The fifth wave of the Civil War saw the first major moves by the Free Skye forces that had occupied numerous worlds in the preceding months. With Skye in their hands (albeit unofficially for several more months) and numerous key agricultural worlds declaring for the rebellion, the key to victory lay in dominating the military and industrial centers. That meant Free Skye had to capture two worlds to be sure of survival as a viable nation: the military command world of Freedom, and the factory world of Hesperus. The former posed little challenge—or so they thought—while the latter had been attacked fourteen times during the Succession Wars and never conquered. Still, even in prison Duke Robert had several aces up his sleeves ...
The Fifth Lyran Regulars were still rebuilding from their disastrous campaign against the Fourth Davion Guards in early 3064 when Free Skye units assaulted the planet, seeking to secure the Theater capital and capture Margrave James Ellis. The Skye units tasked with the mission were the Alexandria FTM and the Accrington FTM, green units that would not ordinarily have been given such a mission, though Skye commander John Dundee deemed them suitable given the Regulars' condition. General Dundee overruled several protests within the nascent Free Skye High Command, particularly those linked to the false rumors that Victor Steiner-Davion was on Freedom, declaring that time would tell.
The Fifth chose not to contest the landings m early July, allowing the militia units to gain a foothold on the continent of Republic. Then, staging a diversionary raid on the Alexandria unit, the Lyran Regulars proceeded to demonstrate to the Accrington FTM exactly how capable they w(ere despite being understrength. Two battalions of 'Mechs threw themselves against the Militia position, bursting through the ineffectual perimeter defenses and overrunning the militia's artillery battalion and supply depot, and shattering three regiments of infantry and one of armor in the process. A counter-attack by the militia's own 'Mechs forced the Fifth to withdraw, but the damage was already done. The Accrington FTM had lost almost half its fighting strength and the unit's morale was in tatters. That the assault cost the Fifth almost two companies was scant consolation to the rebels as the Lyran Regulars still controlled the Theater command center and its vast caches of supplies.
Unwilling to attempt a direct assault on the Fifth, who together with the planetary militia established a defensive cordon around Jefferson City, the Free Skye units slowly spread their influence across the planet, becoming the de-facto governors of Independence and much of Republic. Controlling the flow of goods—particularly foodstuffs—to the capital was the most effective way of winning control, forcing the Fifth to come out and fight or else be slowly starved together with the millions of civilians in the city. On 9 October, the first of Duke Robert's "rabbits" appeared from the hat when Maria Esteban, who had defected from the Eleventh Arcturan Guard in February, arrived at Freedom with her battle-hardened retinue and took control of the Free Skye operation. Margrave Ellis and the Fifth Lyran realized their time was rapidly running out.
Control over Hesperus II would decide both the fate of Free Skye and Loyalist control over the Alliance and so both factions committed considerable resources to securing the battle scarred industrial world. The planetary garrison was comprised of the Fifteenth and Thirty-sixth Lyran Guards, the former the elite but under-strength veterans of the Fourteenth Battle of Hesperus in 3057 and the latter a stronger but less experienced unit who for many months had refused to he drawn in support for Victor or Katherine.
The Air Surfer's decision to support Katherine after the outbreak of the Civil War eased tensions on Hesperus. However, neither unit had organic aerospace assets and when the Skye Rebellion seemed imminent the Archon ordered the mercenary Gray Death Legion—also veterans of Fourteenth Battle of Hesperus—to deploy to the factory world in support of the line units. The third group on-planet was the Defiance Self Protection force, a corporate military unit equipped with the best Defiance of Hesperus had to offer and operating outside the LAAF hierarchy, answering only to the Defiance CEO. The DSPF cared little for the mercenaries after the 3057 battle and tensions between the two groups were high despite the presence of Daniel Brewer—Duke of Hesperus and CEO of DefHes—as a captain in the Legion. The antipathy in the unit culminated in a friendly fire incident on 22 June, when a Legion patrol strayed too close to the Defiance fortifications. The Avalon-class warship Simon Davion completed the planet's defenses. To the uninitiated, it seemed an insurmountable force. Those familiar with Hesperus' history knew better.
Historians cite 15 June as the start of the Fifteenth battle of Hesperus, the date that elements of the Twenty-second Skye Rangers staged a stealth insertion into the Hesperus system and began their approach to the key world. Going to ground on hostile Hesperus III, the Twenty-second waited for the arrival of the main Skye force before a planned lightning assault on Hesperus ll's principal spaceport at Maria's Elegy. The chance discovery of the Rangers by militia fighters on 23 June almost ruined their plans, though they were able to shoot down the patrol before it could alert the defenders. Nonetheless, with the Grey Death Legion conducting SAR missions to find the missing fighters, Colonel Francisco de Argall decided to implement an alternative battle plan.
As the Fourth Skye Rangers arrived on 28 June, supported by the Fox-class WarShips Indefatigable and Illustrious, the Twenty-second exploded from Hesperus III, brushing aside the Grey Death fighter screen and landing in their secondary LZ, the agricultural Melrose Valley, where they set about razing farmsteads and crops to prompt a response by the defenders. A mercenary battalion boosted to intercept the invaders but was eventually forced to withdraw. In space, the Simon Davion moved to engage the inbound Fourth Skye, engaging the two Fox-class corvettes. Their efforts shattered the Illustrious, but a surprise assault by the Indefatigable exposed the Loyalist WarShip to a boarding action and the cruiser fell to the Free Skye forces In less than an hour. The newly acquired vessel was quickly turned against the defenders, destroying a pair of Loyalist JumpShips that were preparing to flee before escorting the Fourth Skye flotilla in-system; a move that showed how critically important both sides considered this battle.
Landing at the Caran River Basin and driving on the Doering Electronics' plant, the new arrivals prompted a response from both the Fifteenth Lyran Guard and the GDL, though the Loyalists realized their position was untenable and withdrew.
Attempts to call in the semi-independent Thirty-sixth from the Maldon mining complex on the far side of the planet came to naught, placing defense of the Defiance complex squarely on the shoulders of the Fifteenth and the mercenaries. To the surprise of the defenders, the bulk of both Skye units disengaged from their respective operation areas and boosted for orbit.
Their target soon became apparent when Skye fighters began to attack DSPF positions before the Rangers dropped into close combat. The corporate militia managed to hold off the assault but was hard pressed and the Gray Death began a maneuver to reinforce the factory complex utilizing the" maglev system that" linked Maria's Elegy and the mountain, sustaining serious damage when their train was ambushed and derailed.
Realizing the desperation of the Loyalist position, Leutnant-General Glna Ciampa of the Fifteenth issued a request to the LAAF High Command for additional forces, sending out her request via ComStar. In a desperate attempt to prevent this, the Skye Commander, the maverick William Harrison von Frisch called in the Simon Davion to make a surgical strike against the HPG compound. To his horror, the Free Skye captain of the WarShip exceeded his mandate, not only flattening the ComStar facility but also unleashing his vessel's firepower against the spaceport at Maria's Elegy. The attack devastated the Fifteenth Lyran Guard, which used the spaceport as its base of operations, killing more than two thousand infantry and armor crews, as well as seven hundred civilian workers. Von Frisch was horrified but resolved to erase the stain on Skye's honor by capturing the world.
For the next week, the Loyalist and Free Skye forces jockeyed for position, the GDL staging a series of raids against rebel positions in an attempt to lure their opponents out of position. The mercenaries achieved a degree of success but the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Davis McCall on 8 July damaged the Legion's will to fight and prompted them to withdraw. Four days later the situation worsened with the arrival of reinforcements for the rebels. The Thirty-second Lyran Guards—lured to the Free Skye banner by Duke Robert—landed at Maria's Elegy while the Seventeenth Skye Rangers deployed to Maldon to pin the Thirty-sixth Lyran Guard in place.
On July 18, the rebels launched their offensive against the Defiance complex: the Thirty-second Guard RCT, the Fourth Skye RCT and Twenty-second Skye Regiment against the mauled Fifteenth Lyran Guard RCT and the remains of the Grey Death. The fighting was bloody and at close quarters, costing all the combatants dearly. The Fifteenth Lyran crushed the Twenty-Second Skye but the GDL was forced to hold the line against the other two Free Skye units. The Legion checked the assault— even managing to capture Alice Day, the commander of the Thirty-second—but paid a fearful price for their success. Colonel Lori Kalmar-Carlisle was slain by Skye infantry after ejecting from her Victor. Reduced to barely a company of 'Mechs, the Gray Death Legion were effectively dead, the survivors, including Duke Brewer, incorporated into the DSPF.
Was this article helpful?