A Cold Day - The Descent

Attention!
"Pile of useless maggots!"

Hogue, the Cardassian rogue, lies in his quarters feeling quite depressed from being unable to steal anything interesting. After another 25 days of warp travel, the ship is moving under cloak into the system adjacent to that of the tidal-locked planet the crew is repeatedly drawn to as they have detected incoming warp signatures. A half-hour later, a Federation fleet leaves the system, having torn apart a small group of alien ships, which are designated as the Abnacki by Romulan intelligence. With one more warp jump, the Demitus arrives at the planet under cloak and an away team is assembled to beam down when Taban detects a localized transporter inhibitor around the alien building as well as a significant Federation garrison.

Decloaking the ship, Varreth hails the complex, demanding to know why they are so close to Romulan space. He receives a response that the installation is operating under the jurisdiction of Starfleet Intelligence and he is asked to remove himself from the vicinity. Varreth aggressively proclaims this to be suspicious and the viewscreen comes up with a young Starfleet officer, “Whoa, whoa, take it easy. No need to get all worked up. My name is Ensign Jacob Sterling. I’m overseeing an archaeological dig here, looking for any information on the Abnacki forces we are fighting.” Varreth counters, “And what gives you claim to this information?” Jacob appears stymied for a moment until he replies, “Uh, we found it first?” Varreth grins, “This area has been researched before by the Romulan Empire and this planet has been under extensive survey, thus you will make no attempt to interrupt our research,” while posturing dramatically. Unfortunately Jacob does not believe Varreth, and he terminates the hail.

Varreth hails again, only to be rebuffed on account of his being rude. “This is testing my patience and you have no authority in this sector of space.” Varreth states, “Neither do you.” Jacob angrily dispatches an encoded message to Federation space and closes the hail.

An away team is prepared with Emony, Dolvak, and Xaina selected to beam down. Dolvak materializes over water alongside a not very impressed Emony. After swimming to shore, the party finds itself to be roughly four kilometres outside of the Starfleet complex, which scans indicate contains 27 life-signs. Wearing Starfleet uniforms, the party notices a lack of guards as they approach the garrison perimeter. Tricorder scans indicate several personnel detectors positioned around the complex, but Emony manages to spot a point where they can sneak through the detection field.

Entering the complex, the team identifies several Starfleet officers around campfires, with a really gruff drill sergeant bawling out a young Starfleet marine. Standing to the side of the camp is the alien building of interest. Several portable latrines have been set up, which the team approaches as one Ensign Jacob moves to use the facilities, said ensign not recognizing the party members from his earlier experience. Observing their surroundings, the party manages to catch the eye of the drill sergeant who notices the team is not dressed to marine standard and storms over, getting in Emony’s face and yelling at the top of his lungs.

“Who do you think you are?! In my days at the academy our uniforms were sharp, and you are soaking wet! What a disgrace!” Emony quietly responds, “We went swimming sir.” “Get down and give me 50 push-ups!” Emony manages 35 before she collapses gasping. The drill sergeant leans over and starts screaming at her, “You pathetic good for nothing disgrace! I’ll have you drummed out of the marine corp.” To which Emony pants, “I’m an engineer, sir,” and she cowers in the face of the tower of unstoppable fury. The sergeant then goes on a tirade concerning ship engineers not being real soldiers and that they need to shape up and join the marine corp. After several minutes of this, he notices one of his marines snicker and he storms off towards his new victim.

As everyone is looking elsewhere, Dolvak pounds on the door of the latrine stating, “I have to use the bathroom!” The door opens, and the Starfleet ensign inside sticks his head out to look around before running. Dolvak trips the ensign and follows up with a nerve pinch before dragging the dazed officer back into the latrine while Xaina shuts the door and stands guard.

Placing the officer on the latrine seat, Dolvak attempts to mind-meld with the ensign, probing his thoughts to learn that the base was set up only five hours ago with the personnel present being unfamiliar with each other. Further probing reveals the message that was sent earlier was for Jacob’s superior, but that he did not inform anyone else in the camp of the communication. Dolvak administers drugs to affect Jacob’s memory, then leaves the latrine, locking the door on his way out. Xaina and Emony tip the latrine over, then the party moves away. Varreth briefly contacts the away team to inform them that he is moving the ship closer to the nebula as a precaution.

Xaina identifies the drill sergeant’s tent and the team investigates, hearing sound coming from inside the tent. Sensing the intrusion, the sergeant leaps up and seeing the party becomes livid. Quickly Emony yelps, “Sir! We were trying to find you, there is a guy passed out in the latrine, sir!” The sergeant snarls and bats Dolvak aside as he rages, “I’m going to kill somebody.”

Entering the vacated tent, the trio see an open computer workstation and Emony tries to access it. Shuddering as they hear the sergeant bellowing in the distance, Dolvak peeks out to see that the sergeant has drawn his phaser and is about to cut the latrine open. Emony manages to copy the computer’s data as the sergeant drags the drugged Jacob out of the latrine and lifts him in the air by his collar. Summoning a Vulcan officer over, the sergeant has the officer perform a mind-meld with the ensign. After learning that the ensign appears to be drugged, the sergeant suddenly becomes silent, until he demands a roll call. The party hastens to stand at attention like the others and all are trying not to breath except for Dolvak. Just as the drill sergeant moves to stare down Dolvak, he manages to get his shirt tucked in and crisp.

The sergeant moves up and down the line, quietly informing those present about Federation policy regarding use of illegal substances on duty, declaring that there will be strict discipline on his watch, and that considering he has been observing less than perfect behaviour all must be in need of further exercise. Everyone is to sprint out of the camp, cut down a tree, drag it back to camp, and stand it up for inspection. Emony is the first to return, and as she struggles frantically to stand her tree up under the watchful eye of the drill sergeant, it falls over.

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Hostile Negotiations
You WILL stand aside!

The alien vessel, its own core now going critical, starts to creep away from the fight. Arjin, not about to let it slink away, closes the distance and rips into them with beams and torpedoes, grimly watching as it buckles and tears apart. Hogue alerts those on the surface to beware of possible debris raining down, as Taban hurries to beam Emony aboard while the computer counts down a core breach to occur in 45 seconds. Emony transports directly to engineering and begins an emergency shutdown, dumping all antimatter fuel in the lines and praying enough of the system still works to respond. One of the antimatter injectors jams open, and Hogue throws Emony a hyperspanner which she uses to close the port and shutdown the core with six seconds remaining before it would have breached. Emony sighs with relief and slumps down, while the ship runs on what is left of the emergency power.

Arjin returns to the Demitus, and surprisingly enough of the hull is intact that his runabout can dock to the larger ship, then he beams the remaining crew from the planet’s surface back to the ship using the runabout’s systems. Plasma torch in hand, Emony starts making the critical repairs required by the warp core while Varreth roams the ship putting out fires and looking out into space through the massive holes in the hull, sealed with wavering forcefields. Having dumped their antimatter to space, Emony taps the runabout’s stores and attempts to restart the core while the ship still has power. Hogue, wanting to help in some way, starts fanning the sweating engineer with a jumpsuit. Barely managing to bring the core online, Emony stands back as the reaction thunders to life, listening as the ship’s hull creaks.

Taban, busily rerouting system power asks, “How is our hull doing?” Dolvak, amazed he is even alive at this point responds, “We’re about to snap in half,” which he emphasizes by pointing to the hull plates lazily floating through space. Liara interrupts, “Two warp signatures incoming!” Shields aren’t functional but surprisingly the cloak still works and Taban brings it online while the undamaged power conduits strain to deliver the needed energy. Limping away from the site of the conflict, Liara transmits an emergency SOS while Emony strives to properly repair the propulsions systems. Barely managing under the pressure, Emony repairs several critical power junctions needed for propulsion and moves to life support. Quickly correcting the thin atmosphere and stabilizing the forcefields holding the ship together, she starts ripping out and replacing smoking and burned out parts.

Ion Stormwake, the human soldier, wonders to himself what he ever did to deserve this while the ship slides into the comforting blue glow of a Cerulean nebula, masking the ship’s emissions. With the ship unable to sense anything due to the nebula, and vice versa unable to be detected via sensors, all that remains is to conduct ship repairs, which is Emony’s domain, hence those crew not busy proceeds to rest. Ion is exhausted after the ordeal and trips on his way to his bed, and is too tired to get up. Arjin works to repair Hogue’s injuries, miraculously without incident.

Varreth, having a vested interest in situational awareness, takes the ship to the edge of the nebula to see what is occurring. Liara mistimes the cloak and for two seconds the ship is exposed, but the crew notes eleven Federation warp signatures in orbit around the planet. Varreth decides to leave the nebula and decloak, with shields and weapons offline, then wait. As expected the Federation fleet detects the Romulan craft and forms up on rapid approach. Taban notes, “We are being hailed.”

Varreth answers the hail of the USS Endeavor, commanded by one Captain Mathews. The Federation officer is primarily interested in learning what happened to his crew from the Talon scout visited earlier and mild pleasantries ensue. Varreth transmits data on the alien attack, and recommends the Federation fleet maintain constant scans as a precaution against cloaked alien ships before taking his leave.

Taban sets a course close to the edge of the nebula in case the ship needs to duck inside and heads back to Romulan space. 26 days later, with the majority of critical systems repaired, the Demitus is greeted by a Romulan patrol guarding the Forge system. Answering the incoming hail, Varreth is mildly amused to see the face of one of the legionnaires that once served under him, the young Romulan is less than impressed to see Varreth however and the conversation quickly turns ugly. Threats and intimidation are used, causing the situation to completely get out of hand until Liara has enough and orders the arguing Romulans to stand aside in the name of the Tal Shiar.

Moving into a berth on the space dock, Varreth and Liara disembark to report to Primus Oran. Both are impressed at the massive force build-up since their last visit, counting close to 150 military ships docked, including 36 D’deridex warbirds. Special Officer Oran appears shocked to see Varreth again, and Varreth feels smug as he reports in.

After looking Varreth’s data over, Oran orders him to proceed back to the tidal-locked planet and infiltrate the alien building, after which they are to identify what the Federation is so interested in, and retrieve it for the benefit of the Empire. Authorization is granted to have the hull damage of the Demitus repaired by the space dock, and four days later, the ship leaves once more for the void.

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Go Down in Glory
A price in blood...

Having made their escape from their probing and insistent alien counterparts, the party threaded their way out of the engagement zone and warped away to a nearby Cerulean-class nebula, expending the last of their fuel reserves as they do so. Emony configured the ship’s Bussard collectors for mass-particle collection, and Taban skirted through the nebula harvesting Deuterium until he started nodding off behind the command console. Liara transmits a mission report and learns that alien forces have assaulted several key positions on Romulan worlds. With no orders to follow at this time, the crew sets off back to the tidal-locked planet they crashed on, and opt to set course directly through the dense nebula to save time.

10 days later, the Demitus arrives in the appropriate system, with cloak online. A Federation Talon-class scout is incoming, which arrives in orbit and commences detailed scans of the planetary surface, at which point Liara adamantly states that the ship should remain cloaked so as not to reveal the Empire’s presence in this system. After several hours, the scout breaks orbit and establishes planet-fall, then sensors indicate the scout’s crew of two has disembarked. Taban tracks the two crewmembers and notes that they enter a strange alien building. Dolvak insists he go down and investigate, at which point everyone retorts, “NO!” First Officer Liara, Arjin the doctor, and Hogue the Cardassian rogue are beamed down, Hogue with tears in his eyes as he stands on the transporter pad.

Hogue’s tears are justified, as Taban miscalculates the transporter coordinates, and Hogue materializes 37 feet above ground. Hogue however manages to roll on landing and only breaks his arm, at which point he begins cursing violently in Cardassian. Hogue decides to hide in the sand in case the others also fall from the sky and alert everyone to their location. Taban manages to put Arjin down at ground level… on top of the buried Cardassian. The doctor sets to work repairing the Cardassian’s broken arm, stripping away flesh and suturing bone without incident. Meanwhile First Officer Liara materializes, again on top of an angry Hogue.

Looking around, the planetary party can see the Federation scout ship and the alien structure but no Federation officers. Hogue stealthily moves toward the alien building while Arjin snorts in derision and walks like he was meant to be there. Communicating from the ship, Varreth requests the party attempt to capture an alien if possible, but not to make it a priority, even as Dolvak sulks for not being allowed to beam down. Approaching the alien building, the team sees the two Federation crew dead, from laser cuts to the torso and decides to proceed no further.

Liara inspects the Federation scout, accidentally triggering a system lockout, while Hogue goes back to the alien structure. After scans fail to reveal anything, Hogue throws a rock through the doorway and leaps out of the way. Two laser turrets spring from the ground and vaporize the flying rock. Liara raises her rifle and, after Hogue throws another rock, disintegrates the entire doorway. Cautiously the team proceeds through the structure, finding a locked door at the bottom of a flight of stairs through which they cannot pass.

Inspecting the Federation bodies, the crew finds a datapad indicating the officers were sent to this planet as their commander believed there was something important to the war effort here. The Demitus detects some kind of signal jamming gradually growing stronger and Taban pulls the team back without incident. Dolvak senses a psionic force drawing closer and even Xaina the Betazoid mystic is concerned.

Emony, Varreth, and Ion decide to quickly beam down and retrieve the dilithium from off of the Federation ship. Emony breaks the lockout triggered earlier and starts opening the storage tanks, managing to recover one full canister. Meanwhile in orbit, Dolvak quietly suggests, “We should run an active scan.” Taban runs the scan and detects a momentary distortion, bringing up the shields in sudden horror. Arjin the doctor starts sprinting down the corridor from the bridge towards the runabout, as the battle stations klaxon rings out. With unusual grace and skill, Arjin brings the runabout online and disengages from the Demitus just as an alien vessel decloaks and burns in weapons hot.

Arjin, failing to have any concept of tactics or of his own precarious position, simply opens fire on the incoming ship, hoping to provide some cover to the slower and heavier Demitus. First Officer Liara at the tactical station aboard the Demitus manages to get a lock on the alien ship, opening fire with devastating effect. Now at short range, the opposing craft releases a volley of fire but misses completely. Arjin sees the opportunity for an attack run and strafes the alien, hurting the enemy shields significantly. Liara continues suppressive disruptor volleys, missing well over half of her shots. Suddenly the hostile rakes heavy fire all down the sides of the raging Demitus, causing critical hull breaches on all decks, systems to scream in digital pain as they fail, and cutting the shields down to half what they were before. Arjin misses again, firing completely off-target into empty space, but manages to land another blow to the angry alien ship.

With shields significantly reduced, both Dolvak and Xaina sense the thoughts of the attacking crew and attempt to disrupt their psionic communication. With a mental shout, they manage to confuse the enemy, buying the Demitus valuable time. Taban tries to weave the crippled Demitus in an evasive pattern, only to start panicking as Liara completely misses two more shots. Their focus out of sorts thanks to the efforts of Dolvak and Xaina, the alien crew also misses with their ripple-fire. Arjin, missing and landing shots intermittently, manages to hit a power conduit on the enemy ship.

The Demitus, bleeding plasma and atmospheric gasses as forcefields collapse and as fires rage along the hull, tries desperately to answer the calls of her helmsman and tactical officer, even as her manoeuvres pop rivets and break welds in her bulkheads. Xaina loses her focus on the enemy ship, and staggers about in confusion while Dolvak just barely manages to keep it together. The alien craft’s erratic turns manage to break the Demitus’ weapons lock, however they miss their shots thanks to Taban. Pulling up in a hairpin turn, the hostile lines up on the limping Demitus, and Taban cries, “It’s been a pleasure working with you,” as it opens fire.

Shields all but drop and are rendered useless, and gaping holes appear in the hull plating. Life support is unable to keep up with the venting, and the atmosphere starts thinning. Primary systems fail, alarms screeching as redundancies struggle to take over. Entire bulkheads break off into the void of space, and a plasma inferno streams from the left impulse drive. Dolvak sinks to his knees as he tries to maintain the psionic disruption, and Taban’s eyes blur as he taps controls to move the ship and keep it from falling apart. Ship’s sensors failover to optics and ladar systems, and the terrible clamour of a core breach alarm sounds.

Hogue, unable to do anything to affect the outcome of the next few seconds, says, “My dying wish is to steal something. If I die, I want to go stealing something.” With a heroic push, Dolvak unleashes a psionic battery against the minds of the alien ship, sufficient to confuse the enemy helmsman. Liara manages to achieve a weapons lock and fires at the enemy hull, scoring a hit with the last energy the Demitus’ weapons could muster. Arjin, watching the Demitus’ slow death out of the corner of his eye, soars down with a vengeful fire and manages to cause the hostile core to become unstable, even as the Demitus rolls out of control…

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Duck & Cover
Run deep, run silent...

Varreth made no defense, then accepted all blame and dishonour. Oran nodded, “You are hereby stripped of title and family name. You will never return to your home or family. Now, on to other business,” he took a breath, “As of 40 solar cycles ago, the Empire is at war. Both ourselves and the Federation have come under assault from an unknown species, and they have been terrible in their fury. We also have reason to suspect that the alien fleets have assistance from the Dominion. Ordinarily we would confiscate your ship, but for all intents and purposes it is obsolete save for its cloak, and we have too few resources to man your vessel. For this reason you will be tasked to carry out reconnaissance activities under the directives of the Tal Shiar. Failure to comply will result in your execution. Is this understood?” Varreth replied, “Yes, but what of my crew?” “They are considered fugitives and criminals, we shall not abide their presence in Romulan stations or on planets. They are remanded to your custody, and must be controlled. Fail, and they will be terminated. Furthermore, I have transferred to your command a Tal Shiar operative who shall maintain your loyalties.”

Varreth returned to the ship, and moodily proclaimed to the crew, “No one do anything that seems questionable, especially Hogue. We are getting a Romulan operative on board, and I do not desire to stir her suspicions.” After receiving muted affirmations from the party, Varreth was alerted to the Romulan officer waiting to come aboard. “Sub-commander Liara reporting as ordered.” The female officer does not looked impressed at all to be present, and gives her qualifications when requested.

Emony, ever a ship’s engineer, anxiously asks, “Do we have any fuel?” Liara assess the ship’s stores, and requisitions some additional supplies, however due to war restrictions, is unable to obtain anything more than minimal quantities. The officer insists the crew wear Romulan military uniforms, to which Emony complains, “Is there anything Romulan that is less ridiculous? Cannot I just wear a jumpsuit?” Hogue immediately joins in, “I want a jumpsuit!” In a huff, the Tal Shiar officer requests replicator specifications for basic body armour then gives Varreth his first orders. As of now, Taban is no longer first officer, as Liara has taken his place. Varreth inquires as to the radioactive cargo the ship is carrying, but the officer shrugs him off.

18 days later, the ship arrives without incident in sector 2338 to begin their recon activities, but note incoming warp signatures. Varreth orders the cloak be brought online, and begins passive sensor sweeps of the incoming ships, which are unfamiliar. Then the incoming vessels move into visual range, and Hogue notes they look similar to the hostile ships that attacked while they party were Federation prisoners. The enemy ships race by, moving at speeds far beyond what the Demitus would be capable of. Report of contact with the enemy vessels is sent and Special Officer Oran orders the mission continue.

The ship departs, moving into position in enemy space for further recon and bringing up the cloak, only to detect a fleet of 36 ships incoming. Nervously, the crew notes the ships are heading to Federation space at warp 9, and at least five of them are larger than a Romulan Warbird. Suddenly, a power cascade ripples through the Demitus’ systems, and Emony tries to control the surge and prevent it from spreading. Varreth mutters, “Thirty-six,” and Taban finishes, “Thirty-six angry alien ships.” Emony manages to halt the cascade then shuts down the warp core and a small alien vessel drops out of warp while the rest continue.

The small vessel begins carefully probing the region, looking for what might have been a ship, employing an active search pattern. Another alien ship arrives and the two begin coordinating their search for the cloaked Demitus. Luckily, the hostile ships sweep over the Demitus without detecting them, and start moving past. Emony attempts a cold start of the warp core, and fails to achieve ignition, which results in brief particle emissions leaking from the cloak. She tries again, and brings the core online, but the alien ships stop moving. Tachyons are detected coming from the alien ships and Taban realizes that they are beginning to search for cloaked ships. First Officer Liara tries to plot the movements of the tachyon sweep and relays the information to the helm while Taban pilots the ship under cloak, dodging the first beam. Unfortunately the second beam scatters the cloak for a half-second, but that is all that they need. The ships start sprinting towards the Demitus.

Taban, beads of sweat forming on his neck, says, “We can’t outrun them, can’t outgun them, best we can do is hide.” Liara manages to find a dust cloud near their position and Taban sets a course, just as the alien ships begin firing spatial charges around the last known position of the Demitus. The ship manages to avoid the splash effects of the weapons, and makes it into the dust cloud, but the crew considers it too close for comfort.

The hostile ships stop shelling and re-energize their tachyon beams, searching for the missing ship. Taban moves out of the dust cloud and away from the prying ships, detecting two more vessels incoming. He manages to avoid detection and moves out of range of their sweep. Several hours later, the alien ships break off their search and vector away at warp 9.6. In a quiet voice, Taban asks Liara if they have permission to engage the alien ships. Liara looks at him, purses her lips and replies, “Inadvisable, but if you feel it to be necessary…”

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A Symphony of War
There are always complications...

The IRC Demitus orbits the glossy tidal-locked planet while the crew goes about the grievously difficult task of relaxing, arguing over who gets what quarters, and scrubbing hundreds of square metres worth of bulkhead and deck plating, occasionally pausing to argue about where the crew should take their new prize in their journey through the stars. Discussions ensue over who should be responsible for which tasks. Taban states while spinning around on a rotating chair, “I hereby claim control of the helm and first officer’s position. Emony is the chief engineer.” Varreth gruffly seizes the big chair, daring anyone to take it from him, “I’ll be captain. I’ll also push the big red button that says fire.”

“The mystic is obviously going to be the mystic, and the councillor.”

“I shall steal all the necessary resources from anyone I come across, and if I can’t then I will intimidate them,” Hogue declares, “Arjin is the ship’s doctor, although I doubt he should keep that position.”

After some time of this banter, Ion Stormwake recommends the party figure out where they are, and Emony manages to isolate their position on the star charts. With the knowledge that, technically, the party are Federation criminals, Varreth recommends traversal to Romulan space as he is a Romulan soldier and should still hold sway there. Taban notes, “I know a few people who owe me favours, but we’d probably have to tread lightly. Let’s definitely stay away from any Orions though. Long story short, they’re not happy with me, and we can leave it at that.” “Maybe let’s not go to Romulan space, as I did try to steal one of their most advanced technologies,” comes from Hogue as he shamelessly tries to look innocent. Dolvak the Vulcan is insistent, “We should go to pirate-controlled space,” while Varreth mutters, “How very illogical.”

Emony has a thought, “Hey guys, my oddly discomforting sixth sense says we should go and get the subspace beacon we left on the planet.” “I’m not going down there,” a staunch Taban says, “We should just blast the planet to prevent anyone else from getting trapped there.” Emony rolls her eyes, “We could just beam it up.” Taban muses even as he beams up the beacon and turns it off, “We can do that? Impressive.”

The ship breaks orbit, with course set for Romulan space at a speed of warp 5, and after 24 days arrives in orbit around the Romulan planet Forge. A cold sweat breaks over Taban, “We have three Romulan vessels incoming.” Varreth opens hailing channels, and is immediately told to identify himself. After several tense moments, he manages to convince the Romulan officer to allow the ship to dock, although the officer notes that because the ship is not technically assigned to Varreth’s command that it will not be his decision if it shall remain his. Meanwhile, Hogue combats the strong urge to find a place to hide.

As the Demitus moves into spacedock, Varreth whistles at the number of vessels berthed, noting there appears to be a heavy military presence on station. It does not take long for Hogue to complain, “Great! So we have come to a war planet!” Varreth informs the annoying Cardassian that he should be silent, and is subsequently hailed and told to prepare for boarding. The nervous crew of assorted non-Romulans stands at attention in a corridor awaiting their arrival. Hogue momentarily asks, “Is any of the crew addicted to drugs?” Varreth narrows his eyes, “Are you addicted to drugs?” “Nope.”

Romulan soldiers and officers board the ship, searching the ship and inspecting Varreth’s rag-tag crew. The ship is torn apart, as soldiers lift deck plates and remove bulkhead covers, scanning as they go, all the while the crew is interrogated. The Romulan officers withdraw to converse, then return to Varreth, “Your story checks out, and you are not carrying contraband. This ship however contains several specialized technologies belonging to the Romulan Empire, which we are not keen to see in the hands of others. At this present time however, we are pressed for ships and crews, and hence will not confiscate this vessel. We have assigned the IRC Demitus to your command, and you are hereby instructed to report to Special Officer Oran for orders else you shall be prosecuted for crimes against the Empire. You are dismissed.” Varreth nods his affirmative, and the officer turns back, “And find another crew,” he sneers, “This lot are pathetic.”

Varreth departs the Demitus and makes his way to the office of Officer Oran while the crew is left to their own devices and twiddles their thumbs. As he walks, Varreth notes substantial activity on the Romulan station, with all in full uniform and undergoing what appear to be war preparations. As Varreth prepares to enter the office, he nods as he realizes Oran is a Primus, high in the chain of command. Oran’s secretary ushers Varreth into the officer’s presence. The officer is an elderly Romulan, highly decorated, and he turns to face Varreth.

“Centurion Koran. I must say I am disappointed you are still alive. You were ordered to carry out a relatively simple interception, at which point you dropped out of contact. The next we hear, we have Federation diplomats contacting us concerning Romulans being held in their custody and we are left wondering if there is going to be an escalation.” Oran’s visage darkens, “So allow me to thank you for bringing the Empire to the brink of war. Your ship is destroyed, your crew dead, and now you come grovelling back with a ship presumed lost and a crew of criminals. What do you say in your defense?” The officer crosses his arms and leans forward in a deadly smirk as he waits for the errant Romulan’s response…

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The End of an Act
"To be free..."

With the ship now powered, activity begins to normalize. Arjin proceeds to the medical bay. The ship replicators are now functional, and Emony works at restoring her broken ship. Taban works with Varreth to slowly convert the Romulan interface into something he can understand. Arjin begins operating on Ion, and then on Taban before finishing for the day due to exhaustion. Emony manages to get basic sensors working again. And the team rests.

Bright and early, Arjin continues his surgical procedures on Ion, rebuilding damaged tissue and bone, until he makes a small mistake and accidentally drops a laser scalpel into Ion’s eye. He manages to get the scalpel out, but with the medical facilities on hand is unable to fashion a synthetic or cloned eye. Emony manages to bring the sensors back to their original status, after replacing more than half of the power conduits.

Taban manages to isolate several heavily encrypted sections of the main computer core, but fails to retrieve them, and Emony repairs the shield systems before the day is over.
Taban and Emony go for surgery, while the rest of the team works to clean and scrub the ship, as well as dispose of the corpses remaining on board. To everyone’s surprise and for the first time in a week, Arjin manages to get Xaina Dex, the Betazoid mystic, out of her coma.

With the ship for the most part operational, attention turns to restoring the hull damage. The damaged life support section takes priority, and Emony cuts out her previous patch. With the rest of the team helping to hold up the incredibly heavy replacement hull plates, Emony welds the new pieces into place. After six hours of work, the hole is finally closed and declared space-worthy. As the party turns around, they note with some unease two large alien creatures watching them until they simply fade from sight. Scans for biosigns reveal nothing, although unusual radiation signatures are noted inside the ship, with two of them very distinct and coming from the cargo bay.

Further scans made using the ship’s sensor systems reveal the presence of possibly thousands of humanoid life signs roughly three kilometers below the planet’s crust. With the growing unease that they are not alone, the team frantically begins work on replacing the hull plating in the damaged maintenance bay where the party routinely entered and exited the ship. As the ship is now sealed, atmospheric vents are opened to allow for gas exchange in the continuing absence of the ship’s life support system.

The crew sleeps, until Dolvak wakes from a vision, in which he sees the ship melt. Scans made with ship’s sensors reveal increased activity from the planet’s sun, possibly indicative of a solar flare. Grimly, the team decides to harvest some more Isodesium crystal as their supplies will soon run out once they begin consuming power in earnest. Utilizing the ship’s transporters, which can only move one person at a time under normal circumstances, personnel are transported to the cavern system. Dolvak materializes 1.2 kilometers from his intended position. Hearing a loud hissing sound, he calls for emergency transport back, and Taban just manages to pull him back. Trying again, Taban sends Dolvak to the correct destination.

The party works for ten minutes collecting crystals until sensors alert the crew to a very large biosign rapidly approaching their position. A very loud hiss is heard in the cavern, and team members start beaming out. Varreth is the last one out, and he watches as the largest snake he’s ever seen coils up. Just as the snake strikes, Varreth is pulled out.

The ground starts shaking again, and the sensors detect a significant rise in methane levels. Emony manages to design, almost to the original specifications, the life support systems and begins construction. After spending the better part of the day on that project, Emony and Taban turn their attentions to the computer core, working to completely reset the command codes and bring the ship under their full control. In the process they accidentally trigger the self-destruct sequence as the system seeks to protect itself from enemy takeover. With both of them working in desperation, as there will be no escape, they manage to stop the clock at twelve seconds. The comment is made, “This ship hates us!”

With the ship now under full control, the crew manages to isolate their position based on the stars. It is with some trepidation they realize they are in an unexplored section of space along the Romulan and Federation borders. Arjin attempts another surgery on Ion, failing and ruining Ion’s other eye, rendering the soldier mostly blind.

As the ship does not detect the snake in the cavern, Varreth and Hogue beam back and start collecting more crystal. Varreth materializes a half kilometer off target, but is inside the cave. As Varreth growls his displeasure to Taban over the comlink, Taban complains, “How do you read this? No wonder you guys are so grumpy.” After an hour and half of mining, a biosign is detected as incoming so the team beams back. And with that they decide it’s time to leave the planet.

As the ship is not originally intended to be atmospheric –capable, leaving the planet poses a problem. After some planning and deliberating, a rather fanciful attempt emerges. Emony boards the Runabout and disengages from the ship hull, lifting free to circle around the much larger ship. Varreth takes the weapons controls and begins cutting out a wide exit path through the ceiling at a gentle angle. With Taban pushing at the ground with the ship’s tractor beam, and Emony pulling with her tractor from above, they manage to raise the nose of the ship and proceed to gun the main thrusters. Just as the ship is starting to move, Emony hears a sound behind her and turns around to find an alien attacking her.

She tries to fire off a shot, as the runabout drops its tractor and starts flying erratically, but misses. The alien psionically blasts her, and she manages to remain standing. After getting blasted a second time, Emony fires into the alien, who has nowhere to shift to and is critically injured. After making sure the alien is dead, Emony retakes the controls and after some conversation with the larger ship, try their escape plan again.

Picking up the nose of the larger ship and aiming it at the cut path, the team punches the engines and dragging the back end, climb the chute. Picking up speed, the ship launches into the atmosphere, until the ground gets far enough away that the main tractor beam can no longer hold the nose of the ship up. After a moment of hairy piloting, Taban manages to get enough speed and angle to achieve escape velocity and makes orbit. Emony smoothly pilots the runabout to a docking with the once again space-borne IRC Demitus.

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The Hazards of Engineering
"I'm giving her all she's got!"

Looking into the hole at the bottom of the shale-glass bowel, white crystals tantalize the party at the bottom of a twenty-foot drop. Without any viable means of climbing down, the party decides to return to the ship. Boarding the watercraft, they traverse to the whirlpool at a brisk pace as they are being pulled along. Unfortunately, as the ship is circling in the pool, with the main downward pull in the center of the ship, the re-boarding process proves to be very dangerous. With the watercraft getting crushed against the side of the hull, the party frantically boards the ship, pulling themselves up the cable previously positioned. Just as the lip of the craft gets pulled under, Varreth is the last to climb out and collapses the craft before pulling it out of the water.

Scans of the whirlpool reveal that it is draining into a cavern system. Emony welds a piece of metal to the back of the ship to hang another cable from in order to effect less dangerous boarding operations. Collecting two large crates from the ship stores as well as a long piece of cable, the team launches into the water and returns to the dig site. From there, Emony cuts a mount point into the shale and the line is secured. From there, Varreth climbs down into the cavern. Shining with his light, he sees what appear to be hundreds of lights reflecting back at him, like the stars of night. The cargo containers are tossed down, and Hogue joins Varreth to collect as much Isodesium as possible.

With the method of collecting crystals as simple as grabbing hold and breaking them off, after an hour the two of them collect roughly 100 kilograms worth of crystal. The crates of crystal are pulled up and out of the cavern without incident, and the team returns to the ship. At this point, the party decides to rest.

With Varreth taking first watch, the party sleeps in the crew’s quarters, on beds who have not seen occupants for years. Dolvak takes second watch without incident, until the ship lurches and a loud noise is heard, jarring all awake. The sensation of floating is no longer apparent, and the team investigates, looking out of the hull breach to see that the lake has completely drained and the ship is resting on the lakebed. Several small rivers are running underneath the ship into what was once the center point of the whirlpool, but these rivers are insufficient to move the ship.

Having been rudely awoken, the party sets about breakfast, with Dolvak proceeding to cook up several more steaks. After eating, the team decides to put their earlier plan into action.
Ion positions himself in the weapons pod, with the power converter at the ready and begins hammering in their disruptor charge packs to energize the ship. Ships systems begin coming online and powering up, until the main computer initialization sequence is initiated. With Varreth translating the Romulan symbols, Taban manages to enter the access codes and stop the security authentication procedures, although just barely. Taban then transfers power to the antimatter generation unit, shutting down everything else as much as possible, but in the process causes surges in the shield arrays.

Meanwhile, down on deck 1, Emony tries to control the antimatter creation process, as it is a very unstable process. Generating just enough antimatter to start the core, she transfers it to a containment vessel and sprints for main engineering. The main engineering systems are still powered, but are shutting down rapidly.

Taban effects an emergency power transfer to the warp core, and the core containment fields activate, although he blows out the ship’s sensor systems. Emony transfers the antimatter into the core and attempts a cold reactor start. Deftly guessing at the Romulan control symbols, she just barely manages to bring the system online with a power output of three percent. Working carefully to manage the flow, she slowly brings up the power output, praying the system can become self-sustaining before their last reserves of power fade.

Her hands moving in a blur, Emony manages to correct a wobbling containment field. Just barely keeping the system together, she manages to bring the output to thirty-four percent before it stabilizes. With a gasp of relief, the system begins outputting enough power to maintain itself, and Emony starts to feel more at ease. Power output climbs to seventy percent, but then alarm klaxons begin to sound, as the computer reports that life support systems are not operational. Emony laughs as the life support systems are completely destroyed yet are not required at present.

Taban attempts to shut down the klaxon, but mistakenly causes a surge through the lower decks, completely burning out what was left of the sensor system.

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Frustrums of Chemistry
"There she blows!"

Based on the situation, the team develops a plan of action. Someone will feed the disruptor charge packs from the rifles into the device just constructed, using said device to transfer the power into the ship’s disruptor banks. This energy will then be shunted into the main power grid, where personnel on the bridge will unlock the ship’s systems using the acquired authentication codes, then transfer all power to the antimatter generation unit, using that unit to create enough antimatter to hopefully be able to start the warp core. But they run into a problem, the ship does have some supplies of deuterium with which to power the reaction, but lacks the dilithium crystals needed to control the reaction.

The team is stuck. They leave the bridge, traveling to the compartment with the hull breach where they originally boarded the ship. From here, they climb out and onto the hull from where they survey the situation. The ship continues to float lazily on the underground lake, with the front of the ship angled slightly down as the forward compartments have taken on water. Scans from the tricorder reveal the presence of Isodesium, a less desirable alternative to dilithium, roughly 100 meters below and beyond the party. Arjin, recalling from his knowledge of crystal formation, reports that isodesium is typically found in clusters deep underground.

Leaving behind the constructed power converter, the team re-enters the ship. Collecting a nice length of cabling from the maintenance rooms, the team lodges it in the hull breach and uses it to climb down into the watercraft. With the stench of methane in the air, the team begins following the isodesium signature. Powering across the water, the party slows down when the sound of a powerful waterfall draws closer.

With a low speed on the motor, the team starts to notice the watercraft is getting caught in a current as the water still faintly glows. A section of shale is noted along the shore and the team decides to leave the water and move on foot as a precaution, as they cannot see where the waterfall is. Gingerly making their way so as not to slip, they are greeted by a most interesting sight: A great waterfall pouring from the cavern ceiling into an enormous whirlpool. Taban exhibits some strange behaviour, “There’s something! Wait, no. There’s something! Wait, no… sorry.” Dolvak notes some kind of path behind the waterfall, and the team proceeds to check it out.

After confirming that there is in fact a path there, they walk upwards until the ground slopes upwards with what appear to be steps cut into the rock and a box of some kind of old mining equipment. The team walks up these steps until they reach what appears to be a plateau of sorts. A number of decayed Romulan bodies and multiple boxes of mining equipment lay scattered about, as well as a small drilling rig. Scans indicate the party is approximetly 120 meters above the isodesium, with a hole bored down to a depth of 60 meters, and very high concentrations of methane are noted in the hole.

A shredded coat one of the team members is wearing is appropriated for an alternative purpose and lit on fire before being tossed down the hole. The team then moves back from the hole. A roaring sound is heard from below and a vertical shaft of flame extends up from the hole, that does not immediately burn out. Someone starts counting the seconds. The team backs further away as the flame starts to change colour. Scans indicate that the flame is coming from an underground, highly purified, deposit of magnesium with enough oxidising compounds present to sustain the reaction. The team runs for the water, as the roar grows louder and the temperature in the cavern starts to rise. With water starting to flow down the stairs, melting from the cavern walls and ceiling, the team stops and scans again. Methane concentrations across the lake surface begin rising, and the temperature of the magnesium deposit reaches in excess of 3000 degrees. With that information, the team sprints for the boat.

Climbing in the boat, the team cruises across the lake at full speed until they reach the floating Romulan ship, at which point they climb aboard and watch with concern as the ship begins getting pulled towards the whirlpool and the waterfall. The ship glides into the whirlpool nose-first, pitched down 20 degrees to the horror of its passengers who enter a water-tight compartment and hold tight, not knowing what will happen. A loud thudding sound is heard, and the ship shudders to a halt with the nose being held down in the center of the whirlpool. Carefully moving from room to corridor, the team learns with some surprise that the ship is angled down so sharply that the life support bay with the gaping hole is currently lifted out of the water.

Seizing the opportunity, the team decides to try to patch the hole so that water will not enter the ship, even if the patch is not space-worthy. After a hour’s work, the two-meter gap is reduced to a one foot hole when the ship settles and drops down. Water starts pouring in. In desperation, the team tries to hold down the last remaining piece of plating while Emony welds it in place. After several tense moments, Emony declares the patch watertight and the party celebrates.

Scanning with the tricorder indicates that the waterfall has since stopped and the cavern water level has risen two meters, while the thermite burn has stopped. Climbing onto the hull, the team moves to the back of the ship which is the point furthest from the center of the whirlpool and launches the watercraft into the water. Managing to pull away, the team returns to the dig site, with the air temperature still in the area of 50 degrees. To their surprise, what was once a precise borehole has now turned into a bowel shaped opening made of glass. The hole is much deeper than before, and now only fifteen meters of material separate the team from the isodesium deposit.

With the rest of the team standing well back, Taban blasts the side of the bowel with his disruptor to create a ramp and climbs down before firing twice to make a very nice hole into the ground that opens into an underground cavern. The team looks on in delight as they see shiny white crystals glowing at the bottom.

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Disruptor Manifest
Green fire, explosions, and much meat.

With more raw meat than the team can possibly carry, they decide that they need to cook the meat to preserve it. Dolvak, to the team’s surprise, turns out to have some talent with cooking and manages to improvise a grill from some deck plating and a low-powered beam from a phaser. After an hour of cooking steaks, Taban states, “Alright! Cat jerky!”

The team continues to explore the ship, going one door down the corridor to the medical bay, which is somewhat primitive and no doubt intended for basic medical attention. Continued exploration finds the ship’s armoury. Various cabinets are locked, and Emony cuts them open with a plasma torch. With no small measure of delight, several fragmentation charges are noted, along with some explosives. After spending another two hours cutting open cabinets, the team finds itself to be much better equipped, as now the party is carrying disruptors and rifles aplenty. Before setting off, the team cuts the cat hide into two pieces to better distribute the weight, and they continue searching the ship.

After finding what appeared to be the first officer’s quarters, a Romulan corpse is found to have a data chip in its possession. The team is surprised as they search the crew quarters, as for the most part all loose items are gone, as though someone came through and removed all items of value previously. With the search of the deck complete, the team heads to Main Engineering, and enters deck 1.

Scanning with their tricorders, the team notes an anomaly near the front of the ship, and before moving towards it, decide to search the main engineer’s office. Inside they find several datapads and a data chip. Varreth manages to read the reports, and finds them to describe the last actions taken by the crew, and also finds that they give an explanation for the total loss of power the ship experienced. The data chip turns out to contain a list of command codes and authentication sequences for the main computer core, which Emony transfers to her tricorder.

Searching the deck, some maintenance and storage areas are located, containing mainly larger replacement parts for the ship. Down the corridor, a repairs workroom is found, as well as the life support bay, and a room containing matter-antimatter containment units and an antimatter generator. At the front of the ship, the team finds the main cargo bay, which contains several crates that appear to have little other than deck plating inside, and two marked crates giving off unusual radiation.

Scanning with the tricorders, the radiation appears to be highly concentrated and contained dekyon particles, suggestive of weapons grade material. Emony, the engineer, had never seen anything like it. Going back to the antimatter storage room, the team discovers that all ships stores of antimatter are depleted or decayed.

Moving onto the life support bay, the team shines around with flashlights, and Dolvak notices what appears to be a bomb attached to the life support systems. Emony attempts to defuse the device, but the team starts to hear a high-pitched whine being emitted and runs for their lives to the back of the ship. A loud explosion is heard, followed by the sound of rushing water. The team pries the door open partially, and water comes pouring through the door. The team releases the door, closing it, and steps back.

The party decide to re-investigate the smaller vessel attached to the hull of the ship, but do not identify anything of interest. They decide to return to the room where they originally boarded the ship, only to find as they walk through the door that another giant cat is in the room, apparently having entered through the gash in the hull that has reappeared.

Ion attempts to fire on the cat, and misses, as the cat charges him. Ion fails to dodge, and the cat crushes Ion against the wall, mauling him with claw and fang. Ion begins bleeding heavily from multiple puncture wounds, and has less than six minutes to live. Taban and Dolvak manage to shoot the cat with a heavy disruptor blast, vaporizing it and Arjin sets to work. Varreth passes tools to the doctor as he tries to stop the bleeding. After four minutes of intense work, the bleeding stops. Emony sits down and cries.

As the team sits in despondence, they wrack their brains attempting to find a way out of their current situation. The team is 700 meters below the planet’s surface, in a ship without power, and without any means of restoring that power. Arjin muses on the physics behind disruptor energy.

The team journeys to the bridge of the ship, and from there to the weapons pods. The ship is mounted with disruptor weapons, and the team tries to figure out if they can somehow link their rifle charge packs to the ship, but a direct connection cannot be made. Emony manages to come up with a basic device idea capable of linking the ship weapons to the charge packs, but the team lacks the parts needed to create the device.

Heading back to deck 1, the team pauses outside of the flooded compartments, and a scan beyond the bulkhead reveals that the water level is staying constant due to the pocket of air trapped behind the door. The air also appears to be rich in methane. Dolvak and Varreth stand ready at the door, which is pulled open and the two of them charge inside holding their breath. Water surges through the door, as does a blast of noxious air, and they continue onward. Passing by what used to be the life-support bay, they can see a huge hole in the floor through which water is bubbling up into the ship. The door to the parts bay is bent, but Varreth and Dolvak manage to pull it open. The water is rising and the air stinks of methane. Dolvak takes a breath, and begins feeling high. Frantically, they manage to fill their pockets with as many parts as they can, before wading out through chest high water. Varreth begins hammering on the tricorder, telling the team on the other side to open the door.

The door is pulled open, and the surge of water carries Dolvak and Varreth through, although the entire engineering compartment is now flooded with eight inches of water. Heading back to the weapons pods, Emony creates a design for the device, getting some help from Arjin for the disruptor science behind it. The design is not the greatest quality, but should work. Emony also experiences some difficulty putting the parts together, and the end result is a somewhat weak and fragile creation, but it should work provided nothing goes wrong.

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An Ode to a Cat
"Doctor, don't fail me now..."

Assaulted as soon as they open the mess hall doors, the team is taken completely by surprise. In a moment of brilliance, the subspace beacon is deployed, causing one of the aliens to collapse to the ground while the giant cat charges Ion Stormwake, the human soldier. Dolvak the mystic is writhing on the floor as one of the aliens seeks to control his mind, and loses himself to the alien’s thrall. The Romulan dodges the incoming cat while Taban attempts to line up a shot, landing it while the cat shrugs it off and comes after him. Leaping up, the cat grabs Taban by the neck and then starts dragging him down the corridor. Varreth fires at the cat, burning a massive hole through the abdominal organs, which thus enrages the cat and causes it to drop its prey. The possessed Dolvak attacks Emony, who tries to defend herself with a plasma torch. Dolvak slams the torch out of the way, and slugs Emony. Emony attempts to attack the alien possessing Dolvak, who nimbly phase-shifts out of the way.

Arjin the doctor attempts to land a blow on the alien shifter, only to land flat on his face. Hogue is shooting at the cat, who is still standing although heavily wounded. The cat bodily slams into Hogue, but is then shot by Varreth and the cat’s head vaporizes in a field of plasma. Meanwhile, one of the aliens attacks Emony, who dodges the alien only to be clubbed from behind by Dolvak. Ion shoots, missing as his blast passes through the alien without effect, and Taban attempts to stun Dolvak despite his neck wound that has cut an artery.

With Taban bleeding out, and on the verge of death, he collapses to the ground. Arjin recovers enough to leap over and attempts to close the pulsing artery. Emony attempts to roll around the attacking aliens, only to slam into a wall. Hogue is still shooting, although his shots are simply passing through the alien beings.

Arjin, in a moment of medical brilliance, despite incredibly hostile conditions, manages to close the artery moments before Taban’s blood loss would have been too great to recover from, although his wounds are still serious and will result in death within minutes if not treated. The alien possessing Dolvak releases him and lets out a powerful shriek that renders all but Arjin and Varreth unconscious. As Dolvak recovers his mind, he states, “I’m free… oh,” as he drops to the floor. Luckily, Varreth strikes the alien in the back of the head with his rifle, incapacitating it, then shoots the remaining standing alien.

Arjin attempts emergency resuscitation of Ion, applying defibrillator paddles from his medical kit, and then shocking him back to life. Meanwhile, Varreth attempts to stab the incapacitated alien with his blade, although the creature slides out of the way, until Varreth gets in another blow that injures it. The alien lets out another psionic scream, although everyone awake manages to resist it, until the alien tries again. Arjin drops unconscious, having been unsuccessful in reviving Emony.

The other alien screams, and Ion drops. After a crescendo of psionic noise, Varreth is the only one standing. As one of the aliens opens its mouth, the Romulan lines up a shot and vaporises him, then follows up with the second standing alien. Ignoring the alien still writhing on the ground, Varreth begins first aid on Arjin, cracking his ribs but to no avail. The Romulan begins slapping him violently until the good doctor begins to come around. With the doctor hobbling over to save Taban from bleeding out, Varreth delivers a mercy blow to the last alien being before turning off the subspace beacon.

Arjin frantically attempts to rebuild torn and shredded tissue with the basic tools at his disposal, as Taban has less than five minutes before bleeding out. Varreth attempts to assist the doctor, but his efforts prove futile. Taban continues bleeding as the minutes tick by. Varreth stands by, handing the doctor tools to help, and Arjin manages to stop the bleeding two minutes before it would have been over.

With time less of a critical issue, the doctor begins repairing the deep tissue damage, and major blood vessels are still exposed and weakened. Varreth wakes up Dolvak, who moans, “What just happened?” “The dead remains are all around us, I think you can figure out what happened.” Varreth attempts to wake Ion, but is unsuccessful as Dolvak nonchalantly inquires if Hogue has anything valuable on him and trades his deck plating piece for the one in the unconscious Cardassian’s possession.

The doctor manages to repair enough of the critical damage that Taban is able to get up without shearing muscles and blood vessels. Dolvak attempts to replicate some food from the mess hall dispensers, but as the ship lacks power is ultimately unsuccessful. Arjin works on repairing some of the tissue damage on Ion, but fails. Meanwhile, the team respectfully thanks Varreth for saving their lives. After repairing various cuts and other injuries, the good doctor becomes fatigued. Deciding to exit the corridor, the team enters the mess hall, with Taban hanging at the rear as he is still in critical condition, but the hall is clear.

Emony attempts to power the replicator by interfacing it with the power cell from the team’s watercraft, without success, and tries again, this time shocking herself. The team discusses perhaps eating the cat for food, and the doctor scans for toxins before declaring the meat fit for consumption. Various party members help out, and they succeed in recovering the cat hide and manage to cut out roughly 200 kilograms worth of edible meat. It was a very large cat.

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