Posted on August 11, 2019
Border Dispute, 1.2
The spoiler warning for this one has to go up right away, because this one was a mystery scenario with a few twists and surprises. This was the first scenario I’ve run from the These Are The Voyages Vol. 1. So yeah, if you haven’t played Border Dispute, but might, seriously worth your time to NOT read this; it really is a good, very Star Trek adventure by Andrew Peregrine.
The action got underway when the Captain of the Chiron was hailed on secure subspace channel and went to take the message in her ready room. A few minutes later, she re-emerged, gave the helm new coordinates and put the ship on Yellow Alert. She summoned her senior officers and informed them of the situation.
A Federation medical vessel, the USS Nightingale had strayed into the Romulan Neutral Zone and been apprehended by a Warbird, which had disabled it and was preparing to tow it back to Romulus as proof of the Federation’s ill intentions towards their treaty with the Romulan Star Empire.
Upon arriving just outside the RNZ they found the Nightingale pretty badly beat up, dwarfed by the hulking D’deridex-class T’Varen. Establishing contact with the Nightingale they found that her captain was dead, her computer core deliberately scuttled, her hull falling apart in places, half her crew dead and her engines buggered. It was looking bad over there.
The Romulans weren’t having everything their own way – they hailed the Chiron and after lengthy, persnickety, faintly insulting negotiations their Captain Mehven agreed to let a single party board the Nightingale to help effect repairs and stabilize the wounded. They’d have five hours to do what they could and then they’d have to leave while the Warbird returned with her trophy. Unless they really want to see Romulus, I guess.
Captain Vasquez gave the away team some directives – save as many of the crew as they could, of course but they were NOT to allow this situation to devolve into anything that could kick off a war, and they were not to allow Federation secrets to fall into Romulan hands.
First order of business on the Nightingale was to meet Commander Lewis, who was now in charge, and Lt Dallon who was the navigator who had (finally!) noticed that the ship was off course and that they’d strayed into the RNZ.
From their description, they had no idea where they were but something didn’t feel right to Dallon, so he double-checked and as soon as they figured out where they were they raised their shields. The Warbird had decloaked, right above them and hammered the ship with two quick blasts. The Nightingale returned fire desperately and had apparently scored a hit in the T’Varen’s engine room, disabling its engines. So now both ships hung there, the Romulans with the strong upper hand, both trying to fix their engines. The toll on the Nightingale’s engineering compliment had been devastating, however and the remaining mycologists etc were struggling to get repairs done at all.
Captain Blake had died heroically, successfully enacting the Romulan Protocol on the Ship’s Computer before she succumbed to injuries sustained when the Romulans blasted her ship. This would prevent the Romulans from accessing sensitive Starfleet data, such as their activity on the open side of the RNZ and the disposition of the defensive fleet.
They quizzed Dallon, guilt-ridden and a little shocked and immediately suspected sabotage of some sort, rather than his culpability. Ensign Rands volunteered to climb in an EV suit and stomp up the hull to the sensor array.
Stomping out along the hull, Rands couldn’t help but be awed by the sheer size of the T’Varen, looming over the small Federation science vessel – the D’deridex class is a massive starship and the backbone of the Romulan fleet. The young officer found obvious evidence of sabotage at the sensor array. Someone had made a simple crude adjustment that lengthened the time between automated calibration checks. This is a relatively easily discovered flaw so whoever committed the sabotage did so with clever timing, causing the Nightingale to fail to autocorrect its way out of a ‘bulge’ in the neutral zone, probably only an hour before the increasingly ambush-looking encounter with the T’varen.
Lt V’Rona and Chief Rolland went to sickbay to help out with the carnage down there. They found a hasty triage set up and an overworked medical staff grateful for the aid. There was little time for bed-side manner and while V’Rona helped those that could be helped, Rolland helped lift those that could not to either a quiet, restful area or the makeshift morgue in a converted cargo hold. There, the dead crew were stacked respectfully, although the Captain’s body had been set aside.
In Engineering, meanwhile, a Vulcan called G’Trel had put everyone to work on fixing the ship’s systems, but it was obviously daunting work. Commander Soral got to work assessing and prioritizing repairs while Commander Troka delivered pep talks to the lab technicians and xenolinguists who had been drafted in as repair crew.
The shields were down, the engines and weapons were offline, the hull had come away from the rest of the ship at some points and was being held in place (at great power drain) by force fields. In addition, auxiliary systems were down, everything from the lighting to the ship’s main computer (which the Captain had also scrambled). A Vulcan geologist named Tellek hovered around this last system, hoping someone who knew what they were doing would rescue his research. I mean, those rocks aren’t going anywhere buddy.
First things first, they got the Warp Core Safety systems back in place, then fixed up the Warp Core, the propulsion’s systems, the shields, and the hull plating (although that was the only one they sorta botched). They left weapons and security systems down – those being the most incendiary should they suddenly spring to life on the T’Varen’s scans. Still, even after fixing the computer, they didn’t bring a lot of these systems online – the computer they left disconnected, ready to go at the flip of a switch.
They made a laundry list of everything that their investigation needed to know from the ship’s computer:
- Who had gone outside to dick around with the sensor array.
Oh, that was about it. I mean, a bunch of other stuff would get way easier once they had the computer to coordinate things. And trivia nights would be waaay easier. But mostly, they wanted to discover the identity of the saboteur.
It’s just that the computer had been deliberately scrambled by the Captain and unscrambling it would leave it vulnerable to Romulan browsing should they drag the computer back to Romulus or even just board the Nightingale in force with a big enough flash drive. So they were careful to have all their ducks in a row before they flipped the switch. Lt V’Rona sent back encrypted messages to the Chiron in patient injury reports and requests for medical records, informing them of their progress and plans.
Flipping the switch on the un-encrypted computer, they sprang into action with questions for the computer. Who had checked out an EV suit? Who had accessed the exterior hull? Who scored in the 1978 World Cup final?
Almost immediately the computer slowed down. Ugh, free McAfee downloads, am I right guys? Now they also needed to find out why the computer sucked. They got their answers:
- Tellek, the geologist had taken an EV suit about an hour before the ambush.
- No-one had used the hatches, but transporter logs showed a transporter test that could have been to just outside the hull.
- Kempes, Bertoni and Nanninga.
And the computer’s performance sucks because someone is very quickly downloading everything to a physical drive. They sent what they had in the way of security scrambling to Tellek’s quarters and engineering.
On the bridge and scanning for where the computer was being siphoned, the scanners showed a brief communication pulse from the Nightingale to the T’Varen. Seconds later a tractor beam from the T’varen pulled/pushed at the hull of the Nightingale. They hailed the Romulans to find what the heck was going on as they still had time on their five hour limit. Mehven told them that an instability in the vessel’s hull had been detected and out of the goodness of their copper-blooded hearts, they had decided to help the Nightingale not explode. Oh, too late, the section came apart in an explosion. Well, these things happen.
But the timing of Tellek’s combadge-vital signs going flat and the explosion weren’t quite in sync. The away team made for Tellek’s asploded quarters. Pretty quickly they found the dead sociologist and I don’t know, volunteer doula that they’d made into security officers. Also, they found that the EPS conduit had been damaged (probably in the firefight) but helped along its way to exploding by a small disruptor charge.
Soral, V’Rona and Rands headed to the Computer core while Troka stayed on the bridge, trying to coordinate the sluggish functions of the Nightingale and trying to distract Mheven with a wandering deluge of verbiage. V’Rona waited outside while Rands and Soral tried cornering the Vulcan in Main Engineering. They weren’t able to force him into an out and out fight and – still armed with disruptor grenades – he was able to flee down a Jefferies Tube in the direction of the shuttle bay, only lightly chased. Oh, for a Security Officer.
Troka had shut down the shuttle bay and when it was clear Tellek had headed that way, flooded the hangar with gas to knock everyone out. The three pursuers waited until gas masks had replicated and rushed the hangar. Tellek, no dummy, had not been knocked out by the gas as the shuttles themselves can seal themselves off from environmental dangers and he had a rebreather because this isn’t his first day on the old spy job. He had a watch that was also a garotte, but no-one asked to see it. From the safety of the shuttle he exchanged fire with the three real Starfleet officers before activating a) the shuttle to blow and b) his transportation beacon and getting the hell out of there. No one had raised shields… so that was easy. He disappeared with the characteristic green glow of a Romulan transporter, giant USB full of Federation secrets under his arm. They defused the shuttle-bomb as quickly as they could which was quick enough.
At this point Mheven initiated contact: she had decided that in the spirit of friendship and cooperation, she would forgive the USS Nightingale its trespass, swallow their somewhat implausible story about NOT being Federation spies, and let them go. What could she say? She was an enormous softy. Everyone pledged to lodge complaints about the whole affair with their respective governments.
As far as mission parameters go – this was a mixed result. Most importantly, no-one had started a war. Yes, the Nightingale was saved, they saved a lot of its crew too (although they definitely sacrificed a few crew by having them do dangerous security work for them) but the Romulans made off with all the Nightingale’s knowledge of Starfleet’s disposition along the Neutral Zone and a bunch of other sensitive information. The slight silver lining is that the Romulans didn’t get away without being seen – the Federation KNOWS their strategic information is out there and so can then change their Order of Battle etc. Still, major bummer for Starfleet’s tacticians who have to quit playing Starcraft and actually push a few ships around.
Will this advantage mean they’ll see more of the Romulans on the wrong side of the Neutral Zone? Only time will tell.