The release of Duke Robert on 2 October 30G6 was the high point of the Free Skye rebellion, though it also made the Duke beholden to Morgan Kell and, via the Archduke, Peter Steiner-Davion. With the military campaign on Hesperus dead locked, Skye had little hope of winning its Independence and with the civil war wind ing down and an increasing likelihood of a large-scale counteroffensive—Duke Robert ameliorated his position, changing his call for "independence" to one for "greater autonomy." Free Skye had once again failed in its objective to form an independent state but the movement was both stronger and more influential than it had ever been in its history. With the end of the Civil War, there would be a new political balance in the Alliance, one in which the Archon would have to weigh the power of Tharkad against that of the regional capitals. Duke Kelswa knew that by biding their time, Free Skye could yet prevail.
Maria Esteban inherited a situation on Hesperus that was, in her own words, probably un winnable. She would not, however, abandon the world without making a valiant effort to complete her mission. Her concentrated forces had a numeric advantage over the Fifteenth Lyran Guard, but the Loyalist unit had the benefit of the Defiance complex and its technicians, their 'Mechs and tanks fully armed and in tip-top condition. The only problem for Glna Ciampa's troops was the shortage of fresh food—Free Skye still controlled the Melrose Valley, the planetary "breadbasket"—though the Defiance complex was well stocked with preserved food, the stockpiles established early in the Succession Wars to handle the eventuality of a protracted siege. The defenders could hold out for years, placing the onus of winning the battle squarely on the shoulders of Esteban's troops.
Ordering her only battle armor platoon to infiltrate the Defiance complex on 14 October, the Free Skye general readied her troops for a daring, last ditch attempt to seize the factory complex. Though spotted twice during their operation, the Free Skye armored infantry was able to neutralize their discoverers before the alarm was sounded. Their surprise assault on the mountain's command complex was swift and deadly, eliminating the guards and capturing the DSPF commander, Major James Goree.
Without their command center to coordinate their efforts, and with many weapons platforms disabled remotely by the saboteurs, the Defiance Self-Protection Force was ill-equipped to coordinate with the LAAF troops and unprepared to meet the Free Skye assault. Esteban's main force drove directly for the factory complex's main gates, following much the same plan as in 3065, only this time with no Grey Death to block their path. At an extremely high cost, the Skye troops were able to breach the factory's defenses once more and surged into the complex, seeking to overrun the defenders. Unfortunately, for Esteban's troops, DSPF troopers—includ-
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