Star Trek: Peaceful Occupations

S0E06: A Life Too Short

Session 6
Attended: Alex, Andrew & Nenad
Venue: My place

Covers events on Stardate 37418 to 37434.

Acting Captain’s log, stardate 37434.8

We have finally surveyed the last star of the Styx Rift, Beta Cerberus, a suspected Lazarus star, which the astronomers on the USS Biko reported to be within a century of going supernova. However, as we approached the system at low warp, we were struck by an unexpected subspace eddy, which caused the warp reactor to fluctuate wildly, throwing the Rutan out of warp and into a wild tumble. Fortunately, Ensign Gen’rar was quick to recover a stable trajectory.

Chief Engineer’s log, 37434.8

Our last stop in the Stygian rift went surprisingly quietly, considering a star went nova. We discovered a bronze age reptilian culture on one of the planets that big-heads tell me that the culture’s rate of evolution cum civilization is unusually fast.

We spent some time down on the planet trying to find a reason…instead we found a naturally occurring fission pile. While I was amazed by the glory of nature, surely the Tellarite could have worked that out from orbit?

Oh well. Acting Captain Bell has shown a, no doubt out of character, adherence to the rules by sticking to the prime directive. Maybe it’s just because he doesn’t like lizards?

GM’s Summary:
Lt Graan quickly realised that the subspace distortion they had just been struck by was a sign that the star would likely go supernova very soon, just as the USS Biko had predicted. However, they would have to wait for a few more such eddies before he could give any sort of accurate prediction about when this might happen. In the mean time, Bell ordered the Rutan to investigate the system’s planets, before they were wiped out. The first, third and fourth were all unremarkable lumps of rock, notable only for their relative youth, but the second planet was a Class M, with signs of primitive intelligent life, in the form of creatures that can be best imagined as tall, thin velociraptors, although they appeared to occur in a number of sizes and colours, from just over a meter to almost 2.5 meters tall.

Despatching probes to survey the other planets, Bell focused his efforts on Beta Cerberus II and its life. It was particularly interesting because the anthrological officer, Ensign Shrak, could not explain how life on this planet had reached this stage of early technology (roughly equivalent to Earth’s Bronze Age) in such a short time. It was known that this process took, in almost all known cases, many billions of years, while the Beta Cerberus system was believed to have formed only a couple hundred million years ago, after it had reformed from its last nova(1).

Suspecting that the planet’s sentient life had been placed there artificially, the crew scanned for any major power sources. This showed very high radiation levels across the planet, but only one which appeared to be a small fission reactor. In order to investigate this further, Bell led an away team, including Shran, Graan and Crewman Anders(2), down to the barren and rain-pounded planet below. In a small cave in an isolated region of one of the planet’s many island continents, they found their reactor: A naturally-occurring reactor, formed from a big pile of uranium ore. It appeared to be a red herring(3). Just then, Crewman Anders reported that a group of the locals was approaching the area. In order to avoid detection, the away team immediately returned to the ship.

Observing (via the ship’s sensors) that the pair who were passing the cave were carrying some sort of fruit, Bell was inspired to collect as many plant and animal samples as possible before the impending supernova, and the crew set about beaming samples up from remote parts all over Beta Cerberus II. These included a rather unusual genus of beetle-like creatures(4) that had metal composite exoskeletons. More importantly, these samples showed that the cellular mutation rates of the life on this planet were exceptionally high; slightly higher, in fact, than was believed physically possible. This would account, in part, for the Beta Cerberans’ advanced evolution.

Meanwhile, more subspace eddies had struck the Rutan, though harmlessly, now that the ship was no longer at warp. The supernova was due, not within a year or so, as the Biko’s crew had estimated, but within a week. Having established this, LtCdr Bell ordered the Rutan to collect as much data as possible, for as long as possible, before running away as fast as possible. In order to avoid further problems with the subspace eddies, Lt Shran began working on a shielding system for the warp core, although this would only keep the core stable while the Rutan as at sub-light speeds, and so was of limited use. Ens Shrak was unhappy to be abandoning such a unique and interesting species to its death, and complained to LtCdr Bell. Bell, however, would have none of it, and insisted that the Prime Directive be followed to the letter. Shrak was disappointed, but was forced to accept it(5).

Finally, the big explosion was due, and the Rutan retreated a few lightyears from the system, and watched the probes they had left behind disappear, one after the other(6). With nothing more left to do there, Bell ordered the Rutan to return to Federation space, to await further orders. And so they left the Styx Rift behind, having finally completed their survey of this strange and dangerous sector!(7)

GM’s Commentary:
(1) This process is responsible for the nebulous nature of the Styx Rift. Or rather, that’s my excuse. Actually, I didn’t design this sector, so I’m not the one who needs an excuse.

(2) Anders, the invincible redshirt! Scot, who plays Dr Amri, was unavailable for this session.

(3) Or perhaps a glowing, green herring.

(4) They make sounds the way crickets do, and use this to do covers of ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Hard Day’s Night’.

(5) I put hours of planning into the Beta Cerberans, making them a truly interesting and unique species, and what do my players do? They largely ignore them, then leave them all behind to be vaporised by the supernova. All my hard work, literally reduced to nothing. But that’s ok, I suspect they’ll be encountering other primitive reptilians somewhere, sometime…

(6) At the time, I also told them that they could see the explosion, but of course if they were several lightyears away, that could only have happened several years later. Since the probes transmit subspace messages at around Warp 9.9999, they could pick these up (or rather, cease picking them up) a little sooner.

(7) This episode was inspired by ‘The Sound of Thunder’, episode 8 of Jason Green’s excellent USS Saracen campaign, in which I played the Chief Engineer. The major difference was that I made the locals into a low-tech society, so that the Rutan’s crew would have the added challenge of having to work with the Prime Directive breathing down their necks. Obviously, they took the relatively easy way out (well, maybe not so easy for the Beta Cerberans) by simply following the Prime Directive. If they had felt like more of a challenge, they could have tried to find a way to save a small group of the Beta Cerberans (no way they could have fitted the whole billion or so of them onboard), without breaking the Prime Directive. And, of course, they could have risked simply breaking the law and seeing what punishment Starfleet would give them.

Regardless, this was bound to be a quick adventure, as you might have guessed from the relatively short log above. In practice, it took us about 2 hours to get through, as opposed to the 3-4 hour games we’ve had so far. This was just as well, as Nenad (Graan) and I both had other plans.

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