The Battle of Varuna was a major engagement in the Final League-Pact War. It took place in the year 652 on the Pact-aligned planet Varuna. Its objective was to seize control of a heavily-defended Pact communications hub on the planet’s surface in order to disrupt coordination between the various Pact fleets in that sector.
Due to the recent defection of many of the League’s member states following its refusal to let the Amalah Empire mediate peace talks between it and the Pact, the League’s military leadership knew that they needed a victory to swing popular opinion and the tide of battle back in their favor. They dispatched scouting parties to review several high-priority targets, and one of those chosen was the Indrajit communications hub on the planet Varuna.
The Indrajit facility had been built during the ceasefire period stetching from 644 to 647, as a means of coordinating Pact fleets in the sector to ensure rapid responses to enemy deployments should the League attempt to field weapons of mass destruction. While the Typhon Accord rendered this goal obsolete, the facility’s continued usefulness ensured that it remained operational once the war resumed.
Well aware that the Indrajit facility would make a tempting target, Pact Admiral Xorvet Baxty spared no expense in fortifying it into an impregnable bastion. The Indrajit facility was built on the slope of an extinct and partially-submerged volcano, with the bulk of the facility underwater. Colossal surface-to-orbit guns were built into the volcano’s caldera, and powerful shield generators were installed to protect it from orbital bombardment.
The Nomad Molybdenum was assigned command of the League invasion fleet. Having reviewed all available data on the facility’s defenses and deciding that an orbital bombardment would be unsuccessful, he decided that an alternative strategy was required. Rather than expose the fleet to the facility’s guns, he would insert a force of elite njalryeth troops into the oceans surrounding Indrajit and have them sabotage the facility from the inside. His fleet would then draw the Pact fleet away from Varuna to prevent them from supporting their own ground troops.
Molybdenum’s fleet entered the Varuna system on October 1st 652 at sub-light speed, having come out of jump space beyond the system’s edge to mask their FTL emissions. They maintained a stealthy approach until they were within 500,000 kilometres of Varuna Prime, then accelerated to attack speed. On October 2nd the League fleet engaged the Pact defenders, officially beginning the Battle of Varuna.
Initially the battle went according to plan. Molybdenum’s forces drew the Pact fleet away, giving his transports time to deploy shuttles packed with njalryeth troops. He then initiated jamming procedures to prevent the defenders from calling for reinforcements. However, Xorvet Baxty dispatched several small courier ships to jump to the nearest system and get help. While most of these couriers were shot down, one managed to slip through the blockade and jump to Ravana. Realizing that it was only a matter of time before Pact reinforcements arrived, Molybdenum revised his timetable and ordered his troops to withdraw if they did not have control of the Indrajit facility within 32 hours.
The Ground Battle
328 njalryeth troops descended through Varuna’s atmosphere in 41 dropships. Though they began their descent fifty kilometres from the Indrajit facility to escape the worst of the antiaircraft fire, the League’s intel had not captured the sheer extent or intensity of said fire. 19 dropships were shot down on approach, with only 20 of the 152 soldiers aboard those craft surviving.
The survivors regrouped 6 hours later at a rallying point 5 kilometres south of Indrajit, and began their attack. They approached by sea, easily avoiding the minefields Baxty had laid out to impede enemy watercraft from attacking the facility, and began cutting their way inside with arc welders. However, Baxty had foreseen the possibility of such an attack and the submerged sections of the base were guarded by well-armed and highly-trained belpop commandos. When the first njalryeth squads breached the facility they were cut down by belpop needleguns.
From that point onward the battle turned into a meat grinder. Both combatants were experts at aquatic combat, but the facility’s cramped confines worked in the belpops’ favor, as they were smaller and more flexible than the invaders. Even so, the metal walls amplified the destructive power of the njalryeth’s sonic guns, and in many places both sides would cast aside their firearms to engage in brutal melee combat. Within hours, the waters around Indrajit ran red and green with blood.
The War in Heaven
While the surface battle favored Pact, the space battled favored the League. Molybdenum’s fleet had superior numbers and the advantage of surprise, but Pact’s ships were better-armed and Baxty was a wily commander. He maneuvered his fleet to try and pin the League ships between his forces and Varuna’s moon, and split off part of his fleet to circle around the moon and catch Molybdenum in a pincer. However, Molybdenum was no fool and fired a powerful laser across the moon’s surface, kicking up a dense cloud of debris which impeded the would-be flankers. He also refused to be drawn back towards the Indrajit facility, knowing that its surface-to-orbit guns would tear through his ships like tissue paper.
Twenty hours later, Molybdenum had lost 12 of his 30 capital ships and Baxty had lost 11 of his own 24 ships. Both sides were running low on ammunition, but neither commander could afford to let the battle become a stalemate: Molybdenum would need to push the Pact fleet away from Varuna if he wanted to extract his soldiers, and Baxty knew that he would lose if it came down to a war of attrition.
In an effort to turn the battle in his favor, Baxty fired missiles into the wrecks of destroyed League ships, not to blow them apart but to send them on collision courses with intact League vessels. His tactic claimed several victims, before Molybdenum started doing the same thing to Pact vessels. A number of these wrecks came crashing down in Varuna’s oceans, causing vast tidal waves that left huge swaths of the planet’s coastal regions flooded. Both sides gave their destroyed vessels a wide berth for the remainder of the battle.
Back in the depths of Indrajit, the njalryeth had made great inroads toward the heart of the facility but the belpop defenders had made them pay for it, inch by bloody inch. Of the 196 soldiers who had first entered the facility, 108 were still alive. Nevertheless, they were drawing closer to their goal and began setting explosive charges at key points throughout the facility. They managed to sabotage some of the surface-to-orbit guns and destroy some of the vital broadcasting equipment, but their true goals—the shield generators and the main reactor—remained out of their grasp thanks to the belpops’ dogged defense.
Then, twenty-nine hours after the battle began, just as they breached the shield generator chamber, they received the order to withdraw. Molybdenum had just detected jump signatures on the boundary of the system: Pact reinforcements had arrived.
Realizing that the mission was a failure and that they had to leave now before the reinforcements finished winding down from their jump, Molybdenum ordered his remaining ships to advance to point-blank range and drive Baxty’s forces back. It was a risky move, and half a dozen League vessels were blown out orbit by the surface guns, but several Pact vessels were caught in the blast as well.
Dozens of dropships flew down the gravity well, braving heavy fire from the AA guns to extract the surviving 96 njalryeth. Two dropships were shot down as they made their exit, but the remainder safely managed to dock with the waiting transports. The League fleet made for the far edge of the system at full speed, with Molybdenum providing rearguard support and sustaining heavy damage in the process.
Xorvet Baxty was lauded as a hero for his defense of the Indrajit communications hub and received a commendation.
Of the 328 njalryeth who took part in the invasion, 248 were killed and the surviving 80 were physically and psychologically scarred by the carnage. For many of Losshur’s citizens, the heavy toll this battle had exacted on their sons and daughters was the last straw, and key figures in the governments of Losshur, Nan’she and Rán would conspire to break away from the League and assert their independence.
The Indrajit facility was heavily damaged in the fighting, but it remained operational in a limited capacity and was fully repaired sixth months later. The League’s failure to destroy it would worsen their already poor public image and ensure that the war would continue to proceed in Pact’s favor until its conclusion in 656.