Finale: Kuskir's Gambit
Deep in the bulk of Starbase 27, deep within the offices claimed by Admiral Beckett for overseeing the D’Ghor threat, a vast holographic map of the sector twinkled. Green lights for Starfleet ships and platforms, blue for civilian ships and worlds, yellow for the ones in distress.
And red. Red as blood for the Hunters of D’Ghor. Once it had been like a flick of paint across a canvas of an Earth landscape, but like a sickness it had grown and spread, crimson and amber on summer fields and summer skies.
It was chaotic to the average observer, but nobody had ever called Commander Lockhart of Starfleet Intelligence the average observer. And while she could reach between these disparate strips of blood and gold and weave it together, find the patterns with expert eye and project the strength of their enemy, the sites they would target next, there was more than the map showed.
Reports from these ships and missions, from the Devastator and the Endeavour and the Odyssey and the others, and especially from the array at Haydorian. Encounters with the D’Ghor, sensor readings from their ships, intercepted communications and snippets of intelligence from the few prisoners who uttered a word amidst the few who’d been taken alive. More than disparate clues. Context.
It came first as a low suspicion. Something to keep an eye on. Then a thought to compare against all incoming data. Then it had taken a request to the ships of Task Group 27, and their regular operations closer to home and their extant records of local activity. There was no one moment, no eureka, no flash of revelation. Just a thought, backed up by data, and tested again and again and again until she couldn’t doubt it. Not to any degree that was acceptable for an intelligence officer to doubt.
And after the Barzan Sector attack, Commander Lockhart spent much, much more time staring at the space between the lines.
But she didn’t shout. Didn’t yell, didn’t fist-pump the air. After she transferred the data to her PADD, she didn’t run. Simply walked briskly and confidently through the decks of Starbase 27 to the offices of Rear Admiral Beckett, Director of Fourth Fleet Intelligence.
The man himself didn't look up when she walked in. ‘I have a meeting with the Task Group Commander in -’
‘Sir, I know the D’Ghor’s next move.’ Commander Lockhart did not yell or run. But Commander Lockhart also did not interrupt superior officers, and this alone had Beckett look up.
He frowned as she showed her findings, but listened. Then he began to scribble notes as the display worked through the scenario. And then he brought up his own holographic sector map, not of analysis, but of strategic planning.
‘All of their remaining forces, all of the ships they’ve held back or have been spending the last few weeks gathering from the other side of the Empire...’ Beckett clicked his tongue as he worked. ‘All coming together to hit the most densely-populated cluster in the sector at once.’
‘I think they’ve been trying to run our forces ragged,’ Lockhart pressed on. ‘Make us chase our tails, hit our biggest ships as hard as they can.’
‘And scatter them,’ Beckett pointed out. ‘They’re scattered, and will need days to get in-position to repel a strike of this magnitude.’
‘Sir...’ Her expression fell. ‘Three systems - Archanis, Taldir, Legera... that’s a combined population of approximately eight million people...’
‘And it will be considerably less if the bulk of the D’Ghor forces rampage unopposed. There is only one piece of good news about their intentions, Commander.’ He tapped his chin. ‘They want a fight. That’s why this wasn’t their opening move. They’ve come at us for resources, but fundamentally, Commander, the Hunters of D’Ghor raided the Archanis Sector to poke the bear. They want us awake, they want us bringing down all of our forces, when they try to kill us.’ He started tapping the map, focusing on the three systems and beginning to draw up the broad strokes of a battle plan.
‘We’ll need a wide net,’ he continued. ‘These are systems with multiple inhabited worlds and moons, not to mention civilian bases and platforms. If the D’Ghor all come at once, our ships will have to be spread out to protect as many of these as possible. They might not have the luxury of supporting each other.’
‘Calculate the most likely vector of approach and instruct Task Group 27 to prepare a picket. One that’s prepared to engage and delay the D’Ghor forces until the Fourth Fleet’s ships are in position, if necessary.’
‘I’ll be dividing all viable targets across these systems into zones, and assigning a ship of the Fourth Fleet - ships, if they’re very lucky - to a zone. Ban all civilian travel into the region, but I don’t want to start an evacuation. That’s how you get panic and a duck-shoot.’ Beckett nodded. ‘We pull this off, we face Kuskir in the field, and if we don’t kill him, we cripple his forces.’
He reached for the comm panel on his desk and keyed it. ‘Beckett to Commander Reyes.’
‘Reyes here, sir,’ came his Chief of Staff’s cautious voice.
‘I’m sending you an update from myself and Commander Lockhart. We have a situation that will require all hands on deck. I want you to contact the goddamn KDF again, and House Rahtekk. Tell them that we’re not dealing with lone raiders they can’t be bothered to play cat-and-mouse with, tell them we have a full-on strike force on our hands, and if they don’t want the most uncomfortable Annual Khitomer Conference since 2372 they can act like the allies they purport to be and send us some goddamn ships.’
A pause. Then, ‘I’ll use those exact words,’ came Reyes’s dry reply.
‘Do. Oh, and Reyes?’
‘Find me a flagship.’
Intelligence gathered by multiple Fourth Fleet ships has uncovered Kuskir’s plan: an imminent raid against a cluster of three heavily-populated systems by the massed forces of the D’Ghor.
Perhaps the D’Ghor were waiting to gather their forces, ships from across the Empire journeying to Archanis. Perhaps they wanted Starfleet to have seen and been demoralised by their bloodthirst and mercilessness first. Or perhaps they wanted to fight more than a desperate border guard, conduct more than lightning raids, and instead meet Starfleet’s forces in glorious battle.
Whatever their reason, the D’Ghor are now headed for three systems to inflict unknowable atrocities, and the Fourth Fleet are all that stands in their way. The last two weeks of the Archanis Campaign will focus on this battle.
Ongoing D’Ghor activity will go down as the bulk of their forces rally in Kuskir’s fleet, but may not stop entirely. Members are welcome to continue/conclude their ongoing stories without participating in the finale.
The Final Battle
The Archanis, Taldir, Legera systems are near the border and heavily-populated, and all expected to be simultaneously struck by D’Ghor forces. Within and between the systems are many colonised worlds and moons, research or industrial stations, or outposts. This has forced the defence plan to break the systems into Defensive Zones, with a ship - or ships - responsible for an area, perhaps without backup.
As such, while this will be a battle, it will consist of a series of smaller fights as Starfleet ships must intercept the D’Ghor in their zone and defeat them before they can join up and support each other. This allows everyone to write their own climax to the campaign, their own final battle, without waiting around for an extensive back-and-forth between people (but, as always, you can write together if you want!).
At the start of Week 9, the Lore Office will release a story to specifically set the scene - but we aren’t planning on any curve-balls that should stop you from planning, or even drafting. Members can consider:
- Come up with your own ship’s Defensive Zone. Your ship could protect a research base on the edge of the system, an inhabited world and its colonised moons, or a nearby, deep-space mining station.
- These are dense star systems and while multiple ships will be in each system, Starfleet has to spread out to protect multiple vulnerable targets.
- Even runabout teams can contribute. They can protect smaller but isolated targets, or try to intercept Klingon troop carriers full of landing parties, or beam down to places where D’Ghor raiders have already landed to try to repel them.
- You’ll have two weeks to write your final battle. Consider that in your planning. You could write something of multiple chapters and twists and turns, but it’s also good to write just one, decent chapter depicting your final victory (or not!) against the D’Ghor.
- The NPC Ships of Task Group 27 will be in attendance. They’ll fill in the holes, protect lower-priority targets, can be blown up as sacrificial lambs to raise the stakes. You can also have some helping your ship in your zone, as older vessels bulking up the combat. Poor guys.
- If you’re worried about stepping on people’s toes, feel free to put a quick summary of your plan in this thread. I’ll include an example below, but it can be as little as saying your ship would protect the fourth planet in the Taldir System.
Admiral Beckett will position his flagship, along with several ships of Task Group 27, to protect Archanis IV. At the heart of the system, it is also one of the most-populated targets, with several colonised moons which will also need guarding.
You now have 1 week to consider if you want to participate in the finale, plan how you want to do so, and conclude any ongoing stories. It is also fine if you’re a little late, and don’t start writing for the final battle until halfway through Week 9 or not until Week 10 - but please be realistic, as the Lore Office intends to end the whole Archanis Campaign on 24th April (though you won’t turn into a pumpkin if you overrun).