reflections (HoloRec DCCCVI bio, case a2)

Just as the Koralon pulled the remnants of their incursion fleets together to create a powerful defensive force in the Arkadia / Helios System, the Great Powers (with the Syntha conspicuously absent) amassed their own invasion force by combining as many of their far-flung fleets as practical. This process took a little over half a year, in which time the conflict on Iskandria continued to spiral out of control.

The Pan-Humanic Joint Fleet was comprised of approximately 900 capital ships, 1,700 mainline battle vessels, 350 planetary assault and/or transport ships, 2,200 assorted freighters and support craft, and numerous class 'c' or smaller vessels estimated at around 10,000. Around seventy percent of these vessels took part in fleet actions in one or more of the other gateworld systems conquered during the incursion and, thanks to crew sharing and training, all combat vessels could count at least some veterans of Koralon fighting among their bridge command.

The sweeping success of tripartite naval forces in defeating the incursion fleets is due primarily to VASA's long planned reconquest of the Rim. The rapid logistical and political mobilization of the disparate elements of the pan-humanic forces was conducted purely along the lines of VASA's blueprint for a swift surprise assault on the Koralon held colonies on the eastern galactic frontier. So to the 'secret weapon' deployed by tripartite fleets, the so called Trojan, was also the result of this planned VASA assault, but it is yet unclear how effective this mysterious weapon was against the aliens and, hence, difficult to asses its importance in the repulsion of the incursion.

Viridian Grand Admiral Tobias Cranmer was appointed to head the combined fleet steadily amassing in the Karnus System. Admiral Cranmer was both the most experienced and most politically acceptable commander qualified for the task, and his brilliant conduct of the Actaeon campaign left little doubt as to his ability. Cranmer's staff includes VASA and Junker representatives, as well as liaisons from coalitions and independent colonies that contributed vessels to the fleet.

After a long period of supplying and refitting the joint fleet, and waiting for the rush- produced vessels begun in the initial days of the incursion to augment their numbers, Cranmer ordered the attack. His previous probing foray revealed what he believed to be the Koralon's intended defensive strategy: patiently waiting for the bulk of the tripartite fleet to shunt in before engaging it from all directions simultaneously in an effort to lure the balance of the human force into the system and destroy it.

Cranmer devised a variant of that famous tactic of misdirection, Takher's Gambit, for his opening assault. Seven small fleets of between five and twelve of the fastest vessels, mostly modified VASA Harrier class cruisers, were sent through the Helios grav-well in random intervals over a ten day period. These fleets each accelerated away from the well on different headings, but at maximum velocity, their skeleton crews handpicked from among the youngest and toughest available. Suspended in acceleration gell-tanks, these men and women had to endure a constant five g's, with no respite, for upwards of a week. Periodically the ships released robotic probes and 'dumb' objects of varied, and it was hoped confusing, properties. Such objects were referred to as 'slug candy,' and they proved irresistible.

The Admiral's gamble paid-off as the Koralon, presumably alarmed and intrigued, could no longer ignore this inexplicable human behavior. Trusting to their warp- bubble technology to get them back to the grav-well if needed, the Koralon detached multiple elements of their scattered fleet to interdict the mysterious human vessels. Meanwhile primitive, boomerang-style micro-probes had kept up a constant passive surveillance oscillating loops between the Helios and Karnus sides of the well. Once their sub-ether arrays detected numerous warp signatures, the telltale sign of a Koralon phase-shunting jump, Cranmer shunted the vanguard of the tripartite fleet into the Arkadia-Helios System with orders to immediately engage the enemy.

Fully a third of the Koralon fleet that had waited in positions around the Helios well had been detached by Cranmer's feint, but the human fleet could only count on a small interval in which to press this advantage. Many of Cranmer's advisors had urged him to use a force outfitted with Trojan devices during the assault, citing the enormous success such tactics had enjoyed thus far. But Cranmer was unwilling to risk his bridgehead on an already over-exploited weapon system, and one not suited to the nature of the encounter. Instead, he deployed an unconventional new device based firmly on thoroughly understood principles of n- space physics. It was his second big gamble.

Cranmer had modified a handful of battle-ancient Viridian Dreadnaughts into 'Warp-Diggers,' replacing their turbo-lasers with the enormous wide band xasers normally found only on space stations and star-factories. As the pan- humanic vanguard surged into the Arkadia / Helios System and engaged the waiting aliens, these Diggers sped to the last monitored coordinates of the Koralon fleets that had warped away from the well in pursuit of Cranmer's probing gambit. Trusting that these fleets would return to the exact same position rather than spend time recalculating a new heading, the Warp-Diggers blasted these areas with their powerful xasers - resulting in a warp splash powerful enough to either destroy or hopelessly scatter the returning Koralon fleets as they attempted to navigate their way back through the n-space.<;/p>

The engagement then developed into a more conventional battle, with the Tripartite fleet soon gaining the upper hand, especially once they received the processed intelligence reports of the VASA listening post on Thule, which had secretly monitored Koralon fleet activity since the invasion. The quick relief landing force earmarked for the reinforcement of Iskandria was augmented to include even more military transports and re-entry freighters once it became clear that the Koralon were pulling their forces back to reconsolidate their damaged fleets. Thus the beleaguered armies of Iskandria received men and material enough to quadruple their war-making capacity, but already the cooperation that won such a stunning victory in the cold depths of space is breaking down in the tropical heat of the metropolis; and that long line of soldiers issuing from landers in the VASA, Viridian, and Junker Sectors may soon be facing one another across the rubble-choked streets of the neutral zone, where the battle for man's future has only just begun.

  • VASA Landscape 1
  • VASA Landscape 2
  • VASA Landscape 3