First Sathar War

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by Mark Singleton

Great War Strategies, Real or Imagined?
By Dr Helgan Kalzid

Years ago the species known to us as the Sathar, came seemingly from nowhere to plunge the Frontier into a war of epic proportions. Or did they? This examination will follow the three phases of the war, the initial surprise, the continued attack and the "retreat", I will then offer my comments and then conclude with a summation. I do warn, that some of the material presented may challenge what you hold as inescapable truth, but the victor, always writes the truth.

The system of Zebulon had just been established as being close enough to travel to and thus was given a name, but it took decades for any Frontiersman to attempt it (in fact we are just getting to it now). Just as we were getting comfortable with our surroundings and general life in the Frontier, another species made it's presence known. We call them Sathar, what they call themselves we don't know but we do know they took offense to our presence. Without warning, ships appeared just off of Pale and moved in to attack anything and everything in sight. If it were not for the fact that two freighters belonging to the Pan-Galactic Corporation had already completed calculations and were powering up, no one would have escaped. Several shuttles were able to dock with them and these few represent all that escaped, but not all that survived.

Planet-side, most of the citizens fled to the surrounding area when news of the attack first reached them. The exploding ships could now be seen in the sky and the debris streaked down like fiery rain. These survivors would unknowingly be the only force at the end of the war to rid the captured planets of the vile creatures.

With Pale taken care of, the Sathar Fleet (SF) deposited a small contingent of troops on the surface and moved on to New Pale. With virtually nothing there to slow them down, they again placed some troops on the surface and moved on to their next target. This 'surprise' phase was accomplished in under a day, several freighters, system ships and shuttles were destroyed (exact number unknown) and many lives were lost. Warning went out to Dixon's Star as soon as the hostility of the Sathar fleet was determined in an effort to keep ships away from the system. One ship was in transit but arrived after the SF had moved on and was able to provide some assistance in recovering trapped personnel from dead and dying ships.

With warning sent and received, the people of the Frontier banded together to form a fleet of what combat ready ships could be gathered as quickly as possible. As every person in the Frontier knows, command was given to a Human, Vincent Morgaine. Now we have a fleet and an 'Admiral', so what now? With some quick glances at the current star chart, Morgaine made the determination that there were two courses of action available. First option, the SF moves on to Dixon's Star, which is 5ly from Truane's Star, meaning that it takes 50 hrs for calculations and 5 days of travel, so hypothetically he has 7.5 days before they would emerge in the system. The second possibility is that the Sathar travel to Cassidine, which is also 5ly from Truane's Star, so the bottom line is that in 7.5 days the SF could be at their next target. Prenglar is 7ly from Cassidine and 5ly from Dixon's Star, time to target is 10.5 days for Cassidine and 7.5 days to Dixon's Star. So the variables to consider are how long will the SF stay in the Truane's Star system, how fast can they calculate jump data and how fast are their ships? A lot of variables, especially when you consider that it could take up to 10.5 days to correct a mistake in logic.

The fleet moved out for Cassidine (this was hotly contested as being the wrong choice, but Morgaine is rumoured to have stated that the Sathar did not have our star charts and thus did not know where they could and could not go), one ship was also dispatched to Dixon's Star to act as an outpost (OP) in the event that the SF chose it as a target instead. Of note here, with out knowing what the composition or capabilities of the SF were, Morgaine only took half of his available fleet and hoped that additional ships could meet him in Cassidine from Dramune or Madderly's Star. This was a compromise largely due to the fact that if the wrong system was chosen, they would not have enough time to get back to Prenglar which would result in Morgaine being totally out of position and begin playing a loosing game of catch up. The Frontier Fleet (FF) reached Cassidine and no SF was in sight, mildly concerned Morgaine called his outpost in Dixon's Star, they signal back that they are in location, but no Sathar. Assessing the battle area, Morgaine decided to use the asteroid belt on the edge of the system towards Truane's Star in order to see if he could conceal the fleet from the SF and strike the rear. Keep in mind that Morgaine's command ship was a "heavy" cruiser and one of the few ships made for battle.

When the SF entered the system Morgaine was proven correct in his gamble, but why did it take them so long to get there? Morgaine almost expected to emerge into a battle and instead he was waiting for them, do they have slower engines or astrogation computers? Putting that aside, he waited for his chance to strike the weaker (hypothetically) end of the SF. This gave the FF the first chance to see the ships of the enemy and they quickly determined that these are battle craft, designed to fight and that they outgun anything the FF has. This is not the best situation to be in, since they also outnumbered the FF by a fair margin. Approximately one third of the SF was destroyed in less than an hour, the Sathar suddenly jumped out of system in the same direction they came. Losses to Morgaine's fleet were relatively minor, but now there was concern. FF ships dump data on a jump and have to recalculate, but it seems that the SF data might be saved and valid for a quick return trip, or is there something else at work here? Did they plan an escape route back before jumping in? This battle added more questions instead of answering them.

The next move was easy to make, taking the FF plus the few additions that joined it in Cassidine, Morgaine returned to Prenglar. The OP reports (while Morgaine is in FTL travel) that the SF is in system and striking anything and everything that did not already flee. The OP went silent in mid-transmission and the waiting game began. Reforming his fleet and adding some new arrivals, the fleet was almost back to full strength (approximately 7/8 by estimation) and again choice of the engagement area was his, open space. Days later, the SF emerged in the Prenglar system and the two near equal fleets moved in for the final battle.

This battle lasted hours and saw the near total destruction of both fleets. The remaining jump capable SF ships are reported as "scattering in all directions". Attempts to recover the crippled Sathar ships resulted in self-destruction of them and the boarding vessel, a much more common event than we have been lead to believe. The remainder were then destroyed in place without further attempts to capture. In this battle, Morgaine and his command ship were lost with all hands and the war was over. Or was it?

We have covered the "known" facts of the Great War, but what of the unknown? Above, a few questions should be sitting in the back of your mind, and I can assure you that you will discover a few more in this next portion. We know nothing about the Sathar, so we only have what we have observed as a basis to create fact. First, let us deal with the facts then we will move into the other "facts".

FTL travel is taken as 1 day per light year travelled. This is a constant to us now and has been a constant since all four of our species took to the stars. Calculations take 10 hours per light year to be travelled, we can do them faster at a risk of misjump but in military operations, you want to hit what you are aiming at. So if we return to the invasion and take the time spent on the attack of Truane's Star as one hour for one hour with the planning and raising of the FF, the SF could have been in either Cassidine or Dixon's Star after 50 hours of calculations and 5 days travel totalling 7.5 days. With the fleet in Prenglar, quick calculations would put the fleet in Dixon's Star in 7.5 days or Cassidine in 10.5 days. These are all facts, so why move the fleet to Cassidine and potentially arrive 3 days after the Sathar, instead of moving to Dixon's Star and into a possible meeting engagement? Not the best option, but when trying to stop an invasion, it is usually best to get somewhere before the enemy. Keep this in your mind and read on.

Using our own star charts as a reference, if we moved the FF to Cassidine and the SF moved to Dixon's Star, they would be in Prenglar before the FF could return. Potentially the Sathar could gain two systems and be enroute to a third before we knew what was going on. There is one possible fact to insert here and that is that the Sathar came from beyond the Zebulon system, so they have knowledge of other systems and routes. This leads one to think that the choice of Cassidine over Dixon's Star as a target was made as simply as how one would determine which shoe to put on first in the morning. This leads to a very frightening realization in the way the war was waged and won. It also raises the potential that the Sathar knew it was not a "known" route, this would lead to the possibilities that either they had spies already in place or that they had scouted it out prior to the invasion. Also keep this in the back of you mind and read on.

The next fact we have is that the Sathar made Cassidine the second target system and played into the huge gamble that Morgaine made. Further to that, they bypassed the asteroid field and homed in on the habited planet. Was this because they were focussed on the planet, or was it that they had reason to believe that the FF would move to Dixon's Star? The attack on the rear of the SF fleet was swift and decisive, so much so that the Sathar left the system in short order. So this brings us to the next odd realization, the Sathar can either calculate jumps in under an hour, or they have computers that can save a return trajectory, or they arrived after Morgaine because they plotted an exit vector before departing Truane's Star. The third option would change the time of travel to Cassidine from 7.5 days, to 10 days. This may begin to explain the way the FF was able to arrive first, despite the longer distance to travel. Maybe add a day to the calculations to account for the fact that they were functioning based on calculated data and not observed information and you would get the FF arriving first. This "fact" leads you to the conclusion that the Sathar can store two sets of data in an astrogation computer, this is a very interesting and frightening conclusion. The dangers of these assumptions are that we are making the data fit our observations and extrapolations, very dangerous if one wants to draw accurate conclusions.

It certainly adds some interesting possibilities to the pile of "facts". It is generally accepted that the Sathar returned to Truane's Star and moved on to Dixon's Star. I say "generally accepted" since there were no ships in the Truane's Star system to observe this occurrence. This trip would have taken 5 days travel, then 50 hours of calculations and 5 more days of travel. Potentially add another 50 hours plus 1 day if they plotted an escape vector back for each move. The FF returned to Prenglar taking 10.5 days in travel time to do so. Morgaine received word from the OP in Dixon's Star (while enroute to Prenglar) that the SF was attacking there and devastating the area, taking no prisoners and then the OP went silent. So the SF was on time for a direct move from Truane's Star with no time taken for reverse calculations (or whatever they were doing), maybe. So if the SF was in Dixon's Star at approximately 12.5 days after leaving Cassidine, that would mean that Morgaine's fleet would had been out of FTL and in Prenglar for 2 days, or were they? How could he have received this information enroute to Prenglar if he left immediately after the battle?

We know that the FF tried to board several disabled Sathar vessels and that all attempts were met with destruction of both ships. We also know that attempts were made to recover Frontier personnel and that after seeing the SF up close and having experienced it's capabilities, Morgaine waited for reinforcements. This may be where the realization of Morgaine's plan to stay in Cassidine first appears. Hypothesising that the Sathar would take at least 12.5 days to get to Prenglar from Cassidine (if they travelled to Dixon's Star, up to 20 days if they went back to Truane's Star first) and he knew that he could get back to Prenglar in less than that, he used as much time as he could to allow ships enroute from Dramune and Madderly's Star to join the fleet. This estimated time buffer would be longer if he could be guaranteed that they always plotted an exit route before moving to a new system. Unfortunately, at this point it has only happened once and is not yet a pattern. Having used up all of his estimated time, Morgaine moved the now reinforced FF to Prenglar to meet the SF in what he now calculated to be better odds, but still on the disadvantaged side (not many ships made the effort).

Ships from the Timeon, Athor and Gruna Garu systems were dispatched (or at least asked to go) to Prenglar as soon as the decision to form a fleet was made and so when Morgaine emerged, he had a fleet with firepower on par with the SF. Things were looking up. The Sathar emerged 21 days after departing Cassidine, and 8.5 after contact with the OP in Dixon's Star was lost. The fiercest fight anyone had ever seen was about to begin and it would rage on for hours. After all was said and done, the SF as an effective fighting force was destroyed, but so was the FF. There were some surviving FTL capable Sathar ships that "scattered in all directions", as one of the more reliable sources states.

This raises another interesting question on the established facts. We know the Sathar were not moving as "fast" as we were, unfortunately not one astrogation computer was successfully salvaged from a ship to show us if this was because of slow calculation ability or that they were plotting return flights as well. What is of note, is that the Sathar took almost exactly the correct time for a route from Cassidine to Prenglar via Truane's Star in a series of one way plots and jumps, so this could support the 'return trajectory calculation' hypothesis for the delayed appearance in Cassidine. The technology of the engines seemed to be equal to our own, but again not one intact engine or drive system was ever recovered. But if the retreating Sathar ships went "in all directions", where did they go and how did they get there?

There is nothing in the records (such that they are) to suggest that the Frontier ships pursued the fleeing Sathar, so it is possible that they simply travelled to a spot, calculated a jump from there and returned to wherever they came from. Sounds nice and simple, but I don't think it is. We have no way of knowing if they went back, since everything between Prenglar and Zebulon was destroyed. We know that the Sathar left troops on every planet they attacked, but not enough to hold against a determined ground attack. In fact, these were taken care of by the local citizenry of the respective planets, so why do it? If we accurately pieced together estimates from the few surviving records, the numbers on each planet were in the dozens, not hundreds or thousands, as one would expect from an invasion fleet.

In recent years, Star Law has been finding Sathar agents in some rather unusual places, in very secure jobs and in very high profile positions. What if the very Sathar that fled the final battle trained these agents? We have no idea how long they live, but what if it were hundreds of years? Dralasites can live for 250 years so it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the Sathar could match or even exceed these ages. To extrapolate further on this, what if the whole point of the war was to penetrate as deep as possible, disperse as many spies as possible and then erode us from within?

Let us really look at the numbers of the war, it only involved four systems and resulted in the devastation of three planets, this is hardly a proper invasion. Our fleet did not consist of every available ship in the Frontier; it just consisted of the ones that could make it into the battle areas. By far, Humans suffered the most casualties as two of the three planets were Human settlements and the third was a mix of all four Frontier species. Had the Humans been alone and had all of the Human ships in the Frontier been gathered in one place, I think they would have provided the Sather with a fleet of equal strength in terms of firepower and numbers. With that in mind, again by extrapolation, it is not possible that the attack was not representative of the entirety of the Sathar capability? What if this was only one of other species in a similar arrangement to ours, or one caste or clan of many? I think the war was actually a battle that was designed to get Sathar spies and agents deep into Frontier space with the intent to weaken us for the real war.

In summary and conclusion, the Great War involved much less than 1/4 of the Frontier population, it spanned only four systems and devastated only three planets. Wild gambles were taken and assumptions were made that paid off in the end. The Sathar did not employ consistent tactics and often appeared to alter them in mid-stride. We have no way of knowing what the Sathar did after their final defeat at Prenglar, but it is clear that they have not left us alone. I don't think we won a war, I think we simply ended the first phase of a larger plan. The Sathar will return, but when and from where...