Star Trek: Peaceful Occupations

S2E03: Viscera

Full of shit

Session 10
Attended: Alex, Gail, James & Shaun
Venue: James’s place

Covers events on Stardate 49073.

insert player log here

GM’s Summary:
After a maintenance stay at Rogue Theta-8, the Sirco cell beams back to the Hur’Un, without realising that Kestra Hagen has diverted them all into a holodeck simulation of their ship, to test recent holodeck upgrades. Within the simulation, they receive word of an anomalous sensor reading a little under one light year deeper into the Badlands, which they confirm as emitting high quantities of verteron radiation. A closer investigation reveals a large artificial wormhole to the Delta Quadrant, guarded by small work ships, and the USS Tempest NCC-66230, holding position nearby but apparently completely uncrewed. The Maquis take command of the Tempest and fly it through the wormhole.

On the other side, they find another artificial wormhole mouth, sustained by massive antimatter reactors on the planetoid below, which reads as a single, massive dilithium crystal. Attempts to destroy these and flee through the wormhole fail when the wormhole appears to deliver them back to the same point in space, and the same happens to multiple probes sent through. In reality, this is due to a programming error by Hagen, and when she attempts to look into this, she discovers she’s also barred everyone inside from terminating the program or interacting directly with the Hur’Un’s systems. She does not rush to confess this to the others. Combat with further alien ships reveals that the safety protocols are off (as Hagen had planned) and Damaar is slightly injured by an explosion. With the Tempest taking significant damage, the rest of the crew catches on to Hagen’s vague implications of being in a holodeck, and find a way to confirm it. With West‘s real disruptor, which he was wearing down at Theta-8, they blast a hole in a wall that happens to be an interior one, and not the outer hull. Contact is made with Captain Villegas and the Maquis boarding party who’ve just arrived to investigate why the Hur’Un has been drifting aimlessly and ignoring hails for hours.

GM’s Commentary:
Originally published as Surviving The First Session: #4 Ignorance by Jonny Nexus, in Critical Miss, Issue 7, 2002

With thanks to Alex, Brendon & David (of my Warhammer group) for help refining exactly what Hagen’s test would entail.

Alex and I had been putting off running this scenario since the days when he was playing the commanding officer of the USS Rutan, back in 2005. Now felt like as good a time as any to finally run it, partly because it kills some time during a period when normal Maquis operations are awkward (see previous episode) and partly because it has the potential to sow some slight distrust into the crew, who’ve been entirely cohesive so far.

I am aware, though, that it is slightly annoying that the conclusion effectively amounted to, “…but it was all just a dream,” and that’s why I was careful to enforce Alex’s request to turn off the holodeck safety protocols. Dr Damaar got some nasty burns out of that, and if combat had gone worse for them, who knows how badly I might have let them get hurt. At least an element of real danger meant they faced more than just getting locked in a room for a few hours. Then, of course, there was the added bit of real danger they added themselves of trying to blast through a wall, not knowing if it would be the outer hull or an interior bulkhead. I simply rolled a d4 for that, and the die was on their side.

Alex, of course, completely expected me to throw in some sort of twist, but I don’t think he thought I’d make it his character’s own fault.

Letting them play with a simulation of the Tempest was also nice as a way to explore how different ships work under these rules. Unfortunately, they were damn uncurious about the mysterious, abandoned ship, not bothering to explore it beyond the bridge and engineering. Not only would this have given them a direct look at Hagen’s perspective of what life on that ship was like, but it would also have given them a huge hint about the deception, with lots of incomplete, sparsely furnished and even totally repeated room interiors.

The aliens were totally fictious (within the fictious setting), but were loosely based on the Borg, the sole species from the Delta Quadrant that Hagen could have any knowledge of. Hence the cube-shaped ships, but also the insecty nature of them, a reference I added, linking to the original concept the TNG writers had for them, before budget limits forced them to go with techno-humanoids instead. I (through Hagen) kept them as simple an stupid and non-communicative as possible, to account for the holodeck not actually having been made well enough to portray deeper characters.

The planet made entirely of dilithium seemed like the sort of engineer’s fantasy that Hagen might have had, and was loosely based on some science news that caught a lot of attention last year, the possible discovery of a mostly-diamond planet. I suppose a dilithium equivalent might be possible, but with its much higher (fictional) atomic number, it should be far less likely.

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