The war for Pontakus IX would shake the Caractacan Brotherhood to its core, and the horrors that happened on that world would have far-reaching consequences in galactic history.
Pontakus IX was a strange world to begin with. Orbiting the A-type star Pontakus at five AU, it had no axial tilt at all, resulting in permanent climate zones. There were those who insisted that life should not have existed on the planet at all, given the radiation levels and the permanent climatic stasis. And yet it did. It wasn’t complex, and it was generally tough and poisonous, but it was life.
The colonists who landed there were desperate. The surviving elites of the Eurasian Cooperation Sphere had fled the Sol system ahead of the vengeance of the Nipponese Resurgence in the east and the Novgorodian Republic in the west. They had seized one of the earliest Bergenholm-equipped ships and fled the system. Only a few of them were military personnel, and fewer still were pilots. They relied on the flight computer for their course, almost to their permanent loss.
By the time they were able to go inert and determine their location, they had fled clear out of the Orion Arm and into the Crux Arm. Frightened and desperate, they sought out the nearest world they could find with an oxygen atmosphere, which happened to be Pontakus IX.
Faced with the harshness of the environment, the fledgling colony nearly died. Most of the Eurasians had been bureaucrats or simply political leaders and their families. They had few useful skills when trying to survive in an environment inimical to human life. The handful of military leaders took over, and through brutal discipline, managed to stabilize the colony and ensure its survival.
A Military Junta is Born
Over time, the junta became a militarist aristocracy, and Pontakus IX became the seat of what was to be a new Eurasian Cooperation Sphere. They had little in the way of technology or resources, but that was only something to be remedied. The junta embarked on a lengthy program of selective breeding, not dissimilar to the Lebensborn program of ancient Nazi Germany. By the time they were able to launch their new space force, they were determined, they would have the numbers they required.
This all took a long time, during which Pontakus IX was isolated, alone, and unmarked. Eventually, though, a Wereigese barqun expedition entered the Pontakus system, detected the radio signals from Pontakus IX, and investigated.
The expedition was quickly captured by the numerous and heavily armed Pontakans. Their ships were seized, and used to expand the slowly proceeding space program, harvesting resources from elsewhere in the system and building up their own fleet. Two Pontakan years later (about 210,000 hours), given the failure of the original Wereigese expedition to return, a larger fleet came looking for them. By then, the Pontakans had a considerable combat fleet in-system, and they captured most of the follow-on expedition as well.
This was when the Caractacan Brotherhood became involved. Two expeditions had disappeared, and the Wereigese were not militarily powerful enough to go looking for an interstellar war. They appealed to the Brotherhood to find their missing ships. Given that there had been a number of unexplained incidents in that region of the Crux Arm, the Brotherhood sent an entire Legio, sixty ships with sixty Centuries.
The Pontakans had by then heard about the Caractacan Brotherhood from their prisoners. They had enough firepower in the system by then to challenge even sixty combat starships, but the current Generalissimo, Nguyen Korrapati, decided to lay an ambush instead. He greeted the Caractacan Legio as it arrived in orbit, and invited them down to the planet. On meeting the Brother Legate, he wove a story of disaffected rebels lurking in the equatorial wastelands and the asteroids. He told the Caractacans that there was a rebel hideout in the desert keeping most of the Wereigese hostages.
The Caractacan Brother Legate, Adrian Traevost, was leery. But his mission was his mission, and orbital surveys confirmed that there was, in fact, activity where the Generalissimo had said. The Brotherhood set out to advance on the “rebel hideout” (actually the fortress city of Meretreya).
Just before making contact in the desert, the Pontakan forces accompanying the Brotherhood turned on the Legio. Hundreds were killed, but the Caractacans fought back hard.
Betrayed and Surrounded
Having given his word, Traevost continued the assault on the “hideout,” determined to liberate those few Wereigese hostages who survived. Others might have broken contact and retreated, but Traevost knew that the hostages had no other hope, and fought his way in to liberate them. Then they had to fight their way clear to return to the ships, which were also under attack.
Even once they had reached the grounded starships, Traevost and his Legio refused to retreat. They had taken serious losses, but they could not let this stand. They had inflicted horrific casualties on the Pontakans trying to kill them, and the Wereigese were willing to fight alongside them, often picking up fallen powerguns that the barqun were ill-suited to handle.
Traevost issued an ultimatum to the Generalissimo. Surrender, abandon all further militarism, and render recompense to Wereig, or face the consequences.
The Generalissimo laughed at him. And so Traevost attacked the capitol at Vungtso.
The slaughter was horrific. Vungtso was heavily fortified, despite the fact that the junta had yet to face any real military enemy. Twenty of the Caractacan starships were destroyed in the fighting that followed. Of the Brothers on the ground, only about ten centuries survived. But they finally stood in the rubble of Vungtso and accepted the Generalissimo’s adjutant’s surrender. The Generalissimo had been killed in the fighting.
Taking the remaining handful of Wereigese hostages with them, the Caractacan Brothers departed Pontakus IX. The survivors quickly became legends among their Brothers. However, there were those, particularly on Caerfon, around the Central Keep of the Brotherhood itself, who looked at the Pyrrhic victory and began to wonder if it was worth the losses. Traevost had kept his honor intact, along with the entire Legio, and ultimately defeated an evil regime bent on conquest and domination. But five sixths of the Legio had died in the process.
Aftermath and Legacy
Thus the “New School” was born within the Brotherhood, those who believed that perhaps the Code was too rigid, that the demands of honor and courage that it made were unrealistic. They began to question whether or not certain things might be worth compromising over. It should be remarked, however, that the New School never took hold among the survivors of the war itself.