A Cold Day - The Descent

Actions Most Rude
Clean up your mess!

As the Demitus’ warp core drops rudely down through the dock, it dumps huge amounts of warp plasma even as station internal shields and forcefields snap up to protect other ships from a possible detonation. Taban incredulously taps his communicator, only to find that the communicators are offline. Meanwhile, Varreth is five minutes away and notices the commotion in the docks.

Whipping out his tricorder, Varreth hears alarm klaxons sound out about an imminent core breach. Now dreading what has happened in his absence, Varreth breaks into a run, desperate to find out what is going on, looking on with a mix of fear and disgust as he sees coolant dripping from the bottom of his ship. Grabbing a nearby dock worker, he demands to know what is going on, only to learn that three Romulan ships have just signalled that they are experiencing breaches in their engines. Managing to contact Taban, Varreth roars, “What did you guys do!”

As Taban hurriedly explains what transpired in the Romulan’s absence, Varreth finds that the airlock door on the side of the ship will not open. As Taban informs his Captain that he cannot open the door due to lack of power, Varreth raises his disruptor to blast open the door, only to reconsider a moment later. Varreth asks Emony to cut the door open, and she grabs her tools before making her way to the airlock, only to find she can simply open the airlock manually.

After Arjin tends to Ion’s wounds, the party arms up and exits the ship, with Romulan dockworkers looking strangely at them, although they are too busy managing the dock’s chaos to pay them much more attention. Alarms sound out again, and another Romulan vessel drops its singularity core into the dock while the Varreth and his crew look on.

Taking advantage of the chaos, Varreth informs his crew of the mission he has been given, only to be interrupted by the dock control, advising him to recover his warp core or they will destroy it. As their ship is disabled, Taban takes the runabout and flies to the bottom of the space dock, just barely managing to pick up the warp core with the tractor beam in gravity. As he returns to the Demitus, he notes another problem, “Guys, we have no way to keep the warp core inside the ship even if we do manage to get it back up.” Thinking quickly about solutions to the problem, Emony rigs up a winch to hold the core in position while she secures it. Hogue, wearing magnetic boots, steps out onto the hull of the runabout to snag the warp core with the winch, only to find the sensation so incredible that he has to start dancing.

After Taban snarls at Hogue to stop dancing and get on with his job, Hogue swings the winch grapple until he snags the core. Just as the grapple’s hold is confirmed, Hogue slips off of the runabout hull and starts falling until he manages to grab the winch cable, hanging by his fingers. Taban opens the airlock for Hogue to get inside, but Hogue yells that there is no way he’ll be able to get inside, and says Emony should just winch him up.

Emony starts the winch, only to realize that there is not enough room for Hogue in the warp tube, and that he will not fit. With no other alternative, Hogue lets go of the cable and drops. Moments later, a screaming Hogue is beamed onto the runabout’s transporter pad, to face an angry Taban. Taban parks the runabout back atop the Demitus’ hull, while Emony works to secure the warp core back in its rightful place.

With 43 minutes remaining before officer Oron makes his way through the station corridor at the appointed time, Varreth pulls aside the ex-Federation members of the crew minus Emony who is still at work and briefs them on the assassination mission. With Dolvak pretending to be a prisoner, Arjin recommends using a poison to kill the target, as it won’t attract attention the same way a disruptor blast would. To help Dolvak focus and aim if he has to resort to a concealed disruptor, Arjin prepares a blue serum, which is supposed to be a stimulant. Setting out, the party hurries to the designated location and waits.

Xaina injects Dolvak with the simulant hypospray, which turns out to have the opposite effect, sedating him. Frantically they try to revive him, but are unable to, and thus Ion switches clothes with Dolvak to take his place, only no one arrives. Seconds later, forcefields snap up, and the party is beamed away.

Dolvak, Xaina, and Ion find themselves inside a security brig, minus everything they were carrying. Officer Oron stands on the other side of the forcefield brig, and darkly announces that he knew all along about the attempt on his life before informing the shaken prisoners that he will be apprehending the rest of the crew shortly.

Taban nervously checks the communications systems, noting that he has lost the team’s signals. Conferring with Varreth, Taban comes to the conclusion that the team is either detained or dead. With the remainder of the repairs to the warp core complete, Emony attempts a cold start, and manages to bring the core online without any problems, except the fact that all of the controls are in Romulan.

Trying to figure out what to do about the crew, Hogue mentions that he once infiltrated a security depot, and that he thinks he can sneak into the Romulan security station to find out where the team is and what happened to them. Varreth, hesitantly agrees, knowing that the Cardassian has not exactly had the best track record with these kind of scenarios.

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Spiders!
Tapping they creep, zapping the fleet...

Even as chaos breaks out on board the Demitus, Varreth receives his mission instructions. His target, Officer Oron, will be traveling through an infrequently used corridor in precisely three hours on-route to the Tal Shiar offices. Varreth is to use his ex-Federation crew to assassinate Oron while he is in the corridor, as arrangements have been made to lower surveillance in that area. Varreth attempts to communicate with his ship, only to find that he cannot due to jamming, which leaves him mildly concerned. Varreth leaves, making his way back to the Demitus to inform his crew that they have once again been drafted for a stupid and dangerous mission they cannot get out of.

Back aboard the Demitus, Taban has his personal weapons at the ready as the ship’s computer systems become obviously crippled. Computer consoles flicker, sparks fly, and alarms sound out. Systems previously translated to Federation Standard revert to the Romulan language, leaving Taban clueless as to what they are indicating. Ion continues to track the metal-on-metal sounds throughout the ship, stopping only as he comes up to a forcefield.
Emony, standing at a console in main engineering, hears a change in the warp core’s oscillations and pulls out a tricorder. Moments later, she identifies that the core’s internal containment fields are lagging behind the core’s outputs, a recipe for trouble. Quickly she works to prevent a breach.

Hogue the Cardassian rogue is sitting in his quarters playing with a Chinese finger puzzle until he is called by Xaina. Just as he gets up to see what she wants, he hears a loud crash and looks up to see a small mechanical arachnoid drop from the ceiling, followed immediately by another one. Snatching his phaser, Hogue fires on the spiders, missing, then smashing them before turning to see what Xaina was calling him for.

Taban manages to get a communications channel open and signals the crew, asking what is going on. Hogue reports the presence of the mechanical spiders, pausing to argue with Xaina over if they are in fact toys or weapons. Taban asks Hogue to see if he can find out what the spiders were doing, who then notes that several sections of fibre cable in the ceiling have been shredded, which Emony sets out to repair. Grabbing her tools, Emony sprints down the corridor, falling face first at Ion’s feet, who looks up and shakes his head. Standing on Hogue’s desk, Emony pokes her head up through the ceiling tiles, and shudders in horror at the site of several hundred small mechanical spiders.

Taban suddenly gets computer access back, and starts diverting critical systems around damaged components. He also notes that the damage to the ship’s systems seems to the concentrated around the maintenance bay, which he relays to Emony, only to hear her report of the huge number of mechanical arachnoids. Thinking quickly, Taban suggests spiking the power systems to fry the small creatures, to which Emony retorts, “The engineer should probably do this.”

Sprinting towards main engineering, Emony manages to trip only once. Ion, weapons at the ready, watches as several mechanical spiders drop down and come at him. Running backwards, Ion begins firing down the corridor, burning holes into the bulkheads as he does so. The spiders leap at Ion even as he swats them off, but they overwhelm him and inject him with a paralytic agent. Ion screams mentally, causing the telepathic Xaina to step out of her quarters and see him lying there. Instantly she hits her communications badge and summons help.

Arjin comes running out of the medical bay, passing Emony as she makes her way to main engineering. Taban starts freaking out, “Check the systems! Check the systems!” Emony notices that communication systems have been seized by a rogue process and attempts to stop the hack but fails. Meanwhile back in the corridor, Xaina has grabbed her umbrella and begun at swing at the mechanical spiders even as she screams for help. Hogue comes out of his quarters, sees the chaos, and turns back. Furious, Xaina yells, “Come back here!” Hogue fires back over his shoulder, “What do you expect me to do with my bare hands?” Moments later, Hogue comes running back with an EMP grenade in his hand, yelling, “Stand back!” Seconds later an electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the unprotected interior of the ship, stopping the spiders dead in the tracks, even as the computer systems begin a cascading failure.

All lighting shuts off as Emony looks up in horror at the warp core. A moment later, the main computer core is offline while Emony tries to shut down the unregulated and violent core. Seeing no other option, Emony pulls the emergency manual release, tripping explosive bolts and dropping the core out of the bottom of the ship, right into the middle of the space dock…

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Sing of the Day
Touch not aged, unknown consoles.

Emony, the woeful Trill engineer, is singled out by the drill sergeant, who screams obscenities at her and threatens to whip her into shape if she does not straighten up. Dolvak attempts to save his colleague by administering a hypospray injection in the sergeant. It is most unfortunate in this case that the sergeant is moving back and forth as Dolvak fails, with the injection spraying harmlessly into the air. It is however fortunate that the sergeant does not notice amidst his roaring. Dolvak then reaches over to pinch the man’s nerve, but only manages to make him groggy. Finally Dolvak has enough, draws his phaser, and shoots the sergeant in the middle of the camp, just as a Federation marine walks in.

Spinning fast, Dolvak blasts the marine unconscious just as Emony manages to accidentally inject herself with the memory-loss drug and starts walking in circles confused. Xaina Dex, the Betazoid mystic, runs over and injects both the drill sergeant and the fallen marine with the memory agent, while Dolvak attempts to telepathically create false memories in the unconscious men. Rushed for time, Dolvak is unable to properly order the created memories, but there is little he can do about it. Quickly he melds minds with the confused Emony and shares the events of the last several minutes with her as the drug she accidentally shot herself with caused short-term amnesia. Staggering with exhaustion, Dolvak and the team run for the alien building.

Inside, Emony finds an abandoned alien console that appears to be very old. It takes some finesse, but she manages to activate the dead systems, and messages begin to appear on the screen indicating a large and old robotic fleet is coming online.

Hearing noises coming from outside, the team notes a heavily encrypted datapad and grab it before hastily sprinting outside to see a crowd gathered around the unconscious drill sergeant. Xaina runs for the sergeant’s tent and seizes hold of his computer before running. Emony plants her face in the mud as they escape the camp, but everyone manages to get outside of the transport inhibitor’s range and safely beam back to the Demitus, although Dolvak again loses his clothing during transport.

Back aboard the Demitus, discussion takes place as to the team’s next move. Varreth is quite insistent that the team return to Romulan-controlled space, much to the chagrin of the remaining crewmembers. Finally Taban pipes up, “We do have an alternative option you know.” The unimpressed Romulan states back, “What?”

Putting his hands together, Taban diplomatically informs the crew that they are not that far from some of his old associates, and while they may not be the most legitimate of individuals, they can get nearly anything. Still not impressed, Varreth growls back, “We are heading back to the Empire.” Taban questions, “Is that an order?” Varreth gives him a dark look.

Several days later, the Demitus is escorted into the spacedock above the Romulan world of Forge. Again, a Romulan inspection team comes aboard, although they do not even look at the crates standing in the cargo bay. Once the inspection is complete, Varreth is relayed instructions to visit a bar in the lower part of the station. Before he goes however, Taban points out that once again the Romulans have intentionally ignored the ship’s cargo. Varreth, his mind on other matters merely notes that they will dump the cargo somewhere in space if they cannot find out what is so special about the contents of the crates. Taban asks if the team can dump the Romulan first officer too, which Varreth ignores.

Before Varreth proceeds to the bar, alone but armed, Arjin the ship’s doctor assembles a poison and applies it to the Romulan’s sword. After several minutes of walking through dark and twisting corridors, Varreth arrives at a dimly lit bar filled with quiet and muttering Romulan officers. Looking about the room, Varreth fails to notice anything out of order and proceeds inside, just as a young officer approaches and guides him to a corner out of sight of the main room. The officer encourages Varreth to join him at the table, but the hulking soldier reaches over his shoulder and draws his sword.

Smirking at Varreth’s display, the Romulan officer raises his eyebrow, “Really… do you think that will help you in here? You are covered from more angles than you know, now sit down.” Varreth sits as the officer tells him that a colleague will be joining them shortly. Moments later, an elderly Romulan in non-descript clothing also sits down. Varreth notes he looks familiar but does not recognize him. The elder states that names will not be used, before informing Varreth that the Empire intends to send him on a suicide mission. The elder, grinning darkly, then tells Varreth that he does not desire to see that happen. Varreth and his crew is instead to assassinate an Imperial officer by the name of Oron and implicate the Federation while doing so or else face termination. With little choice in the matter Varreth accepts, although he is quite hostile to the idea.

Meanwhile back on the Demitus, Sub-commander Liara quietly leaves the ship without telling anyone, even as Ion Stormwake hears noises coming from the atmospheric vents, specifically metal-on-metal. Investigating further, he notes the sounds are those of small rapid taps, like something walking on the deck plating. Moving to deck 2, Ion hears the sounds coming from behind a maintenance hatch, at which point he draws his rifle and opens the doors.

The room is black, and Ion turns on his rifle light as the noises retreat into the vents again. Ion is unable to get a good look at what was causing the noise as he still cannot see properly. Calling for help from Taban, Ion continues to track the sounds even as Taban runs a ship-wide scan. The scan reveals that Liara’s lifesign is no longer aboard the ship, but otherwise all seems normal. At that moment Emony notices a spike in the ship’s main computer. Ion shines his light through the ship as the section he is in is also blackened, and identifies that the lights have in fact been destroyed.

Emony, ever the engineer, sees that the main computer power draw is triple that of what it should be while she attempts to isolate the front half of the ship from the back. Forcefields are raised, but in that moment the ship’s computer systems start behaving erratically. Systems begin locking out, and cascade jamming along the communication channels takes place. A sense of dread rises along the engineer’s spine.

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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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