Part 72: Turn 298TURN 298
For as long as we can remember, the Federation-Cardassian-Romulan axis has attempted to get us to war against the Ferengi, while the Ferengi has demanded we war against everyone else. We have made our decision, and it's not to join the Ferengi. We have exploited the stalemate for the longest time. We were able to catch up technologically with the other empires, and we were able to build an impressive fleet. Now we are a true power on the galactic scale, and capable of conducting war.
At the Ferengi base of Deinonychus, there are currently 77 ships, but this number varies widely. At the peak, they have had nearly 100 ships parked there.
This is the fleet we will go to war with: 25 upgraded Birds of Prey. These upgraded Birds would have taken much longer to build, but because they were built prior to the tech acquisition, they are upgraded immediately. This is a huge advantage. We will continue to build Scouts and eventually Troop Transports. Our income is declining with each turn, and we need to expand our empire to keep up with the rising costs.
Having invented the upgraded Bird of Prey, our scientist informs us what he needs to invent the final ship, the Attack Cruiser II. It's too much. We would need around 10 or so new breakthroughs, including 3 level 10 techs. All this for a ship that cannot cloak, cannot travel in the medium-range, and cannot travel 3 sectors per second. Moreover, we would have to build Attack Cruisers, which take longer to build and are more expensive to maintain.
Our long-suffering scientist is given a gold bat'leth and told his services are no longer needed. All across the empire, we de-power, de-resource, and scrap scientific structures. Some labs are kept around as "buffer structures." It is hoped that when the next disaster hits, worthless labs will explode instead of vital structures.
The populations shifted away from the labs can be put to use elsewhere. In Qo'nos, we can build ships once more.
After bulldozing all of the scientist's labs and equipment, somehow 300 points of scientific power are still left. He must have squirreled away resources somewhere. But we're too busy to track them down.
TURN 299. The Romulans have cloaked 6 Battle Cruisers and sent them to the Ferengi border. Based on their last raid, the Romulans will probably run away.
Our friendship treaty with the Ferengi is hundreds of turns old. It has come to an end. We will not yet declare war, however. Until war is declared, neither side can invade or bomb. We want to blow up their fleet before we move in for the kill. If the Ferengi wish to unload their Troop Transports on Shelia, we'll get a turn's worth of warning.
TURN 300. Before the Ferengi get the news, they sent us an exorbitant demand for 16,000 credits. We have always ignored demands rather than rejecting them. But now Chancellor Gowron is happy to reveal his true feelings.
The Romulans stirred up the nest before running away. The Ferengi have scattered their fleet around. One of our Scouts crosses the border southwest of Deinonychus to see what else is in the Ferengi empire. We have occasionally watched the Marauders disappear back there.
The training of the Birds of Prey ends now. They will move 2 sectors south of Deinonychus to see if they can catch a piece of that fleet. The upgraded Birds can travel 3 sectors in one turn, giving them a lot of freedom of movement.
TURN 301. Our fleet catches nothing. All of the Ferengi in the area went back to Deinonychus, forming an 88-ship fleet. Our commanders are impatient. Our costs are now exceeding our income empire-wide. We must divide and defeat the Ferengi fleet and then invade their systems if we are to avoid bankruptcy.
Our Scout to the southwest spots a fleet of 16 Ferengi warships south of an Outpost on Bynaus. So the Ferengi do have even more ships elsewhere.
We want to force the Ferengi to fight us--just as long as they're not in that one big fleet. Our Birds will strike the Outpost on Bynaus, since engaging an Outpost guarantees combat.
TURN 302. All Ferengi ships on Bynaus fled the Outpost before we arrived. The people are happy to hear that we killed an Outpost, but they crave meatier prey.
The Ferengi fleet sits on Deinonychus, just staring at Shelia. If they wanted, they could attack our territory, but they're not. We always assumed the Ferengi would move much or all of their force to Shelia, take some losses, bomb Shelia, get shredded by the Orbital Batteries, and then get counter-attacked by our Birds. The one thing we don't want them to do is keep all of their fleet together, but that's precisely what they're doing.
We can harvest Outposts for morale, so we'll move our Birds north to land on the Ferengi homeworld. Every empire puts at least an Outpost on its homeworld, and usually keeps a sizable fleet there, too.
We thought attacking the Ferengi would win us friends among the Ferengi's enemies, but apparently not.
TURN 303. We learn some incredible news from Cardassia: Gul Damar has lost favor with the Central Command. He is accused of being soft. And a drunk. Cardassia has fallen to the status of a second-rate power. The Klingons are capable of attacking the Ferengi, while the Cardassians rot on defense. Out of nowhere, the disgraced Dukat shows up. Denouncing Damar for making peace with the Klingons, Dukat wins favor among the Central Command.
The Ferengi are in denial about what is happening. Well aware that we are the closest thing to friends they have in the galaxy, they seek to smooth things over. They overestimate a Klingon's aversion to war.
The commanders of our Birds of Prey are flummoxed. There was no Outpost on Ferenginar. There was nothing. And there don't appear to be any Outposts on other core systems, either. They've never seen an empire so willing to leave its core defenseless. Everything has been put on Deinonychus. Our finances worsen as time goes by. We're losing over 100 credits per turn.
Our fleet will move next door to Deinonychus, in the hopes that at least a piece of the fleet will break off.
TURN 304. They do manage to catch some ships, but it's just a handful of light raiders.
Still, something is better than nothing.
Every assumption we had about the way the Ferengi would conduct themselves has turned out to be false, and in a bad way. Not only are they refusing to fall back to defend their core systems, they're only gathering more ships into their giant fleet, which reaches triple digits. We must find some way of breaking them up.