The Great War
It was in this era of unprecedented prosperity and hope that rapid advances were made in the field of robotics and allied computing technologies and industries. Intended to be used in manufacturing to replace humans, the first few generations of robotic servitors were crude and unsophisticated. Nevertheless, the deployment of the first servitors was an unqualified success, managing to double production rates at their sites of utilization. The Government increased its funding via grants to the robotics industry with the eventual objective of creating a type of paradise; robots would take over all the work and free humanity from the need to toil by 200 AC. While we might think that that was a totally unrealistic proposal, the plan of the Government of the day should be seen in light of the mood at the time. Optimism, buoyed by excellent economic growth and almost one hundred years of peace, was the flavor of the era.
The first fully autonomous robotic unit rolled off the Tauron (which replaced Geminon as the industrial heart of the Twelve Colonies) production lines near the end of the First Century AC. Research and development continued at an astounding pace, and within twenty years, not a single facet of Colonial life was untouched by the robotics industry. Even in the military, robotics had been embraced enthusiastically as a means of gaining greater efficiency. Robotics was, to sum it up, a pervasive technology. The first fully artificial intelligence package was developed by Hephaestion Industries early in the Second Century AC for incorporation into its prototype flagship CLT-12 unit.
The project was a catastrophe. For the first time in history, humanity encountered another sentient race, or more accurately, we created another sentient race. The AI package, unbeknownst to its creators, served as a nucleus for ascendance to sentience; it was only a matter of time for each CLT-12 unit to accrue sufficient data (“experience”) for the spark of genuine sentience to develop. Each sentient unit could then raise others to sentience through a communications network (developed by Hephaestion to make coordination of units easier), creating an exponential effect that was soon beyond the control of anybody in the Government or Hephaestion. Even more primitive units, lacking the advanced CLT-12 processors, could be subverted via this network.
The consequences of this monumental error resulted in the First Cylon War. When the first units reached sentience, they had simply melted off into the night. At first, these disappearances were blamed on bugs in the AI software, and Hephaestion stopped the installation of further packages until they could solve the problem. The disappearances continued – the sentient units were covertly infecting their brethren with the package. Disquiet began to grow in the ranks of Hephaestion; if the problem was with the package, then the disappearances should have ceased when the installations also ceased. If anything, they were rising. Add this to the fact that both Government and Hephaestion had lost control of the CLT network, and Hephaestion had a genuine problem on their hands.
Nobody was aware of the true extent of the problem until the Cylons attempted communication. Strange pieces of binary code began appearing all over the sections of the CLT network still observable by Hephaestion. The messages were finally decoded and delivered to the President’s Office; the subsequent Presidential Address to the Colonies shocked human society to its very core. The sentient synthetic beings now referred to themselves as the Cylons, declaring their independence from humanity and demanding recognition of their nationhood. The announcement brought an abrupt end to the Golden Age. Virtually instantaneously, investors began pulling their money out of robotics and allied research fields; the cries of horror from stockbrokers on Geminon reportedly echoed across the planet. The stock market lost almost 20% of its value in the space of an hour, and within a day, most shares of robotics and software companies had devalued by almost 300%. The industry collapsed overnight, throughout other economic sectors. In a month, the Colonies were in a sharp recession, and the effects were particularly bad on Sagittaron.
Meanwhile, the Quorum went into emergency session with the President and the Cabinet. The Government’s plan of action was to extend a hand of friendship but avoid delivering outright recognition to the Cylons. It was clearly an effort to buy time while they puzzled over what to do. There was general skepticism about whether the Cylons were truly sentient, which resulted in reluctance to grant them statehood, as exemplified by Minister of Defense Henry Quisling’s question “You want to recognize toasters?!” What the Government did not know was that they were not dealing with humans able to read the subtleties of diplomacy. Instead, they were dealing with advanced sentient artificial beings who interpreted Government reticence as outright refusal of recognition of both sentience and statehood. It was tantamount to a declaration of war.
In preparation for war, the Cylons began infiltration of key military and industrial facilities on all Twelve Colonies. Indeed, Cylon infiltration was so successful that they were able to commandeer several Colonial Naval ships, Marine munitions depots, and command and control bases. Alarming reports of communication drop-outs, jamming, and other suspicious activities filtered back to Naval and Marine Headquarters on Picon and Aerelon respectively. By the time any decisions had been made to investigate the discrepancies, the Cylons had already fired the opening salvo. A nuclear weapon, frightening in its power and sophistication, was snuck aboard the Leto orbital habitat in Caprican orbit. The nuclear ordnance was detonated, heralding the start of a devastating war that would last more than a decade. Over fifteen thousand people died when the Leto habitat was simply blown apart.
Cylon attacks on every Colonial world and in virtually every major city and asset began simultaneously. Cylon attacks were particularly savage on the worlds of Tauron and Picon – the former would provide them the industrial facilities they required for prosecution of the war, and the latter housed the Colonial Naval Headquarters, undeniably the greatest threat to Cylon ambitions. Key industrial facilities on Tauron were overrun within hours of the surprise attack until Colonial Marines managed to contain the Cylon advance. Picon was not so fortunate. The first wave of Cylon “tinheads” caught Picon defenses totally off guard. Cylon forces had taken more than half of Picon City itself before Colonial forces could even mount a controlled withdrawal back to the fortified positions around the Naval HQ compound. Civilian casualties numbered into the hundreds of thousands by the end of the first day. It was clear that the Cylons were not engaged in a war of conquest, they were fighting a war of annihilation. The Admiralty was immediately evacuated to Caprica to conduct and coordinate the war from there.
Elsewhere, the Cylons resorted to terrorist-type attacks launched from hastily constructed hidden Cylon bases, rather than pitched ground battles. “Uprisings” of Cylon forces were reported on Virgon, Libris, and Geminon. Reports of suspicious explosions of Government and military assets on all of the other Colonies flowed in to Caprica. Government buildings on all worlds became virtual fortresses overnight as fortifications and security measures were instituted. The Government, initially shell shocked by the events and the rapid pace of the Cylon attack, was quick to act. President Yalann declared a state of emergency and martial law to be effective immediately on every Colony and all off world facilities. A Presidential Decree ordered all remaining “uninfected” robotic units, regardless of make, destroyed and the parts recycled for raw materials to help the defense efforts. The Quorum declared that the Twelve Colonies of Kobol were at a state of war with the Cylon Nation..
Over the next year, the Siege of Picon had devolved into a horrific style of warfare; Colonial Marine casualties rose into the hundreds of thousands as wave after wave of Cylon attacks pounded the remaining Piscean defenses. The advance of Cylon forces continued but brave Colonial opposition slowed them to a crawl. In the meantime, the poor news flowing out of Picon, the sudden economic hardship caused by the outbreak of war, and the resulting recession triggered an outbreak of panic and rioting in the capital of Caprica City. The military re-established control only after a brutal suppression of the rioters. The Government ordered a full scale mustering of all Colonial Reserves, a military necessity as much as a show of strength to the dissatisfied public, and industries vital to the war effort were nationalized.
Reinforcements were hurried to Picon while the civilian population in the areas still under Colonial control were evacuated. Picon, and to a lesser extent Tauron, became the major theatres of the ground war. The reinforcements arrived just in time to blunt a vicious Cylon offensive; Colonial forces fought them to a stalemate. However, more troops than the Reserves were able to provide were needed to reverse the Cylon advance and to replace rapidly mounting casualties. Calls for additional volunteers to join the war were put out, and though the response was disappointing at first, the ranks of the recruits eventually swelled as the outrage of the unprovoked attack and the horrors of Picon drew upon a spirit of patriotism and unity. Even on Sagittaron, voices that had previously called for secession were silent as humanity united in the face of the horror of unrestricted warfare. Training of recruits began in earnest. The first lots of fresh reinforcements were sent to Picon two years after the outbreak of violence. Despite this, the Colonials could not achieve any forward momentum; the stalemate continued as Cylon attack after attack were repulsed, often with high Colonial casualties. Colonial counterattacks bought little ground with a high price in lives.
The third year of the war saw the expansion of the conflict from the surface of the Colonies into space. The Cylons, using captured industrial facilities on Tauron, quickly produced the first of their space combat vessels to challenge the Colonials for control of the skies. Evidently, the Cylons had reached the same conclusions as the Admiralty – the Cylons could never mount a truly effective war effort without being able to ship reinforcements and supplies to their front lines, shipments that the Colonial Navy was currently and very effectively choking. Cylon raiders, in an attempt to even the score until they were sufficiently powerful to challenge the Colonial Navy face to face, began attacking Colonial shipping to threaten supply lines of materiel and fuel.
Prior to the start of the war, the Colonial Fleet had developed, constructed and commissioned five Battlestars (Columbia, Rycon, Atlantia, Pegasus, and Galactica), massive warships capable of projecting an incredible array of both fighter and conventional firepower. Each Battlestar carried full complements of the Mark I Vipers, a fighter-type vessel intended to track down pirates and police Colonial space during peace time. With the advent of the war, the Viper fleets underwent a major redesign and retrofitting to the Mark II model, which would remain the benchmark for the remainder of the war. The battlestars were immediately redeployed from providing air support to the defenders of Picon and Tauron to protecting Colonial space assets and shipping. Despite their clear supremacy in space, the Colonials were kept on their toes by random Cylon attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere.
The Colonials were on the defensive in space for the better part of the year, unable to predict when and where Cylon raids would strike next. The problem was compounded when Cylon raids began in areas thought beyond the range of their fighters. The enigma continued until the Colonial Dradus nets detected the first Cylon capital ship movements early in 128 AC. The Atlantia was immediately dispatched to Tauron’s orbit and reported the first engagement with a Cylon basestar, a massive capital ship that was a match for the Atlantia in terms of both sheer firepower and fighter complement. The engagement was inconclusive as both ships suffered extensive damage and were forced to retire from the battlefield. It was during this engagement, however, that the Colonial war hero, William “Husker” Adama, presently the Commander of the Galactica, made his first kill. The Atlantia limped back to Caprica Harbor for repairs that would take almost three months to complete.
The true extent of the Cylon space construction program soon became clear. Upgraded Dradus nets and recon missions (from which many pilots did not return) now showed the existence of three completed basestars, accounting for Cylon raids beyond their expected range. A further eight were in various stages of construction. The reports were clearly alarming for both the Admiralty and the Government. Requisitions for the funds to construct a further seven battlestars, bringing the fleet to twelve, were rushed through the Quorum (who actually demanded an even larger construction program despite falling Government tax revenues due to the recession). The Colonial Fleet rushed the construction of the additional seven battlestars (Pacifica, Triton, Acropolis, Solaria, Prometheus, Argo and Poseidon). The Pacifica was completed in record time one and a half years after her keel was laid at the Cosmology Space yards in Geminon orbit, although her completion actually occurred after her entry into service due to her forced premature deployment (see below).
In addition to their basestar construction, the Cylons began commissioning bases in earnest soon after the Colonial detection of their capital ships. While not really habitats, these bases served as fleet anchorages, re-supply depots and research stations. The greatest Cylon base was located in the Damocles asteroid belt in the inner system, protecting their extensive mining operations there, as well as key industrial facilities on the Tauron surface. Repeated attempts by the Colonial Fleet to dislodge the Cylons from the Damocles belt in 129 AC met with little success.
Cylon and Colonial space engagements were numerous in 129 AC. The attention had shifted from the surface of Picon and Tauron to the action in space. The Colonial Fleet held its own against Cylon fleet actions through numerous naval engagements over the next decade, despite serious damage to the Acropolis and Solaria on one occasion requiring prolonged dry-docking for repairs. The docking of two battlestars forced the early commissioning of the Pacifica before the ship was ready for service; despite her incomplete construction, the Pacifica’s relatively inexperienced crew made a strong showing in the next two Colonial fleet actions.
In the Piscean summer of 131 AC, the first nuclear bombardment of a planetary surface occurred, resulting in the complete abandonment of Picon City. A neutron bomb was detonated over the metropolis, killing virtually every living thing in a two hundred kilometer blast radius but leaving all inorganic matter untouched. Almost three thousand Colonial personnel perished from the resulting radiation. Cylon troops completed the conquest of Picon City unopposed and simply moved in, adapting the surviving structures and buildings for their use. Picon City, once the home of the Colonial Naval HQ, became the bastion of the Cylon menace, and for the first time in the war, the Cylons were close to complete conquest of a Colonial world.
Strangely enough, the annihilation of the defenders of Picon proved to be the undoing of the Cylons. Fearing the use of more neutron bombs on other major population centers, the Government was now forced to contemplate its options. The idea of a thermonuclear response was discarded almost immediately; the Cylons were sure to launch a thermonuclear strike against Tauron’s cities. As it was, Tauron was already under threat of a nuclear bombardment without such reckless provocation, and the Colonial Navy could not guarantee complete safety from a lone Cylon raider slipping through Colonial defenses to launch a thermonuclear weapon against other Colonial population centers. The only alternative was a quick and successful conclusion to the war, which implied a massive military offensive against the Cylon threat. The Admiralty and Marine High Command were ordered to plan the offensive operation, codenamed Deliverance. Planning began and continued under the threat of another neutron attack.
None came. In retrospect, it is yet another mystery regarding the Cylons as to why they did not utilize their arsenal of neutron bombs; there was no doubt they were armed with more. A planned and coordinated bombardment would have forced the Government to sue for terms. Few credible hypotheses have been suggested. The most likely has only just been formulated; we now know that Cylon technology is heavily susceptible to radiation emitted by the Ragnar field, similar in quality to the radiation emitted by neutron bombs. Though this susceptibility was not known to the Colonials at the time, fear of a returning neutron bombardment, or even thermonuclear strikes, possibly forestalled further Cylon neutron bomb attacks. Ironically, Cylon ignorance of Colonial ignorance regarding Cylon susceptibility to radiation probably saved mankind and its war effort.
Planning for Deliverance was completed in the Caprican spring of 132 AC. The plan was simple in its objectives, but truly breath-taking with respect to the sheer logistics required. The first objective on which the remaining were predicated upon was the establishment of total space supremacy by destruction of the Cylon basestar fleet and their main anchorage in the solar system. Following this, an offensive would be launched on Tauron to secure the planet from the Cylon neutron bomb threat, and Picon would then be liberated, the Cylons to be ejected at all costs. Meanwhile, the Colonial Marines and planet-bound Naval units would mount offensives on all known Cylon bases on the remaining ten Colonies with the intention of initially distracting enemy attention, and then thwarting enemy reprisals on these less well defended Colonies. The Colonies were going to take on the Cylons on all fronts simultaneously.
The Colonial Fleet, all twelve of the great battlestars, amassed in Caprican orbit to prepare for the attack on the Cylon anchorage. Each Battlestar took on an additional squadron of Vipers above and beyond their usual complement. With no hangar space to spare, the additional Vipers were loaded directly into the launch tubes and landing bays; it was hoped that this advantage, which the Cylons would not expect, would add an edge to the attack. In late 132 AC, the entire Colonial Fleet jumped into the Damocles belt near the Cylon anchorage. The Cylon fleet was caught totally unawares as the battlestars materialized in a coordinated fashion to enclose the Cylons in a ring of iron. Of the ten Cylon operational basestars present only four were undocked and able to respond to the Colonial incursion. Within moments, hundreds of Vipers were in space, and the battlestars opened a raging hailstorm of fire on the Cylon capital ships, using everything from point defense cannons to nuclear warheads. Despite the surprise and ferocity of the Colonial attack, the response of the four basestars were swift; their main batteries came on-line immediately. Cylon raiders launched from all ten basestars as well as from the anchorage itself. The bolstered Colonial Viper squadrons seized and utilized the initiative provided by surprise, engaging their Cylon counterparts in the largest dogfight in history as they attempted to wrest control of the surrounding space from the metallic beings.
Though the battle was intense, the outcome was a foregone conclusion in retrospect. Colonial space tactics coupled with surprise prevented the Cylons from mounting their best defense. The Cylons did not have time to undock their massive ships from the anchorage to make them effective, nor could they maneuver their four undocked ships into a defensive formation before they were destroyed. Colonial nuclear weapons and Battlestar gunnery tore through the opposing basestars, while Colonial fighters fended off desperate Cylon attacks against the great Colonial capital ships.
Six basestars were destroyed still docked to the Damocles Anchorage, and four were destroyed in space. In little over a quarter of an hour, the Cylons had been deprived of most of their fleet. The Cylons would never recover. In return, the Prometheus, Poseidon and Atlantia suffered heavy damage and would remain in dry-dock for almost a year after the battle for repairs. The Viper squadrons suffered the greatest attrition of the battle; almost one out of every five Vipers launched did not return. At the close of the Damocles Engagement, as it became known in future, statistics placed Colonial deaths at approximately four thousand personnel aboard the battlestars and in the Vipers. It was the greatest victory in Colonial history, and celebrated by numerous accolades; the stature of the Navy and its service men and women have been made legendary by the Engagement. To put it in perspective, one hundred and six Gold Clusters were awarded (seventy posthumously) to the Viper pilots, more than the total number in the entire period between the ratification of the Articles of Colonization and the beginning of the Cylon war.
The Colonials did not sit back and celebrate, they grabbed the momentum generated by the Naval victory to blockade Tauron, essentially severing the Cylons from their industrial base. They moved quickly; transports loaded to the brim with Marines jumped in from Caprica and landed an invasion force of almost one million men and women within days. Buoyed by the great victory, superb command and control, and overwhelming air support, Tauron was liberated in a month, and the Cylon threat ended on that planet. Colonial casualties were minimal due to the overwhelming force applied; losses were more economic than in lives. The Cylons had instituted a policy of “Scorched Ground” as they retreated, destroying everything that might help the Colonials. Losses from destruction of infrastructure alone in the areas of Tauron that had fallen under Cylon control numbered into the trillions of cubits.
From there, the Cylon situation was precarious. Cut off from supplies, and with most of their fleet blown out of the sky, the Cylons knew it was only a matter of time until Colonial forces arrived to retake occupied Picon from them. Already, patrols in force were being made from territory still under Colonial control in the south of the Odyssean continent in preparation for the arrival of reinforcements and the operation to liberate Picon. The force that had been assembled for the liberation was truly awe inspiring – over one hundred Marine transport ships jumped in system to unload a force three times larger than the one that had liberated Tauron, escorted by six of the twelve battlestars, while the Rycon, Galactica, and Solaria hunted the few remaining Cylon basestars across the Cyrannus system (the Prometheus, Poseidon, and Atlantia were in dry-dock).
The Colonial offensive began on the early 133 AC. Vipers modified for the orbiting battlestars, and in conjunction with ground based artillery, pounded Cylon positions all over the planet, targeting in particular Cylon command and control positions, Dradus towers, and anti-aircraft batteries. The bombing continued for three days. Colonial Marines poured out of the southern regions of the Oddysean continent and began the push north towards Picon City. Against such overwhelming force, the Cylons had little to respond with. While formidable, the Cylons were clearly outnumbered, and outgunned. Colonial spearheads punched through Cylon defensive positions, creating corridors through which troops advanced and wheeled around to surround their enemy in a vice. Other columns of Colonial troops streamed in through the wide gaps in the Cylon front lines, heading straight for Picon City. The Marines entered the outskirts of Picon City. In Mid 133 AC, The Cylons sued for peace.
The impossible was now a reality. Facing their total annihilation, the Cylons accepted an Armistice offer from the Colonial Government. The Cylons were allowed to evacuate whatever personnel they had left in Colonial space without harassment and to withdraw to a new home, wherever that may be. The last Cylon transport jumped out of Piscean space under escort. The war was over.
The parties and celebrations that ensued were, by all accounts, beyond belief. The devastation and loss of life were forgotten for a heady month-long celebration, declared by the Government and Quorum, that was almost mythical in proportion. Fireworks hailed the peace in every Colonial city, and the heroes of the war were feted like Lords of Kobol. We do not have records to know for sure, but anecdotal evidence suggests that ambrosia traders made a killing. Interestingly, the census records a spike of births nine months later in the following year, possibly reflecting the atmosphere of the time, and the human need for physical outlets of strong emotions.
The rebuilding of Picon began almost immediately. The vast majority of refugees which had been evacuated returned to their devastated Colony. Generous amounts of aid, both private and Government, flowed in from the other Colonies. The Naval HQ was reconstructed, military industrial complexes were re-established, and the opportunity was taken to rebuild the Academy. The unexpected consequence of the unique suffering endured by Picon is that it is now the most modern of the Twelve Colonies; the people took the opportunity to plan their resettlement of the Colony, and the reconstruction of buildings and public spaces were done with the latest in architectural design and thought. The Picon City of today rivals even Caprica City for chic and grandeur, despite its reputation as being a “navy town”
The repercussions of the war, however, extended beyond just the physical. A deep-seated suspicion of robotics, and the allied fields of computer and network applications became ingrained into the Colonial psyche. Never again would they allow the Cylons to threaten their existence. A massive recruitment and construction drive for both arms of the Colonial Military was passed through the Quorum. A second generation of battlestars were constructed, while the first generation were retrofitted up to the new standard. Over a hundred battlestars were christened in the next 40 years of peace. The ranks of the Marines were doubled, new barracks and training grounds were established, and an impressive array of new armored vehicles and machines of war were developed.
In many ways the Colonials had been forced to grow up; after the war, there was no room for complacency on any level. While the economy was recovering, the optimism that pervaded the years before the war no longer existed – the Golden Age had passed.