Star Trek: Peaceful Occupations

S2E05: Brood Parasite

Time travel and a doctor

Session 12
Attended: Gail, James, Owen & Shaun (with Jay observing)
Venue: James’s place

Covers events on Stardate 49497 to 49513.

insert player log here

GM’s Summary:
While a major Maquis force prepares to launch an offensive against the Cardassian presence on Salva II, the Hur’Un is sent off to investigate an unusual Cardassian fleet movement towards the Klaestron system. They track the CDS Vetar and CDS Veshar actively searching for something, and arrive just in time to catch the start of a fight between the Cardassians and the USS Ka’thela NCC-31846, over the oddly ancient and worn saucer section of the USS Nexus NCC-74879, a ship not due to be launched for another 2 years. The Hur’Un’s surprisingly heavy firepower easily destroys the two Cardassian ships and chases off the Starfleet ship too, giving the Maquis a chance to beam aboard the remains of the Galaxy-class, following a simple radio message, apparently sent from the Nexus, that reads “Send Doctor Damaar”.

West heads for the main computer core, finding it in total darkness and dampness, and begins preparing to beam it aboard the Hur’Un. K’VodleH and Damaar beam onto the bridge, wear they find robe-wearing “crew”, headed by Captain John Hogshead, who is immediately very friendly and familiar with them. In the privacy of his ready room, he reveals that he is the current-future-past (head explode!) host of Arjin, the symbiont in Damaar, and that he’s spent the last 300 years turning the Nexus survivors into servile thralls (after he killed all the Vulcans). He offers his techniques (written in paper books) to Damaar, but when the USS Tempest NCC-66230 arrives unexpectedly, it’s decided that the elder version of Arjin is too fragile for the transporters, and he is left behind while the others return to the Hur’Un and fight the Tempest. The battle goes terribly for the Starfleet vessel, and it explodes spectacularly without even getting to fire a shot. While the Hur’Un escapes, the weakened, unprotected hull of the Nexus is caught in the blast and several hundred people onboard are killed, including Hogshead/Arjin. The Hur’Un adds 10 random Nexus crew to the 5 Tempest bridge crew they’ve already captured, abandoning the rest and flying back home.

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

We were joined for this session by Cadet Jay, Shaun’s nephew, who wanted to watch a game and decide if he’d join us in future. He’s about the age I was when I started roleplaying.

It was only when I was writing up the commentary for episode 3 that I went back to re-read the old Critical Miss article that was based on, for the first time in years. And I was surprised that I’d forgotten/ignored the other part of its plot, the starship flung back in time and converted to a primitive generation ship. This was clearly a fascinating plot hook, and I had to use it too, and it had to come soon, before I revealed all my GM commentaries for season 2 and gave everyone a chance to read the Critical Miss article.

For all of the concept’s interestingness, it’s still very, very open ended, especially once I yanked out the Prime Directive concern that Jonny had started out with, because Maquis terrorists just don’t care about that (see season 1 episode 3). So what would they do with a discovery like that? I had no idea. Better to improvise as the story plays out. It’s a skill I mastered by GMing Planescape, which can get ridiculously open-ended, thanks to the fantastically vast detail of the sandbox city of Sigil.

I thought I had to stick some ship combat outside the Nexus, to keep things interesting, but the crew have become so skilled and their ship so well armed that they just sliced through everything I threw at them. An Oberth is not meant to be a combat ship; Galors are. I think combat might have become a little crazy (just in time for the Dominion War). Admittedly, I did keep the Galors focused on the harder to hit, less dangerous Starfleet target and ignoring the Hur’Un for too long. Their logic was that they were stealing from the Federation, so the Federation warship was the most immediate concern. And by the time they’d changed their minds, it was too late.

Perhaps it would have been smarter to simply leave the space hulk drifting alone through the dark, wait for player curiousity to send them onto the ship willingly, and then… something. My mind automatically goes to something like Cthulhu or Rogue Trader (which is how I ended up imagining Starfleet cultist robes for Hogshead & co.), but those are really difficult to pull off in the face of 24th century Starfleet tech. Too many sensors, too many transporters, not enough ways to really threaten the PCs as individuals. I’m not entirely sure how the series writers managed to write so many tense away missions without always resorting to “unexpected anomaly hinders super-tech, thus forcing crew to do things manually.”

I sent the Nexus to Klaestron, as a fairly neutral place near Trill, because I knew I wanted to weave the Damaar symbiont plot into the Nexus plot, and being near Trill might have been useful to me for that. Klaestron being Cardassian-friendly but far from Cardassian space was also perfect. The Nexus’s approach was from the far side of the Badlands, giving them plenty of nebulae and gaseous anomalies to sneak through, avoiding violating the Temporal Prime Directive too badly. At full impulse, you can cover about 80 lightyears in 300 years, which isn’t too bad, really, so long as you ignore relativistic time dilation. I gave them slightly less than 300 years, though, because I wanted their arrival back in time to fall on my 100th birthday. Sending them back from 2376 was originally tied to an idea I had to connect this all to a parasites plot from one of the DS9 novels, which takes place in that year. But parasites and symbionts together just got too messy.

The Nexus is obviously named after Jonny, as is half of John Hogshead’s name. The surname is from the blessed James Wallis’s old games company, Hogshead Publishing. Limiting the Nexus to just its saucer section solved lots of problems, like explaining why the ship hadn’t just performed a slingshot around a star or done some other trick to travel back to the future. It also kept its most interesting toys out of the players’ hands. The only interesting things on the saucer section (apart from people eating algae) were the main shuttle bay, the type X phaser arrays and the computers. I intentionally burned out the phasers (something similar is seen in the VOY episode The Year of Hell) and wrecked the shuttle bay and computer just enough that only a little bit could be retrieved from each (i.e. plot information and enough parts that K’vodleH could build his dream Type 9 shuttle). They left the plot information til last, so it had little effect anyway, but does feed into the next episode. I also hadn’t seen a diagram of the main shuttle bay before, and it really is shockingly big compared with the dinky lesser shuttle bays 2 and 3 they always showed on screen.

I made two Nexus crew portraits, as the picture I found with the right kind of monk robes happened to have two people in it. One became Captain Hogshead, while the other, a Commander Otep, wasn’t necessary during the game. He looked crap anyway, especially with my Andorian conversion:
Otep

The Tempest, meanwhile, had just been upgraded with quantums and bigger phasers, much like the USS Lakota in DS9’s Paradise Lost, and for the same reason. I have no doubt that Commander Skraag (promotion!) would have been on Leyton’s side. But the players just rolled so damn well that Tempest didn’t get off a single shot in 3 or 4 rounds of fighting. They stuck around that long because I felt an ex-engineer like Skraag would feel compelled to fix his broken weapons on the spot, rather than run away. He’s always been vicious, but never a great tactician. And now he’s dead. Nobody could have survived an explosion like that. It’s a pity Alex/Hagen missed the episode.

The exploding Tempest also gave me a way to put a cap on the Nexus thread, by killing off Hogshead and ending any further Maquis interest in the scene.

The USS Ka’thela, under Captain Tamathu, comes from Fires of Armageddon, same as the USS Boston. That book doesn’t define Tamathu’s species or anything, so I opted for Andorian.

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