Battle of Huntress (3060)

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Battle of Huntress
Part of Operation SERPENT
Start Date 19 February 3060
End Date 9 April 3060 / 21 April 3060 (Clan Goliath Scorpion Incursion)
Planet Huntress
Result SLDF victory
Clan Smoke Jaguar annihilated
Factions
Second Star League Defense Force Clan Smoke Jaguar Clan Goliath Scorpion
Commanders and leaders
General Ariana Winston
General Andrew Redburn
Khan Lincoln Osis
Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta
Galaxy Commander Rik Myers
Forces involved
Task Force Serpent Clan Smoke Jaguar Touman Fourteenth Scorpion Hussars,
Thirty-fifth Scorpion Cuirassiers

The Battle of Huntress was the culmination of Operation SERPENT, a mission launched by the Second Star League to destroy Clan Smoke Jaguar at its home planet. After a long journey to the Clan Homeworlds, Task Force Serpent, a multinational coalition under the command of General Ariana Winston, invaded Huntress with the intent of capturing or destroying every military asset the Clan possessed.

Smoke Jaguar forces driven from the Inner Sphere by Operation BULLDOG learned of the invasion and counterinvaded with overwhelming force. After intense fighting and heavy losses on both sides, victory for the Star League Defense Force was secured by the arrival of Prince Victor Steiner-Davion and Task Force Bulldog, which had accomplished its mission far ahead of schedule.

The battle marked the effective end of Clan Smoke Jaguar as an entity, with only a handful of warriors surviving. Khan Lincoln Osis fled to Strana Mechty, where he and his remaining warriors were defeated in the Great Refusal. The victory at Huntress came at great cost to the SLDF. Task Force Serpent suffered eighty percent casualties,[1] and General Winston was killed in action.

The follow on battle with Clan Goliath Scorpion also showed that Clan's rapid deployment ability. Upon hearing of the loss of the Jaguar Occupation Zone, Galaxy Commander Rik Myers assembled two fully-supplied Clusters aboard their transports in orbit above Tokasha, believing an Inner Sphere strike on Huntress was imminent.

Invasion[edit]

All commands, this is Dancer. The word is given. Commence Operation Serpent.
  — General Ariana Winston[2]

Covert raid on Mount Szabo[edit]

The primary threat to the invasion was an active Reagan Space Defense System at Huntress, controlled by the planet's primary command and operations center located beneath Mount Szabo, near the planetary capital Lootera. DEST teams were sent in advance of the fleet with the objective of destroying the command center, opening the way for the assault force.[3]

On 19 February 3060, DCS Haruna jumped into the Huntress zenith point, broadcasting stolen IFF codes that identified her as the York-class Queen Lynx. Haruna detached the Stiletto, a genuine Clan Broadsword that had been captured at the Battle of Trafalgar, which was carrying the DEST teams. Haruna deployed her jump sail and, after a standard recharge cycle, jumped out-system on 26 February. Stiletto, posing as the Tracker, went unchallenged and reached Huntress on 1 March.[3][4]

Using stealth drop-cocoons, including an automated cocoon holding each team's equipment, the thirty DEST commandos under Sho-sa Michael Ryan made a successful HALO drop into the Jaguar's Fangs mountain range west of Lootera at 0300. Stiletto then feigned a crash landing in Dhuan Swamp and landed in the Lunar Range on the continent of Abysmal, far from where any search would be looking for her.[4]

The DEST teams, moving slowly to avoid detection, reached their objective on 5 March, only hours before the task force was due to jump in. They gained entry by hijacking a hovertruck and posing as Smoke Jaguar technicians, and eliminated the Elementals guarding the entrance with well-placed Tsunami sniper shots. Inside, the teams split up to hit different objectives. A technician in the SDS command center triggered an alarm before he was gunned down, and with surprise lost, the DEST teams swiftly planted their explosive charges and executed the remaining technicians. A rapid response team of two Elemental Points arrived, engaging the commandos in a brief but vicious firefight that cost the DEST teams six men. The remaining twenty-four commandos escaped and the charges detonated on schedule, achieving the primary objectives of the mission.[5]

First naval battle[edit]

Send to all commands. Clear for battle, launch all Combat Air Patrol fighters. Message to Starlight. Starlight is to remain with and protect the transports. We're here, and no Clan buggers are going to make us leave!
  — Commodore Beresick

At 0630 on 5 March 3060, Task Force Serpent entered the Huntress system at the zenith point, and was confronted by Smoke Jaguar WarShips: a Sovetskii Soyuz-class cruiser and two Vincent-class corvettes. The Invisible Truth squared off against the enemy cruiser, trading weapons fire as they passed. As the Truth turned to reengage, the Rostock dove in from above to attack the enemy cruiser. The cruiser launched a furious broadside, severely damaging the Rostock. As the Rostock attempted to withdraw, the Clan WarShip pursued, launching another salvo that blew the Rostock to pieces. In her pursuit of the Rostock, the Sovetskii Soyuz had left herself open to the Invisible Truth, which unleashed several punishing broadsides that destroyed the Clan vessel.[6]

Meanwhile, the first Vincent-class ship was intercepted by the Emerald and destroyed, dealing only modest damage to the Essex-class WarShip. The second Vincent evaded the remaining WarShips in an effort to attack the JumpShips carrying the invasion force. She did minor damage to several vessels but was destroyed by the Starlight, which suffered damage to her port weapons bays.[6] After regrouping, the JumpShips launched their DropShips which were escorted by the Fire Fang and Ranger toward Huntress.[6] As they arrived in orbit on 12 March, the invasion force met some resistance from Clan fighters—which served only to cause damage to one of the Kathil Uhlans' DropShips—before deploying to attack their assigned objectives.[7]

Ground assault[edit]

The planet was garrisoned by two Galaxies of solahma troops—the Iron Guard and Watchmen, plus various training cadres and sibkos.[3] Although the Huntress garrison had seen its most useful military assets diverted to the Inner Sphere, former commander Benjamin Howell had creatively replenished it by requisitioning Inner Sphere salvage for "analysis" by scientists, then having it refurbished to equip his warriors. These efforts, when supplemented with some ancient Star League 'Mechs pulled from storage and repurposed prototypes, meant that the two Galaxies were fully equipped.[citation needed]

The Inner Sphere regiments were divided to attack military targets around the planet simultaneously, preventing the Smoke Jaguars from concentrating their defense in one place. The invasion force would hit every major city on Jaguar Prime, the main continent, as well as the facilities on Abysmal, an unpopulated continent used for training operations.[3]

Lootera and Mount Szabo[edit]

General Winston and her headquarters unit accompanied the 21st and 151st Light Horse Regiments, commanded by Colonels Edwin Amis and Charles Antonescu respectively, on a combat drop three kilometers northwest of Mount Szabo. Their target was a large MechWarrior training facility several kilometers west of the landing zone.[7] Defending the facility was the Galaxy Command Trinary and 12th Solahma Cluster of the Iron Guard Galaxy, along with the 44th Solahma Cluster and a Fighter Trinary of the Watchmen Galaxy.[8] The Light Horse regiments captured the facility after taking only light casualties. The DEST teams, having evaded the enemy, rendezvoused with this group.[7]

The 71st Light Horse Regiment under Colonel Sandra Barclay made their drop just north of the capital Lootera, with the objective of seizing the Field of Heroes and the Smoke Jaguar genetic repository. Defending the city against them was the 44th Solahma Cluster and Galaxy Command Trinary of the Watchmen Galaxy.[8] The 71st captured the repository intact with relatively light casualties,[7][9] but the Elemental guards within the facility barricaded themselves inside, forcing the Horsemen's infantry units to clear them out room by room.[10]

While most of the Com Guard 2nd Division was held in reserve, the Third Battalion was assigned to seize the Mount Szabo facility. This operation went off without incident, mostly because the DEST attack had caused extensive damage, allowing them to seize the location without much trouble.[11]

The task force had secured the training camp, Lootera and its spaceport, and the Mount Szabo facility. General Winston established the Field of Heroes as her field headquarters.[7]

Pahn City[edit]

The Northwind Highlanders attacked a major industrial center near Pahn City, which was defended by the 48th Battle Cluster of the Watchmen Galaxy.[8] Colonel William MacLeod flooded the Smoke Jaguars' frequencies with bagpipe music, cutting off their radio communications and limiting them to hand signals and line-of-sight laser communications.[12]

The Highlander DropShips grounded and deployed MacLeod's Regiment and the Royal Black Watch. Star Colonel Cara, in command of the defense, was enraged by the attackers' use of the Star League's insignia, and ordered the entire Cluster to converge on her position and engage. She and her warriors were further infuriated to see the crest of the Royal Black Watch and threw themselves into the fight. This was exactly what Colonel MacLeod had intended. With the Smoke Jaguars distracted, his main force bypassed the defenders and marched on the factory complex. As Star Colonel Cara realized what was happening, she ordered a withdrawal, but her efforts were hampered by the Highlanders' jamming.[12][13]

As they advanced on the factory, the Highlanders were taken aback by a unit of ProtoMechs that swarmed out of the facility to engage them at close range. The attack stalled as the Inner Sphere MechWarriors struggled to deal with the unprecedented threat, and MacLeod ordered the Highlanders to fall back and regroup. The fighting degenerated into a free-for-all that raged for several hours in and around Pahn City. It ended when MacLeod pressed the attack against the factory, seizing it intact and eliminating the mixed enemy force. The Highlanders took advantage of the 'Mech factories and began repairing their units. They also salvaged what they could, prioritizing the ProtoMechs and the ProtoMech factory.[12][13]

Myer[edit]

The Kathil Uhlans attacked an industrial complex near the city of Myer, which was defended by the 63rd Solahma Cluster of the Watchmen Galaxy.[14] Although the enemy put up stiff resistance, the Uhlans captured their objective with only light casualties.[11]

One Warrior, Magda of Charlie Assault Star, Trinary Assault distinguished herself by using her isorla Dart to kill the matched pairs of Pegasus and Saladin hovercraft of Charlie Lance, 1st Company, 3rd Battalion[15] before losing her last functional weapon. Refusing to withdraw she attempted to charge the WLF-2 Wolfhound of Charlie Lance, 2nd Company, 1st Battalion[16] but was shot out of her ’Mech in the process.[17]

Bagera[edit]

The Eleventh Lyran Guards encountered heavy aerospace resistance on approach to Bagera, which they believed to be garrisoned only by the 77th Solahma Cluster of the Iron Guard Galaxy.[8][11] Unknown to them, the Smoke Jaguars had reinforced Bagera with a large number of freshly-blooded warriors and their instructors, all equipped with front-line OmniMechs.

Before the Guards had finished deploying, they were attacked by a Supernova Trinary fielding Inner Sphere and second-line Clan 'Mechs mixed with Elementals. The Guards repulsed the initial attack, but took heavy losses: fifty-one of their 120 'Mechs were lost. A second wave of at least twenty-five OmniMechs, mostly heavy- and assault-class, supported by more Elementals, hit the Guards hard. Marshal Sharon Bryan was shot out of her Banshee after a heated engagement with a Cauldron Born, and her second-in-command, Colonel Timothy Price, ordered a withdrawal. After Bryan was rescued by a Fulcrum hovertank, she quickly determined that the Eleventh Guards were in danger of being overrun, and called General Winston to request naval fire support.[11]

In low orbit over Bagera, the Fire Fang opened fire on the Smoke Jaguar position with its naval gauss and PPC batteries. With the shots landing only a hundred meters off target, the effect was devastating. Clan BattleMechs and Elementals were immediately destroyed by the energies of the strike. The fire support broke the Jaguar force and the Eleventh Guards were able to mop up what opposition remained.[11]

New Andery[edit]

The Knights of the Inner Sphere and Kingston's Legionnaires were assigned to strike a large training camp east of New Andery. After encountering minimal opposition—a pair of Avar fighters that were quickly destroyed—Colonel Paul Masters decided to ground his DropShips instead of performing the high-altitude drop that was originally planned. The task force quickly defeated a Star of 'Mechs standing sentry outside the base, followed by fifteen Jaguar cadets who powered up their second-line 'Mechs to defend the installation.[18]

Half an hour after the Inner Sphere forces secured the training facility, the 33rd Assault Cluster of the Iron Guard Galaxy arrived to defend New Andery.[8][18] Colonel Masters ordered the Legionnaires to entrench themselves in defensible positions in front of the training base, behind hastily-constructed earth berms. The Jaguars hit the Legionnaires with light OmniMechs and Elementals, while the Knights stealthily moved through the Shikari Jungle to encircle the enemy.[18][19]

Masters' plan to outflank the Smoke Jaguars hit a major snag when a second group, consisting of two Trinaries of heavy 'Mechs and Elementals, attacked the Knights' Third Battalion, pinning it in place. Meanwhile, the force attacking the Legionnaires brought up three Trinaries of frontline OmniMechs that pressed hard all along the front, leading Colonel Samuel Kingston to call for support. Colonel Masters detached a company from each of his other battalions to reinforce the Third, then led the rest of the Knights back to assist the Capellans. As they emerged from the jungle, they were met by a line of ProtoMechs. Fighting their way through the new enemy, the Knights linked up with the Legionnaires, allowing Kingston to fall back, but the mobility of the ProtoMechs and the harder-hitting OmniMechs slowly pushed them back further. After four hours of fighting, the Jaguars retook the training base and continued to press the Inner Sphere troops, relenting only after they were driven to the outskirts of New Andery. The Knights' Third Battalion had held its ground, and was ordered to rejoin the main host.[18][19]

The group was in a poor tactical position, and at less than half strength. With few viable options, Masters contacted General Winston, who swiftly deployed two Level III Com Guard units from the 2nd Division. An hour later, with the Com Guard forces still en route, the Jaguars renewed their attack. Colonel Masters' Anvil, already heavily damaged, was knocked out early when a Hunchback IIC severed his machine's leg. As he ran back to his command post on foot, the Com Guards arrived. The reinforcements made a direct low-altitude combat drop and within forty-five minutes the Smoke Jaguars collapsed, retreating to the south under close pursuit. Barely a Trinary of forces managed to escape. The Knights and Legionnaires suffered heavy casualties, with the Knights at 50% effective strength and the Legionnaires under 30%.[18][19][11]

Abysmal[edit]

The Second St. Ives Lancers and the Fourth Drakøns attacked a training camp located on the continent Abysmal. The base was used for desert warfare training, which was not taking place at the time of the assault, and only the training staff was present. The instructors were swiftly defeated and the base secured. The attackers suffered the fewest casualties of all the task force, with four Lancer 'Mechs and one Drakøn 'Mech destroyed.[11]

Falcon Eyrie[edit]

The MI6 teams, the "Rabid Foxes", were deployed to monitor the only other Clan on the planet, a small Jade Falcon base known as the Falcon Eyrie located in the Eastern Mountains. The Falcons were not expected to intercede on behalf of the Smoke Jaguars, but the Davion commandos were sent to observe and report if they moved to join the fight.

The plan involved a high-altitude jump into the vicinity of Falcon Eyrie, but bad weather made a HALO jump impossible. Captain Roger Montjar decided on a low-altitude jump under the storm clouds, accepting the risk of detection to get his troops into place quickly. From an altitude of three hundred meters, the Claymore-class DropShip Marcinko deployed twenty commandos in stealth battle armor via parachute and released twelve drop pods stuffed with their gear. The commandos divided into four teams. Team Two positioned itself in an observation post directly above the Eyrie itself, while Teams One, Three and Four spread out to form a picket line of several kilometers along the ridgeline overlooking the facility.[20]

The low altitude jump was detected by both the Jade Falcons and the Smoke Jaguars. Star Colonel Nikolai Icanza, in command of the Eyrie, correctly surmised the troops' mission and determined to leave them alone as long as they didn't attack. He informed Khan Marthe Pryde of the evolving situation on Huntress.[20] Meanwhile, a pair of Smoke Jaguar scientists who were searching for new ore veins spotted one of the MI6 observation teams. One of them, a warrior caste dropout, correctly determined that they must be from the Inner Sphere. After returning to Lootera, the two reported their findings to Elemental Star Captain Tullain. The Star Captain led two Points of Elementals into the mountains to attack the commandos while they were preoccupied with the Jade Falcons.[21]

The observation team detected the Elementals heading directly toward their location. Sergeant Henry Kramer ordered his team to destroy its equipment and abandon their position. After sending one his men to alert Captain Montjar, he led his three remaining commandos away from the area, leaving a distinct trail to draw the Elementals off. After several hours of pursuit, the commandos decided to fight it out. They mined a small defile with directional antipersonnel mines, then waited in ambush. When a full Point of Elementals had entered the kill zone, the commandos sprang their trap, using Thunderstroke Gauss Rifles, SRMs, and Inferno rounds to eliminate both Points, at the cost of two men.[21]

General Order 01051[edit]

Pursuant to General Order, number TFS oh-one-oh-five-one, upon completion of the initial assault on the planet Huntress, the units comprising Task Force Serpent are to take every measure possible to eliminate the war-making ability of Clan Smoke Jaguar. To this end, the units of Task Force Serpent are to destroy all barracks, 'Mech hangars, fighter bays, command, communication, and control centers, and military repair facilities. Likewise, all factories, warehouses, armories, shipyards, and any other facility or installation that may be used for the construction of war materiel, or the storage, or transport of the same, must be destroyed or rendered unusable by Clan Smoke Jaguar. Such stores of weapons, ammunition, spare parts, food, and other military supplies, as well as those military assets that can be captured intact and transferred off planet by the units of Task Force Serpent should be secured by the units of Task Force Serpent and protected from deliberate sabotage by the forces of Clan Smoke Jaguar. The commander of Task Force Serpent is charged with the initial disposition of all captured materiel. All combat losses not provided for by a unit's Table of Organization and Equipment will be made up out of captured materiel wherever possible. All other captured materiel will be shipped for transport back to the Inner Sphere, where it will be disposed of by Star League Defense Force command. Such captured materiel that cannot be used by the units of Task Force Serpent and that cannot be shipped for transport back to the Inner Sphere is to be likewise destroyed.
  — Ariana Winston, reading General Order 01051

In less than twelve hours, the invaders had accomplished their initial objectives and seized control of the planet. On the morning of 13 March, General Winston summoned her unit commanders and read out General Order 01051, directing them to dismantle or destroy all military equipment and all military-industrial facilities. The order was intended not only to destroy the war-making ability of the Clan, but also to demonstrate the terrible nature of warfare.[22][23]

Colonel Paul Masters asked General Winston to reconsider the order, fearing that they would either lose control of their troops in the destruction to follow, or that their troops would resent the orders, leading to a breakdown in discipline. Colonel Kingston and Colonel MacLeod joined Masters' protest. As they argued with the other commanders, General Winston fired a shot from her pistol, bringing an abrupt end to the dispute, and overruled the objections. The demolition order stood, but it would be limited to facilities—Winston ordered that humans were not to be harmed.[22]

The soldiers proceeded to dismantle the Clan war machine. They followed their orders without taking any vengeance against the civilians and even permitted lower caste members to assist with their demolition efforts. The sheer amount of destruction exhausted the task force's supply of explosives, so the effort continued with BattleMechs mounting energy weapons and infantry wielding sledgehammers and cutting torches.[10][23]

Pahn City raid[edit]

Galaxy Commander Russou Howell had rallied roughly three Trinaries of BattleMechs and Elementals into the Black Shikari Jungle. In the early hours of 15 March, in need of ammunition and other supplies, he initiated a raid of the Pahn City factory complex, which was defended by the Northwind Highlanders. Adopting the battle plan suggested by Star Commander Tonia, he first sent one Trinary to make a diversionary attack on the Highlanders' DropShips, grounded five kilometers away from the factories. Colonel MacLeod ordered nearly the entire regiment to defend the transports, leaving a single company behind to defend the complex.

With the complex defenses denuded, the rest of the Smoke Jaguar force attacked, pushing back and occupying the defenders. Elementals, dismounted MechWarriors, and others seized fully-loaded hovertrucks and grabbed as much as they could before retreating back into the jungle. Colonel MacLeod ordered his forces back to meet the main attack, but arrived too late—the raiders had already made off with a large quantity of supplies and destroyed the rest. With the attack on the factory a success, the diversionary force retreated as well.[24][25]

Counterinvasion[edit]

Prelude[edit]

While Task Force Serpent was on its way to Huntress, Operation BULLDOG ran wild through the Clan Occupation zone, seizing thirty-two worlds from the Clan Smoke Jaguar and Clan Nova Cat in the first two waves. In August 3059, Khan Lincoln Osis ordered all Jaguar forces in the Inner Sphere to retreat to Huntress, where they could consolidate and rebuild.[citation needed]

On 13 March 3060, Osis addressed the Grand Council in the Hall of Khans on Strana Mechty, informed the assembled Khans of the invasion of Huntress, and asked for their aid in liberating the planet. After discussion, the Council unanimously refused, viewing the invasion as a matter that concerned only the Smoke Jaguars.[26]

Osis spent the next few days assembling a force to take with him to Huntress. In addition to his personal guard, he had the Command Trinary The Jaguar's Den, and the Shroud Keshik of his saKhan, Brandon Howell. He recruited twenty-three volunteers from the older Smoke Jaguar warriors serving in support roles on Strana Mechty into an ad hoc unit that he named The Jaguar's Heart. When he departed on his command ship, the Streaking Mist, Lincoln Osis had only two short Clusters to lead into battle.[27]

Meanwhile, during the nine-month journey back to Clan space, Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta reorganized surviving Smoke Jaguar troops together into a new Provisional Galaxy, and conducted Trials of Position during recharge stops to appoint new officers. She received orders from Osis to liberate Huntress, and arrived at the system's zenith point on 19 March 3060.[28]

Second naval battle[edit]

Mehta ordered all DropShips carrying the Provisional Galaxy to detach and accompanied them on a high-g burn for Huntress, leaving Star Commodore Clarinda Stiles in command of the Liberator-class cruiser Korat and two Vincent-class corvettes, Ripper and Azov. Aboard the Invisible Truth, Commodore Alain Beresick led Starlight, Emerald and Fire Fang to engage the enemy's WarShips. Antrim, Ranger and Haruna were to wait until they could slip past and engage the enemy's five JumpShips.[29]

Invisible Truth moved to intercept Korat while the accompanying escorts engaged. The lead Jaguar corvette, Azov, got into a close-range slugging match with Starlight and Emerald, exchanging fire with both. Emerald turned to avoid a missile salvo, exposing her previously-damaged port side to Ripper. A flurry of naval autocannon fire from Ripper tore through and caused massive damage to Emerald, putting her out of the fight. Starlight, still engaged with Azov, poured a full salvo of fire into Azov's damaged stern and penetrated her magazines, touching off explosions that tore the ship apart.[30]

Starlight and Ripper rounded on each other, and Starlight destroyed Ripper's engines at the same time that Ripper knocked out Starlight's helm control. With neither ship able to change its course, the two slammed into one another. Captain Stan O'Malley aboard the Starlight ordered his crew to abandon ship, but both vessels were obliterated in an explosion before anyone could escape.[30]

Meanwhile, Invisible Truth and Korat circled one another, maneuvering to avoid broadside salvos from the other. Invisible Truth followed Korat through a sudden reversal, and the ships exchanged blows, then rolled to present their undamaged sides to the enemy. Star Commodore Stiles drove her ship into a desperate turn that allowed her to score a hit on the Truth. But as Korat gained the upper hand, Fire Fang hit the Korat's wrecked starboard side, causing massive internal damage. Star Commodore Stiles refused to surrender, and Invisible Truth and Fire Fang continued firing until Korat was gutted from bow to stern, leaving her a burning hulk.[30]

With the destruction of the enemy WarShips, the Star League had won the battle, but failed to stop the Clan forces entirely. Two JumpShips, presumably equipped with Lithium-Fusion Batteries, escaped, jumping back out of the system. Many DropShips penetrated the defensive screen, burning at high speed toward Huntress. Starlight was lost with all hands, Emerald was effectively destroyed and abandoned, and Antrim was damaged beyond the possibility of field repair. Most of the other SLDF ships were damaged to some degree.[30][31]

Landfall[edit]

While the Smoke Jaguar reinforcements were on the way to the planet, Serpent technicians attempted to repair the Reagan Space Defense System, but the DEST team had done too good a job neutralizing it. With the planetary defenses out of action, General Ariana Winston planned for a ground campaign. She divided her troops into two field armies. The Eridani Light Horse, the Com Guards, and the St. Ives Lancers were concentrated at Lootera and designated the 'North-Group'. The 'South-Group' consisted of the First Kathil Uhlans, the Knights of the Inner Sphere, and the Northwind Highlanders, and was stationed at Osis Lake at the southwest corner of Jaguar Prime under General Redburn's command. The Eleventh Lyran Guards, the Fourth Drakøns, and Kingston's Legionnaires were hidden in the Lunar Mountains on the continent Abysmal as a reserve force, with their DropShips ready to reinforce either army. Winston also recalled the nekakami team to Lootera.[31]

On 26 March, the Smoke Jaguars' Provisional Galaxy reached Huntress, where they were met by Eridani Light Horse aerospace fighters. The aerial combat saw the Clan aerospace fighters practically destroyed, along with a few Clan DropShips, though most were able to reach the ground.[31][32] Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta had placed Star Colonel Paul Moon in command of the counterinvasion,[28] and as the Clan DropShips approached, Moon challenged General Winston to meet him on the plains west of Lootera, a challenge she accepted. Other Smoke Jaguar forces landed in the Dhuan Mountains to engage the southern group.[31]

Later that day, the Streaking Mist arrived at a pirate point, carrying carrying ilKhan Lincoln Osis and the forces he had gathered at Strana Mechty. Without detailed maps of the system, the Serpent WarShips were unable to make use of the same pirate point, and could only transmit a warning to General Winston. Osis ordered the Shroud Keshik and Jaguar's Heart to join the fight in the south, while he led the Jaguar's Den to secure Lootera.[27] The Eridani Light Horse aerospace fighters attempted to intercept these reinforcements, but were driven off by the Smoke Jaguar fighter escorts..[33]

Northern Army Group[edit]

The designated battlefield was a scattering of low rolling hills and clumps of scrubby trees, sandwiched between the city and the Jaguar's Fangs mountain range. General Winston placed the Com Guards in the center of the battle line, supported by the 21st Striker Regiment and the St. Ives Lancers. The Horsemen's other two regiments were put in reserve a kilometer behind the main line, and between them, the Horsemen's extensive artillery assets. All wounded personnel were moved into the Smoke Jaguar genetic repository, a location that the Clan wouldn't dare to attack directly, and the DEST teams were ordered to occupy the Mount Szabo facility and defend it against recapture.[31]

Star Colonel Paul Moon landed south of the battlefield with Alpha and Bravo Clusters, and both Clusters charged across the open ground towards the SLDF. The artillery opened up with advanced Smoke Shells containing a mixture of white phosphorous and jamming pods, a combination that clouded the Jaguars' vision and their advanced sensor systems, denying them the advantage of their extended weapons ranges. The next salvos were Cluster Shells that saturated the Jaguar formation with airbursts of armor-piercing bomblets. Their effect on the Jaguar 'Mechs varied, but they were incredibly deadly to the Elementals riding them. Paul Moon was hit by a submunition that punched straight through his body and blew him clear of the 'Mech he was riding.[34]

Enraged by such a "cowardly" attack, the Jaguar MechWarriors continued their charge into the main SLDF battle line and engaged in close-quarters combat. After the initial attack was rebuffed, General Winston realized the Jaguars were preparing a second attack wave, but the enemy was assembling too close to her own forces for her artillery to continue its attack. She ordered the reserves into the fight. The 71st and 151st succeeded in flanking and breaking up the second wave before it could attack, forcing the Smoke Jaguars to retreat. Paul Moon, badly wounded yet still alive, was captured by mop-up forces.[34] Although the enemy had been driven from the field, General Winston's forces had also taken a heavy beating and were nearly down to half-strength.[27]

With Paul Moon gone, Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta took command of the northern Smoke Jaguar force and attacked the Inner Sphere position again during the early hours of 27 March. General Winston immediately deployed her forces in defense of the city, but the expected attack never came. Rather than continue her head-on attack, Mehta circled around to avoid the waiting Horsemen and instead hit the Com Guards, intent on seizing the Mount Szabo command center and the genetic repository, while also detaching a Trinary of her fastest light and medium 'Mechs to attack the Field of Heroes.[35]

General Winston was caught off guard, and the opposing forces fought hard in the darkness, with the Jaguars steadily pushing the Com Guards out of the spaceport toward the southwest corner of Lootera. The Com Guards dug in and, reinforced by the 151st, halted the Smoke Jaguar advance. When the 71st hit them in the flanks, the Jaguars' main force was driven northwards out of the spaceport. Meanwhile, the Trinary detached to take the Field of Heroes had engaged with the St. Ives Lancers, who successfully defended the Field. But as Mehta's main force retreated, it slammed directly into the Lancers' flank, and the Lancers broke and ran, triggering a general rout of the entire army. The Com Guards attempted an orderly withdrawal, but the urban streets prevented them from holding formation, and they broke and fled as well. Suspicious of a trap, Mehta declined to pursue, and instead consolidated control of the city.[35]

As the Inner Sphere forces started to arrive at the designated rally point northwest of Lootera, General Winston led her command company to the Field of Heroes to evacuate the wounded and the medical teams before the Jaguars got to them. She was surprised to find the DEST teams still defending the wounded in accord with her orders, and directed them to withdraw to the rally point. When Winston ordered a general evacuation, the Horsemen's chief surgeon Dr. Fuehl persuaded her to leave the most severely injured in the care of a small team of volunteers.[36]

After General Winston rejoined the northern army, it moved steadily westwards, eventually setting up a defensible bivouac in the foothills of the Jaguar's Fangs. Winston sent out hovertanks to scout for Jaguar activity, and at around 0300 on 28 March, one of them located a large Jaguar army settling in for the night in an abandoned metal processing facility. The scouts indicated that repairs were underway on half the 'Mechs, with more heavily damaged 'Mechs junked and stripped for parts, and ballistic weapons swapped out in favor of energy weapons, an indication that the Clan force was running low on supplies. Upon hearing this report, General Winston decided to gamble and ordered a quick raid in force, hoping to catch the enemy unprepared before sunrise. Unfortunately for her, the ilKhan had anticipated the possibility of a night raid and posted scout units a kilometer away from the encampment. The scouts sounded the alarm, providing plenty of time for the Jaguars to launch a counterattack. The battle became a straight-up slugging match where the Jaguars took full advantage of their weapons' superior ranges, and they easily repelled the assault.[37]

While the SLDF attempted a fighting withdrawal, they were set upon by an unexpected foe: Galaxy Commander Russou Howell and the survivors of the original garrison appeared from out of the Shakiri Jungle and hit their flank, turning the retreat into a rout back to the bivouac. The SLDF suffered stiff losses, and Colonel Edwin Amis, commander of the 21st, was captured.[38][39] On 29 March the ilKhan returned to the secondary C3 facility in Lootera, which the technician caste had restored to functionality, and gave Galaxy Commander Mehta her orders: hunt down the remaining freebirths and kill them.[32]

Southern Army Group[edit]

In the Dhuan Mountains, the Smoke Jaguars attacked the SLDF troops three times. They were pushed back each time, but after the third attack was repulsed, the three SLDF regiments were at half-strength. The 4th Drakøns were available to reinforce the position, but the southern group would need to secure a landing zone for them. That opportunity that never came, as a wave of Smoke Jaguars reinforcements arrived, comprising forty fresh OmniMechs and fifty Elementals, including the Shroud Keshik, the personal guard of saKhan Brandon Howell.[27]

The fresh Clan troops linked up with the other Jaguar units and charged forward against the entire SLDF position, ignoring losses to the hastily-prepared vibrabomb minefields. After holding off three previous attacks, the fourth charge was too much for General Redburn, and he ordered a fighting retreat to the rally point, followed by a withdrawal into the Dhuan Swamp.[27]

As the Inner Sphere army withdrew, the Jaguars renewed their attack. With the SLDF forces damaged, low on ammunition, and exhausted from the furious attacks, the Jaguars pressed hard. When two stars of OmniFighters suddenly hit the buckling Inner Sphere lines in a strafing run, the professional retreat turned into a rout, and the three units ran flat out for the swamp, despite the best efforts of their leaders and officers to control the situation. The Royal Black Watch Company of the Northwind Highlanders — joined by a few Knights of the Inner Sphere — maintained cohesion and refused to run. Volunteering as a rearguard, they engaged the Jaguars on their own in an effort to allow the rest of the army to rally and regroup. By the time they were cleared to retreat, only three of the ad hoc rearguard remained, but they had bought the time needed for the Inner Sphere army to vanish into the swamp.[40]

The wild, uncoordinated retreat had scattered the army throughout the swamp. The terrain made any kind of unit coherency difficult and rendered command 'Mech tactical computers almost useless in generating a picture of the battlespace. By the next day, the regiments had managed to regroup sufficiently that they could start moving with purpose again and continued south into the swamp, though nearly half the army had been killed, captured, or gone missing in the rout. Meanwhile, saKhan Brandon Howell ordered the Jaguar's Heart to lead the pursuit while he and his Keshik remained on solid ground 'overseeing' the situation.[40]

On 28 March, the pursuing Jaguars made contact with the SLDF forces, running first into the Northwind Highlanders' rearguard, then engaging the Kathil Uhlans as well. Colonel Masters and his Knights moved to assist, but their progress was slow, and General Redburn arrived with his command lance just in time to prevent the left flank from being overrun.[40] Further help arrived when the Horsemen's fighter contingent provided close air support, blunting the Jaguars' pursuit. The next day, the Eridani aerospace assets came again to provide support for the beleaguered southern army. Air strikes using a mixture of strafing and bombing runs, combined with TAG-directed Arrow-IV strikes, hammered the Jaguar pursuit force enough that they pulled back almost to the edge of the swamp, calling for additional troops that simply weren't available.[33]

Retreat[edit]

After its disastrous night raid, the northern army group was reduced to half-strength. Worse, even with fewer units, supplies were rapidly running out, making repairs increasingly difficult. Intercepted communications confirmed that the Jaguars had brought their secondary C3 facility in Lootera online, and Lincoln Osis was using it to direct the campaign. General Winston ordered her team of nekakami to eliminate the facility, but forbade them from targeting the ilKhan for assassination.[32]

With few options, Winston decided to fall back further into the mountains, find a secure location, and bring in Fourth Drakøns and Kingston's Legionnaires to support the northern group, while deploying the Lyran Guards to reinforce the southern army. Before they could move, the Smoke Jaguars attacked again, using their superior knowledge of the local terrain to appear without warning, hitting the camp of the Seventy-first Light Horse while its MechWarriors struggled to power up their 'Mechs. The Light Horse retreated and much of its artillery, baggage train, and wounded were captured by the Smoke Jaguars before the SLDF rallied and threw back the Clan attack.[41][38]

The northern army group retreated, hampered by its inadequate maps of the area, and delayed by the slow crossing of a dubious bridge, eventually setting up a new bivouac on a section of mountain road. Major Ryan volunteered to have his team set up an observation post five kilometers out from the bivouac to monitor their rear while the group tried to get some rest and repair, and General Winston reluctantly approved. With man-portable TAG designators, the five commandos would be in a position to spot for units equipped with Arrow IV missiles. Later that day, a reconnaissance star of OmniMechs appeared in the mountain pass. Ordered to let them go by, Ryan and his men waited for a larger force, which arrived half an hour later: two Trinaries of 'Mechs and many supporting Elementals. The group sprang into action.[42][43] Three Clan 'Mechs were destroyed by the guided missile attack and a fourth heavily damaged, but the Clanners quickly located the hidden DEST team and nearly wiped them out. Only Major Ryan and one other commando survived to rejoin the northern army the next day.[44]

Three hours after the DEST team was overrun, Fifth Recon reported Smoke Jaguar 'Mechs engaging their position. The Eridani 'Mechs and combat-ready Com Guards advanced to engage the Jaguars away from their bivouac, while the rest of the army remained behind to guard the baggage train.[43] The attack was a feint. Using her superior knowledge of the local terrain, Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta led a smaller force along a hidden mountain pass to strike directly at the bivouac. Charging without warning into the rear area, her 'Mechs and Elementals quickly overwhelmed the Lancers and Com Guards who had been left behind, destroying all supplies and equipment that couldn't be carried off, and executing any prisoners who wouldn't be useful as bondsmen. Their task done, the raiding force left and the main Clan force broke off its diversionary attack.[45]

The Inner Sphere forces continued their retreat, traveling for sixteen hours until on 30 March, they came through a narrow mountain pass onto a plateau where they could rest. The plateau provided enough space for the Eleventh Lyran Guards to land their DropShips, bringing additional forces, fresh supplies, and medical relief for the wounded. Meanwhile, in the south, the Fourth Drakøns and Kingston's Legionnaires had landed on the edge of the Dhuan Swamp and linked up with General Redburn.[44]

General Winston finally made radio contact with Commodore Beresick, and received the bleakest news yet. The Invisible Truth had detected at least twenty jump signatures at the system's zenith point—a substantial fleet had arrived. Beresick moved to intercept the inbound reinforcements in orbit, and Winston prepared for Serpent's last stand. As the northern army dug in, the Smoke Jaguars launched a final attack.[44]

Nekakami strike[edit]

Meanwhile, in Lootera, the nekakami team sent by General Winston had silently entered the C3 building, eliminating guards and other personnel in their way. Each of the four carried ten kilograms of pentaglycerine charges and planted them at key structural points throughout the building, setting the timer for five minutes. On their way out, they stumbled across Lincoln Osis and his four bodyguards emerging from the main elevator.[38]

A volley of poisoned shuriken eliminated the ilKhan's bodyguards in moments, but Kasugai Hatsumi stopped Rumiko Fox from killing the ilKhan, because their orders prohibited assassination. Instead, Kasugai challenged Osis to a Trial of Grievance over his actions against the Draconis Combine. Sending his team out, Kasugai ordered Honda Tan to pass the ilKhan his shinobigatana and drew his own. The two began their duel as the timers on the charges steadily counted down.[38]

After a short but intense sword duel, Osis overextended, and Kasugai struck his leg, cutting through the femur and nearly severing it. Kasugai closed in for the kill, but as he raised his sword for a final decapitating strike, the ilKhan twisted away, seized his dropped sword, and stabbed Katsugai through the chest, killing him.[38]

As Osis lay bleeding on the floor, an Elemental security patrol stumbled onto the scene and carried him from the building only moments before the charges went off.[38] Galaxy Commander Russou Howell, who had also been in the building, also left just before it exploded.[46] Osis was evacuated onto the Streaking Mist, which jumped to Strana Mechty on 30 March.[39]

Final stand[edit]

Colonel, this is Beresick. The inbounds are Task Force Bulldog. I am in contact with Prince Victor Steiner-Davion and the Precentor Martial. They said to tell you, 'Well done and prepare to stand down.' They'll take over from here.
  — Commodore Beresick

The northern army marched out to face the Smoke Jaguars in a narrow defile of the mountain pass. For once, the terrain did not allow the Jaguars to simply outflank the defenders, resulting in an impasse where only a few units at a time could engage. The Jaguars pressed in relentlessly. General Winston, seeing her soldiers dying, suddenly stepped forward into the pass to personally challenge a Summoner of the Jaguar's Den. The two traded fire until the Clan MechWarrior knocked General Winston's 'Mech to the ground and fired a PPC directly into her cockpit, killing her instantly.[39]

Colonel Charles Antonescu destroyed the Summoner, announced the general's death over the radio, and assumed command of the northern group. Moments later, he received a message from Commodore Beresick: The new arrivals were not a Clan reinforcement fleet, but a detachment of Task Force Bulldog that had come to support Task Force Serpent.[39]

When the fleet arrived ten days later on 9 April, the battle for Huntress was finally ended. Confronted by fresh troops, most Smoke Jaguars refused to surrender and fought on until death, inflicting only light casualties on the enemy. Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta chose to commit bondsref rather than be taken alive, an escape taken by many other senior officers. No trace could be found of Russou Howell. As for ilKhan Lincoln Osis, the SLDF learned from prisoner interrogations about the nekakami attack and his escape aboard the Streaking Mist, which had left the system mere hours before Task Force Bulldog's arrival. None of the nekakami reported in to General Redburn, who assumed overall command of Task Force Serpent.[39]

Skirmish at Falcon Eyrie[edit]

On 26 March, in the midst of the Jaguar counterinvasion, a firefight broke out between Clan Jade Falcon and the MI6 teams assigned to Task Force Serpent. The MI6 teams were maintaining their watch over Falcon Eyrie when ten armored Elementals and fifty unarmored infantry arrayed themselves in parade formation just inside the high chain link fence surrounding the compound. Captain Montjar contacted General Winston with the news, who reiterated her previous orders: monitor the facility and attack only if fired upon first.[47]

Without warning, one of the commandos launched an inferno SRM missile at the Jade Falcons, enveloping several of them in flames. The two sides exchanged fire until Star Captain Gythia, the Jade Falcon commander, ordered her troops to cease fire. After Montjar followed suit, the two commanders spoke and each explained that their orders were not to fire unless fired upon. Star Captain Gythia told Montjar that she'd called off the fight because the Jade Falcons' honor had been satisfied, but warned that further attacks would bring Clan Jade Falcon into the battle for Huntress. Returning to his own lines, Captain Montjar was determined to discipline the trooper who had opened fire, but learned that he was dead.[47]

Clan Goliath Scorpion Incursion[edit]

After hearing of the expected attack on Huntress, Galaxy Commander Rik Myers jumped into the system on 21 April with the Fourteenth Scorpion Hussars and Thirty-fifth Scorpion Cuirassiers. This movement was almost certainly accomplished with Alpha Galaxy's naval assets: the McKenna-class flagship CGS Lei Kung, Lola III-class CGS Sagitta, Aegis-class CGS Corona Borealis, and/or Congress-class CGS Bernlad. The likely presence of those vessels, while it inevitably caused much consternation among the SLDF flotilla, did not result in any known combat between the fleets. The two Clusters made landfall on the Abysmal continent and after two hours of limited fighting with the battered Smoke Jaguar remnants had claimed the entire continent.[48][49][50]

Aftermath[edit]

The warrior caste of Clan Smoke Jaguar was virtually annihilated by the battle. Task Force Serpent had accomplished its mission, but paid a steep price. From a force originally equal to ten regiments, it had been reduced to less than two. Each unit was granted salvage rights to equipment sufficient to restore it to 110% of its original strength, with the rest pooled and sold to form a fund for survivors and families of the deceased. Colonel Paul Masters was placed in command of salvage and recovery operations on Huntress, while Victor Steiner-Davion led an expedition to Strana Mechty to challenge the Clans' collective decision to invade the Inner Sphere.[51] General Andrew Redburn and a lance of the Kathil Uhlans accompanied him and fought alongside him in the Great Refusal, defeating Lincoln Osis and the last of the Smoke Jaguars.[52][53]

After its return to the Inner Sphere, Task Force Serpent was dissolved. All remaining WarShips and the Eridani Light Horse were integrated into the Second Star League Defense Force.[54] The First Kathil Uhlans were disbanded and most surviving members were assigned to the newly-formed First Royal BattleMech Regiment.[55] While the Northwind Highlanders returned to their mercenary life, the Royal Black Watch joined the Star League Defense Force as well, returning to its place as bodyguards of the First Lord.[56] The Fourth Drakøns were disbanded and the survivors spread among the rest of the KungsArmé.[57]

Participating units[edit]

Star League Defense Force[edit]

Operation SERPENT was one of the largest military operations conducted by the Inner Sphere since the fall of the original Star League. In total, the task force consisted of 55,000 personnel; over a thousand BattleMechs, aerospace fighters, and combat vehicles; ninety-eight DropShips and twenty-seven JumpShips and WarShips.[58][59]

Ground units[edit]

Special operations[edit]

Fleet[edit]

Clan Smoke Jaguar[edit]

Huntress garrison[edit]

Reinforcements[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Flashpoint, ch. 1
  2. Sword and Fire, ch. 12
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Sword and Fire, ch. 11
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 14
  5. Sword and Fire, ch. 15
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Sword and Fire, ch. 16
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Sword and Fire, ch. 17
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Twilight of the Clans, p. 42
  9. Twilight of the Clans, p. 22
  10. 10.0 10.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 24
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Sword and Fire, ch. 22
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Sword and Fire, ch. 20
  13. 13.0 13.1 Twilight of the Clans, p. 26
  14. Twilight of the Clans, p. 44
  15. Twilight of the Clans, p. 51
  16. Twilight of the Clans, p. 50
  17. Technical Readout: 3055 Upgrade, p. 10
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Sword and Fire, ch. 19
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Twilight of the Clans, p. 25
  20. 20.0 20.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 18
  21. 21.0 21.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 21
  22. 22.0 22.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 23
  23. 23.0 23.1 Shadows of War, ch. 2
  24. Shadows of War, ch. 3
  25. Twilight of the Clans, p. 12
  26. Shadows of War, ch. 1
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 Shadows of War, ch. 10
  28. 28.0 28.1 Shadows of War, ch. 5
  29. Shadows of War, ch. 6
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Shadows of War, ch. 7
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 Shadows of War, ch. 8
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Shadows of War, ch. 17
  33. 33.0 33.1 Shadows of War, ch. 16
  34. 34.0 34.1 Shadows of War, ch. 9
  35. 35.0 35.1 Shadows of War, ch. 12
  36. Shadows of War, ch. 13
  37. Shadows of War, ch. 15
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 38.5 Shadows of War, ch. 19
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 Shadows of War, ch. 24
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Shadows of War, ch. 14
  41. Shadows of War, ch. 18
  42. Shadows of War, ch. 20
  43. 43.0 43.1 Shadows of War, ch. 21
  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 Shadows of War, ch. 23
  45. Shadows of War, ch. 22
  46. Twilight of the Clans, p. 16
  47. 47.0 47.1 Shadows of War, ch. 11
  48. Field Manual: Warden Clans, p. 111: "35th Scorpion Cuirassiers (Scorpions of the Veil)"
  49. Field Manual: Warden Clans, p. 108: "Naval Assets"
  50. Field Manual: Warden Clans, p. 164: Deployment Tables - Identity of second Cluster.
  51. Prince of Havoc, ch. 2
  52. Prince of Havoc, ch. 10
  53. Prince of Havoc, ch. 14
  54. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 89
  55. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 101
  56. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 98
  57. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 98
  58. The Hunters, ch. 14
  59. 59.0 59.1 59.2 59.3 59.4 59.5 59.6 59.7 Twilight of the Clans, p. 8, "Task Force Serpent Composition"
  60. The Hunters, ch. 28
  61. The Hunters, ch. 12

Bibliography[edit]