Created by Mark Nguyen
For Sector Beta, assume that:
It is located relatively close to the Klingon border, but off the major Federation supply lines. Somewhere in the Beta Quadrant, coreward side, with the Federation to the “west” and the Klingon Empire to the “east.” In any case, reinforcements from anyone are at least two weeks away.
The Black Dwarf system is a proverbial gold mine of ores used for many things, like starship construction, agricultural use, and a variety of precious metals. The supernova that destroyed the system also rendered the ores into a natural semi-refined state, ideal for mining.
The Driian Empire is a xenophobic race with no diplomatic ties with anyone. They strictly maintain their borders and for centuries have been concentrating on their three-planet territory alone. This has resulted in the depletion of their own resources, and a population explosion.
Ulia is a low-profile Federation member. It has a small, planet-based Starbase, though it’s mostly for administrative purposes — Ulia operates its own facilities to maintain its commercial fleet. For raw materials, they mine the Black Dwarf System, exporting finished materials to the Federation.
Dawson’s Planet is home to scattered communities of humans who have pretty much renounced any technology following the vacuum tube. They were placed there centuries ago by an unregistered colony ship which never reported the colony, and disappeared thereafter. In fact, most people had forgotten they were even there until the events that caused the current situation. Still, their priorities are mostly to be left alone. The planet itself is high in natural resources, but in a state which would require much processing to become viable.
The Black Dwarf System is neutral territory, and is large enough such that no one race would need to stake out territory in order to ensure the flow of the raw materials from the system. In addition to the forces already mentioned, small mining operations have been known to happen, taking the raw ore to other sectors.
This scenario occurs shortly after the end of the Dominion War.
The setup of this situation is that the Klingons used to help keep the peace in the sector from the aggressive Driians, with only minor skirmishes happening as the Driians were mining the Black Dwarf system. The Klingons also operated a major communications array (think the Epsilon 9 station, but green) in the sector, and also mined the Black Dwarf system, taking the stuff directly back to the Empire.
Following the Klingon War of 2372-3 and the subsequent Dominion War, the Klingons almost abandoned their military presence in the sector in favor of higher-priorities. This left the sector open to aggression from the Driians, who attempted a Blitzkrieg of the sector during the final year of the Dominion War, occupying Dawson’s Planet, the Black Dwarf system and Ulia. They were eventually beaten back to their borders by a combination Klingon/Federation task force (emphasis former) with heavy losses to both sides. The current fleet composition of the Driian Empire is what remains following the hostilities; it used to be three times that much. Also, the Klingon comm station was destroyed, and both Ulia and Dawson’s Planet suffered major casualties and will need to rebuild.
- Population: 2 billion
- Alignment: Federation (member)
- Government: Democracy
- Technology: current
- Defense: medium-sized commercial fleet - moderate orbital defenses
- Notes: Low natural resources, large industrial base
- Black Dwarf System (BDS)
- Numerous Class-D planetoids
- Heavy raw materials
- Dawson’s Planet
- Population: 500,000
- Alignment: Neutral
- Government: No planetary government
- Technology: pre-industrial
- Defense: None
- Notes: Earth-originated non-technological colony, high natural resources
- Driian Empire
- Population: 27 billion (total)
- Alignment: Anti-Federation
- Government: Dictatorship (expansionist)
- Technology: 24th century equivalent
- Defense: Approx. 15 warships (Defiant-class equivalent) - light orbital defenses - medium-sized commercial fleet
- Notes: Heavy industrial base, low resources
As with Sector Alpha, define what Starfleet’s priorities in this sector should be. Note the political nature of the planets in this sector have not changed, nor of the Klingons. Also, note any gaps in the information provided and where you’d want to focus your intelligence-gathering.
Following the Dominion War, resources are stretched pretty thin, with both the Feds and the Klingons wanting to focus on the rebuilding of more important sectors. However, the Klingons do want to have a more permanent presence in here, and want to build a space-based Starbase equivalent to the one you had back in Sector Alpha (think the ones over Ty’Gokor) containing a new comm station, and to assign one Vor’cha and two B’rels to it. Likewise, Starfleet is assigning you enough resources to either upgrade the Ulian starbase to a larger facility with heavier orbital defences and Starfleet repair facilities, or to build a small outpost-like station somewhere in the sector, smaller than Starbase 375 and with moderate defences and support facilities. Choose which option you’d like to pursue, and recommend where the Klingons should put their station. Justify your answers.
The ship that transported you to Sector Beta from your previous assignment is now part of the fleet you’ll have to use in this sector. In addition to that ship, recommend to Starfleet what a reasonable number and breakdown of ships should be deployed to this sector to accomplish your goals, and what their primary duties will be. A fleet based on your recommendations will be assigned there after the events of question two. Assume no more than a dozen starships of any kind will be assigned to the sector, and that in addition to this force a number of Federation and Klingon transports will be making regular runs into and out of the sector. At present, in addition to your ship there are a small number of runabouts and auxiliary craft assigned to the Starbase. If you’re joining us here without having come from Sector Alpha, you’ve got a generic Excelsior-class ship.
Objectively critique one of the other answers to question one. Point out what you believe are the strengths and/or weaknesses in how the answer differs from yours. You may critique another answer which has already been critiqued.
Assume that the fleet you requested for Sector Beta was granted to you in full. However, it will not arrive until Question Three, although the Starbase upgrade/construction will have happened, as well as the Klingons building their Starbase where you recommended it and equipping it with their forces. Given the forces currently deployed to your sector, for the following scenarios recommend (1) what you would do, (2) what you think the Klingons would do, and (3) what you would recommend the Klingons to do, if you had the chance. The Klingons’ priority is obviously to safeguard their mining investments, and their new comm array.
After the invasion was repulsed, the Allied forces had effectively bottled up the Driians in their Empire, where one of their planets suffered battle damage to several military and civilian targets as a result of a Klingon attempt to occupy that planet (they were repulsed). Now, elements of the Driian commercial fleet are rigging to commence mining operations in the BDS under heavy escort. The only explanation they are giving is that they need to rebuild after the war, but insist on doing it themselves.
The people of Dawson’s Planet still generally want to be left alone, and don’t appreciate the bright lights in the sky as your ships run patrols in the area. Still, a loose council of their settlements has appointed an Ambassador to Ulia and to Driia, and request the Federation give them the infrastructure to communicate with those two planets.
Romulan scouts are spotted in the area. The Romulan Empire is some distance away.
Create another scenario like the ones presented in part (B). Any reasonable military, political or scientific scenario is acceptable. However, do not answer the scenario yourself. Rather, it will be answered by the others as part of Question Three.
When your fleet arrives in the sector, Starfleet wants you to start off by running a series of wargames with the Klingons. In addition to simulating combat engagements with the Klingon forces, you’ll also practice joint operations and get the crews of your ships used to the sector and each other. One of the big things Starfleet wants you to do is to plan for two major contingencies, should a renewed Driian conflict be apparent: an attack on the Klingon Starbase or on Ulia, or an assault on the Driian Empire by Allied forces.
Assume that the Driians are not up for honorable or fanatical deaths or suicide runs. However, they have proven to be very aggressive and will often fire the first shot. During their invasion, their typical squadron compositions would be for six or seven of their Defiant-equivalent ships, or for three of them along with one of their larger warships (equivalent to a Nebula or Ambassador-class starship, but they were all destroyed). In any case, what they’ve got now is all they’ve got.
Plan for how you would deploy your fleet to meet one of these two scenarios, and expect to deploy your ships in those same maneuvers when your fleet gets here. If you want to take the simulated attack on the Driian Empire, you’ll do it in empty space away from Ulia or the BDS — you choose where.
Choose one of the situations from Part Three of Question Two and answer it. Assume that your fleet still hasn’t arrived.
Objectively critique the offensive/defensive scenario of one of the others. You may choose an answer that has already been critiqued. For the scenario, let’s take MinutiaeMan’s designation of the Driian ships as Noynac-class attack cruisers.
Guess what? Your fleet has finally arrived, and will be moving into their positions as you outlined in Question One. Given the following scenarios, maneuver you fleet accordingly (if required) and describe your reactions to the governments of the various factions, and what you’d want to do.
The Driians step up their mining efforts, still with the explanation that they are using it to rebuild. However, Starfleet inteligence reports that the amount of stuff they’re exporting from the BDS far exceeds their ability to refine it to useful construction materials. Also, long-range telescopic probes from the border indicate that they are rebuilding their shipyards to construct their larger, Konyac-class battleships.
The Klingons decide to build up their fleet to match their own increases in BDS mining, and send in two more B’rels and a couple K’t’ingas. The commander of this new Klingon squadron also happened to be the officer in charge of a failed Klingon invasion if one of the Driian planets during the war. To make matters worse, the General’s house is a longtime rival of the Klingon station commander’s house, were on opposite sides during the Civil War, and they don’t really like each other. The General’s squadron sets up shop with a small re-supply outpost around the star “south” of the Driian Empire, and starts to conduct patrols around the border with alarming frequency.
The Romulans show up at the head of a coalition of four races from Romulan territory, and declare their interest in mining the BDS for the construction of a resource-poor colony or two in the sector directly south of yours. For the protection of their coalition, they unilaterally stake out a full quarter of the Black Dwarf System and declare it Romulan territory. They set up unmanned sensor and defense platforms, build a small command station on one of the asteroids, and use three or four Romulan scout-type vessels (like the ones seen in “The Next Phase”) to patrol their territory. While 75% of the BDS is still available and resources are plentiful, the Romulan-claimed territory includes several pockets of especially-rich resource asteroids. As a result, civilian Federation and Klingon mining ships are making dips into Romulan space to swipe the goods.
The big one: A message comes in from Dawson’s Planet. The Ambassador reports that a man named Jed was shootin’ at some food, when up from the ground came a bubblin’ ancient remains of a colony. Driian colony, that is. The remains of the colony significantly predate the Dawsonites’ presence there, and conclusively show that the Driians once maintained a population of several million there. The Driian Empire has intercepted this communication. Within days, they declare Dawson’s Planet as Driian sovereign territory, and that the current population is no longer welcome. To enforce their point, they send five of their Noynac-class ships and a bunch of freighters and proceed to set up a military base on top of Jed’s farm. The Dawsonites demand help from anyone, including the Romulans, who are the first to offer troop support and a couple Warbirds to face down the Driian threat, in exchange for a permenant outpost on an unpopulated continent of the planet. The Dawsonites have yet to respond.
Outline the top threats in the sector. What are the most likely military conflicts to occur, and which would be the priority for Starfleet to focus on preventing?
Is your fleet sufficient to face down at least two of these threats? If not, what would you ask Starfleet to send you, if anything, for help?
While you’re mulling this over, the Driians announce their own independent findings: some of the tools found in the colony remains are composed of alloys of minerals unique to Ulia. What do you think each faction’s next move will be?
Question Four, Part One
Guest Lecture by Timo
This week’s lecture does not consist of the customary separate scenarios. Instead, it’s an exercise in routine fleet management, an ongoing miniscenario where you start your week with your ships deployed as they were after question 3. As each day progresses, your ships have to move and act in response to the events.
The catch (there’s always a catch, except when you fish in heavy rain): even at high warp, it takes five or more days to cross the sector. That is, a full day will only carry you about 4 ly (unless you’ve got an Intrepid and a risk-loving chief engineer). So think twice where you send your ships, because even a dozen vessels can be spread awfully thin in the vastness of space...
Due to technical difficulties, please do the following in your heads or something. Add a 2D coordinate grid with 2 ly squares onto the Sector Beta map, with labels A to J for the horizontal axis squares from left to right, and labels 1 to 10 for the vertical axis squares from bottom to top. This way, Ulia ought to be in square (G10), that is “gee-ten”. Got it? Good. This will help you tell where you are and where you are going. It’s a bit of a chore, but then again, this is a lecture.
After each day (and prior to day 1), give the position (coordinates) and status of your vessels, plus a short comment on what your non-ship assets are doing at the time. Days 1-3 will take your ships to certain locations and situations. The second part of this lecture will then reveal what happens on Days 4-7, and whether your ships are within range to be of any help to you when the trilithium hits the star.
Other notes: General Vargh is the Klingon commander of the starbase, and General Ren’Qo is the newcomer general who arrived in Question Three.
0400 hours: The Klingon transport Rokash, two days in transit from the BDS (H5) to the Lone Star garrison (B2) with a classified cargo, sends out a general, automated distress call, which cuts short. Then, on a Klingon frequency, you hear a brief coded burst, then the subspace noises associated with a core breach.
1100 hours: Your second-strongest starship engages in wargames with one of General Ren’Qo’s cruisers and one of his Birds-of-Prey as scheduled. The exercise takes place at the star system at (I3). Other Klingon ships, save for the usual ore transports from BDS to the Empire, are supposed to be at port (1 BoP + 1 K’t’inga at the Lone Star, 2 BoPs + 1 Vor’cha wherever you put the Klingon comm station).
1200 hours: A scheduled Starfleet supply run ought to enter comm range about now, at the vicinity of the star at (A10). It does not report in. You expected it to reach Ulia in about three days, with spares for your fourth-biggest ship which is currently warp-incapable and stranded at Ulia.
1400 hours: Your second-strongest starship reports a disastrous collision with the Klingon cruiser during high-speed impulse maneuvers. A drive failure has left them on unstable orbits, heading for the star. Evacuation will become necessary in twelve hours (one grid square of travel), and repair time estimates for your ship are gloomier than that. Your captain also estimates it will take the resources of a full starship to tow even one of the ships to safety within the time limit. Contact with the Klingon cruiser cannot be made. The BoP that was also supposed to be participating in the exercise under cloak does not respond, either. The tired voice of a low-ranking underling of General Vargh on the Klingon channel expects you to handle the emergency, as the Klingons have more pressing matters to attend to.
2100 hours: A Klingon mining operation with some UFP workers, desperate to reduce the intolerable workload imposed by a Klingon desire to mine out the location before the Romulans get to it, goes on strike at (I5). The loss of life and limb in mining accidents already exceeds even Klingon tolerance limits. General Vargh sends in a standard strikebreaker team in four assault shuttles. His Vor’cha is observed to power up, engage cloak and head for parts unknown.
2400 hours: Your distressed ship is forced to evacuate. Your supply ship still doesn’t report in. And the Klingon strikebreakers apparently have not succeeded, as Vargh is sending out a BoP, uncloaked, towards the rebelling mining rig. Your observers now get a peek at Vargh’s hangar bay, and the other BoP is missing as well. You weren’t informed of that departure.
0600 hours: The damaged Klingon cruiser and your starship impact the star and are consumed, provided you didn’t tow them to a safe trajectory. If you did, either ship should be good enough for warp tow now, but their own drive systems are still down. You have also located the debris cloud that was the Rokash. The ship seems to have suffered a core breach while at full stop at (E3). Vargh doesn’t answer the phone, and Ren’Qo denies any knowledge of the incident. He acts surprised when he hears your report on the wargames accident — he wasn’t even informed, he growls, before cutting the channel.
1000 hours: The Romulan warbird roosting at Dawson’s (E2) seems to be preparing to get underway. The Driians inquire about your recent activity, and say they already had to beef up their escorts of BDS ore transport runs in case there’s something dangerous out there. They declare a convoy of theirs is heading towards BDS, with nine Noynacs escorting six transports.
1800 hours: Vargh finally acknowledges you. He says that three of his mining rigs are rebelling, and that there are humans on all of them. He’d hate to kill them when he mows down the Klingon strikers, and in general he’d like to avoid killing valuable laborers. Perhaps you could personally come to (I5) and negotiate a peaceful outcome?
2000 hours: Your starship closest to the Lone Star garrison observes the warp signature of a single unknown smallish ship at (B4), moving towards the garrison at high warp, ETA 1 day. The ship then disappears from the sensors. At the same time, the human miners on strike send out a distress call, referring to a bloody assault by strikebreakers in which five Feds were killed.
0600 hours: Your Dawson contacts report the Romulan warbird sailed out during the night. Driian agitators down on the archaeological dig are stepping up their efforts now that the Romulan presence has weakened. Still, there are Romulan “advisors” all over the dig area, mostly welcomed by the Dawsonites. They arrest some of the agitators.
1000 hours: Your starship closest to (E5) observes the Driian convoy there. The Driians scan the vicinity aggressively, their weapons are hot, but they don’t deviate from their usual ore run course.
1200 hours: According to your nearest assets, a ship briefly decloaks at (E3), next to the wreckage of the transport, and fires into it half a dozen times, then swiftly recloaks. Not much more can be observed. News of a minor fight on Dawson’s reach you. Romulans offer to send in police forces.
1800 hours: There is a huge explosion at one of the three rebelling mining rigs, probably their main reactor blowing up. No survivors are expected from such a disaster.
Question Four, Part Two
Guest Lecture by Timo
At the end of day 3, Vargh is ready to talk shop with you. He assures you that his strikebreakers did not use excessive force the first time around: the human casualties must be due to some freak accident. He also vehemently denies that his forces caused the explosion of the other rig. He swears on the honor of his sword that he aims for a peaceful solution, and that spies and saboteurs are at work here to undermine him. He hesitates to name any names yet, though. As a gesture of trust, Vargh places his resident BoP under your command. The other ships are “on assignment”, supposedly trying to find out more about the saboteurs, whom Vargh considers to be a greater threat than the Driians at the moment. And no, the ship that fired on the wreckage wasn’t one of his.
Throughout the night, attempts are made to establish communications with the surviving two rebel rigs - in vain.
0200 hours: A battle ensues near the Lone Star garrison at (B2): Ren’Qo’s cruiser is making short work of an intruding vessel, a Driian scout with a sensor shield of some sort. Not good enough a shield, it seems.
0800 hours: The warp signatures of at least two Klingon ships are observed at (G2). Due to overtasking of their engines, their cloaks are leaking - enough for you to determine they are heading for the Lone Star Garrison. Vargh lets slip that he thinks Ren’Qo is escalating his forces for something big. But Ren’Qo’s House currently doesn’t have too many ships to escalate with: a further pair of K’t’ingas, perhaps, and some more BoPs.
0900 hours: Your missing transport finally makes contact from (A8), caught in a “Force of Nature” style subspace pothole. The ship is trying to get out at impulse speed, and will undoubtedly succeed in a week or two. The transport crew launched out a warp-speed distress beacon, but even that caused the rift to expand and destabilize alarmingly. You could try the LaForge maneuver: coast in with your nacelles saturated and beam out the crew and/or the crucial spares, then coast out. But it might take several passes, and even strand your rescue ship in there.
1200 hours: Your wargame-damaged vessel (supposing you rescued it in the first place) has now been repaired to a battleworthy condition by its crew, although warp is still a bit unreliable, giving you half the normal speed at best. You’d need the same spares that your ship at Ulia needs in order to restore full functionality.
1400 hours: First contact of sorts is made with the mining rig where the Feds were killed when one of Vargh’s agents escapes and reports in. Apparently, the strikers have erected transporter and comm jammers and mined the shuttlebays and other entrances, but are internally divided about the course of action. The agent also discovered and disarmed a doomsday machine connected to the main reactor, set to blow up if the rig was boarded. No Klingon of honor would do this as a barricading measure — Klingon warriors don’t hold anybody hostage, not even themselves. If they are cornered, they don’t threaten with suicide, they commit it, usually by charging into enemy fire. So this proves there is a foreign mole aboard, or so Vargh insists. His agent also claims the Feds aboard were killed by stray fire during the confused retreat of the first wave of strikebreakers - from back wounds.
2000 hours: Vargh’s Vor’cha decloaks at (E3) and begins exhaustive scanning of the wreckage of the Rokash. Coded messages fly between the ship and both Klingon strongholds. After a few hours, the ship abandons the site, turns back towards Vargh’s main base, and cloaks. Your codebreakers now say they have enough material to eventually decipher the messages. They can tell you at once that the message sent from the dying Rokash on Day 1 wasn’t on Vargh’s current code, though.
2300 hours: The Driian ore convoy reaches BDS and heads for the main Driian ore loading port there, at (H5). Unless you object by force, the transports will begin loading, and the Noynacs will deploy defensively. It looks innocent enough. Two Romulan scouts in the area make passes and sensor sweeps of the Driian expedition. They don’t bother your local assets.
In case you do resist, expect the Driians to try and fight their way in. They aren’t suicidal, though - if you start slaughtering them wholesale, the entire convoy will disperse and flee towards Driian space. But if you only attack with two ships or less, they will be sure to try and destroy you.
The ships heading for Lone Star pass Dawson’s Planet close enough for your local assets to sense there are four Klingon vessels under that cloak: two old cruisers and two smaller, better-cloaked ships, probably newish BoPs. ETA at Lone Star, roughly one day.
0100 hours: Assuming no other incidents have taken place, a Driian Noynac will now be nicked by a Klingon mine (of the exploding kind — that is, the kind that’s supposed to explode). The Driians vent their anger by taking potshots at Klingon buoys, then regroup to prepare for the Klingon response.
0300 hours: The Driians fire at some more buoys and maintain their defensive posture. Clearly, they wonder about the unusual Klingon restraint. They ignore you unless you actually fire at them.
0400 hours: The Driians are compelled to act: their transports abort loading and blast out from the asteroid field at somewhat reckless speed, escorted by two Noynacs only. The other seven form an attack squadron of typical Driian tradition and intrude deep into Klingon mining turf, shrugging off the occasional mine detonation and making it difficult for anything but a starship of Defiant or Intrepid agility to follow. Seeing that it’s futile to try and reach the Klingon main base, they instead surround the richest motherlode in the field, fire at the feeble sessile defences of the largest Klingon mining rig there, and then turn their guns at the habitat domes of the rig. These guys are not above taking hostages. They proceed with raiding the installation; their ships fight back while broadcasting an ultimatum “Back off or the miners bite it.”
At the same time, your assets near Driian border report the emergence of what looks like three light and two heavy cruisers at (C4). They all have the flickering half-cloaks of the earlier scouting ship, though, so it’s a bit difficult to get a reliable count. It seems obvious they are headed for Lone Star. Or Dawson’s. ETA at either would be 30-40 hours at known Driian speeds.
0421 hours: The looting of the mining rig is interrupted when a BoP decloaks, swoops past the base, drops shields for a moment and then tries to recloak. The Driians fire back, though, and the BoP is wounded. Another decloaks, slices up a Driian ship, drops shields and then cloaks, while the first one continues the fight. Driians start to withdraw. Depending on your response, they will have 3 to 6 surviving ships as they pull out of the asteroid field and head for Driian space. Vargh yells in frustration: his Vor’cha is still at (F4), heading for home, and its chances of intercepting the Driians are slim. He still won’t tell where his other BoP is, except that neither of those two was it. And speaking of those, the wounded BoP elects to blow up in battle (defending the mining base) rather than surrender either to you or to Vargh. It’s posthumously ID’d as the one that went AWOL from the wargames.
Alternately, if the Driians never made it this far, the two mysterious BoPs will try and raid the Klingon mining base on their own. As the first one drops shields, the miners fight back by redirecting their heavy drilling beam to cripple the BoP, which promptly explodes. The second one finishes the raid with a mercy shot at the big drill and a quick shield-dropping and recloaking, and flies away to parts unknown.
0500 hours: The Driians issue at least three different statements. Your base at Ulia receives an elaborate and pompous recording saying that superior Driian forces are about to evict Klingons from Drii-ûzak, a star that rightfully belongs to Driians and was not yet occupied by these vile wrinkleheads when the Driians in good faith agreed to the terms of a Federation presence. The fight is purely between Driia and the said scum, and the Feds are instructed to stand aside.
The Driian High Command also sends a curt message saying that the Starfleet counterreaction to recent Driian operations in the BDS was wholly inappropriate and may be avenged in kind in the near future.
Finally, the head of the Driian mob at Dawson’s enthusiastically declares that the days of the Federation there are over. He’s dragged away by Romulans in the middle of his speech, though.
0600 hours: The long dark teatime of the soul. Vargh confides in you over a goblet of his favorite tea (and when he offers some to you, it’s probably more an honest mistake than an assassination attempt). He thinks that somehow Ren’Qo has gotten wind of what Vargh’s engineers found out a few weeks before: several of the asteroid mines have turned up lodes of a mineral that has powerful fusion-fouling effects. Not quite trilithium in its potency, but still good enough to build poor man’s starkillers out of. And a starkiller is what Ren’Qo needs if he hopes to pull off his personal vendetta against the Driians. Vargh has been purifying the material in secrecy, but ten days ago, a quantity went missing. Too late, Vargh realized it had been placed aboard the Rokash, and sent out a BoP to intercept the transport. An agent of Ren’Qo’s must have been aboard, though, as the transport exploded right after being stopped for inspection. Neither the BoP nor the better equipped Vor’cha found any traces of starkiller dust in the wreckage. So Vargh still lacked proof.
Vargh isn’t sure Ren’Qo arranged for the mining strikes or sabotage, either — he is simply obsessed, not completely devoid of honor, as far as Vargh knows. And the raid of the mining base has given him more to think about. The raided rig had a goodly 4,500 kilograms of purified starkiller dust in store, enough to make two or three stars flare so intensely that their planets are completely sterilized. Now not only Ren’Qo’s forces (for those two raiding BoPs surely belonged to Ren’Qo) but the Driians as well may have their share of that material, which (Vargh curses) was guarded strongly enough to make it attractive for looting, but clearly not strongly enough to stop the said looting. And even a (Vargh spits) Driian might figure out how to use it, given enough time.
0700 hours: The Lone Star garrison reports that General Ren’Qo is currently unavailable for chit-chat, as a major battle may ensue and only a single Klingon cruiser is available for his defence. Vargh now reveals that his BoP which tried to inspect the Rokash is currently under cloak at Lone Star, sent there in hopes of ambushing Ren’Qo’s next shipment of starkiller dust. It might join the battle on the side of the Empire, as long as Ren’Qo is on that side as well.
1000 hours: The low-end ETA for the Driian force at Lone Star or Dawson’s.
2000 hours: The high-end ETA for the Driian force at Lone Star or Dawson’s. Also a likely low-end ETA for Ren’Qo’s reinforcements to reach him.
0800 hours: The morning briefing gives you news that in other circumstances might be considered good. Your codebreakers have Vargh’s code open for you if you wish. The miners have shut down their jammers and are dismantling their barricades, although they are still wary of what might follow. The Driian ore convoy has stalled at the near edge of (F5) when the engines of one of the transports have failed from the overdrive strain: the escorting Noynacs (whose number at the moment depends on your previous reactions) have fled, while the remaining transports try to tow their driveless sister and stubbornly resist any attempts at semi-bloodless boarding.
Then the bad news come in. Two more heavy cruisers or battlecruisers of Driian origin (apparently some sort of improved Konyac design — these are heavy enough for you to rename your Excelsiors the Whitney Houston-class) have been witnessed afoot. They have penetrated to (E5) under their pseudo-cloaks, perhaps trying to join the ships fleeing from the convoy, or the ones running away with their Klingon loot. The Driians seem to have launched them as a panic response to the unexpected developments at the BDS — the ships seem only half completed, perhaps amounting to one Excelsior in combined combat strength. Or then it’s a devious Driian plot.
You have received no news from the battle at Lone Star - unless you had a ship of your own present there, that is. If your starship was present, you will undoubtedly have witnessed a glorious fight where Vargh’s BoP decloaked to assist you and Ren’Qo’s lone cruiser valiantly defended the garrison. There can be two results: if the Driians have an advantage, they will commit all their forces to leveling the garrison, and will probably succeed but be destroyed themselves in the process. If the Driians are roughly matched or overwhelmed by your defences, they will concentrate on crippling as many of your ships (and those of the Klingons) as they can, and then head for Dawson’s, ignoring the garrison.
Although it seems unlikely that even victorious Driians would reach Dawson’s from Lone Star until, say, 2200 hours, the threat still hangs over that planet. And another semi-cloaked scoutship was briefly observed at (E9), perhaps paving way for an attack at Ulia.
1600 hours: You hear from the Fed miners at the rebelling rigs. Although nothing is official yet, it seems the strike is over. Vargh’s troops have arrested several Klingon miners; curiously, many of those were seemingly quiet and orderly workers, not agitators or obvious strike leaders. You can only hope Vargh is targeting the saboteurs and agents aboard and not just striking out at random.
Also, by this time you may have learned the hard way that the Driian ore transport distress was a trick. If your ship drops shields for transporter use too close to the convoy, the ore carrier under tow blows up on your face. Expect even a heavy ship to suffer some damage, and a light one to lose either weapons, shields or warp for a dozen hours at least. The rest of the transports again scatter and try to run for Driian space.
2000 hours: The two Konyacs first seen at (E5) have come to join the various Noynacs, which appear to be doubling back and converging at (F5). Together, these ships might cause problems even for a large number of your ships. Apparently, the Driians can improvise tactics like this on the run.
2300 hours: Unless you actively helped at Lone Star, this is when the remaining Driian fleet hits Dawson’s. The Klingons are in hot pursuit with one cruiser and two BoPs, but the two Noynacs and one Konyac are still in a condition to devastate the planet. Ren’Qo shouts revenge: his garrison has been bombarded, his two backup cruisers are crippled, and he himself is prepared to ram the Konyac when he catches up. Which will probably happen on low Dawsonian orbit, with the associated fireworks.
It also appears that Vargh’s BoP, positioned near the Lone Star garrison, has perished in the battle, because neither of the currently approaching BoPs displays Vargh’s colors. Stories of that battle will have to wait, though, as Ren’Qo is still very busy...
Predictions for Day 7
1000 hours: The low-end ETA for Ren’Qo’s BoP, assuming the ship is heading for the nearest Driian worlds. In theory, the starkiller dust could be transformed into a weapon even onboard that BoP.
2400 hours: The low-end ETA for Ren’Qo’s BoP, assuming the ship tries to reach Lone Star and is unaware that the garrison is gone. Or, if you prefer a less optimistic view of the universe, by this time the starkiller could also have reached Ulia.
Question Four, Part Three
Guest Lecture by Timo
0200 hours: As the Driian main fleet is now observed in the middle of (G4), it seems apparent that the BDS is their main target. The mining installations go to red alert, but they do not stand much of a chance against starship attacks. It’s up to you to handle the Driians.
At Dawson’s, Ren’Qo is chasing the remaining fleeing Noynac aboard his cruiser. The once-proud Konyac floats gutted on low orbit, raining small debris and making the locals go “Oooh! Aaah!” as the fireworks light up the Dawson sky. The Romulans have taken away all remaining Driians on the planet.
0400 hours: The initial Driian failure to devastate Dawson’s Planet seems to have put a spin to their plans. At (D4) you see the now-familiar flicker of half-cloaks: a horde of ships, apparently at least a dozen transports of some sort, is seen turning away from a Dawsonly course and heading towards (E5) instead. It seems this fleet is unescorted.
0800 hours: Your engineers have finished going through the wreckage of the Konyac at Dawson orbit, and have the specs of the sensor shield, a modification of their combat shields. It appears to be a curious mix of off-the-shelf Driian components and advanced know-how. What amazes your analysts is that the device was apparently built to malfunction — the telltale flicker could easily be avoided if not for a subcomponent that does nothing but disrupt the functioning from time to time.
No wonder the assault transports as (D4) lacked escort: the Driians must be running short of ships. Having learned so much of the signature of the Driian sensor shield, you now easily observe two Noynacs at (E8), and one more plus the earlier seen scout at (E9). Curiously, none of these three Noynacs seem to have exhibited any cloak flicker...
1300 hours: The Driian main fleet hits BDS defences. The smaller cruisers make use of the cover of the asteroids, while the big battlewagons concentrate their fire on your largest vessel, maintaining their distance from the asteroids and possible minefields.
Simultaneously, the three Noynacs and the scoutship move in on your ships at Ulia, ignoring the starbase entirely. You find that they have a reason to do so when the first volley from the starbase’s big type-11 arrays immediately loses focus. Collapsing nadion cascades burn out the emitter crystals. Internal fires erupt at the phaser installations. Your ships have to fight on their own for a while.
1330 hours: General Ren’Qo beams down to your base at Dawson’s, snarling that his cruiser’s life support is failing. He is angry about having been deceived of a glorious death when you defeated the Driian attack without a need for his sacrifice. He now sees no way to redeem his past dishonor against Vargh and the Empire. So this is endgame time. Ren’Qo admits to planning genocide against the Driians, by flare-bombing the star system at (B5/B6) border where he says Driian shipyards are churning out new light and medium cruisers for the despicable enemy. The general also reveals that he uncovered several Romulan agents in Vargh’s forces a long time ago. When arriving at Sector Beta, he stooped to purchasing their services when he needed to create a diversion at the BDS. A secret recording of this dishonorable transaction is (at least partial) proof that Romulan agents blew up the Klingon mining rig. Ren’Qo hands over a list of the remaining agents to your officers, then finishes spilling his guts - with his mek’leth.
Among the names are some of Vargh’s closest assistants in the BDS mining project. More to your interest are the human names, including two key people in charge of Ulian defences!
1500 hours: If the battle at BDS looks hopeless for your forces, be happy that it is now over. If only one of your major ships remains intact, the Romulans will make their move, certain of not leaving witnesses. There isn’t much you can do against a warbird, nor will the Klingon main base stand against a simultaneous attack by four scouts decloaking at point-blank range now that the starship defences are engaged elsewhere. Their dominance of the region is now unchallenged — the seemingly victorious Driians will find the shields of their ships malfunctioning at a most inopportune moment and will fall prey to the warbird.
However, if your forces appear victorious, the cowardly Romulan veruul will simply slither away. Too bad that their warbird hits a Klingon mine on the way out, revealing its presence to you... Can you know whether they know that you know? Do you avoid confronting this vessel for now, or do you grasp the opportunity?
1800 hours: A battle erupts at (C4), as feeble Driian forces (two low-warp corvettes) engage an invisible opponent. A BoP briefly decloaks and devastates the corvettes; if you had a ship in the vicinity, you now have a fix on the Klingon ship’s position. A single Driian warship, between Noynac and Konyac in size, blasts out from the star system at the (B5/B6) border towards the Klingons. Again, this vessel appears only partially completed — it seems more and more likely that the Driians have neglected defence when going for their ambitious two- or three-front offensive.
At the same time, a Driian agitator wanders into Dawson City Hall, bloodied and exhausted. She rants about treason and betrayal and says that her superiors must be mad to persist with the attacks now that Romulan support has been withdrawn. Romulan police forces move into the city, saying they are looking for an escaped criminal, but Dawsonites lock the doors of the City Hall. A rather one-sided firefight ensues, but the Mayor has called for help, from you and the Klingons.
1900 hours: The convoy of assault transports is now observed at (E6), clearly heading for Ulia. If any Driians escaped from your forces or the Romulan ambush at BDS, they will also head for Ulia now — but broadcasting messages of friendship and truce. Even if you choose to believe them, you don’t know if the assault transports will. The surviving Noynacs at Ulia certainly will not, and will continue to pound on your defences.
2000 hours: Now or never: the Klingons will flare-bomb the Driian star at this time, unless either you or the Driians can prevent it. The Romulans still vehemently deny all accusations (regardless of what happened at the BDS — after all, if they killed your ships, you have no proof, and if they didn’t, no harm was done), but the Driian informant tells that the Romulans gave Driians the blueprints for the sensor shields and promised covert aid for the offensive. Apparently, they made sure that no clear winner would emerge...
The war is probably not over yet, but true to its Blitzkrieg nature, the major forces have been burned out. Do you allow the Driians to finish whatever they are building, or do you strike back when you can?
Due to the unconventional nature of Q4, Admirals can skip over it if they so desire. If you choose to do so, assume the following has happened:
Two weeks have passed.
The Romulans have destroyed the Driian base on Dawson’s planet, using the two Warbirds that had been cloaked untill now. Jed’s farm and the whole archeological site are now one big crater, and the skies above are littered with the remains of four Noynac-class ships. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the deaths of Jed and a couple hundred Dawsonites, which the Romulans have classified as “acceptable losses” — which naturally isn’t acceptable to the Dawsonites, who promptly tell the Romulans to shove off.
The Driians attack the BDS, destroying your largest ship stationed there (or near there). They are using hit-and-run strategies, but attack with no more than three Noynacs at a time — there’s no way of knowing how many ships are actually in the sector. There may also be a base there.
Mining in the BDS has come to a standstill. Most of the commercial miners, wary of the conflict (internally and otherwise) have decided to take off, heading Eastward for Klingon space and then out.
The Klingon outpost “south” of Driian territory is destroyed, but the Klingon ships there managed to destroy the Konyac-class battleship that did it. The Konyac was apparently using a modified form of the old Romulan plasma weapon from way back. Oh, and Ren’Qo’s forces have been beefed up per Timo’s specs (two more each of K’tinga and B’rel) but they’re all cloaked now, whereabouts unknown.
Some sort of massive subsapce field has been thrown up around each of the Driian worlds, prohibiting any spy devices working or monitoring fleet movements there. Oddly though, while Noynacs have been seen on patrol, none are in great numbers. No Konyacs have been seen either, and it hasn’t been confirmed that the Driians have built any more than the one already seen.
The Driians have not communicated with anyone for weeks.
Feel free to incorporate elements of Timo’s addition as you see fit — however, establish any assumptions before doing so.
Any reinforcements that were requisitioned in Q3 were approved, however only half of them were available. They’re here now, but anything else will arrive in time for Q6 — Starfleet is sending in a Tactical Wing of about fifteen starships under Admiral Royce for an assault on the Driian Empire.
Starfleet has ordered a consolidation of forces until the Tac Wing gets there. Your priorities will be to safeguard Ulia and any fleeing allied transports. Rearrange your fleet accordingly.
General Vargh’s forces are to safeguard the BDS, per an order from the High Command. He assures everyone that he’ll be able to do so. Is he correct?
The Romulans refuse to shove off. Instead, they evacuate the BDS and consolidate their own forces in the Dawson system, centered around their military base in an unpopulated region of the planet. They leave the Dawsonites alone, and for all intents and purposes aside from the lights in the sky the Dawsonites can’t even know they’re there.
The Romulans make it clear they will not tolerate any Driians coming into Dawson space. The Dawsonites acknowledge that the Federation and Klingons will have other things to worry about right now, but publically declare their intentions afterwards to become a Federation protectorate or something afterwards. What will you do in response to this?
The Romulans however, still claim their stake in the BDS, and have left behind a number of specialized cloaked mines there. At their command, should anyone violate their space to the point that they won’t be able to come back, the mines will be detonated. This will not destroy their stake; rather, it will irradiate an unspecified area of the whole place with enough radiation to make the raw materials there useless to mine. Vargh is furious at this, and asks that you get your miracle workers to find a solution to this — but not necessarily to use it.
A battle is detected just outside the subspace jammers in Driian space. Shortly thereafter, General Ren’Qo brodcasts a general message to anyone willing to listen, declaring victory over the forces of one of the planets, and vengeance for his earlier defeat. This is followed a couple hours later by a general distress call from several of Ren’Qo’s ships (but not Ren’Qo himself), asking for immediate assistance against sudden enemy reinforcements. Silence is heard thereafter. What is your response? What do you think Vargh would do, contrary to what he’ll likely do?
Your forces in closest proximity to Ulia detect subspace distortions matching old Romulan cloaking devices. However, your fleet still cannot penetrate the cloak, as the sources emitting them are far smaller than usual. As your fleet approaches several of the distortions, they suddenly decloak. They are six unmanned ships — essentially an old Romulan plasma weapon strapped to a pair of nacelles, which fire upon your ships.
Two of your least maneuverable ships (you choose which ones) are fired upon point blank and are destroyed. Everyone else manages to dodge the attack, but then it’s revealed that the ships were merely “in the way” — the target is the planet behind them. The plasma overloads the orbital defenses and strike the planet, causing heavy damage, and thousands of casualties. Your forces easily dispatch the unmanned ships, but the damage is done. What will your immediate priorities be?
Three Konyacs and seven Noynacs are detected leaving Driian space, heading for Ulia. If you chose to write up a defensive scenario in the earlier question, enact it now. If you did not, take one of the others’ scenarios and use it as your own. What forces do you lose? What forces would they lose? Assume that the Tactical Wing will arrive some time after the Driians fight their way to the planet. I’ll post what forces the Driians really have left by the time they get there.
The Romulans cloak their ships. Are you too busy to worry about that? What about the Klingons?
Hopefully this will help get people back on track. Please point out the inconsistencies, as I’m sure I’ve missed a few. We’ll fill in the rest from there — have at it!
This, gentlemen, is it. It will happen now, it will hit the fan, and you’ll be telling your grandkids about it once it is over. Starfleet has asked you to mount an assault on Driian space, using your remaining forces and Admiral Royce’s tactical wing. But first, to bring you up to speed; comment as necessary.
You’ve taken care of the Driian assault force — assume that your forces managed to kill them all off per your plan. Losses: your two smallest/least powerful ships in the defensive fleet, plus significant damage to your largest ship — she can still fight, but at about half her strength. Surprisingly, you discover that despite the apparent power of the Driian ships, they were not able to use them effectively. Scans of the wreck reveal that they were seriously undermanned and were thus not able to fight effectively. Strategic Ops surmises that this may be due to a lack of veterans following the previous war.
Meanwhile, the Ulians are starting to rebuild. The local government does not blame Starfleet for the disaster, and in fact support the coming offensive action. However, they cannot offer any civilian help or support. Starfleet is dispatching additional relief and medical ships, but no further immediate reinforcements — they’re all on their way already.
A single, heavily-damaged Bird of Prey emerges from the Driian jamming zone. Immediately, Ren’Qo’s daughter broadcasts on all frequencies that Vargh has betrayed everyone, starting with Ren’Qo’s forces. Citing various Klingon customs, she challenges Vargh to single combat, and that her supporters in the BDS hold him until she can get there. She’s intent on killing him, and seems confident in the ability to do so. Another officer on the BoP will be filling in the reasons behind all this.
The Driian jamming system goes down, allowing your sensor network to get a look to find out what’s going on (refer to the map above). What is seen is several Romulan ships occupying the Drii-Grak system, and significant damage done in the Drii-Oban system. The Klingon officer reports that their fleet had attacked the two satellite systems around Driia Prime simultaneously, and had taken the Drii-Grak system (the smallest system of the three) with the help of sudden Romulan reinforcements. However, they had discovered a much larger force than they’d anticipated at Drii-Oban, and were defeated there. However, the combined forces managed to take a significant part of the mobile Driian fleet out with them. A large number of damaged Driian ships are being repaired in the drydocks.
The Romulans had been running an independent investigation since they knew they may be implicated by the cloaking devices. They found out via their own means that it was Vargh who’d been in secret cahoots with the Driians, and had given them the plans for the old Romulan cloaks and plasma weapons. He wanted to use them to implicate any of the three major powers, as all three had access to that older technology; it was also Vargh that had goaded the Drians in to attcking when they had the ships, but not necessarily the manpower to attack Ulia. The remaining Klingons from Ren’Qo’s fleet have confirmed this.
The remainder of the sector is rather quiet — word has spread of the approaching Starfleet ships, and everyone seems to be lying low.
Rear Admiral Roland Royce has arrived aboard the USS Hawke, and declares that he’s ready to kick Driian tail. Royce is an experienced combat veteran, having spent the Dominion War commanding this tactical wing, and through actions as far back as the Cardassian Wars. His ships have been with him for several years now, and function well together. However, Starfleet did not specify who should be in charge. How will you solve the command dilemma, since you are in command of the sector, but he has superior combat experience? You technically have the same rank, though he did receive his promotion first. You many choose to ignore the Janeway rule that the tactically-superior ship has anything to do with it, if you wish.
Plan the assault on Driian space.
What are the objectives in attacking Driian space? Are there secondary objectives? How long do you anticipate your operation to take? Bonus points for those who derive a rough timeline of anticipated events.
How will you divide up your forces,or will you launch a single assault? Assume that the Drii-Grak system is stable and that the Romulans will not help. What will be your basic plan of attack? Justify your answers.
The key to the plan lies not in how you will conquer the territory, but in how far you believe you should go. Devise a fallback plan should your primary objective(s) fail. What’s the minimum acceptable success?
Given your remaining assets and predicted outcome of the assault, recommend to Starfleet what they should send after you’re done. Whatever they send won’t arrive for at least a month, as you’re already draining their resources for starships. Also recommend to the Klingons what they should do.
Okay, everything’s ready. Your forces are about to drop out of warp at their first target(s). Weapons are hot, and there are red lights flashing everywhere. All the fleet needs are motivational words from their Admiral before they go into battle. A short speech, evocative of the finest commanders in Starfleet, must be uttered to ensure victory. The bosun’s whistle sounds, and you confidently say to all hands...
The Driian orbital platforms are not terribly advanced, being based on older Driian technology. Each has one phaser or one torpedo launcher, a range of less than a hundred thousand kilometers, and minimal shielding. However, they do have the ability to “lend” shielding power to each other to withstand heavier attacks, meaning that they must be engaged in numbers and not picked off one by one. They are deployed in orbits greater than fifty thousand kilometers, meaning that you will have to get by them if you want to beam down.
As predicted though, the defense stations have superior weapons and shielding. You can assume their range is about one AU of the innermost planet of the given system. However, the stations cannot move; the maps above show them to be where they are in orbit at that time.
The ships in the Drii-Oban shipyards under repair are not combat-worthy. The numbers on the maps represent the combat-ready ships.
The populations of the inhabited planets are distributed roughly like you’d find here; that is, large cities with concentrated populations, with large spans of sparsely-populated land.
Vyrsac-class ships are older sublight ships analogous to big warpless runabouts. And like runabouts or fighters, they aren’t too much of a threat except in numbers. However, they do have the firepower of a couple runabouts and similar maneuverabilities.
Objectively critique one of the other attack plans from question 6, part 2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the plan? What suggestions for improvement would you recommend?
Assume that the Driian campaign succeeds, with the loss of no more than 40% of your fleet (the actual numbers lost aren’t terribly relevant at this point). The Federation is shipping a peacekeeping force and a variety of facilitators to monitor Driian activities — consider this a similar situation to the United Nations occupation and monitoring of Iraq following the Gulf War.
The new Federation Ambassador being assigned to the Sector has asked you to consult on the occupation of Driian space. The Federation does not want to commit too many resources here after the assault; Admiral Royce’s tac wing will be leaving. The current plan calls for the Driian governmental system to remain relatively intact for the foreseeable future while the Federation presence becomes gradually introduced to the xenophobic Driians. The leaders of the current government will be removed and extradited to Ulia for trial. A number of Federation/Ulian inspection groups with carte-blanche authority to monitor any Driian activity will be formed, plus a token Starfleet garrison of several hundred in the capital city of each Driian world.
Would you consider this an acceptable plan? What minimum Starfleet presence would you recommend for the garrison given what the Driians have left following your assault, and that the Federation does not want to commit too much here? What other points should the Federation consider in the occupation and monitoring?
War crimes trials will also take place on Ulia, with security provided by Starfleet. Odds are that at least several hundred Driian officers and soldiers will face imprisonment. However, a problem arises when the Klingons demand to remove prisoners also guilty of war crimes against the Empire to their prisons, facing certain death, while the Ulian government instead insists on keeping them on Ulia against future prosecution. Suggestions?
The Romulans and the Klingons are also interested in monitoring the Driians and offer participation, though obviously given Starfleet’s largest role in the attack grants the Federation primary jurisdiction. What kind of joint operation would you recommend, if any? What do you think they are entitled to do given their role in the assault, and what should they be willing to do in order to get more responsibility?
Time to pick up the pieces. Comment on the following, and what should or shouldn’t be done.
Sa’ral doesn’t get her chance to kill Vargh and avenge her father — Vargh jumps the gun and commits ritual suicide, saving what little honor he has in the books for his children. Sa’ral’s husband takes over the house of Ren’Qo, and both of them head for Qo’noS to petition Martok to take over Vargh’s house too. They leave behind the outpost, whatever ships both houses have left, an inexperienced paper pusher in charge, and no real power structure except for what the High Command tells them.
The people on Dawson’s Planet kick out the Romulans for essentially abandoning them during the attack, and apply to be a Federation protectorate. The Romulans return to their old digs in the BDS, but a remnant faction of Driians sets off the mines in the Romulan-claimed territory, rendering a sizeable chunk of the BDS unsuitable for mining. This pisses off a lot of miners, as now the remaining space will need to be regulated by someone — there’s no longer more than enough for all people interested.
There’s an awful lot of wreckage and such left after the fighting, and salvage business is bringing lots of non-Federation types into the sector to pick through the leftovers. No truly sensitive Federation asset are known to be missing, but bits of other races’ technology may be floating out there for the picking. Salvagers include the Humans, Yridians, and Ferengi.
What other loose ends are there to worry about? Anything specific to your replies?
Once again, it’s time to move on — Starfleet commends your job here, and promptly orders you to pack up your office and take off. The incoming Rear Admiral will need a briefing however before he continues your work, and that is your final official duty. As with Sector Alpha, read over your responses to all the previous questions. Define what Starfleet’s priorities should be in this sector, and your recommendations to your replacement as to what he should concentrate on. Also recommend a reasonable set of additional ships to complement your remaining fleet to that end.
Choose one of the remaining ships in your fleet (probably your personal ship), as long as it’s not your largest remaining ship. You’ll be riding it to Sector Gamma, and at your discretion will be incorporated into your fleet there. Alternatively, a Centaur-class starship will pick you up and ferry you there.
Whew! This was a doozy, wasn’t it? Started in November, we finally see the conclusion to this interesting and occasionally entertaining scenario. What surprises lie ahead? Will there be more interesting challenges? Will Mark actually post with regularity? Find out soon, in Sector Gamma!