Learn All About ‘The Destroyer of Worlds' (July 23, 2023)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
It looks like a certain movie has people talking about a certain war-ending bomb. It just so happens that I took a wonderful senior seminar on the bomb decision and would be happy to walk everyone through the details of what really happened.

Step back in time with me to the '50s. Faced with a seemingly endless standoff, both sides began investing heavily in scientific 'wonder weapons' intended to rapidly upset the status quo of the war.

Black budgets would increasingly fund a rogues' gallery of amoral projects: Project Behemoth, the 'planet-killer' Hopper Drive, the biological warfare laboratory on Greenhouse, the Genetic Enhancement program and others.

In 2659, the task of developing a classified large-scale demolitions laboratory was assigned to Col. James Taggart, a rising star in Special Operations fresh off coordinating the Kilrathi-led rebellion on Ghorah Khar. The effort will cost billions of credits, all black budget.

Taggart, a former fighter pilot who served in both wars under the callsign Paladin, is a dour one-eyed Scotsman and a no-nonsense warrior who operates his Special Operations team under the unofficial motto "Any Path to Victory".

To head the project, Taggart chose one of the top research men in the Confederation: the charismatic Dr. Philip Severin, called "Sevvy" by his friends. Their task? Turn theory into a practical seismic resonance weapon capable of turning a planet's own geology against itself.

The theory: a traditional explosive detonated at the correct junction of a target world's tectonic fault lines could cause earthquakes that would act as a lopsided force multiplier capable of even shaking the entire planet apart.

Taggart and Severin established their laboratory on Pax 7, a backwater planet far from the front lines where testing begins in earnest. The research soon comes at a truly horrific cost: a massive demolition accident results in the deaths of millions of Paxons.

Prioritizing the war effort, the government opts to hide the details of the disaster. Lieutenant Winston Chang, attached to the project, would later confide that he was sure Severin knew what would happen and had intentionally chosen not to warn the civilian population.

The project continued and by 2667 had resulted in the Y22A-1 Temblor Bomb, a tectonic-frequency weapon with a 267.5 megaton yield. Fired correctly, the complex weapon would achieve the proper resonance frequency and trigger a destructive tectonic resonance reaction.

A complex plan of action begins to take shape: a covert team will dispatch the bomb hardware to a hidden cache in the Kilrah system. Then, a next-generation stealth fighter will infiltrate the system quietly and rearm with the bomb close to the target.

Then in 2668, a massive setback: Dr. Severin was captured in a Kilrathi raid. There is no indication that Severin in particular was targeted; while his interrogation discovered that he was a scientist it did not ever reveal any specifics about his demolition work.

Intelligence soon learns that Dr. Severin is imprisoned on the Kilrathi prison planet Alcor V. While the bombs had already been physically constructed, the remaining members of the project were unable to complete the final bomb programming without Dr. Severin's knowledge.

Meanwhile, the war situation becomes ever more dire: the Kilrathi launch a merciless strike on Earth itself and Thrakhath now seems poised to deliver the killing blow in the coming year. High Command now chooses to prioritize Behemoth as the best chance of ending the war.

Part of the reasoning for this choice is a desire to demonstrate the weapon on a military target rather than use it in anger. Unlike the Temblor Bomb, the Behemoth has the capacity to fire on a less populated, backwater world in the hopes the Kilrathi will sue for peace over the weapon.

The "T-bomb", however, will impact only a handful of tectonically unstable planets and will only be politically effective used directly against Kilrah itself. The Navy reassigns multiple carrier groups to search for a suitable target for Behemoth.

Tolwyn would later confide that he had been unsure of Behemoth from the beginning, going on to claim that if he had known about Taggart's top secret project he would've backed it instead.

Undeterred by High Command's decision, Taggart decides to continue preparations for the T-bomb attack. His involvement in uncovering the Hakaga fleet has led to a promotion to General and an assignment heading all of Covert Operations.

Enter Lexington. In early 2669, General Sturdivan of the Terran Intelligence Agency deploys a 'vengeance mission', a specially modified carrier with orders to scout a jump point and then conduct berserker-style attacks on targets of opportunity as long as resources allow.

Taggart uses his connections to make sure that Lexington also carries a special payload: a captured Kilrathi freighter loaded with construction equipment, two T-bomb casings and a 62-person Special Operations team.

The team is led by Col. Jeanette Devereaux, known as Angel by her men, a decorated ace whose illustrious twenty year career included commanding the Black Lions in the heyday of the Vega Campaign, the Austin's fighter squadron and then serving as Wing Commander of Concordia.

Angel's team makes it to the Kilrah System where they successfully establish three Theta II weapons caches capable of reloading Confederation fighters. The third, dubbed TCS Apache, is established on Kilrah's tiny outer moon and stocked with the two T-bombs.

Escape, however, proves impossible. The freighter and his crew are captured intact in Kilrah orbit. Believing they have located an infiltration team attempting to land on Kilrah, Thrakhath orders the survivors executed without interrogation. Angel is dead, but the bombs are safe.

September 4: Behemoth destroys Loki VI but the Kilrathi do not sue for peace. Their intelligence has been fully aware of the effort thanks to a deep cover agent embedded with Admiral Tolwyn's staff. Thrakhath's strike fleet easily destroys the weapons platform before it can reach Kilrah.

Reacting rapidly, High Command redirects the forces supporting Behemoth to support an attempted Temblor bombing. The plan is to rapidly liberate Dr. Severin from the Alcor V prison planet to allow him to complete the final programming necessary for an attack on Kilrah.

Victory is dispatched to Alcor to support a marine operation to rescue Dr. Severin while Hermes and Invincible are sent to capture the strategic Freya System where they will hold off the main body of the Empire's fleet as long as possible.

Colonel Blair's advisor, Colonel Hart, notes that he has reservations about rescuing Dr. Severin in light of the Pax disaster. "Don't let that get to you. If he can bring the war to an end, then I say let's get him out and get him out in one piece."

On September 19, Special Operations delivers the first working prototype Temblor Bomb to a security bunker aboard TCS Victory at Freya with orders to test the weapon on Hyperion, a tectonically unstable world located by Intel.

Colonel Blair flies a modified F-103A Excalibur fighter-bomber to fire the prototype. The mission is a success: the bomb detonates on Hyperion's seismographic fault and the world shakes itself apart.

Despite claims that Hyperion was uninhabited, Blair encounters Kilrathi resistance including ground-based atmospheric planes during the sortie. The war situation becomes more desperate, with indications that Thrakhath is now only days away from a final invasion.

Unwilling to wait for approval, General Taggart convinces Captain Chalfonte to take the TCS Eagle behind enemy lines to deploy her Excalibur squadron while Prince Thrakhath is focused on the Behemoth. The plan fails: Eagle runs into stiff resistance and retreats, heavily damaged.

On September 24th, President Quinson and the Scientific Warfare panel approve the use of the Temblor Bomb in up to six instances including the destruction of Kilrah. Taggart offloads the Eagle's surviving Excaliburs to the Victory which pushes forward to Freya.

Colonel Blair leads three pilots from FW 36's Gold Squadron in a three-leg mission through Hyperion to Kilrah. The survivors reload at the TCS Chinook and then load one of the Temblor bombs from Altair.

As Taggart had feared, Thrakhath's invasion fleet was making final preparations in Kilrah orbit. After a desperate battle, Blair manages to enter the atmosphere and deliver the T-bomb to V'rakath fault. The blast spreads along the planet's three major faults.

The resulting quakes immediately kill millions including the Emperor himself as the palace collapses. Billions more will die within hours as the planet collapses and the biosphere fails. The fleet gathering in orbit is crippled.

Blair and two of his three wingmen survive. Melek, acting as de facto leader of the Kiranka dynasty, offers his unconditional surrender which will ultimately result in the final Treaty of Torgo and end the war. In a flash, the socio-political realities of the galaxy are upended.

The ramifications of the bomb decision are immediate, and lasting. Humanity is at peace for the first time in 35 years, but at a terrible cost. Trillions have died, hundreds of worlds have been devastated and the path forward to reconstruction will be a harsh one.

Kilrathi culture is nearly wiped out in the process: the homeworld, central to their system, is destroyed and along with it countless religious and cultural shrines, most major clan leaders and the unifying Kiranka leadership itself.

By the year's end, over half the surviving Kilrathi population will commit Zu'kara. Survivors will face a generation of rejection from human society and a choice between life on a reservation planet or a violent, five-way civil war burning endlessly in the cradle of the former empire.

The Sivar-Eshrad cult was also permanently altered. Reactionaries, including Chancellor Melek, adopted the belief that Blair himself was a prophet of Sivar and that his destruction of Kilrah was punishment for having allowed human ideas to infiltrate Kilrathi culture. In a matter of years, this doctrine itself will be severely tested as a race purporting to be the Sivarist 'Star Gods' of legend begin to eliminate surviving Kilrathi.

The years after the war saw the government both operating from a position of guilt, allowing Kilrathi to function unimpeded but also wielding the threat of the bomb as a kludge; if remnants overreached, it was reasoned that the threat of further bombings would pacify them.

Weapons development continued, aiming to create the 'super', a more advanced T-bomb offshoot capable of destroying any planet. By the mid-2670s, it was generally understood that such weapons had been developed and could be rapidly deployed.

The most massive ramification of the bomb decision was that it led directly to another generational war twelve years later. Alerted by the destruction of Kilrah, the Aligned Peoples dispatched the Nephilim to challenge what they saw as a violent humanity for potential membership.

The personal cost was also high. Blair suffered from nightmares over his role. His restless thoughts brought him to the bottle after the war, ultimately ending his marriage. Though he would achieve sobriety, he wore the mental scars of the attack for the rest of his life.

He is ultimately captured and interrogated by the Nephilim specifically because of their fascination with his ability to take so many lives, something he himself had never managed to understand.

General Taggart would ride his role into politics, rapidly becoming head of the Great Assembly and the leader of the conservative Federationist majority of the 2670s.

What happened to "Sevvy"? After the successful destruction of Hyperion, he was named an honorary captain in the TCN and awarded a research bonus of 1.2 million credits. He continued to be recognized as one of the Confederation's top scientists until his death.

Which came several years later. Dr. Severin was captured by a bounty hunter on the orders of General Drakas, a warlord desperate to rebuild the Kiranka regime. Drakas forced Severin to develop a piece of Steltek technology and ultimately executed him when the effort failed.

Original update published on July 23, 2023