June 25th 2014
Decimated at the end of their first Human war, the Tevarin military was scattered to the far corners of the universe, their homeworld, Elysium IV, was conquered for Human settlement, and war hero Ivar Messer was granted a position as the UPE’s inaugural (and final) First Citizen. Humanity, confident in their absolute victory, considered the Tevarin threat completely neutralized. They were wrong.
February 15, 2603 SET, a massive battle fleet entered the Fora System through a jump point from Banshee. Broadcasting on all frequencies, Corath’Thal, the new Tevarin Warlord, made his demands known. The Tevarin had returned to retake Elysium IV. Either the UEE could stand aside or Corath’Thal would burn a path to his ancestral home.
There were some in Congress who, hesitant to enter into another war, counseled for the concession of the planet, stating that the Tevarin’s plight was a sympathetic one. However, all debate was ended when the Imperator ordered a full attack. There would be no ceding UEE territory. The Second Tevarin War had begun.
In those first few battles, the military severely underestimated the Tevarin’s abilities. Expecting to fight against a similar show of force to what they had faced previously, the UEE’s initial losses were heavy. Corath’Thal had used the Tevarin’s time in the Fringe well, updating their technology through heavy trading with other species and reconfiguring their military strategy to take full advantage of the lessons learned from their prior defeat. Under his command, the Tevarin slowly forged through system after system. The UEE Navy, even in victory, was unable to force the invaders to retreat. Eventually, after seven long years of protracted fighting, the war had wound its way to the Centauri System, just one jump away from the Tevarin’s homeworld.
Repeated attempts had proven that direct attacks against the Tevarin fleet were in vain. Though the UEE had superior numbers, the Tevarin flew in a unique phalanx formation that relied on heavy shield-generating ships to present a near impregnable front. If they were going to be stopped, it was going to take more than brute firepower this time.
The UEE Navy set up the bulk of their forces around the Centauri-Elysium jump point, knowing that it was Corath’Thal’s main target, but the Warlord denied the UEE the chance to have an entrenched battle. He instead split his forces to strafe the populated city centers on Yar and Saisei. Taking severe civilian losses, the Navy maneuvered most of its carriers to stem the tide of the attack, while leaving a small contingent behind to continue to protect the jump. The decision to leave one carrier behind in particular, the UEES Countenance, is often cited by historians as the pivotal turning point in the Battle for Centauri. Why the Countenance was chosen and not some other vessel has been the subject of numerous academic debates, but one thing is certain, the fact that it was home to the then little-known Squadron 42 did not factor into the choice.
Squadron 42 was what was known as, in the military parlance of the time, a ‘keel squad.’ Founded during the First Tevarin War, it was designated as a disciplinary unit to handle problematic pilots. While often disruptive and not dependable, these highly trained starmen represented significant investments of the Navy’s time and credits, and were deemed too valuable, especially in the middle of a war, to simply lock up or discharge while they were still able to fly. Whereas in previous centuries they would have been keelhauled for their transgressions, they were instead assigned to Squadron 42 and charged with missions ‘too lowly’ for average pilots. While the squad had flown in many battles, they did so without distinction, often at the periphery of the fight. It wasn’t until the Battle for Centauri, when the squadron was under the command of the legendary Captain Alexandra Dunlevy, that the Squadron 42 we know today began to take shape.
Captain Dunlevy, a promising officer with a keen analytical mind, had been assigned to Squadron 42 after being found guilty of insubordination for calling her former commander’s attack plan “stupid.” At first, Captain Dunlevy tried running her new squadron as she would any other, but when what should have been simple supply runs kept taking twice as long as allotted due to infighting and hot-dogging, she realized that another approach was required. The problem wasn’t in their flight skills. She noted in her early reports that often these pilots were some of the best she had ever seen. However, the snap decision-making and self-confidence that made them great pilots often resulted in a resistance towards the Navy’s traditional command structure. More often than not, this attitude was what got them assigned to Squadron 42 in the first place. Determined to turn her squad around, Captain Dunlevy tried an experiment where, rather than outlining a specific flight path and mission plan for her pilots, she simply told them where the pickup point was. The experiment proved a success when the supply run finished hours earlier than her best estimates. Captain Dunlevy’s suspicions were confirmed; Squadron 42 could do anything you asked, as long as you didn’t care how they did it. Now all she had to do was convince Admiral Fraser how valuable her squad could really be. The opportunity presented itself soon after the attacks on Yar and Saisei had begun.
It was clear that the Tevarin were using the planetary attacks as a diversion in order to force the Navy to focus on defending the populace. The Countenance and other carriers left to defend the jump point aligned themselves directly in the Tevarin’s path, establishing a firing wall in preparation for the inevitable charge. Captain Dunlevy had seen this strategy before and knew that while it would possibly hold the Tevarin back long enough for the reinforcements to return, there would be a high number of casualties suffered by the Human forces while the Tevarin shield line would protect its own vessels from much of the damage. The result would be another stalemate, and the war would continue. Captain Dunlevy believed there was a better strategy: give up the jump point.
In an interview shortly before his death, Admiral Fraser was asked why he had gone along with Captain Dunlevy’s plan. After a moment’s consideration he replied simply, “I was tired.”
As Corath’Thal approached the jump point with his fleet, the carriers slowly gave way beneath the Tevarin barrage. Their long-sought goal finally in sight, Corath’Thal ordered the fleet through to Elysium. Since the jump point was not wide enough to accommodate the full Tevarin flotilla at once, they were required to stretch out their normal defensive formation as they neared the opening. Just as the first Tevarin ship was about to go through the jump, Squadron 42 powered up and began their attack.
Captain Dunlevy and the rest of her pilots had been floating dead in their Retaliators, hiding amongst the debris and waiting for the Tevarin ships to surround them. Her simple order? Take out the shields. With the Tevarin fleet’s protection weakened by their attempting to enter the jump point, Squadron 42 was able to exploit a lethal chink in their enemy’s armor. The Tevarin were quick to send out fighters to deal with the foe suddenly in their midst, but the damage was already done. Squadron 42, in those few moments, managed to do what no one else in seven years of war had accomplished. With a significant portion of the Tevarin defensive capabilities now disabled, the UEE carriers renewed their attack in earnest, raining destruction upon the enemy that had plagued them for so long.
Though Corath’Thal managed to escape through the jump with a handful of ships, the Battle of Centauri had sounded the death knell for the Tevarin armada and paved the way for the final victory at Elysium IV. Captain Dunlevy and her fearless Squadron 42 received commendations from the Imperator himself, beginning their transformation into the most renowned squadron in military history.