Strategic Location

Epis­ode Num­ber: 4×07

Writ­ten by: The authors of the Shack­leton Expanse Cam­paign Guide

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 4th May 2024

After nearly six weeks at Setu, we are finally head­ing home to Star­base 123. Dr Con­ners and her team have suc­cess­fully extric­ated the Uni­fic­a­tion­ist refugees from the Tilikaal sys­tems and ensured that they will sur­vive until they can be restored to full health at the Vul­can Med­ic­al Insti­tute. Lieu­ten­ant Com­mand­ers Azon­an and Zepht have per­formed excel­lent work in integ­rat­ing new con­trol sys­tems, which should last long enough for more per­man­ent modi­fic­a­tions to be made. And I get to bring home a detailed trade and alli­ance agree­ment with the Akaru.

I think we’re all look­ing for­ward to spend­ing a few days relax­ing on our shabby home-away-from-home again.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 50255.7

Plot: When the war with the Klin­gons re-ignites, the Lex­ing­ton is diver­ted to defend a stra­tegic­ally-import­ant sensor array.

The ‘A’ Plot: Lex­ing­ton is pre­par­ing to leave the orbit of Setu. Her crew have suc­ceeded in extract­ing the Uni­fic­a­tion­ist refugees from the Iry­ax’s secret facil­ity and in installing a tem­por­ary replace­ment con­trol sys­tem. They now intend to return to Star­base 123.

With a week of travel through rel­at­ively peace­ful space ahead of them, the cap­tain organ­ises a series of group view­ings of a recent Fed­er­a­tion soc­cer cham­pi­on­ship on the holo­deck. Raynor is one of a num­ber of crew mem­bers who attend. Azon­an con­tin­ues train­ing the two engin­eers loaned from the Ven­ture to actu­ally be good at their jobs, while Zepht sifts through all the new dis­cov­er­ies from the under­wa­ter Tilikaal struc­ture, and Con­ners works to improve the health of the res­cued Vul­cans and Romulans.

About half-way to the star­base, they come with­in range of the Star­fleet sub­space relay net­work, and receive the back­log of data and mes­sages that had yet to reach them at Setu. The biggest shock is that the Klin­gons have broken the cease fire, and invaded Aji­lon Prime, a major colony world in the dis­puted Arch­anis Sec­tor. Sub­sequent mes­sages relate the Fed­er­a­tion Pres­id­ent’s response to the attack, and the loss of the U.S.S. Far­ragut, car­ry­ing rein­force­ments to help fight the inva­sion. In the middle of this, they receive urgent orders from Admir­al Hebert, dir­ect­ing them to pro­ceed to the Quazkey sys­tem in order to pre­vent an expec­ted Klin­gon attack on a vital sub­space sensor array on the fifth planet.

As they change course, Zepht detects two Klin­gon cruis­ers mov­ing at speed in the same dir­ec­tion. At a brief­ing to dis­cuss the likely battle, he reveals that ana­lys­is of the sensor returns indic­ates they are the I.K.S. Kro’Thek, a K’Vort-class bird-of-prey, and the I.K.S. Gel­bo­hr, a Vor’cha-class attack cruis­er. Giv­en the max­im­um speeds of the three ves­sels, Lex­ing­ton should arrive about an hour ahead of them, giv­ing them some time to pre­pare – a neces­sity giv­en the Klin­gon pref­er­ence for using cloak­ing devices. Both Azon­an and Kon­in, hav­ing lost friends on the Far­ragut, are keen to engage them.

Pro­pos­als include using con­ver­ted photon tor­pedoes as mines, a tachy­on detec­tion grid made up of sensor buoys to detect cloaked ves­sels, modi­fy­ing a shuttle­craft to give off a sensor return resem­bling an incom­ing fleet (to drive the Klin­gons off), and lur­ing the Klin­gons towards the sun and trig­ger­ing a flare to des­troy them. Azon­an points out that his team could prob­ably man­age either the mines or the detec­tion grid, but not both, and that the newly-expan­ded shuttle deck crews can handle the shuttle­craft modi­fic­a­tions. Kon­in decides on the detec­tion grid and the shuttle, hold­ing the sol­ar flare manouevre as a reserve tactic.

As they close the dis­tance with the Klin­gon ves­sels, Kro’Thek sud­denly drops out of warp and cloak, spin­ning wildly out of con­trol. Zepht real­ises that the ship has hit a grav­it­a­tion­al anom­aly, as it lacked the abil­ity to detect them. Sensors indic­ate that it has lost all power, and that the crew will per­ish due to loss of life sup­port in about an hour. Kon­in briefly con­siders going to their aid, but doing so would allow Gel­bo­hr to reach the array. He reas­ons that their mis­sion must take pri­or­ity, as Azon­an notes that “this is war”.

Arriv­ing in the Quazkey sys­tem, they quickly sur­vey the situ­ation, not­ing the array’s size and fixed loc­a­tion on the plan­et’s sur­face. This will make it easy to defend, but they will have to res­ist attempts to draw them away. They fol­low their plan and deploy a grid of tachy­on sensor buoys across the likely approach vec­tor of the Klin­gon cruis­er, before tak­ing up pos­i­tion in orbit to await their arrival.

The detec­tion grid does its job, and pin­points Gel­bo­hr as the cloaked cruis­er exits warp. Raynor, who has been calmly cen­ter­ing him­self in pre­par­a­tion, imme­di­ately unleashes a vol­ley of photon tor­pedoes at the Klin­gon ves­sel, caus­ing mul­tiple breaches across its unshiel­ded hull. His ship clearly crippled, the Klin­gon com­mand­er presses his own attack, decloak­ing to unleash a vol­ley of photon tor­pedoes which causes sig­ni­fic­ant dam­age to Lex­ing­ton’s engin­eer­ing section.

While Azon­an struggles to regain power, Zepht is forced to carry out some sensor wiz­ardry to track Gel­bo­hr as it cloaks again. He is suc­cess­ful, but sees the cruis­er unex­pec­tedly bypass the big tar­get right in front of it, head­ing dir­ectly into low orbit to bom­bard the sensor array with its dis­ruptor can­non at close range.

Kon­in orders anoth­er attack, and phaser beams slice through the crippled cruis­er, trig­ger­ing an imme­di­ate warp core breach, but it’s too late: the array is a mass of burn­ing wreck­age. While Lex­ing­ton is able to loc­ate and evac­u­ate sur­viv­ors from the array’s small staff, there are none from the Klin­gon vessel.

Lex­ing­ton leaves orbit to see if any­one aboard Kro’Thek sur­vived, but their sensors soon show that it too is an expand­ing pile of wreck­age. It appears its self-destruct triggered when the last of the crew expired.

U.S.S. Black­bird arrives sev­er­al hours later, bear­ing an S.C.E. team, who are some­what annoyed to dis­cov­er that rather than build­ing defence emplace­ments, they will be rebuild­ing the array itself. Back on Star­base 123, Kon­in is forced to report back to Hebert that they failed in their mis­sion, although they won the battle.

Obser­va­tions: Quazkey is a K‑type star, and is very act­ive. It is orbited by a small num­ber of rocky worlds and a sparse aster­oid belt.

The sensor array on Quazkey V appears sim­il­ar in con­struc­tion to the Argus Array sub­space tele­scope, and is loc­ated on a large plat­eau. The plan­et is locked in to a 1:1 res­on­ant orbit, so that it main­tains the same ori­ent­a­tion to the rest of the galaxy as it pro­gresses in its orbit. As a res­ult, the array con­stantly faces the Shack­leton Expanse, and its cov­er­age con­veni­ently also includes the region around Nar­en­dra Station.

The U.S.S. Far­ragut NCC-60597 was a Neb­ula-class cruis­er, and pri­or to her loss, had been involved in the recov­ery oper­a­tions for the U.S.S. Enter­prise NCC-1701‑D after the events at Veridi­an III. The pre­vi­ous hold­er of the name, an Excel­si­or-class cruis­er from the Star­fleet reserve, will be rap­idly recom­mis­sioned as ten­sions build with the Domin­ion, enter­ing ser­vice in late 2373.

Both Azon­an and Kon­in had former col­leagues on the Far­ragut, which evid­ently affects their choices in this mission.

Ref­er­ences: The occu­pa­tion of Aji­lon Prime dur­ing the brief inter­rup­tion to the cease fire in the Fed­er­a­tion-Klin­gon War was the back­drop to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine epis­ode “Nor the Battle to the Strong”.