The Chronicles of Exile
AD3830, Serco Prime
If the Serco had been a culturally and technologically stagnant people before, they are now a raging torrent of innovation. The Order of Akan's attacks utterly polarized the population into a common thirst for conquest and revenge. Massive resources are directed towards the design and construction of a new high-tech armada, built for no other purpose than to destroy the Itani. Nighthawks are greatly improved with better maneuverability and weapons. Their range can not be significantly enhanced with the limitations of existing technology, so instead the Serco build massive Carrier ships to take them to battle. Planetary bombardment ships, fleet-protection Destroyers, and troop carriers all make the way from the drawing board to the orbit of Serco Prime. The military as a whole undergoes a great reassessment of strategy, rethinking their ancient land-war tactics. Favor is found with small teams of enhanced, smarter Guises, compact enough for interstellar transport and numerous enough to provide a substantial ground force. The new Guises are controlled by an orbiting capital ship. Guise-like artificially controlled fighters are researched, but prove too unstable for short-term combat use. Initial testing of the ground forces goes well, and the Serco people remain stalwart in their call for vengeance.
In the meantime, the Itani continue to argue about the philosophical ramifications of building a military. Thus, little actual building takes place. They do manage to revive their aged weapons technology, and improve on it to some degree, bringing it up to date. Advancements are made in energy studies, monks can now easily fly a ship and control an Energy Focus at the same time. Designers conceptualize next-generation ships featuring modular weapons attachments, but no actual weapons are constructed.
On the day of the eighteenth anniversary of the attack on Serco Prime, a fleet of forty-four Serco capital ships make the jump to the adjacent system, on their way to Itani territory. The Itani sentries see them and provide a few hours warning to Eo. The Order is shaken by this news, many lamenting their foolish choice to avoid weapons construction. An evacuation of Eo's population begins. The planet being the most recently settled of the Itani worlds, and the most lightly populated, the evacuation is managed with time to spare. A diplomatic envoy is dispatched to the wormhole area, in a last hope of negotiating with the incoming Serco armada. Negotiation is not considered likely, however, so the envoy also carries a number of highly trained monks to power the energy focus, along with a high yield thermonuclear device as a final option.
As the massive Serco invasion force begins its final jump into Eo's system, the envoy begins broadcasting requests for negotiation. The Serco fleet silently forms in front of the envoy, unresponsive to communications. Eventually, the envoy states that the attack on the Serco people was perpetrated by little-known Itani splinter group, and that the Itani people have no interest in war with the Serco. The sneering Serco commander finally responds, "Of course you have no interest in war, now that you read your demise in our presence". Immediately after, the Serco open fire on the envoy. The Itani diplomatic vessel flees before the pursuing armada, the monks on board hard-pressed to maintain the shield against so great an onslaught. The Itani decide to release their bomb, dropping it behind them in the path of the fleet. It detonates with the sudden brilliance of a new star, taking out several capital ships, including the flagship of the Serco commander. However, the rest of the fleet was spread over too great an area to have received much collective damage. The diplomatic vessel manages to escape in the ensuing confusion, but the loss of their commander has only strengthened the will of the invaders.
In relatively short order the Serco arrive at Eo and begin bombardment. The Guises are landed and start their assaults on the cities, which seem oddly silent and lightly defended. Most of the major cities are destroyed during this rampage, but few living Itani are found, let alone killed. The Serco are perplexed, but soon begin to make pronouncements of occupying the planet "on behalf of the Serco People, whose vengeance will not be soon forgotten". A few thousand Itani are found and killed, on various parts of the planet, those who were unable to evacuate or chose to stay behind. The sparseness of the population only further angers the Serco, who now perceive that the Itani have retreated before them. They have just begun scanning for additional wormhole areas in the sector, to track down the remaining Itani planets, when the Order of Akan abruptly arrives on the scene.
A massive battle rages above the skies of Eo for the next six hours. The Order has made considerable achievements in their defensive shielding, which proves more than a match for the improved Serco weaponry. Despite this fact, the Akanese are severely outnumbered. The day might still have gone badly, if not for the sudden appearance of a large number of fighters from Itan, hurriedly retrofitted with prototype weaponry. Both sides take heavy casualties, until the tide is finally turned with the destruction of the Guise control ship. Perceiving that their hopes for occupation have been dashed, the Serco retreat, taking their twelve remaining capital ships and vanishing through the wormhole towards their home.
The Itani celebrate their hard-won victory. Praised for their prompt arrival, the Order of Akan tersely states that they were simply doing their duty. Not long after, the black fleet vanishes once more.
The Itani success in the battle of Eo came at great cost. Although the casualties were far fewer than they might have been, a great many had still died, and the surface of the planet was in ruins. With little left of their cities, the refugees returned to the sad task of rebuilding. This put a considerable economic burden on the planets of Divinia and Itan, but they were up to the task. "Eo must be rebuilt," they said "more beautiful than ever." The residents got to work, and were happy to be swiftly recreating their homes. However, this did little to salve their anger at the Serco.
The Order of Eo had made no statements regarding their response to the Serco attack, and continued to weather the heated discussions within their ranks. Many wished to build a great armada, and attack the Serco, wipe out all their ability to make war, and put a permanent military watch on their nation. While this might have succeeded, it was a tenuous chance at best. The Itani knew nothing of the significant defensive measures the Serco had undertaken since SkyCommand had been obliterated. Such an assault would likely have been long and brutal, and probably achieved little aside from the decimation and demoralization of both cultures.
As it was, the suggestions of aggression were roundly rejected the monastic leadership. This caused unusually venomous and heated debate within the hierarchy, and placing a great weight and sadness on the countenance of the Abbot of Itan, to whom most of the Order looked for guidance. He agreed that, from what was known, peaceful negotiation with the Serco was unlikely, although it should be explored at every opportunity. He could not bear to consider aggression against the Serco, and in so doing, irreparably violate the Order's deeply held philosophy. He would, however, mandate the construction of a great military fleet, to be staffed and governed from within the Order, and to protect the Itani people from aggression. The posture of this fleet would be strictly defensive. It would be forbidden to travel beyond the systems claimed by the Itani. It would make no assaults on civilian populations or bombardments of planets inhabited by civilians. This military wing of the Order would be known as the Itani Defensive Corps.
Most of the Order applauded this solution, and immediately set about the organization and construction of this defensive corps. Some were dissatisfied, however, and demanded a more aggressive stance against the Serco. When news of the agreement was broadcast, reaction was similar. On Itan and Divinia, most found the defensive posture acceptable. On Eo, refugees bitterly asked if the Serco will be made to answer at all for their pitiless attack on a peaceable and wholly civilian population. No satisfactory answer was forthcoming.
About a year after the Battle of Eo, the Order of Akan abruptly passed through the Itani sectors, broadcasting a message. "Join with us, brothers and sisters", their repeating message exclaimed, "We fight to avenge our grievous hurts at the hands of the Serco". The message went on to further debase the Serco as "murderers without conscience" and "corruptors of nature". After several passes through the systems, the propaganda fleet was ordered to leave, and swiftly obeyed. Many had listened, however, and several thousand people, including refugees and disillusioned monks from Eo, followed the ships as they left. No attempts were made to discover their destination, and the Abbot of Itan permitted them to leave without rancor or judgment.
Many skirmishes have occurred since the battle Eo. All attempts at peaceful resolution with the Serco have been met with rebuke and retaliation. Analysis of the Serco response implies they feel insulted by the offers of terms, despite many of the terms being greatly favorable to their people. They seem to despise everything Itani, no offers of technology or strategic area interest them. Explanations of the different Orders mean little to them, as they espouse a belief that all Itani are a disease in need of cleansing. They will only accept total surrender, and even then they will guarantee nothing.
The great fleet of the Itani is very successful, defending against incursion after incursion of Serco attackers. The constant skirmishes become nearly a way of life for the two militaries. During this period, the lukewarm war becomes integrated as an accepted part of culture. The altercations are frequent, every few months, but few are injured. Both sides have erected devastating automated defense systems, and neither mount any large assaults. The Itani Defensive Corps are banned from such activity, and the Serco have made no attempts in recent memory.
The Union of Independent Territories (Neutrals) are peripherally aware of the war, although not entirely certain whom the Serco are fighting. UIT-Serco relations are still quite chilly, and for the most part the UIT avoid the Serco systems entirely. The Serco, for their part, have left the Union alone since their original exodus from Sol II.
The Order of Akan, despite their claims of a great campaign against the Serco, have not been heard from for some time.
Exploration of the systems beyond Divinia leads to contact with the UIT. Surprisingly, the wormhole areas form something of a loop, connecting the Itani, UIT, and the Serco together. Itani-UIT relations become friendly, and within a few years the two nations are trading extensively. Historical descriptions of flight of the Union from Serco oppression give the Itani little hope for a peaceful resolution of their war. The UIT are happy to contribute their own technology to the effort, however, providing the Itani with many ingenious but often low-tech, solutions to problems. Among their contributions is their best Xithricite alloy. Light and incredibly strong, it becomes the new metal of choice for spaceship construction.
The UIT themselves have become even more loosely knit over the years, until the term "Nation" could scarcely be applied. The Senate dwindles in power, while the influence of the corporations only grows. By the time of Itani contact, they're almost completely a corporate-driven culture. Some sections are well guarded and crime free, under the auspices of the controlling corporation. Others are wild zones of rampant crime, where the right price can truly buy anything. All sorts of technology filters into these places, sold by shady merchants of questionable background: Serco biomechanical data, cybernetic implantation, weapons of disturbing and unusual design, all available to the highest bidder.
The representatives with whom the Itani interact were themselves of questionable origin. A disconnected league of corporations and powerful individuals control most of the UIT, but are often in competition with one another. Thus, the Itani found themselves flooded with requests by one group or another to purchase exclusive information on advanced technology. The Itani were more interested in sharing their knowledge with any who wished to learn, much to the annoyance of the individual UIT corporations. There were rumors even of small conflicts between forces of various groups and companies, vying with one another for Itani technology. The Energy Focus shield system particularly excited the UIT merchants and corporations, until they learned how many years of study and training were required to even begin to use such a device. After a few interactions, the Itani became somewhat wary of the strange Union, maintaining positive relations, but warning their populace about the potential dangers of visiting or trading there.
Abruptly arriving from an unmapped system, a large fleet from the Order of Akan passes through the Itani systems, headed towards the Serco. Not answering any hails, the armada passes from system to system at high speed. The thirty-odd capital ships are finally halted by the combined might of the Itani Defense Corps, formed in a blockade at the Itani-Serco border (at this time, the last jump to Sol II). The Itani inform the Order of Akan that they will not willingly fire on their estranged family, but they will permit no large-scale aggression against the Serco. Hard words are exchanged, but the Itani remain firm. A tense hour-long standoff follows. Encrypted communications fly back and forth between the remote fleet. Suddenly and without a word, the Akanese fleet turns and return back from whence they came.
The UIT are contacted by the Order of Akan. Asked to remain discreet in all their dealings, the Union begins much fruitful trade with the sect. All exchanges are made in sectors of nondescript space, the UIT are permitted no information on the Akanese home base. Veiled threats are suggested, should any attempt to discover its location. Despite the cloak-and-dagger, relations become quite friendly, the Akanese choosing to interact mostly with a few corporations and merchants with whom they have built trusting relationships.
A massive Serco campaign begins, over two hundred capital ships and carriers making the jump across the well-established "border". The full power of the Itani military is brought to bear on the defense of the sector, along with the activation of all twenty asteroid-based defense cannon. Eighty Itani ships regroup near the defensive perimeter before wading into the fray. The Serco have greatly advanced their weapons technology, but are still hard pressed to break through the Itani focus fields or the xi-rite armor plating beneath. For twelve hours the battle rages, the firestorm leaving scars on the nearby planet and asteroid field that can still be seen to this day. After all twenty of the massive defense cannon are knocked out, the Itani clearly begin to lose ground. Rather than risk being completely wiped out, they begin a strategic retreat to the next sector, sending runners back to Eo and Itan for whatever reinforcements are available. Outnumbered nearly three to one by this point, the Itani are hard pressed, but they make the best use of their speed advantage, flying before the Serco, only to rally at the next tactically sound area. After making the jump to the next sector, they again regroup, hitting the Serco as they follow through the wormholes. The Serco take heavy casualties, both sides have lost thousands of people by this point, but they still press on.
After eighteen hours of strategic retreat and reassembly, the Itani are down to twenty two capital ships of varying types, and a hundred or so fighters. The Serco still wield nearly eighty capital ships, their carriers allowing them to swap out exhausted pilots in the middle of battle. The Itani have never developed carriers, their pilots usually returning to their home planet after a day's work, but no such luxuries can be taken here. Having been pushed back two systems from the border, the Itani are now only a single jump from Eo. Reinforcements have been few and far between, as most of the Itani military has already been expended. Knowing they are not far from the kill, the Serco begin to use their advantage of fighter numbers to harry any reinforcements who arrive. The Itani, battered but not yet beaten, begin the rally they know will be their last. Cap-ship crews prepare to overload their reactors and plunge their ships into the midst of their enemy.
Behind them, the light of Deneb glints off of a vast field of giant ice chunks. Aeron's Icefield (named for the explorer who found it, hundreds of years earlier) is the last physical obstacle before the wormhole-capable area that gives access to Eo's system. Through the icefield the embattled crews see a great chorus of wormholes begin to open, like a hundred glowing flowers. The Akanese Obsidian Armada, numbering nearly ninety capital ships, emerges to wild cheering from the remaining Itani. In their wake follows over two hundred civilian ships, cannibalized and retrofitted for combat. The Battle of Aeron's Icefield only lasted two hours, but it is warmly remembered in the hearts of the Itani people. The Akanese were the deciding factor in the turning the tide, but the courage of the civilians made up for any lack in their equipment or experience. The light, highly maneuverable Itani ships had an increased advantage once the battle began within the icefield proper. As many Serco fighters were destroyed by the ice as were destroyed by their enemies.
The Serco chose suddenly to break off their attack, despite having recently been reinforced by an additional forty capital ships. They passed out of the sector, returning to the adjacent system and remaining there en masse. The Itani chose to not pursue, instead focusing on their casualties and very bedraggled defense force. The Akanese remained for a few hours, before leaving as well. When thanked for their invaluable assistance, they responded simply: "Yes."
Over the next few days, weeks, months, and years, the area around Aeron's Icefield was heavily fortified. Large asteroids were brought through the wormhole to act as bases for defensive batteries. A hundred years later, the three Goliath Cannon (Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone) were constructed and lent their considerable presence to the defense of the region. The Itani never reclaimed the two lost systems, which were eventually colonized and fortified by the Serco. These borders remain to this day.
The Itani make significant improvements to their, weapons technology, yielding more efficient and more damaging fire. Capital ships can now deliver a withering fullisade of high-energy pulse flares. Additionally, a new Cruiser class is introduced, making the Heavy Cruiser the largest of the Itani cap ships at nearly two thousand meters. Both Heavy and Light Cruisers can carry and sustain a number of smaller craft for long-range support purposes.
Altercations with the Serco have dropped off considerably, since the offensive of 4063. The Itani continue their defensive focus, learning lessons from that greatest of space battles, and further refining and altering their designs and strategies to eliminate perceived flaws.