2732 - 2736
Vanduul victory: United Empire of Earth forced to surrender Tiber system, Vanduul launch invasion of Virgil system
The Siege of Tiber was a key battle between the United Empire of Earth (UEE) and invading Vanduul. Lasting from 2732 to 2736, it consisted of extensive ground and air engagements, mass bombings, and a military blockade from the Orion and Vector (VS-1) jump points by Vanduul forces and the Virgil and Oberon jump points by UEE forces. Losses were heavy on both sides; conservative estimates put Human and Vanduul combined casualties in the lower millions. The Siege ended with UEE defeat on 29 December 2736, when a Kingship jumped into the system from Orion. Half of the UEE’s forces in Tiber were destroyed in the subsequent battle. After such heavy losses, the UEE was forced to cede Tiber to the Vanduul.BACKGROUND
On 18 February 2712 Tiber’s neighboring system, Orion, was unexpectedly lost to the Vanduul. UEE forces that had defended Orion fell back to the Tiber system and formed a secondary defense line in anticipation of another invasion. However, the Vanduul remained in Orion to harvest its resources, and showed no intention of pursuing the retreating UEE ships. After several tense months, UEE leadership concluded that another unified incursion of allied Vanduul Clans at the scale of the Battle of Orion was unlikely to occur. The Imperator authorized the buildup of military forces at an accelerated pace to fortify the system.
Regular intelligence-gathering missions were launched into Orion to spy on the Vanduul. The system didn't have a single incident until 04 February 2726, when a solitary Vanduul Blade exited the Orion jump point. By 16 November 2726, Vanduul Clans were regularly launching raids on Tiber. It seemed that another invasion might be on the horizon.THE SIEGE
On 19 April 2732, a large Clan took and held the Tiber-Orion jump point. The UEE responded by dispatching the 81st, 22nd, 6th, and 31st Battle Groups, commanded by Grand Admiral Tesca Halimeade, to eradicate the invaders. Key ships in the Battle Groups were sent to guard the Virgil and Oberon jump points and defend other areas identified as potentially threatened. In a surprise move, Halimeade issued orders that no ship was to directly engage the Vanduul around the Orion jump point, hoping that a defensive position would stall the invasion and give him enough time to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
By mid-2733, multiple Clans drawn into Tiber by the continued fighting were battling one another over space stations and outposts as often as they clashed with UEE forces. Most of the UEE’s capital ships remained in dock during this time as Halimeade searched for a way to communicate with the Vanduul. By early 2734, three of the Clans that had emerged victorious from repeated battles against the other Clans launched separate concentrated assaults on Tiber II. They tore through the UEE’s lines of defense, dropped Harvesters, and established encampments across the planet.
With the loss of the Tiber II, Halimeade was forced to abandon his strategy and go on the offensive. The main flagship of the 31st long docked at INS Aniene, the UEES Aquilon, led the fleet to the outskirts of Tiber II in order to lure the Vanduul camped there into attacking. The strategy paid off; most Vanduul on the planet eagerly joined the fray, leaving their on-ground encampments only lightly guarded. As the battle continued, strike teams from the 81st and 22nd Battle Groups entered Tiber II’s atmosphere with little resistance and conducted aerial bombardments of the Vanduul strongholds there, destroying the majority in under a few hours. The decimated Clans fled the system.
Finally committed to total war, Halimeade used this bait-and-switch tactic again and again to reclaim lost territory. For over a year, Vanduul numbers slowly dwindled. However, due to more Clans entering Tiber as often as defeated Clans fled it, progress was not going as fast as UEE authorities would have liked.
On 04 November 2735, a large Clan appeared in what seemed to be an insignificant part of the system. The UEES Aquilon and a selection of support vessels, personally led by Halimeade, went to investigate the situation. As they approached, hundreds of Vanduul poured through a previously-unknown jump point from the Vanduul system designated Vector, ambushing Halimede. The Aquilon was destroyed. All aboard were lost.
Admiral Mira Triolo assumed authority over the four Battle Groups in Tiber after Halimeade’s death, and her aggressive strategy of confronting the Vanduul head-on resulted in a sharp increase in casualties. Under her command, the UEE made multiple attempts over the next year to expel the Vanduul, but no attack was successful; Clans continued to enter Tiber from the Orion and Vector systems, and the Harvesters at work on Tiber II kept supply levels high. UEE ground troops and bombers would succeed in destroying one Harvester only for two more to be dropped in its place. Morale was low. It seemed that as long as the Vanduul held Tiber II, it would be impossible to retake the system.
On 07 September 2736, Imperator Galor Messer IX ordered the military to bomb the planet into oblivion. The bombing, conducted by the 6th Battle Group on 15 November, annihilated all Vanduul encampments on Tiber II, and the planet itself was rendered to ruin. Emboldened by this success, UEE forces routed Vanduul encampments from the asteroid belt, chasing them through the Vector jump point. By 29 November, the UEE held Tiber II, the belt, and the Vector jump point. The only Vanduul left in the system set up a defensive perimeter around the jump point to Orion. Unless they retreated, their supplies would eventually run out. The 22nd and 31st returned to MacArthur for much-needed repairs, while the 81st and 6th remained behind to pick off the rest of the Vanduul. It seemed that the UEE was finally on the brink of victory.
On 29 December 2736, a Kingship, a powerful class of Vanduul capital ship that had not been encountered by Humans since the Battle of Orion in 2712, entered Tiber through the Orion jump point. The combined power of the Kingship and the enormous Clan that accompanied it overwhelmed the 81st; three-quarters of its ships were wiped out in a 13 hour period, and INS Aniene was destroyed. The remainder of the Battle Group fell back to the INS Flavus before receiving order to retreat into Virgil. Admiral Triolo and the 6th stayed behind to hold the line against the Kingship. Reports from survivors indicate that the 6th was able to deal modest damage to the Kingship before losing Triolo, all its capital ships, and the majority of its carriers. As the last of the 6th Battle Group retreated into Oberon, having been cut off from Virgil, Tiber was fully surrendered to the Vanduul.AFTERMATH
The UEE had poured all its resources into holding Tiber. When the Vanduul launched an attack on the Virgil system immediately after Tiber’s loss, the UEEN was unable to mount a sufficient defense to stop them. The beaten remains of the 81st Battle Group fought off the Vanduul fleet while Squadron 214 aided the civilians evacuating from Virgil I, conducting multiple runs back and forth from Virgil through the Vega jump point. Given the choice between performing a final run and remaining safe, the 214th chose to go into Virgil one last time. Thanks to their actions, over a million civilians escaped from Virgil I.
There was every expectation that Vega would be the Vanduul’s next target. Instead, the Vanduul would not launch another massed attack on UEE territory until the Fall of Caliban in 2884.
Today, Tiber remains a Vanduul stronghold. Harvesters continue to chew through the system’s resources, strengthening any Clan that passes through the area. Because Tiber is connected to both Oberon and Virgil, it provides the Vanduul with easy raiding access to UEE territory. Oberon and Vega are frequent raiding targets. The UEE conducts periodic bombing runs to Tiber, targeting Vanduul encampments and Harvesters on Tiber II along with bases in the asteroid belt, but has been unable so far to reclaim the system.