Skulker (Individual Soyal-class WarShip)
|In service until||March 2789|
The Free Worlds League launched an attack against the world of Hesperus II in 2789, intent on capturing the planet and the vital factories there despite the destruction of the orbital shipyards there by WarShips from Draconis Combine in 2787. Launched in March, the attack was commanded by Fleet Admiral Thaddeus Marik from his flagship, the Lola III-class destroyer FWLS Bucharest. Thaddeus - the son of Captain-General Kenyon Marik - used information obtained by Free Worlds League intelligence agents on the attacks launched against Hesperus II by the Federated Suns and Combine to form his plan of attack, and had decided that he wouldn't attempt to capture the world - instead, he was intent on destroying the factories from orbit. This meant that Thaddeus wasn't constrained by the need to escort or protect ground forces and their transport vessels; his attack was intended to use speed and surprise to achieve victory, and was based around a daring gamble - a jump insertion into the Hesperus system via a LaGrange point between the system primary and Hesperus I.
While the Star League Defense Force had used similar tactics, the SLDF had only attempted such maneuvers using ships equipped with Lithium-Fusion batteries, so that if there was a problem, the ships could quickly jump back to safety. Of the WarShips assembled by Thaddeus, only the Bucharest had such a battery; nevertheless, the advantages in jumping in to such a risky pirate point outweighed the risks for Thaddeus - the arrival of his fleet would limit the Lyran response time, with emissions from the system primary masking both the arrival of the fleet and the signs of their swift acceleration towards Hesperus II.
The task force approached Hesperus II from an unusual vector, intent on not repeating the mistakes made by the Draconis Combine and the Federated Suns during the first and second battles for Hesperus II. Unfortuantely for the League task force, the Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces had bolstered the garrison at Hesperus II just days before by assigning two cruisers to the system, the LCS Granite and the LCS Endeavor under the overall command of Fleet Admiral Oscar F. Dewey. Veteran Aegis-class heavy cruisers, the Endeavor and Granite also possessed LF-batteries, having been refitted by the SLDF prior to the Amaris Civil War. Dewey responded to the urgent warnings of the inbound League fleet by ordering the Endeavor and Granite to execute an emergency jump to the lunar LaGrange point between Hesperus II and its moon, allowing the two Lyran heavy cruisers to reach planetary orbit at the same time as Thaddeus' ships were due to make contact with the bulk of the Hesperus II naval defenses.
Thaddeus had anticipated heavy defenses, and ordered the Skulker and a sister ship, the FWLS Devastator - the two largest WarShips assigned to the fleet tasked with capturing Hesperus II - to break off from the main battle and attack the factory sites. The sudden arrival of the Endeavor and Granite caught both League heavy cruisers by surprise; the Endeavor and the Granite targeted the two Soyals, exchanging furious broadsides with their opponents in a fashion akin to the blue water naval battles of old on Terra, but after several broadsides it became apparent that the more modern Devastator was swiftly getting the upper hand against the much older Granite. From his position aboard the Granite it became apparent to Dewey that he was faced with the potential loss of the entire battle, and as a consequence Dewey took a desperate step, ordering the Granite to ram the Devastator. The Lyran cruiser drove its prow deep into the bowels of its opponent, pushing both of them out of orbit and into a spiral towards the surface of Hesperus II while the Endeavor and the Skulker continued to battle each other.
When Dewey became aware of the rapid descent of both ships towards the planet he had the Granite pull itself free of the Devastator using its manuevering drive, the two ships finally seperating as their hulls began visibly glowing from the friction of atmospheric entry.The venerable Granite fought for several minutes to remain above the atmosphere, but it became apparent that she could no longer maneuver effectively and Dewey ordered his crew to abandon ship. The Endeavor vanquished the Skulker and swiftly recovered the crew of the Granite, and with both League cruisers vanquished, the League fleet no longer had a clear advantage over the Lyran defenders and retreated even as three squadrons of attack DropShips were detected lifting off from Hesperus II to help close the gap in the orbital defenses left by the attack.
The Devastator and the Granite burned up together in the atmosphere of Hesperus II, the last remains of the two ships crashing violently into the surface close to the vital factories over which they had been fighting.
- First Succession War, p. 63-64, "The Third Battle (vs. Marik)"
- House Steiner (The Lyran Commonwealth), p. 50, "Attacks on Hesperus II"