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Task Force Serpent

Task Force Serpent was a multinational task force created by the Second Star League Defense Force to execute a secret military operation conceived and led by Marshal Morgan Hasek-Davion: Travel to the Clan Smoke Jaguar homeworld of Huntress, occupy it, and completely destroy the war-making capability of the Clan. The mission complemented Operation BULLDOG, whose objective was to expel the Smoke Jaguars from every world they occupied in the Inner Sphere.

Task Force Serpent emblem (2).jpg
Task Force Serpent
Unit Profile (as of 3061)
Nickname
Parent Formation Second Star League Defense Force (SLDF)
Formed 3058
Disbanded 3061

After a long journey through the Deep Periphery to the Clan Homeworlds, Task Force Serpent ultimately completed its mission with the assistance of elements from Operation BULLDOG, which had succeeded ahead of schedule. Clan Smoke Jaguar was effectively wiped out, but at heavy cost to the task force. Marshal Hasek-Davion, the task force commander, was assassinated en route; his successor, General Ariana Winston, was killed in action; and the task force suffered an eighty percent casualty rate.

Commission and departureEdit

On 14 November 3058, during a military planning session at the First Whitting Conference for the first wave of Operation BULLDOG, Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht presented new intelligence that had been provided by the Smoke Jaguar defector, Trent. The information included the Exodus Road and the location of Huntress, the Smoke Jaguar homeworld. Morgan Hasek-Davion proposed and volunteered to lead a strike at Huntress designed to raze it, shocking the Clan and wiping out all traces of the warrior caste.[1] The First Council approved the plan and appointed Hasek-Davion as the Task Force Commander.[2]

In January 3059, the units assigned to Task Force Serpent began to assemble on Fort Defiance, a barren planet deep in the Crucis March of the Federated Commonwealth, which had mostly been used for military training maneuvers.[3] Serpent's ground forces consisted of the Eridani Light Horse, the First Kathil Uhlans, the Northwind Highlanders, the ComGuard Second Division, the Eleventh Lyran Guards, the Second Sword of Light, the Second St. Ives Lancers, the Fourth Drakøns, the Knights of the Inner Sphere, and Kingston's Legionnaires, a regiment of questionable honor.[4] For the next several months the ground units conducted training and integration exercises, fighting alongside one another, with ComStar's Invader Galaxy taking an OpFor role. DEST and MI6 teams, assigned to the task force for special operations, trained for spacecraft boarding actions.[5]

Task Force Serpent launched on 1 May 3059, following a route through Weldon, Vicente, Tsamma and Palmyra on its way through the Federated Commonwealth.[6] On 29 June the task force jumped from Pajarito into the Outworlds Alliance.[7] On 19 July, after recharging jump drives at Alpheratz, Task Force Serpent entered the Deep Periphery and began its journey along the Exodus Road to Huntress.[8]

Battle of Sweetwater LakeEdit

On 16 November, Task Force Serpent stopped at a habitable planet in the Meribah system to replenish the fleet's supply of fresh water. Two specially-modified Mule-class DropShips were dispatched to the surface, escorted by the Twenty-first Striker Regiment's Fifth Striker Battalion. As the DropShips pumped water from a lake, which the crews dubbed "Sweetwater", the Eridani unit was attacked by a mixed force of Inner Sphere BattleMechs and Clan OmniMechs, who were swiftly defeated. [9]

The enemy turned out to be a group of pirates using the planet for a base of operations. With the pirates' main force absent on a raid, Marshal Hasek-Davion ordered that the pirate base be wiped out in order to maintain the secrecy of the task force. The next day, a combined Eridani-MI6 strike team destroyed the pirate base and released the slaves found there. Four pirate leaders were court-martialed for piracy and murder and were summarily executed. The rest of the pirates were convicted of lesser crimes and sentenced to be marooned on a uninhabited planet. [10]

Battle of TrafalgarEdit

Main article: Battle of Trafalgar
 
Task Force Serpent's JumpShip fleet with Invisible Truth leading it.

On 15 December, after jumping into an unnamed star system, Task Force Serpent unexpectedly encountered a small Clan Ghost Bear fleet, consisting of one Congress-class frigate, two Whirlwind-class destroyers and an Invader-class JumpShip. When Marshal Hasek-Davion hailed them and declared a Trial of Possession for the entire Clan fleet, Star Colonel Alonso Gilmour accepted his challenge. Engaging the enemy with naval assets and boarding teams, the task force defeated the Ghost Bears in what became known as the Battle of Trafalgar.

The task force suffered modest losses in its victory. The Hainan, an Avenger-class DropShip was destroyed, the Starlight lost some of her weapons, and casualties totaled twenty-six dead, thirty-two wounded, and four missing. The Ghost Bear starships were all disabled or destroyed. The Fire Fang, one of the Whirlwinds, was repaired and put into service as the eighth WarShip of the task force. The task force also captured an undamaged Clan Broadsword-class DropShip (renamed the Stiletto), a couple of damaged Union-C-class DropShips, a dozen OmniFighters, a Star of OmniMechs, and several tons of consumable supplies.[11]

Task Force Serpent also took possession of roughly three hundred bondsmen, mostly lower-caste members who were being relocated to the Inner Sphere. Marshal Morgan Hasek-Davion directed that any Clansmen who willingly gave their bond-oath would be accepted into service, while the rest would be marooned on a habitable world.[11] On 30 December, the fleet located a suitable planet and deposited on it the prisoners who had not joined, leaving them with some supplies and the promise that, if the task force completed its mission, someone would come back for them.[12]

Assassination of Morgan Hasek-DavionEdit

He was the last of the old order of things. We'll never see his like again.
  — General Ariana Winston

During the night of 2 January 3060, Marshal Morgan Hasek-Davion died in his quarters aboard the Invisible Truth. His death was initially attributed to heart failure, but subsequent forensic investigations determined that he was deliberately poisoned with a fast-acting toxin introduced into his scotch whiskey. [13][14]

On 10 January, General Ariana Winston, Task Force Serpent's second-in-command, announced that Hasek-Davion's death was under investigation and formally assumed command. With the fleet less than 200 light-years from Huntress, she reviewed the orders and reports he had left for her in the event of his death. One of these revealed that in addition to units officially assigned to the task force, Coordinator Theodore Kurita had "gifted" a team of four nekakami.[15]

As the investigation progressed, suspicion fell on five ComStar crew members who had no records of their existence before they joined ComStar.[16] On 23 January the two suspects who had originally been assigned to Invisible Truth were summoned for interrogation. The first suspect, Julia Davis, seemed to be hiding something, but her interrogator, Sho-sa Michael Ryan, concluded that she was probably not involved in the assassination. She was relieved of duty and confined to quarters.[17]

Two ComStar marines were escorting the second suspect, Lucas Penrose, to his interrogation, when he killed them both with a hidden hold-out pistol, stole their weapons, and barricaded himself in a recreation room on Deck Four. Penrose claimed that he had planted a bomb in the ship's number three magazine, and threatened to destroy the ship unless General Winston met his demands. As General Winston conversed with Penrose, she perceived that the hand he was keeping out of sight, supposedly holding a detonator, was empty. With this knowledge she jumped Penrose, wrestling him for his gun. Penrose was hit in the back with a poisoned shuriken, enabling Winston to seize his gun and shoot him in the chest.[17] The poison and the gunshot wound were both fatal.[18]

Ordnance crews and DEST demolitions experts could find no evidence of explosives in the number three magazine or anywhere else on the ship, confirming that Penrose had been bluffing.[19] After returning to her office, General Winston received a voice-only call from one of the nekakami agents, who asserted that Penrose had acted alone. According to him, "Lucas Penrose" was a Loki agent who had been an assassin, first for the Lyran Commonwealth and later for the Lyran Alliance. The nekakami asked that "Julia Davis" be released from custody, and abruptly ended the call.[18]

Voice of KerenskyEdit

Main article: Voice of Kerensky

At the conclusion of Hasek-Davion's funeral on 11 January, the ships of Task Force Serpent received a broadband transmission sent by General Aleksandr Kerensky. In his brief message, he explained why he had taken the original Star League Defense Force from the Inner Sphere and expressed his hope that their descendants would one day return to serve as the Star League's protectors. Because the message was sent by microwave, it was traveling at light-speed, and wouldn't reach the Inner Sphere for hundreds of years more. The task force would have missed the message completely if it hadn't been delayed by Hasek-Davion's death.[20]

Battle of HuntressEdit

Main article: Battle of Huntress

InvasionEdit

The invasion of Huntress began on 19 February with the covert insertion of an advance team. DCS Haruna, broadcasting stolen IFF codes, jumped into the Huntress system, detached the Stiletto, and jumped out again. The Stiletto, claiming to be on an unscheduled supply transfer mission, dropped DEST teams onto the planet's surface and feigned a crash landing into the Dhuan Swamp. On 5 March, the DEST teams struck the planetary command and operations center beneath Mount Szabo, crippling it and disabling the Reagan Space Defense System, clearing the way for the invasion to follow.[21]

That same day, the Serpent fleet jumped into the Huntress zenith point and was met by a Sovetskii Soyuz-class heavy cruiser, two Vincent-class corvettes, and a number of DropShips and OmniFighters. The Inner Sphere WarShips engaged without issuing any challenge, intending to destroy, not capture, the Smoke Jaguar fleet. They succeeded, destroying all three Clan WarShips, at the cost of the Rostock, which was lost with only five survivors.[22]

On 12 March, ground forces made landfall on Huntress, encountering opposition from planet-based aerospace units. They targeted military installations across Huntress: manufacturing centers at Myer and Pahn City; training facilities at Lootera, New Andery, Bagera, and Abysmal; and the planetary command center at Mount Szabo. The task force also moved to capture the Smoke Jaguar genetic repository. The elements of the task force were met with varying levels of resistance. The Eleventh Lyran Guards encountered a powerful, well-equipped force, and called in naval fire support from the Fire Fang to bombard the enemy units from orbit. The Second St. Ives Lancers and the Fourth Drakøns found that their objective was defended only by warrior training staff, while the Northwind Highlanders, the Knights of the Inner Sphere, and Kingston's Legionnaires were caught off-guard when they encountered ProtoMechs, a technology completely foreign to them, and had to call for reinforcements.[23]

In spite of heavy losses, the assault on Huntress was a success. In less than twelve hours, the invaders accomplished their objectives and seized control of the planet.[24] Galaxy Commander Russou Howell rallied what forces he could and withdrew to the Black Shikari Jungle.

Counter-invasionEdit

On 19 March, a fleet of three WarShips and five JumpShips arrived at the Huntress zenith point. This group, under Galaxy Commander Hang Mehta, had withdrawn from the Inner Sphere and was on its way to Huntress for refit and reorganization when Lincoln Osis informed Mehta of the invasion and ordered her to retake the planet. Upon arrival, Mehta ordered all DropShips to detach and accompanied them toward the planet's surface, leaving Star Commodore Clarinda Stiles in command of the fleet. Commodore Beresick divided his forces, moving one group to intercept the enemy WarShips, and the other evading them to hit the enemy JumpShips and DropShips. The Star League was again victorious, destroying all three enemy WarShips, but failed to stop the Clan forces entirely. Two JumpShips escaped, jumping back out of the system, and many DropShips penetrated the defensive screen, burning at high speed toward Huntress. The victory came with losses. The Starlight was destroyed in a collision with one of the Smoke Jaguar corvettes, the Emerald was disabled and abandoned, and most of the other SLDF ships were damaged to some degree.[25]

The Smoke Jaguar DropShips reached Huntress on 26 March, under the direct command of Star Colonel Paul Moon.[26][27] Later that day, the Streaking Mist arrived at a pirate point, delivering additional reinforcements led by Khan Lincoln Osis.[28] The Smoke Jaguars hit the task force hard, seizing control of Lootera, and forcing the invaders to retreat to the swamps and mountains. Over the next four days, the two opponents fought a battle of attrition—each side caused losses to the other, but suffered its own in the process, and neither one could gain a decisive advantage. Paul Moon was critically wounded by an artillery strike and captured.[29] Lincoln Osis was injured by the nekakami team when it destroyed the planet's secondary C3 center, but survived the attack and was evacuated to Strana Mechty.[30] General Winston was killed when a Thor destroyed the cockpit of her Cyclops.[31]

Victory was assured for Task Force Serpent when, on 30 March, a fleet consisting of units from Task Force Bulldog, led by Victor Steiner-Davion, appeared at the Huntress zenith point. Ten days later, the Bulldog reinforcements arrived on planet and overwhelmed the remaining Smoke Jaguars, most of whom chose to fight to the death rather than surrender.[31]

AftermathEdit

From a force originally equal to ten regiments, Task Force Serpent 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.[32] General 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.[33][34]

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.[35] The First Kathil Uhlans were disbanded and most surviving members were assigned to the newly-formed First Royal BattleMech Regiment.[36] 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.[37] The Fourth Drakøns were disbanded and the survivors spread among the rest of the KungsArmé.[38]

Participating unitsEdit

Task Force Serpent was one of the largest military operations conducted by the Inner Sphere since the fall of the original Star League. In total, it consisted of 55,000 personnel; over a thousand BattleMechs, Aerospace Fighters and Combat Vehicles; ninety-eight DropShips; and twenty-seven JumpShips and WarShips.[6][39]

Ground unitsEdit

Special operations forcesEdit

FleetEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Grave Covenant, ch. 17
  2. Grave Covenant, ch. 18
  3. The Hunters, ch. 7
  4. Twilight of the Clans, p. 8-9, "Task Force Serpent"
  5. The Hunters, ch. 9
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Hunters, ch. 14
  7. The Hunters, ch. 16
  8. The Hunters, ch. 17
  9. The Hunters, ch. 18-19
  10. The Hunters, ch. 20-21
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Hunters, ch. 27
  12. The Hunters, ch. 29
  13. The Hunters, ch. 30-31
  14. Sword and Fire, ch. 1-2
  15. Sword and Fire, ch. 3
  16. Sword and Fire, ch. 7
  17. 17.0 17.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 8
  18. 18.0 18.1 Sword and Fire, ch. 10
  19. Sword and Fire, ch. 9
  20. Sword and Fire, ch. 4-5
  21. Sword and Fire, ch. 13-15
  22. Sword and Fire, ch. 16
  23. Sword and Fire, ch. 17-22
  24. Sword and Fire, ch. 22
  25. Shadows of War, ch. 7
  26. Shadows of War, ch. 5
  27. Shadows of War, ch. 8
  28. Shadows of War, ch. 10
  29. Shadows of War, ch. 9
  30. Shadows of War, ch. 19
  31. 31.0 31.1 Shadows of War, ch. 24
  32. Prince of Havoc, ch. 2
  33. Prince of Havoc, ch. 10
  34. Prince of Havoc, ch. 14
  35. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 89
  36. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 101
  37. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 98
  38. Field Manual: ComStar, p. 98
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 39.5 39.6 39.7 Twilight of the Clans, p. 8, "Task Force Serpent Composition"
  40. The Hunters, ch. 28
  41. The Hunters, ch. 12

BibliographyEdit