February 17th 2016
There was silence after the first Vanduul attack in 2681. Once the UEE figured out that they were dealing with an entirely new species, Humanity braced itself for… something. Though the military prepared for the possibility of diplomatic contact, the brutality of the attack on the Dell Township strongly indicated that second contact would most likely be violent as well. But for weeks, while a fighting force of UEE Navy and Marines waited, nothing happened.
When the Vanduul did return, it was a small raiding party consisting of a dozen fighters and Harvester ships. Despite the overwhelming defense force that was waiting for them, the Vanduul attacked without hesitation. This was the UEE military’s first introduction to the Vanduul.
Over the next few years, as the UEE tried to learn about this new civilization, vague hierarchal details were beginning to come into focus. Dr. Arlow Gellis, a renowned anthropologist of the time, released a study exploring Vanduul social dynamics. By comparing the prominent glyphs on the Vanduul ships, he introduced what became known as Clan Theory, in which he hypothesized that the Vanduul organized themselves in self-sufficient groups rather than adopting a species-wide government. As interaction with the Vanduul settled into a prolonged series of light skirmishes, Gellis’s theory became more and more accepted, and a sense developed across the Empire that neither diplomacy nor outright war was at all likely.
By all accounts, Imperator Illyana Messer VI and her military weren’t fazed by this development. If anything, the Imperator found the sporadic attacks in Orion to be a convenient tool to help remind the populace why they needed the Imperator’s protection.
When Messer VI named her youngest son, Samuel, as her successor in 2697, the new Imperator took the Vanduul threat even less seriously and seemed to be much more interested in using his newfound power to torment an already subjugated population into further submission.
In the early years of the 28th century, the personality of Orion system changed as well. Armitage became a waystation for soldiers, mercs and pilots looking for a chance to test their mettle against this elusive enemy. Stores began accepting Vanduul tech (and in the more extreme locations: Vanduul corpses) as trade to feed the growing bloodlust of the planet. Records from the era even indicate that hunting parties were organized to go look for Vanduul prey.
This overconfidence was about to be put in its place.
“Bit chilly tonight, guess winter’s not quite done with us. Water farms are cycling down for the night, but I’m gonna keep them in a low run just in case the temp drops. What else … I think Maura’s getting sick, so we’ll probably trek out to Conrad tomorrow and see the doc. I think that’s it. I know you’re probably hoping that this was gonna be that forgiveness comm, but it’s not. I’m not there yet.”
Stamped at 2712-02-16_18:38, that was one of the last civilian comms that left Armitage before a Vanduul fleet invaded the system. The attack force was larger than anything the population had ever seen. Capital ship after capital ship appeared in Orion and unleashed its devastating weapons on the locals.
The Battle of Orion had begun.
The UEE Navy scrambled to mount a defense, but the carrier normally posted to the system had tasked to Caliban to make an example of a growing political activist movement, leaving three destroyers and several frigates to handle the onslaught. The locals banded together with the military while scouts raced back to to alert the fleet.
Battle lines fluctuated for three days on and around the planet of Armitage as support rushed in to help. Despite suffering heavy losses during the initial attack, the Navy had begun to push the Vanduul back toward the jump point while Marines were battling over every scrap of territory on the planet surface.
That’s when the UEE caught its first glimpse of what would become known as a Kingship. Nearly three thousand meters in length, the alien ship dwarfed all of the remaining Naval ships combined. The ships of Humanity’s front line, emboldened at the prospect of victory, were too close to avert their course and were decimated in the Kingship’s first attack.
What transpired after that has been historically described as a slaughter. The remaining Naval forces fled the system to Tiber in the hopes of creating some kind of barricade to stop the Vanduul advance and abandoning the people of Armitage to the Vanduul in the process.
The Vanduul had no interest in pursuit. The Kingship stayed in the system for almost a year as they harvested what they needed from the planets before the Clan disappeared back into Vanduul space.
The Messers had suffered their first decisive military defeat in over a hundred fifty years. News of this defeat and this unstoppable terror at the fringe of the universe terrified the population. Everyone seemed to be asking: was it only a matter of time before the Vanduul pushed further into Human space?
Unfortunately, the answer was yes.