The Star Kingdom of Manticore (which through annexation of the Talbott Cluster and the agreed division of the Silesan Confederacy with the Andermani Empire had become the Star Empire of Manticore) and the Republic of Haven had begun peace talks following the devastating Battle of Manticore. Both sides had suffered tremendous casualties and both sides needed the war to stop. Other factions, with a vested interest in seeing the two sides shoot at each other, sought to restart the war.
The secretive Mesan Alignment had greatly desired to destabilise the Solarian League and weaken both Manticore and Haven, due to their long-standing commitment to the anti-slavery Cherwell Convention. They lacked the naval strength to achieve their goals directly, and it transpired they had been manipulating Haven since the DuQuens plan, and they had been behind the breakdown of negotiations between Haven and Manticore after the first war. They had also been undermining the massive and powerful Solarian League, with a view to seizing some of the League’s outermost territories and aiming the League’s war machine at Manticore and Haven. There had already been a skirmish at New Tuscany, when Manticoran Admiral Gold Peak (Michelle Henke) defeated Admiral Josef Byng, easily outranging the outdated League warships despite having a smaller force. In fact, Gold Peak forced the surrender of the small League taskforce with the destruction of only one ship.
This incident led to the Battle of Spindle, and a demonstration of the vast differences in both technology and attitude of the two powers. The Solarian League Navy had for many years been the most powerful, in part due to its massive size and, prior to the Manticoran-Havenite War, the most advanced. Many of the League’s naval personnel (and for that matter, politicians and bureaucrats) believed with an almost religious zeal that the League could not be challenged, least of all by ‘uppity neobarbs’. At Spindle, SLN Taskforce 496, led by Admiral Sandra Crandall, demanded that Manticore surrender Admiral Gold Peak, over the incident at New Tuscany. Gold Peak had originally confronted Byng over the deaths of RMN personnel in what Manticore regarded as an unprovoked attack. Crandall, like most SLN officers, could not conceive of a scenario where the League could be at fault.
Crandall had a force of 71 superdreadnoughts, 24 battlecruisers and a number of support ships, and they faced just one RMN superdreadnought, along with 14 battlecruisers and a scattering of lighter classes. Despite the tonnage clearly favouring the SLN, the vastly superior range, targeting ability and pod-based missile systems saw the RMN destroy 23 SDs and take no losses.
When word of the League’s activities and actions taken against Manticoran ships reached Elizabeth III, she ordered that all termini of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction be closed to League vessels.
It was during peace talks with Haven that Honor Harrington was suddenly recalled to Manticore, after receiving word of a devastating assault on the system by a then-unknown force. The Yawata Strike (or, as it became known to Graysons, the Blackbird Strike) was a co-ordinated attack on key naval yards in the Manticore and Grayson systems, carried out by the Mesan Alignment (though this was unknown at the time). The 26th of February 1922 PD saw over 12 million humans and 9,000 treecats perish, and this included civilians on both Manticore and Sphinx, killed when debris crashed into the planets. The scale of the attack, and its savage disregard for life, prompted surprising reactions from elsewhere.
Firstly, Havenite President Pritchart personally visited Manticoran space, after receiving news that implicated the Mesans in long-term, damaging interference in Havenite and Manticoran affairs (including restarting the war). She presented what she knew to Queen Elizabeth III and not agreed to a formal peace treaty, but offered a military alliance against the Solarian League. The Star Empire had been left with its ship-building and missile-building facilities in ruin, and despite their clear technological advantage over the League, they lacked the League’s huge resources. For Haven to turn itself into a target by allying with Manticore… it was a seismic shot to the previous political order. Nor was it entirely altruistic – Pritchart explained that the Alignment would use the League to destroy the Star Empire, and then move on to Haven.
The second outcome of the Yawata Strike was for the League to decide to put Manticore in its place. Many League politicians and naval officers continued to believe that Manticoran superiority was vastly overstated, and a huge fleet, under the remit of ‘Operation Raging Justice’ was formed to demand Manticore surrender. The force, named Eleventh Fleet and comprising of 427 superdreadnoughts, along with scores of lighter units, had been intended as a surprise to Manticore, but intelligence provided by the Beowulf system (nominally a League member but with close ties to Manticore) meant, thanks to the Wormhole Junction, that the Star Empire had plenty of warning. Thanks to the vast difference in tracking technology, the warning of the attack, reinforcements from Grayson and the unexpected assistance of Haven, the force waiting for Eleventh Fleet not only enjoyed near-parity of numbers, but consisted of the pod-laying superdreadnoughts (SDPs) and hundreds of missile pods, packed with the superior multi-drive missiles, electronic warfare systems and fire control systems well beyond the League’s abilities.
Fleet Admiral Harrington contacted League Fleet Admiral Massimo Filareta and after a few direct conversations allowed her League counterpart to understand the futility of his tactical situation by revealing the Grayson and Havenite ships that now formed part of Grand Fleet. What followed was a shocking, terrifying demonstration of the Alignment’s own advanced technology.
Filareta agreed to surrender and gave the order to one of his subordinates to scuttle their pods, but this activated the Alignment’s nanotech, that forced ops officer William Daniels to instead open fire, before setting off a bomb on the flag bridge of Filareta’s flagship. To Grand Fleet it looked like a desperate move, and they had no choice but to respond. As a result, some 2,000 allied personnel died aboard LACs, but 1.2 million Solarian League sailors perished, along with 296 of their ships of the wall, and scores of additional vessels. The remaining ships surrendered on their own and 1.4 million League sailors were taken prisoner.
The allies suspected the Alignment’s nanotech (having encountered it before), but proving it would be extremely difficult. In the wake of the second ‘battle’ of Manticore, the League would now be even more determined to have blood.