The Third Orion-Antaran War
It was cycle 18041 when the livid Antarans returned with their combined Green and Black Fleets. This, the Third Orion-Antaran War, was a much more brutal fight than even the Antarans expected, but they campaigned with their usual dedication and suicidal zeal. The Orions and the Antarans fought desperately to win, for both sides fully understood there could only be one survivor.
The Orions put up a valiant fight, but they were systematically eliminated, one civilization at a time, by the sheer force of the Antarans' combined Black and Green Fleet ships. Even though many of the Orion races individually may have been better warriors than the Antarans, they were too divided and too exhausted from their own Civil War to stem the tide of ultimate Antaran victory. The resolute Antarans had the driving force and resources to outlast the weary Orions and win the war. The Antarans were focused, they were driven, and they were ultimately victorious.
The Antarans never expected the Third Orion-Antaran War to last 25 cycles, so they were not prepared for the excessive cost of defeating the Orion barbarians who proved much more capable than originally anticipated. Early in the war, the Antarans managed to infiltrate the Orion Senate with mercenary spies. Through espionage these agents were able to uncover the weaknesses in the nature of each enemy race, which the confident Antarans exploited to gain a considerable military advantage.
As a result of their findings, the Antarans released a "Mind Blind" virus on the Elerian population, which destroyed the telepathic centers of any exposed female Elerians. When the Elerian Queen was poisoned with the virus, many Elerian noble families sought to take advantage of the situation at the expense of the crown. This hostility caused great turmoil among the Elerian nobility, which eventually led to struggles for supremacy. Once weakened, the Elerians' defense was no match for the Antarans' unified attack force. The Elerians were thus vanquished.
Using the Mrrshans' natural inclination to seek battle against the enemy's strength to prove their own superiority, the Antarans' Black Fleet organized a series of staged battles that drew the fierce Mrrshans away from their home world bases. When the Mrrshans overextended their reach, the Antaran Green Fleet tore into the newly exposed Mrrshans' strategic flank and effectively cut off them off from any reinforcements. The noble Mrrshan fleet was destroyed in a final, glorious battle attacking Tholan VI.
Due to their tremendous fighting prowess on the ground, the Bulrathi were predominantly used for shock troops. However, the intensely loyal Bulrathi grew increasingly dissatisfied with this position because of the vast number of their comrades being left in pockets unsupported by the Senate's forces (who seemed all too willing to sacrifice the Bulrathi's warriors). After repeated battles in which the uncaring Orion Senate supplied no relief, the disgruntled Bulrathi withdrew their support from the war effort, which in turn caused a rapid collapse of several worlds that were barely holding out against the hostile Antarans. This resulted in an irrevocable shift of momentum in favor of the Antarans.
Not all of the Orion civilizations joined the coalition against the Antarans this time, either. The Meklar society was engaged in a profound social revolution to "free them from the prison of the flesh." The Ethereans, still smarting from the Orions' recent strip mining and reforming of their beautiful gas giant worlds, wanted no part of their war.
The Antarans' "Terms"
Over the course of the Orion's inevitable defeat, many worlds turned into elaborate fortresses hoping to hold out until a miracle could rescue them from prolonged Antaran rule. The ruthless Antarans made a graphic example out of the first handful of them by nearly destroying such worlds and leaving their now helpless populations to suffer amid the ruins.
After that the Antarans began offering terms before laying siege and assaulting an Orion world. Their terms of surrender were presented as a callous ultimatum declaring, "You must surrender unconditionally. We will collect hostages and we will draft workers and soldiers from your world to serve us. They will not be returned. Their behavior will determine the fate of those they leave behind. Monitoring Stations will be placed over your world to insure compliance. Accept this or we will begin to destroy your world in one millicycle."
Approximately twelve hours later, the matter was closed and the planet's fate sealed one way or another.
Historical Note: The Third Orion-Antaran War saw some of most brutal ground fighting this sector has ever known. Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons were employed frequently in efforts to achieve local tactical advantages. The cavalier use of these "dirty" weapons rendered several worlds uninhabitable for centuries. The horrific memories of this vile form of warfare would be indelibly imprinted on the cultural psyche of the Orion civilizations.
In the earlier stages of this war, many worlds rejected the Antarans' terms. However, as the Orions repeatedly failed to gain any kind of forward momentum, their worlds began to succumb to the Antarans' demands without a fight. By the early 18060s, the Antarans were conquering worlds in the Orion Sector with very little effort. Even proud races like the fierce Mrrshan and brave Elerians watched in horror as some of their worlds surrendered quietly. Only the Humans remained constant in their defense of theirs, the last remaining worlds - holding out defiantly against all reason.
The Invasion of the Sol System
In 18062, the Antarans paused to regroup their forces for the final assault on the Humans. The Sol system had a well-earned reputation as a fortress system among the other races of the sector, many of whom had attempted at one time or another to conquer it. For the Antarans, the conquest of Sol, this last bastion of humanity, would require a special effort.
The system defenses were under the command of Escobar da Varga, grandson of the famous Admiral. While not as naturally gifted as his ancestor, he was nonetheless a tenacious commander who understood only too well the dire necessity of his mission.
The final assault began late in 18063, with the Antarans taking full advantage of their position. They had essentially the entire sector's production behind them, while the Humans had but one system, which the Antarans flooded with drone ships. These hulls, cheaply and quickly produced, provided a steady drain on the Humans' ordnance spent in defense. For over two full cycles, into early 18066, the Antarans continued plying on drones, waiting patiently until they saw signs of drone ships making it through Sol system defenses to reach vulnerable targets. With this chink make in the Humans' defenses, the Antarans commenced their last grim act of the war.
Against the system, no quarter was given as the revitalized Antaran fleet swept in. The outer colonies and research stations were destroyed without mercy or warning. The Human fleet attempted a holding action at Jupiter, and made a strong but ultimately futile showing. Like his revered grandsires, da Varga gave his life attempting to bring a victory, but in vain. The Antarans crushed all opposition and swept on toward their final goal: Earth.
Humanity's home world was the only planet given the customary offer of surrender. Leaderless, defenseless, and now utterly demoralized, the inhabitants accepted. The Antaran conquest of the Orion Sector was complete.
NEXT IN THE BACKGROUND FICTION: "The Orion Dark Age"
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