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Old December 7th, 2011, 12:38 AM
LeperColony LeperColony is offline
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Dulinor, for his part, lacks the fleet strength to wage counter offenses. By relying on reserve and planetary forces to help offset his numerical deficiency, he was forced to surrender the strategic initiative. Instead, Dulinor began to wage a war of commerce raids and deep strikes, designed to destroy the assets that will allow fleets to move across the Zarushagar sector.

On the Rim, matters continue to degrade. Without the strategic reserve of ships from Diaspora, the rimward sectors are forced to fight on their own. Cowardice and incompetence had led to the collapse of the Old Expanses. The sector began to descend into a no man’s land. Imperial fleets in the region began to act independent of their civil command authority, defending the Old Expanses despite the nobility. However, scattered and isolated, Imperial forces were no matched for the massed Solomani units. In response, the Imperial fleets resorted to commerce raiding and deep strikes on command and control centers, forcing the Solomani to dedicate an increasing number of ships to consolidation over worlds whose nobles had already surrendered. Unfortunately, the nature of commerce raiding forces formations to scatter. As a result, due to battle losses, attrition, and even some out right treason, the Old Expanses fleets began to melt away. Daibei and the Solomani Rim both faired better against the Confederate offensive. Adair was able to link up with the Vegans, and maintained a viable front all through 1118 and 1119.

In the Spinward Marches, Archduke Norris’ situation was turning more serious by the week. By 1118, Strephon had accepted Norris’ self-promotion. With his title confirmed, Norris took personal command for the war. Fast reaction plans called for the mobilization of Deneb fleet, to counter Zhodani advances in the Spinward Marches and Trojan Reach. Though Imperial fleets had been pushed out of the Jewell and Regina subsectors, Consulate advances were half hearted seeming to have been stopped by late 1118. The addition of Deneb fleet signaled a renewed counter offensive with the aim of liberating Efate. In reality, Zhodani forces swept through Trojan Reach sector, into Rhylanor and Trin’s Veil, as well as the rimward subsectors of Deneb.

At Capital, reports continued to file in. With the Emperor at the Ilelish front, direction of the war fell primarily to the admiralty. This would have occurred at any rate. The difference was that the remaining nobles began to balk at the assignment of their fleets to the fronts. Without a clear-cut authority, every decision experienced additional lag time. When news of the attack on Rhylanor and Trin’s Veil reached Capital, it was decided to release Corridor fleet to deal with the Zhodani. Strephon’s reemphasis of the domains inserted the Archduke into the chain of command through which orders must flow. When faced with the command to release Corridor fleet, Ishuggi stalled, delayed, and then finally refused. When news of this finally reached Corridor fleet command, in mid 1120, the fleet tore itself apart. Corridor’s Sector Admiral, along with 9 of the 16 fleets departed for the Spinward front, while the other 7 remained under the command of Ishuggi’s men. Disobeying a deployment order can have only one meaning, so Capital ordered Archduke Brzk to suppress Ishuggi. Brzk began to assemble his fleets, reinforced by Ley sector to help replace those ships that had gone to Zarushagar with Strephon in 1117.

By 1120, Strephon’s campaign against Dulinor began to meet with real successes. Though his initial advance was slowed through the resource-deprived sections of Zarushagar, Dulinor was unwilling to use the same tactics in Ilelish itself. Aided by a few timely defections, the Imperial fleet cut deep into the sector, reaching Ilelish subsector. There, Imperial forces amassed preparing for a campaign reminiscent of the Terran invasion.

From Dlan, Dulinor continued to broadcast defiant messages vowing to fight to the last. These had all been pre-recorded, the real Dulinor and the remaining Ilelish fleet still answerable to him retreating into the Verge sector. The Archduke’s assets had suffered terribly over the last four years. Finally, as Strephon reached Ilelish sector itself, several opportunistic nobles proclaimed the Imperial fleet as liberators, and were only too happy to show their loyalty by turning against Dulinor. Using the time Dlan’s resistance purchased, Dulinor intended to draw a new fleet from the Verge reserve squadrons. This new force might be able to catch the Imperial fleet off guard. With luck, he might even get a chance to engage Strephon himself.

As Brzk finished mobilization, Imperial fleets squared off with the Vilani in Spinward Lishun. The engagements were small and sporadic. Brzk’s attempts to draw the Vilani into a decisive engagement proved fruitless. Carefully orchestrated deep penetration raids, flanking maneuvers, and retreats kept Vland’s fleets always out of reach. With Corridor’s 7 fleets supporting Ishuggi, Brzk requested reinforcements before a drive towards Vland itself. Gushemege and Dagudashaag were each tapped for several fleets, but local nobles stalled and vacillated while claiming their compliance. Strephon was known to refer to these two sectors as “Kentucky and Missouri,” though nobody understood the reference. For Ishuggi’s part, a Dulinor victory (unlikely as it increasingly seemed) would permit a new Ziru Sirka, while if Strephon emerged triumphant, the Vilani Archduke could meekly slip back into the Imperial fold. In either case, he saw little reason to move his fleets to the Spinward front.

The departure of Corridor fleet prompted panic among the local nobility. The reserve fleets, if acting in coordination, were more than capable of protecting the sector from the obsolete and poorly led Vargr vessels. Unfortunately, the local nobles kept the reserve fleets roped around their own specific fiefs, surrendering the sector to the corsair. Small islands of civilization remained where the reserve fleets stayed, or where the local world’s planetary navy proved strong enough to defend the system. The Vargr were quick enough to take advantage of this arrangement, pillaging the undefended worlds and bickering amongst themselves over the spoils.

In the Spinward Marches, the situation became increasingly grim. The fall of Rhylanor in mid 1120 allowed Zhodani forces to catch and destroy several Corridor fleets early in the next year. The remaining forces from Corridor, deviating from their original course, would not enter the field of combat until mid 1121. Meanwhile, the drive to liberate Efate met with staunch resistance from Zhodani colonial squadrons. Regina subsector was the setting of several major engagements, most inconclusive. As 1120 became 1121, Zhodani forces remained in control of Efate and Allel, but for the most part had been forced back to Jewell subsector. The brightest news from 1120 in the Marches came from the heroic Imperial 208th fleet, which moved up from the five sisters to liberate the Darrian’s and force Sword World forces back to defend their homeworlds.

1120 also saw a general increase in the intensity of Solomani attacks. Confederation estimates predicted an end to the Ilelish affair by the closing weeks of 1122 at the latest. Motivated by this projection, Confed planners hoped to push up to rimward Diaspora. This would allow the Solomani to offer a peace treaty that ceded the coreward sections of the Solomani Rim back to the Imperium, but would have a prewar net affect of as many as 8 subsectors for the Confederation. Adair continued to offer a staunch resistance, and with the Vegan enclave for support, looked unlikely to fold in the near future. A plan was then developed to encircle the Vegan Autonomous Region, bypassing the Solomani Rim front by pouring in through the Old Expanses. Though promising on paper, the concept ran afoul of several Imperial squadrons still operating in the area. Solomani hopes were shattered when the Imperium won a crushing victory at Nicosia/Old Expanses, capturing the naval base with the aid of ingenious irregular personnel (read PCs) and catching the emerging Confederate fleets off guard. Nicosia’s significance as a 57th century Cannae was not lost on hopeful Imperials, sparking a wave of patriotism. Coreward nobles began resisting the Confederation, petitioning aid from the then unengaged fleets in Delphi. However, without Duchess Margaret, the response was scattered and varied. Some fleets crossed the border, a few even going as far as engaging the Solomani. Most, however, chose to sit and wait.
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