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Part of USS Endeavour: I Burn and Bravo Fleet: The Archanis Campaign

Deployment Potential

Ready Room, USS Endeavour
June 2399
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“It’s good to have you back in uniform, Commander.” Rourke reached across his ready room desk to firmly shake Commander Airex’s hand. “You gave us a bit of a scare.”

“Thank you, sir.” There was little warmth in Airex’s voice, however, and he took the last seat on his side of the desk, beside Valance and Cortez. “I’m eager to get back to work.” Despite this brusqueness he looked a little pale and still tired, and Rourke decided he would do his best to keep his Chief Science Officer’s duty light for as long as he could.

“Good, because you’re going to get your wish. I wanted the three of you here because I need your input on our next step.”

“If the Kut’luch has been destroyed,” said Valance, “then we’re awaiting orders from Starbase 27 and can continue to assist the Haydorian System in the meantime, no?”

“What’s our status there?” asked Airex.

“If the D’Ghor teams aren’t here to simply cause havoc and make us chase them, they very likely intend to stop or at least harry the construction of the Archanis Array,” said Valance. “Kharth reports from the Aquarius that they intend to conduct a simultaneous strike on the largest groups they have a bead on, cause maximal damage and give them less chance to rally once we start taking them out.”

“The Array has to be completed,” said Airex. “This seems simple.”

“It would, except I received a priority communiqué from Starbase 27 an hour ago.” Rourke’s jaw was tight. “It confirms the intelligence Commander Valance extracted from our prisoner: a massive assault on three systems. Admiral Beckett is rallying the 4th Fleet to defend them. He wants an assessment of our deployment potential.”

Cortez rubbed the back of her neck. “In an ideal world, I’d dry-dock us for another week or more, but that’s about working out kinks in the system, making sure that our power grid’s robust for long-term usage, and making repairs look pretty. But a short-term deployment and even combat? I don’t love it, but we’re ready.”

Valance pursed her lips. “In which case I think we have to report for duty to Admiral Beckett. I dislike leaving the forces here, but is the Archanis Array that significant a priority?”

“It’s unlikely that any confrontation with even Kuskir himself will completely break the backs of the D’Ghor in Archanis,” said Rourke. “A good victory, pinning and destroying their forces, will end them as a major threat. But some will inevitably slip away, and there remain reports of pockets at large in the sector who are clearly not participating in this large strike.”

“Without the Archanis Array, even if the situation in the sector de-escalates, without the D’Ghor choosing to withdraw, the region could still be threatened by raids for months,” Airex mused. “If Admiral Beckett breaks Kuskir and the bulk of his forces, then the Array would likely allow Task Group 27 to protect the sector themselves. It might not win the battle, but it’s essential to the long-term security of the sector.”

“That it may be,” said Valance, “and I’ve no doubt Captain Bennet is making his own deliberations about Task Force 17, but the long-term security of the Archanis Sector is irrelevant if Kuskir wins.”

Endeavour might be an impressive ship,” said Airex, eyebrow raising, “but I doubt we’re the difference between victory or defeat.”

“You never know.” Cortez shrugged. “And sure, we might not be that difference. We could still be the difference for a whole world Kuskir’s fleet’s targeting. Endeavour is one of the most sophisticated warships in the sector.”

Rourke nodded. “I agree with Commanders Valance and Cortez,” he said. “If Captain Bennet thinks he needs more defences at Haydorian, he can make the appeal. But I’ll inform Admiral Beckett we’re awaiting his orders for deployment to the defence force.”

As if fate had awaited him making a decision, there was an insistent chirrup of his door-chime, as if whoever was out there had hammered the button repeatedly. All senior officers exchanged looks at such an indecorous act, but Rourke tilted his chin up. “Come in, and it better be good!”

Lieutenant Dathan was slipped between the doors even as they opened, clutching a PADD. She looked more wild-haired and eyed than Rourke had ever seen her, the Strategic Operations Officer normally the picture of poise and reserve. “Sorry to interrupt, sir,” she blurted, “but we have a problem.”

Rourke frowned. “Explain.”

Dathan advanced on the desk without giving the other officers a look, setting her PADD down flat. With a press of a button, a small holographic display of the strategic map Rourke had been shown with Beckett’s message appeared. “I just received the data from Commander Lockhart at Admiral Beckett’s office, the full assessment of the upcoming strike.”

Pinching and extending her fingers on the holo-display, Dathan zoomed it in to focus on the region around the Haydorian System. “It included warp signature records I hadn’t yet seen; the team that picked up that sensor data only sent it to Starbase 27 this morning. I’ve also been requesting sensor telemetry from all civilian ships arriving at the Haydorian System – on a volunteer-only basis, of course, sir.”

“You found something?”

Dathan reached across her display to drag down another window, a full data read-out of sensor findings. “This is the sensor reading from Beacon Delta-5 on the border, five days ago. It’s been flagged as D’Ghor forces entering the Archanis Sector at a low warp to better remain hidden under cloak; it wouldn’t have flagged up without those signature records for comparison. Admiral Beckett’s office believes it’s a part of the main assault; one of many D’Ghor task groups.”

She grabbed another window. “This is a finding three days ago from Beacon Epsilon-Tau-2, between Delta-5 and Taldir.”

“Save me time, Lieutenant,” said Rourke. “What am I looking at?”

“The cloaked D’Ghor task group is smaller,” Airex jumped in with a hint of condescension. “Difficult to confirm numbers either way, but some of them have split off.”

Dathan nodded enthusiastically at him, then reached for another window. “And this is sensor telemetry from the SS Saint-André, a prospecting ship that arrived in the Haydorian System this morning.”

Rourke tilted his chin up. “I assume the Saint-André unknowingly detected that splinter force.”

“They did, sir. I can’t confirm numbers, but I expect at least a half-dozen vessels of at least B’rel-class in size,” said Dathan, looking him in the eye. “And based on the prediction models being used to anticipate the strikes at Taldir, Archanis, and Legera, they’re heading here.”

Valance straightened. “If they’re heading here and the Saint-André spotted them coming…”

“She’s a fast vessel,” Dathan reassured her, “and was travelling at her max speed of Warp 8 after spotting the fighting at Ajilon, so was running to what her captain thought was safe ground at Haydorian. That’s why he volunteered his sensor telemetry. These D’Ghor vessels have to be travelling at Warp 6 at maximum to leave such little trace of their travel. So they’re not hot on the Saint-André’s heels, we have time.”

“But not much.” Rourke let out a deep breath. “If you’re right, Dathan, then the D’Ghor have realised that the Archanis Array must be destroyed even if they defeat Admiral Beckett’s defence force; there’s no way they can keep operating in the sector once it’s live. Or we just happened to piss them off enough that they fancy coming for us, too.”

“It could be both, we’ve upset a lot of people,” Cortez mused. “We’re good at that.”

He looked at Dathan. “Lieutenant, I want you to inform Admiral Beckett for me. But if we’ve got a D’Ghor task group landing on us at any moment, we have to protect both the array and the people of Haydorian. I’ve no doubt the D’Ghor will happily go for the civilians to punish us or draw us away from the construction.” He got to his feet and turned on his senior staff. “Make Endeavour ready for combat.”

Valance stood. “I’ll cancel shore leave. Commander Cortez, do whatever it takes to get the ship ready to be underway.”

“Good,” said Rourke, and pointed them towards the door. “Leave me with a copy of that data, Lieutenant Dathan. I’m going to tell Captain Bennet that we have a serious problem.”