The Archanis Campaign: Lore Office Releases
LadyBlue Member, Administrator, Moderator, Admiralty
This thread is for official fiction for the Archanis Campaign written by the Lore Office. All content here is canon and binding for the campaign. Please read this thread before submitting any writing for the campaign.
Each fiction release will conclude with an OOC summary, including key points that will or may affect members' writing or plans.
Kuskir could taste the blood and the fear. It filled him, drove him as he stalked between the buildings, prefabricated colonial structures wrecked and burning from the disruptor fire of his hunters. Most of the humans had fled in weakness and their resources and equipment were his to take.
It was a useful resupply, but not bountiful. Colonists had scattered, and his blade had barely tasted blood. While smoke filled the air, it could not block out the bright blue sky, and Kuskir’s nostrils flared with aggravation. It was a fine day, and he had not had his fill. A waste.
The crackling of flames and groaning of metal almost blocked out the sound from the next shelter. Almost. But he heard the creak of footsteps, saw the shifting shadow in the doorway. It was the low box of a housing pod, and unlike the others, it had not yet been abandoned.
‘Wait,’ he said to the two hunters with him, advancing with mek’leth drawn. There could not be much here, and it was his right to claim what scraps he could. He looked at the shadowed door. ‘Come out,’ he called in accented Standard. ‘Or we burn it with you inside.’
A pause. But his lip curled in satisfaction as a figure emerged heartbeats later, a weathered human woman clutching an old phaser rifle. He respected the hardiness of these people, at least. But they were not prepared for the hunt.
The rifle was levelled at him. ‘Keep moving,’ said the woman. ‘Or I blow your head off.’
‘Then you will die, and whoever you’re sheltering inside will follow soon.’ Kuskir drew his Daqtagh, and tossed it point-down into the dirt before her. ‘Or fight me like a warrior, and they live.’ It was more than he would give, normally. But normally some colonists gave him a fight or greater bounties, and today he was eager for some challenge to make the raid worth his while. To make his blood sing.
‘Like I can trust you,’ she scoffed, but she did look at the blade. ‘Not much I can do about that, though.’ Kuskir shook his head, and she slung her rifle across her back and stepped towards the knife.
He was poised to lunge the moment she’d taken it up, but she snapped upright quicker than he’d expected, holding more than the knife. She’d yanked a pistol from behind her back, snapping off a shot. Had he not been already lunging, he’d have taken it to the throat.
Instead, it clipped the metal armour of his shoulder, and he could feel where it seared flesh underneath. And Kuskir laughed. ‘Yes! Fight me!’
She leapt back at the swipe of his mek’leth, but he knew the fight would be short. It took only the briefest exchange of blows to make it clear he was bigger, faster, stronger. The one stab she landed he turned harmlessly off his metal bracers, then he drove his blade into her thigh.
With a scream, she went down to one knee. He considered drawing it out, playing with her, but she’d given him his fight, and she’d shown enough fire to make it worthwhile. ‘I will not send you to Gre’thor this day,’ Kuskir said, and finished it with one decisive swing.
Chest heaving, he looked at the door to the building she’d protected and approached. Inside was dark, but the smell of sweat had seeped into the air for longer than their raid, and the moment his eyes adjusted he saw through the gloom of the dingy living quarters and understood.
She’d tried to hide the child but they were clearly too sickly to move, a heap on a bed behind a makeshift shelter he knocked aside easily. Even as Kuskir stood over them, all he had were wide, scared eyes and wheezing breath.
‘I should put you out of your misery,’ he sneered at the child in disgust. It was an exquisite test of the honour he’d long abandoned: to do the child the kindness of a quick death or to honour the agreement with its mother. Even free of such shackles, he was paralysed with indecision for a moment. In the end, he stayed his blade only because he knew there would be no satisfaction from the kill.
Gaveq, captain of the Kut’luch and one of his most trusted lieutenants, gave Kuskir a disgruntled look as he stepped back into the bright sunlight. ‘Vengeance demands only dishonourable deaths for the Federation.’
‘I will give that to Starfleet,’ said Kuskir as he wiped his blade clean. ‘And those who run. She fought with courage and wit.’ His gaze swept across the devastated colony. Some of its people had been chased, others would have fled into the nearby hillside. Starfleet would be days away at best. The prizes for the Hunters of D’Ghor were meagre, but they’d gathered food and they’d shed blood.
Kuskir sheathed his mek’leth. ‘Let’s move on.’
On every bridge, in every briefing room, the initial data package was the same: a holo-recording of Rear Admiral Alexander Beckett, straight-backed in his red uniform, impassive of countenance. If the grimness of the matter at hand perturbed him, it did not show in gaze or deep voice.
‘You are directed to proceed to Starbase 27 and the Archanis Sector, Beta Quadrant, in the largest operation of the Fourth Fleet in a decade. Multiple colony worlds and freight shipments have reported attacks by Klingon vessels and crews, committing acts of wanton murder, theft, and piracy. We have confirmed these ships to be affiliated with the renegade Hunters of D’Ghor.’
The recording expanded, for under no circumstances would Beckett surrender the stage, instead sharing it with a dynamically updating map of the Federation side of the Archanis Sector. Each colonised system and trade route shone bright, the afflicted glazed red.
‘Make no mistake: Starfleet is alone in responding to this threat. The Klingon Empire will not help us bring their rogue citizens to heel. Unprovoked, the Hunters are here to indulge their hunger for battle and hatred of the Federation, while sacking our worlds and people for resources. Our local task group is outmatched by the strength and numbers of their ships, and so it falls to us, Bravo Fleet, to defend our borders.’
The map faded, consigned to the briefing data package for future examination, and Beckett’s face was joined by that of a Klingon male, hair styled in a fashion some would recognise as traditional, his youthful face particularly scarred.
‘We have identified their leader as Kuskir, younger son of D’Ghor himself. While he does not command the full force of the Hunters, they have committed significant numbers to this venture. It remains unclear if Kuskir is feeding the Hunters’ bloodthirst and filling their coffers to prove himself, or if their agenda is more complicated. Do not mistake the D’Ghor for foolish brutes or honourable warriors. They will fight you for the satisfaction of it, and they will fight to win. We cannot prevail if we do not understand our enemy, and I expect your reports to include all relevant intelligence on their methods and potential motivations.’
Kuskir faded, and now Beckett was alone on the display again. ‘They have made ready use of their cloaking devices and gaps in our infrastructure. If they have a base of operations, we have not located it. We will. But our first priority is the immediate security concern.
‘This transmission package includes your assignments. We must give relief to our afflicted citizens and protection to those not yet targeted. Once Starfleet has restored safety and stability, then we will hunt these hunters. Show the renegades - show our own people, show the Empire, show all who might think the Federation weak - the consequences of this aggression.’ Beckett’s level tone made it unclear which he valued more: assistance for the innocents whose lives had been threatened or destroyed, or sabre-rattling at potential future threats.
‘I know you will all do your duty,’ said Beckett, and it sounded marginally more like a warning than an expression of trust. ‘Be bold, and we will end this threat swiftly. Beckett out.’
As if there was any potential mistaking the authority with which he spoke, the holo-display at once replaced his face with the crest of the Director of Fourth Fleet Intelligence at the message’s end. As crews and teams proceeded to their briefing documents of preparatory information ahead of full instructions at Starbase 27, or orders to head directly to the Archanis Sector, it hung there, a promise and a reminder.
Admiral Beckett would not brook failure.
In This Release:
The Hunters of D’Ghor have begun their raids upon an unknown number of targets in the Archanis Sector.
Rear Admiral Beckett has briefed the Fourth Fleet on the threat and dispatched assignments as he gathers his forces.
From here, members are free to write their ships heading directly to the Archanis Sector or may make ready at Starbase 27 first.
The holographic strategic display was large enough to fill the USS Caliburn’s flag bridge, at the scale Beckett needed to work from. It was still an abstract rendition, with the Archanis, Taldir, and Legera systems large enough that he could see their individual worlds, moons, and defensive zones, while the space between the individual systems and the Imperial border covered light-years in inches.
‘Picket Force Alpha is withdrawing,’ Commander Lockhart reported as she assessed the confluence of blue and red dots at the border. ‘Task Group 27 falling back to secondary interception point.’
‘I can see that,’ Beckett rumbled. ‘Inform the Commodore he is still to deploy Picket Force Bravo and delay these forces further. Our ships need time to get into position.’
‘I will,’ said Lockhart cautiously, ‘but they’re taking a beating.’
‘All I need the Commodore to do is plant his ships along expected flight-routes or intercept any identified Klingon ships. At point of contact his people can hit and run, fire some torpedoes and jump to warp - anything. If they want to fight and die, I can hardly be held responsible,’ he groaned. ‘Task Group 27 is doing this because they have the space to fall back. Once Kuskir reaches these worlds, we can’t fall back. Or millions will die.’
Commander Lockhart hesitated. Then, ‘I’ll make it clear to him.’
Beckett said nothing more as the small knot of red and green dots that was the reported contact between some of Task Group 27’s ships and a D’Ghor squadron broke up, the green dots racing up the map deeper into Federation space. The red dots disappeared soon after - cloaked rather than defeated. It was the first contact with the D’Ghor, the first confirmation of a heavy strike force, but these numbers - a dozen D’Ghor ship, more than had been sighted deployed together yet - could still only be a fraction of what Kuskir was bringing to bear. There would be others - cloaked and staying that way, on different approach vectors, likely at different times. There would be more.
He let out a deep breath. ‘So here they are.’
‘Those D’Ghor forces are on an intercept route for the Taldir system,’ said Lockhart. ‘Estimated ETA no longer than four hours.’
‘How long until our defence forces are in position?’
She sucked her teeth as she ran calculations again. ‘Each zone has at least one ship in position. In three hours, sixty percent will be fully defended. Eighty percent in six hours.’
‘Hm. Make sure the Commodore knows that next time he complains about delaying this attack further.’ And Beckett sat back in the flag bridge’s command chair to wait amidst the continuous low hum of staff activity from here, the beating heart of the final defence of the Archanis Sector.
It was another three and a half hours before the doors slid open and Commander Reyes stepped in. ‘Admiral? It’s -’
‘Ah.’ Jaw tight, Beckett stood and straightened his uniform. ‘That soon.’
Only a short corridor separated the flag bridge, nestled behind the main staff conference room, from the Caliburn’s bridge. Beckett followed Reyes through the door to be submerged in the dim and din of red alert; the emergency klaxons, the dimmed lighting to make the nuances of combat displays brighter, the tang in the air of a tense crew he could almost taste.
Captain Hargreaves stood from the command chair. ‘Admiral on the bridge!’
‘As you were.’ There was, for once, little time for niceties. Beckett went to the seat at Hargreaves’s left, Reyes sensibly become his shadow, though did not sit down. ‘What do we have?’
‘Six B’rel-class Birds-of-Prey and a Vor’cha have just uncloaked at the periphery of the system,’ said Hargreaves, blunt and dour as ever. ‘No way they’re all we get. Expect they want our eyes on them before their friends drop out of cloak on top of us.’
There were many reasons Beckett had put his flag on the Caliburn. Convenience was one. The flag bridge of a Resolute-class was another. But the blunt, no-nonsense approach of Kehinde Hargreaves was no minor factor. He nodded. ‘Hail them, if you please.’
Hargreaves looked to his comms officer, who tapped a control, pressed a button to his earpiece, and gave the admiral a nod. ‘Frequencies open, sir.’
Beckett stepped before the command chairs of the Caliburn, shoulders squared. ‘D’Ghor vessels, this is Rear Admiral Alexander Beckett of the 4th Fleet. You must realise by now your surprise attack has been anticipated. Scuttle back under your rocks in the Empire, and you may live to fight another day. Approach and you will be destroyed.’
In the silence that followed, Beckett glanced at Hargreaves. ‘Hard to threaten people who want to die,’ he observed.
‘You should promise them Federation cells for life if they persist.’
‘Less pithy. I don’t -’
Then the viewscreen changed, transformed from the starscape and gently-turning surface of Archanis IV beyond the Caliburn to the shrouded crimson metals of a Klingon bridge. Shadowed figures stood at the periphery, hulking warriors here in ceremony rather than manning stations, flanking the figure at the centre bathed in red light. Beckett had studied enough intelligence reports to recognise him, young and lean and hungry.
‘I am Kuskir, son of D’Ghor, scourge of the Archanis Sector. It is good to see you have assembled before us, Federation. It is good to see you have come here to die.’
Beckett tried to not roll his eyes. ‘Your rag-tag flotilla of -’
‘You may think it honourable to make a final stand against us. But soon we shall surge past your defences and unleash chaos on your worlds, slaughter your innocent, ravage your resources. All we want and need will be ours.’
‘The original source isn’t from one of these ships, sir,’ said the Caliburn’s Comms officer. ‘It’s being relayed from somewhere through them, sent to all our ships.’
‘Yes, I’d gathered, Lieutenant,’ Beckett snapped.
‘...but first,’ Kuskir’s image was leering on-screen, ‘I and my warriors will shatter your hulls, break your bones, destroy your wills, and leave you all begging for Gre’thor before we are done. Tell the Ferryman that the D’Ghor sent you, and tell him to prepare for our arrival.’
The transmission ended, leaving the Caliburn’s bridge in a tense silence. Hargreaves clicked his tongue. ‘Theatrical.’
Beckett ignored him and looked to the Comms officer. ‘Put me through to all our forces.’ He pressed on at the nod. ‘Starships of the 4th Fleet and Task Group 27, this is Admiral Beckett. We have made contact with the enemy. No doubt you heard him bragging; I won’t waste your time with mine. The D’Ghor have come to slaughter our people. You are Starfleet. I know that whatever comes, you will hold the line. Await my orders, and stand by for contact.’ He jerked a hand across to signal the end of the message, and turned to Hargreaves. ‘I’ll be in the flag bridge. Protect Archanis IV.’
He was aware, as he left, of the Caliburn’s Tactical Officer reporting more ships incoming, more D’Ghor dropping out of warp or cloak at the Archanis System. More for the Caliburn to fight, more for the ships of Task Group 27 to fight, more for all the ships mustered at every inhabited world orbiting this star to fight, fend off - to defeat.
But that was the immediate scale. His eyes had to be on the bigger picture.
The strategic map that was his bigger picture was alight with more red shapes, amassed and descending on the blips of Federation ships in blue. Commander Lockhart looked up at his return. ‘All systems reporting D’Ghor vessels arriving or detected on immediate approach.’
‘Let their arrival play out until something requires a response; every captain has their orders,’ Beckett said, descending the steps to stand before the gleaming map of life and death. ‘For now, we wait, and stand, and watch.’ He let out a deep breath. ‘This is just the opening.’
In this Release:
‘Legera II confirmed secure, Admiral,’ came Commander Lockhart’s report from her station on the Caliburn’s flag bridge.
‘I see that.’ Beckett could actually see about six crises at once, flashpoints of red glinting at him from the strategic holo-display like blood-spatters. ‘Inform Task Group 27 to hold position.’
Lockhart hesitated. ‘Defences at Legera VI are reporting heavy losses -’
‘And the staggered arrival of D’Ghor forces suggests they’re holding ships back to pounce on emerging weak points. We could have more Birds-of-Prey dropping on Legera II if even one starship is diverted from that post. Tell them to stand their ground.’
He didn’t listen to Lockhart’s response. If it was an argument, he didn’t care. If it was confirmation, he didn’t need to hear it. From the belly of these battle-lines, he could see it all, the fate of three star systems stretched before him. With starships engaged at most planets or outposts, defence forces even in the same system potentially hours away from each other at full impulse, he needed to be cold-blooded or prescient to manage the battle.
He’d already ordered one defence force to fall back from an outpost before ever they’d seen a D’Ghor ship, ignoring the captains’ protests. By the time those ships reached the colony to which they’d been rerouted, three hours later, they were reinforcing a desperately strained position at risk of being overrun, and turned the tide.
The outpost would fall. The colony would survive. And Admiral Beckett would be blamed for the first, while those captains would have glory heaped upon them for the latter. Such was the burden of his barred pips.
‘Why on Earth was the Ogden rerouted to support Taldir IX?’ he demanded. ‘And why don’t the Pendle or Blakewater have more support at Taldir VII?’
Commander Lockhart gave him an anxious look, but before she could reply, there was a rumbling thud from far below them. By instinct, Beckett clutched the console and bent his knees, and when the deck surged under their feet he almost rode it out. Lockhart did not, hitting the deck, and he ignored her as he reached for the holographic strategic map and dragged the Archanis system back before his eyes.
‘That was the hull!’ called Commander Reyes from behind him, the more seasoned of his attachés already back on his feet.
‘I could tell,’ said Beckett, aware he sounded more inconvenienced than troubled by torpedo fire that had breached the Caliburn’s shields. ‘Kindly assist Captain Hargreaves and inform him that I can hardly salvage three systems if he gets us blown up.’
Despite being a man who prized control over all things, he had learnt how to not fret about problems in battle about which he could do nothing. Even if that included his own potentially imminent demise. His fate was in someone else’s hands. Everyone else’s fate was in his.
When Lockhart dragged herself back up to her display, her eyes widened as she read. ‘Oh no - sir, we have - wait.’ Her voice went from shocked to uncertain.
Beckett glared at a point on the bulkhead just below a flashing emergency light helpfully telling him he was in danger. ‘I want reports, not reactions, Commander.’
‘We have Klingon starships incoming at high warp, sir - but they’re identifying as KDF ships. And, sir, the USS K’ehleyr is with them.’
‘That’s...’ Enough reinforcements to turn the tide at the Archanis system. To allow other forces to redirect to Taldir and Legera. The possible difference between life and death for the defence forces and millions of colonists. But what Beckett said instead, with a wrinkle of the nose, was, ‘Belvedere?’
From behind him, Reyes piped up again. ‘USS K’ehleyr is hailing us, Admiral; the bridge has patched it through to you.’
Beckett swallowed a wave of what he hoped was relief, and reached out the holographic display to swipe his maps aside, leaving room for a comms display. ‘Put it through.’
From the identical flag bridge on the Caliburn’s sister ship, the face of Rear Admiral Belvedere appeared on Beckett’s display. About ten years older than Beckett, Belvedere was nevertheless known more as a desk admiral than someone willing to charge into battle. He’d spent his entire career on starbases and at Starfleet Command with not even one assignment to a starship other than his cadet cruise in the 2350s.
‘Admiral Beckett, I’m tying the Caliburn into the K’ehleyr’s tactical computer. You should have a communications link to the entire KDF squadron now inbound on Archanis. Brigadier Asal of the House of Lorkoth was kind enough to provide it with only minimal cajoling,’ Belvedere noted from in front of a large blue Task Force 72 seal. One of the screens next to his face began populating with tactical data from the Klingon warships he’d brought in tow. ‘We should be able to soak up some of the fire you’re taking.’
Beckett’s gaze flickered away from Belvedere to the fresh data scrawling across his strategic map. His nostrils flared for only a heartbeat before he gave a stern nod. ‘You and our allies can help us mop up, Admiral. Good work,’ he said, because he would rather be immolated by D’Ghor weapons fire than admit to needing saving. ‘I’m providing the squadron with priority targets now.’ That did include dispatching the fastest ships to support the Caliburn at Archanis IV, and the navigational data to support the swiftest arrival possible. The only blessing on that count was that relief would likely not come from the K’ehleyr herself.
But the flash of bitterness faded for satisfaction as Beckett watched the gold blips of KDF ships swarm into the Archanis system or press on to Legera and Taldir at numbers and speed that threatened to, if not dwarf the blazing crimson of the D’Ghor, at least challenge them. It was a moment, he felt, to say something pithy. Or historic. I didn't need you, Belvedere, was probably not it.
Instead, Commander Lockhart was given a grumpy look, and a brusque, ‘Let’s bring this to a close.’
Written by LadyBlue (RAdm Beckett) and David (RAdm Belvedere)
In this Release:
Victory didn’t happen all at once. It often came slowly, part of an excruciating grind of overcoming one enemy, moving on to another, then realising the tide had turned minutes, hours ago, and here it was, the end. Beckett had known battles where individual forces had withdrawn from the field, their own objective seemingly achieved or their enemy overcome, only to find something had gone wrong somewhere else, that the primary goal had failed, and all that blood and sweat had been for little or nothing. More often than not the moment of victory itself, the act that turned the tide or tipped the scales, went unremarked and became known only later in debriefings and history books.
So it was in Archanis, because Lockhart’s report that the D’Ghor were in full retreat across all systems was not the moment of victory. It was just the moment victory became assured.
‘Let them run,’ said Beckett gruffly. ‘We’ve no need to gun them down in flight. They’ll flee to Imperial territory, and the KDF can earn their keep. With the Archanis Array up, they won’t be able to slither into the sector again even if they wish.’
With a sigh, he rested his hands on the edge of the central display in the Caliburn’s flag bridge, and closed his eyes. It blocked out the blessed sight of red D’Ghor dots scattering, but it also blocked out the scrolling update of casualty reports, both Starfleet and civilian. Those would be dealt with later in reports and letters, and likely in a thorough debriefing from his superiors, Starfleet forever desperate to account for any bloodletting with conservative apprehension.
But before he could end in his own time what he felt to be his rightful reprieve, the drawl of Commander Reyes reached him. ‘Sir... the IKS Koloth is reporting to their superiors that they’ve immobilised Kuskir’s flagship. Squadron commander Colonel Lorkan is ordering it encircled as his ship approaches.’
Beckett’s eyes snapped open. ‘They’re not going to blow it up, are they?’
Reyes clicked his tongue. ‘That’s my read on Lorkan. Unconfirmed, but -’
‘Get me Lorkan.’ Admiral Beckett went to straighten his uniform, then thought better of it. These were Klingons. Looking bedraggled from the battlefield made him more convincing to them, so he unselfconsciously mussed his thinning hair before the holo-display changed. ‘Colonel Lorkan, this is Rear Admiral Beckett. I see your forces have apprehended the terrorist Kuskir’s ship; that’s good work, and I will have the Caliburn itself come to take him into custody.’ He extended a hand off-screen and snapped his fingers at Reyes to forward that command to Captain Hargreaves.
Colonel Lorkan, himself sat amid a bridge of smoke and gloom - though to Beckett’s eyes, that was just a Klingon ship - tilted his chin up an inch. ‘Kuskir is the dishonoured son of an insurrectionist House, a leader of D’Ghor dogs. As an enemy of the Empire, he is our stain to deal with.’
‘Kuskir ordered attacks on Federation worlds and is presently in Federation territory. That places him as our enemy within our jurisdiction. Indeed, Imperial records on his specific offences against your government have paled in comparison to his crimes against the people of Archanis.’ Beckett tried to not sneer. It was hard, with indignation thudding through his veins at how the Klingon Empire had been slow to respond to the Federation’s requests for help or even information, so diverted had the Great Houses been with their own politics and hunger for Gorn territory. ‘Your government may issue an extradition request to mine, but the law here is clear.’
‘His crimes against the people of Archanis would not have been stopped were it not for my squadron -’
‘And your response that was required by the Khitomer Accords, however tardy it may have been.’ Beckett’s voice dropped to icy tones. ‘Shall I tug on that thread further, Colonel?’
Lorkan hesitated. Then he growled, ‘He deserves death for all he has done.’
‘That is not your decision. Nor is it mine. And it is certainly not a choice that will be made here and now.’ Beckett let his own lip curl a hint, aware that baring his teeth at Klingons was a tactic to employ only sparingly. ‘The eyes of a sector, of our two great powers, are on this place and this moment. Let them all see the timely and heroic arrival of your squadron to help friends in their moment of need. That is a simple story, and one everyone will like. Muddy the waters with bitter disagreement and onlookers will wonder at the nuances, such as: “Why was the Empire not here sooner?”’
The silence that stretched between them would have been satisfying had it not been broken by the faintest beeping in the background from Commander Lockhart’s station. He could not afford to give her a withering look, gaze locked on the baleful eyes of Colonel Lorkan.
At last, the Klingon looked aside. ‘Instruct the Koloth to keep Kuskir’s ship contained,’ he barked. ‘The Caliburn will come for him and his dogs.’ With a sneer, Lorkan looked back to Beckett. ‘We will pursue what you have let run.’
‘By all means, chase them back to the Empire, and then do as you wish. I thank you and Brigadier Asal for answering our call to battle. Should the Empire need us, Starfleet will answer.’ Beckett inclined his head, now all courtesies with the matter resolved. It was not merely easier; he meant what he had said about giving the right image to onlookers. This could be an easy win for everyone. But it certainly had to be the Federation’s win.
He sat back with a sigh as the communications winked out, and looked about the flag bridge. ‘Commander Reyes, go to Captain Hargreaves and oversee the apprehension of Kuskir; I’m sure he and his warriors can be beamed into the brig. Commander Lockhart, send confirmation to all forces that they may stand down from red alert. It’s over. And be sure to pass on my personal thanks to all commanders.’
Because above it being the Federation’s win, it had to be Beckett’s win.
In this Release:
‘Another casualty report, sir. Legera.’ Commander Reyes’s expression was studied as he extended a PADD across the desk in Admiral Beckett’s Starbase 27 office.
With a sigh, Beckett took it. He clicked his tongue as he read. ‘Could be better. Could be worse. Edit the usual statement for the planetary governments, and get me a fresh message of acknowledgement for Task Group 27.’
Reyes hesitated. ‘Is that not something you’ll do yourself, sir?’
Beckett tossed the PADD onto the desk. ‘Am I going to hold the hand of every colony leader, every strike force leader, every starship captain, in emotionally navigating this calamity? There are only so many unique platitudes and forms of guidance. I’m sure after the many, many we’ve produced, you can figure this out for yourself, Commander.’
‘Of course, but... I could sign it myself...’
‘And let someone pounce on me for letting condolences come only from my Chief of Staff?’ Beckett snorted, then rolled his eyes at Reyes’s expression. ‘Don’t give me that look, Commander. We must be grown-ups about this. If I started wearing sackcloth and rubbing ashes into my hair for every single death or fight, I’d never get anything done. People need a demonstration of strength from the 4th Fleet. It doesn’t matter if I wrote it myself.’ He shook his head. ‘You were chosen for this job because you’re a fool with a bleeding heart, Reyes. You can use it from my office to help people even with smoke and mirrors, or with your record you can use it from some border starbase contributing nothing. What’ll it be?’
Reyes looked like he might say something, but after a sigh he picked the PADD back up and headed out of the office.
‘I thought so,’ Beckett muttered to himself, and went back to packing his desk. It had been necessary to set it up to project certainty and strength from Starbase 27, but he was looking back to returning to his usual offices back at Bravo.
He still hadn’t finished when the doors slid open anew to admit Commander Lockhart. While he found her apprehensive desperation for approval annoying, and she did make him rather miss the calm stoicism of Lieutenant Dathan, she was at least not as soft-hearted as Reyes, whose assignment was entirely to give his office a friendlier face.
Still, he scowled. ‘If this is more of how we’ve lost things where...’
‘No, sir - you asked me to conduct a strategic assessment?’
Beckett stopped. ‘You’re done already?’
Lockhart looked almost offended. ‘You asked, Admiral. So I did it.’
Maybe this neurotic desire for approval would make her better than Dathan. Certainly she had a more sterling record, especially at this level, and had proved her worth as an exceptional analyst these past weeks. He waved a hand. ‘Give me the highlights.’
She nodded, flicking at her PADD to project her display before her. ‘I’ve assessed the readiness level of Task Group 27, the civilian relief needed across the sector, and border security. I also have some proposed lines of inquiry on the role the Orion Syndicate played in supporting the D’Ghor.’
Beckett huffed. ‘Add in an assessment of civilian confidence levels in Starfleet and the Federation. We need to know how much harm was done to local loyalties.’ He scratched the stubble on his chin, and scowled at what this said about the lapse in his discipline. ‘Otherwise notify Task Group 27 of the challenge ahead, and I’ll recommend Command reinforce them as much as possible. Starfleet needs to not appear as if we’ve stopped caring about Archanis the moment the D’Ghor are gone.’
‘Support for civilian settlements shouldn’t be too difficult, sir; coverage of the attacks has stoked Core World sympathies. But I’m unconvinced Task Group 27 is at full-enough strength to respond to threats detected by the Archanis Array, and they certainly lack the skill or flexibility to pursue the Syndicate.’
‘Fine.’ He waved an impatient hand. ‘Notify 4th Fleet Task Force Commanders, see who they can spare to assist here and now. Along with commendations for all captains on their hard work here, and for responding to the call to arms so swiftly. I know they have pressing matters to get back to rather than worrying about this backwater.’
Lockhart hesitated. ‘Commander Reyes did say - he pointed out it might be a strong statement of support if you stayed at Starbase 27 for a time, sir.’
‘Did he.’ Beckett shook his head, gaze flat. ‘I’ve given Archanis enough - more than enough - of my time. Rebuilding this sector is an internal matter. I’m the Intelligence Director for Starfleet’s foremost unit in diplomatic intervention and deep space exploration - a unit many in the Federation would rather didn’t exist, or at least whose resources they’d rather see go to them and their own interests. If Starfleet is so desperate to show Archanis is valued, they can send someone else. My work here is done.’
‘Task Force 17’s deep space exploratory force was delayed in deploying to the Delta Quadrant because of Archanis. Forces pushing Federation interests in the Triangle, in the old Neutral Zone, on the Cardassian border - doing more than sitting back and playing it safe - were redirected to protect this sector. It was an emergency, and we are sworn as Starfleet officers to preserve lives. But the emergency has passed.’ Beckett straightened his back and his uniform. ‘And I’ll be damned if I let political interests tether us to playing nursemaid to a backwater sector because elements in Command don’t want us returning to our primary duty.’
Lockhart watched him a moment, and he knew she was realigning her perception of him. She was not the first to think he had nothing but ice in his veins and politics in his priorities. Not that this was inaccurate, but Beckett certainly had no qualms about ruffling the feathers of his superiors and colleagues to do what he felt was right, however hard it might make the future.
But she nodded and tapped something on her PADD. ‘I’ll make the request of the Task Force Commanders. And perhaps liaise through some of my contacts in Starfleet Intelligence to ensure the severity of the situation is known elsewhere?’
Beckett gave a thin smile. ‘Excellent, Commander. It has been a pleasure working with you so far.’
‘Thank you, sir. It’s an honour to be of service.’
‘And above all, I look forward to seeing what you bring to the challenges to come.’ His gaze shifted to his office window and the sprawling view of tired hulks of graceful starships built for deep space and further frontiers instead now resting, worn and beaten from the battle at their front door. ‘After this tired place and its parochial concerns, we are due more distant stars.’
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