Anyway, as I mentioned, I had returned from Peru in 1988 and began to run a campaign set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe (as it was known at the time, with only one season of ST:TNG out). My first collaborator was my good friend ruckawriter (who had run a Star Trek campaign for me set around the time of the Star Trek II, III, IV movies). His character was Captain Khelly Vander May. I had run him through several adventures, including one (inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers) in which a driven junior officer, Flight Controller Lt., j.g. Circe Protagon was promoted on his recommendation. However, for her to advance in ship seniority (from relief crew to command crew) she had to accept transfer to another ship. The captain and Protagon had a somewhat flirtatious relationship, but he really had only had eyes for his security chief. The ambitious young Lieutenant left Captain Vander May scratching his head a bit when she left. But it was on to the next adventure, an encounter with Kalandan technology.
After I returned to college for my senior year at U.C. Davis, I was badgered, in a friendly way, into initiating a separate campaign for my friend and housemate David, which started with me running the Kobayashi Maru scenario for his character, Captain Marc Antony Rhys Parthalon.
After getting to “kill” Captain Parthalon and his entire crew in our first outing, if only virtually, I let up on David, but only a bit. First, I made him play cat and mouse games with a Romulan privateer from the House of Khel, a Bird of Prey upgrade with which he traded fire, but never had a decisive engagement.
In his next major episode, near Gorn space, he had to mediate a dispute between a newly contacted race, the Bubahcuhb, and the Gorn, who were attempting to set up a base on the Bubahcuhb planet. After jousting a bit with the Gorn ship in the planetary system ((including having his first officer beamed over to sneak through the ship to disable certain systems), David hit on a “simple solution” to deal with the Gorn claims: hand to hand combat between Parthalon and the Gorn captain in the Nagato’s shuttle bay. No bamboo canon for Parthalon. Nope, a lot of running and screaming, and his high skill in martial arts (which we later determined to be
Savate ) managed to win the day and force the Gorn to relinquish their claims to conquest and agree to negotiate.
After that light little mission, I had the opportunity to bring my two “swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated, dictator[s] with delusions of godhood” together for a Star Trek event.
It happened that ruckawriter was back from Vassar on vacation and was available to come up to visit David and I. I quickly threw together some adventure ideas to bring together the two captains. The basic plan was to throw a series of issues at the two captains, one after another, to keep them off balance until I really pulled the rug out from under them. Then, after they got to experience some rollicking adventure, I was going to throw another curve ball at them and really give them a chance to shine.
One thing I had not planned for was that Greg brought with him a cousin whom I don’t recall having met before, and I certainly had not role played with him before. He was in high school, and there was some tension over whether he would get with the program of our “mature” play. Nonetheless, I had a place to fit him in and he quickly created a character, and actually worked out being a nice addition to the game.
To preface the description of this adventure, I should mention that I was diabolically mean as a GM, and everyone had an inordinate amount of fun.
The episode broke down into several parts:
Part I: Starbase 42
Captain Marc Antony Rhys Parthalon faces a Board of Inquiry. The Board stems from his solution to the Bubahcuhb/Gorn conflict. The Board accepts the arguments of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) prosecutor, Captain Horace Tildor, that Captain Parthalon is guilty of negligence and an infraction of the Prime Directive. The Board demoted him from Sector Captain to Subsector Captain and removed him from command of the U.S.S. Nagato. He and his command crew, minus his Betazoid counselor, were to await reassignment to the U.S.S. Peter Marlowe, a Wambundu Class Starship for which we used the unofficial stats from the FASA Decker Class. The Peter Marlowe did not rate a counselor given its size and mission. However, it did come with a small compliment of Marines, led by Lieutenant Rascar of Cait. The Nagato was transferred to the command of one Captain Janus and First Officer Terrence Navarre.
Captain Parthalon’s new assignment is to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Investigator and initiate an investigation into Romulan privateering in the sector. His instructions are to proceed with caution and to use force only as a last resort. As a military commander in a military command operation, he is technically the ranking officer. Parthalon is also given a second briefing on his fellow Star Fleet Officer, Khelly Vander May. The briefing is provided by a Star Fleet Admiral. He instructs Parthalon to be very wary of Vander May. Though Vander May is a trained Star Fleet Officer, he has a mysterious past, which included Romulan training and conditioning, and although he has been thoroughly evaluated by Star Fleet, he may still have hidden sympathies with his birthright. Further, his father, Del Vander May, also had a history of breaking with Star Fleet policy.
Part II: Starbase 223
In the aftermath of an investigation into an ancient Kalandan outpost which resulted in the explosion of a Kalandan moon complex and the near destruction of the U.S.S. Investigator, Captain Khelly Vander May and his crew take some well-earned shore leave, while the Investigator’s warp core and engines receive repairs from the damage done by the Kalandan automated defense systems.
During the lay over, Khelly sees Lieutenant Tasha Yar for the last time while the U.S.S. Enterprise-D is in port. He also oversees the transfer of his counselor, Wyeth, an Edoan with whom Khelly, who was not much interested in sharing his feelings, did not get along. Vander May then receives orders that he is to take his crew far across the Federation to an area near the Neutral Zone and report to Star Fleet Military Command. His expertise and knowledge is required.
Phase III: Vicinity of the Romulan Neutral Zone
After careful posturing and discussion, the two captains and Parthalon’s Marine commander, set out a plan to search for Romulan privateers operating on the Federation side of the Neural Zone. During their initial patrol, they come into contact with an Orion “merchant” ship captained by one “Commodore” Zynast, aka Captain Zy. After a little back and forth, the Captains and Marine commander beam over to have a little face to face conversation with Captain Zy. He treats them to the usual dancing Orion women, smuggled Romulan ale and then gets down to business. He is looking to make “friends” with the Federation patrols in the sector. Captain Zy provides what data he has about the Romulan pirates. He notes that he has avoided any direct confrontation, but notes that he has observed Romulan ships fire on one another when he and his ship were concealed in an asteroid field.
With the additional information, the Federation Captains find themselves in yet another game of cat and mouse with three Romulan ships. The Bird of Prey upgrade from the House of Khel, as well as a Stormbird (a modified Klingon D-7 ) identified by Khelly to be from House Kur’ta and a Bright One identified, again by Khelly, to be from House T’Kara. Incidentally, all of these houses were foes of his mother’s house according to his training growing up. After tracking the ships, studying patterns of sightings and surveying the nearby systems, the captains are close to an engagement, perhaps a decisive one, with the Romulans.
But they get a priority recall for another mission.
Part IV: Mission to the Jaradan sector
Parthalon and Vander May receive orders from Starbase 42 to proceed to the Jaradan sector where new diplomatic talks have opened after the recent mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise . The orders are precise. The U.S.S. Investigator and the U.S.S. Peter Marlowe are to proceed to the Jaradan sector to rendezvous with the diplomatic ship U.S.S. Aquila II. Commodore Alexis Tangent is the ranking Starfleet officer and the diplomatic head of the mission is Ambassador Tkl’enKla of Kareria. Once the captains located the Aquila II, they were instructed to transmit an encoded message to the Commodore and then place them under her battle orders. This was classified as a military mission.
Captains Parthalon and Vander May did not take the bait. These orders did not seem right. A military mission into the Jaradan sector, during sensitive diplomatic discussions, just after the reopening of diplomatic relations, seemed like a reckless and direct provocation in their analysis.
Parthalon order his second in command, half-Vulcan Science Officer T’Sparlyk (some clichés have to be honored), to break the encryption on the “eyes only” coded message for the Commodore. T’Sparlyk, after breaking the encryption found the message empty, a hollow shell. Concerned over this deception, they decide to try to trick their chain of command at the Starbase and then return to confront whatever must be going wrong there.
Their deception is a complicated engineering effort to send a status report via subspace that they have repair needs that will delay their departure to the Jaradan sector, but actually star warp pulsing back towards the Starbase at speeds that will put them much closer to the Starbase than where they sent the message. It was a complicated ploy, worthy of Treknobabble tradition.
Unfortunately that meant that the neural parasites which had been slowly infiltrating the crews of both ships had to move up their timetables to deal with Parthalon and Vander May. The parasites took over the crew that was in charge of the complicated subspace radio/warp pulse maneuvers and purposely failed while reporting success. Lulled into a false sense of security, relying on their crew members, the Captains begin to plan for alternatives for dealing with the problems back at base.
Those plans, however, would never be realized.
Phase V: Marooned
Despite clear orders, each captain finds that their ships have veered off course from the return to base. Captain Parthalon confronts the crew on the bridge and is told that he is under arrest. Indignantly he orders his Security Chief to arrest the second officer and others supporting him in trying to take the ship. Instead, the eight foot tall Kzinti Security Officer seizes Parthalon and the next thing Parthalon knows he is confined to his own brig along with First Officer T’Sparlyk and Marine C.O. Lieutenant Rascar. The reason behind the mutiny is unclear, but all command level officers, besides those locked up appear to have turned against Parthalon. Later they are escorted to the transporter room and beamed off the ship.
On the Investigator, Vander May senses trouble. Noticing the course deviation, he attempts to secure the bridge with the assistance of his Andorran Tactical Officer, with whom he is also romantically involved. She, however, at the prompting of the parasite infesting her promptly beats the crap out of him (you may recall, the parasites boost strength and endurance significantly) and he next wakes up in the brig with C.M.O. Singes Kang (Klingon exchange officer), and First Officer Yank Kumis. Although Vander May attempts to overcome his guards with the backing of a Klingon and a Malaysia warrior woman, but they are embarrassingly easily overcome and dragged to the transporter room.
The captains, their first officers, C.M.O. Kang and Marine C.O. Rascar find themselves marooned on the surface of a Class M planet, in a vast desert on Sohkta-4. They have their duty uniforms, minus their communicators. Khelly Vander May, having grown up in survival training on a desert planet from the age of two to fourteen, takes charge of everyone’s survival. Science Officer T’Sparlyk is able to relate basics about the planet. Sohkta-4 is a planet in an arid phase of its climate development, similar to Vulcan. The planet is host to two disparate cultures. One is nomadic and inhabits the desert and oasis system of the major land areas. They tend to be tall, lean and have orange hued skin. The other is mountain dwelling and organized around feudal principals. They tend towards stockier builds with olive brown skin. Each has a technological level approximately equivalent to cultures extant on Earth, circa the Middle Ages. Federation surveys have detected significant and untapped mineral wealth on last review of the planet, but due to the lack of technological sophistication, the Federation decided against first contact, citing the Prime Directive. Animosity between the nomads and the mountain dwellers was noted, with some institutional enslavement by the mountain dwellers of the nomads.
Khelly conducts the stranded crews to a rockier area that holds the promise of vegetation, water, and some resources to build some survival tools. They find the promised oasis and put together survival gear, including making some bows and arrows (something with precedent in the Treknoverse). However, they are soon driven from the oasis by a raiding party of the mountain dwelling Omars. The problem is that, somehow , the Omars have acquired helicopters and other technology, including low level disruptors, which cannot be a natural technological progress. They manage to evade pursuit, but Vander May is wounded.
Later, they come upon a battle between the nomads, who had been mounted on their equivalent of camels, and an Omar slave raiding party. The Omars have ground troops and an armored hovercraft. The stranded starship crews enter the fray with their bows. Briefly they are pinned down in a canyon. Vander May, against the advice of Dr. Kang, vigorously participates in the battle, but is a poor shot, wounded, with his bow (to much playful mockery of the Klingon doctor). Eventually, they manage to capture a disruptor pistol and kitbashing it into a makeshift grenade, take out the hovercraft.
The grateful nomads take them in, and return with them to their camp. There, the captains learn that Ferengi traders and privateers have made illegal contact with the Omars. They are able to work out that the Ferengi have supplied various Omar lords with technologies, including small arms, helicopters, hovercraft, and VTO jets to raid the nomads and to protect against retribution from the nomad tribes. In return, the Ferengi had apparently obtained unlimited access to the mineral wealth of the planet. The Omars supplied nomad slaves for unskilled labor and the local Ferengi operation contracted with smugglers to take the wealth off world.
The captains further learned that there was a Ferengi base and, what they deemed to be a subspace communications network at an Omar castle. While the crews recuperate, they forge an alliance with the nomads and the captains, some of Starfleet’s tactical geniuses, sketch out a plan to storm the Omar castle and obtain access to communications network and get a message off world. Although the nomads, the captains and their officers are definitely out gunned technologically, they use the terrain and skills of stealth to their advantage. There is a terrific battle. Captured weapons, wielded by Starfleet officers, take out helicopters and hovercraft, and the nomads, lead by Starfleet Marine Lieutenant Rascar, manage to storm the gates and breach the castle.
At this point, Captain Vander May took the lead and while Parthalon, Rascar, Singis Kang, Kumasi and T’Sparlyk begin to secure the perimeter around the tower housing the communications array. Vander May, handily wielding a nomad’s hand and a half sword, cuts a swath to the top, where he confronts some Ferengi trader-adventurers. The Ferengi attack with energy whips, but Vander May handily avoids damage and pursue the terror crazed Ferengi, who can only scream “Insane Vulcan! Insane Vulcan!!” Soon, the Ferengi are in custody, and Parthalon and T’Sparlyk are able to bring up the array to begin transmitting a Federation distress signal.
Almost immediately, they begin to receive an incoming distress signal. The coding is from the U.S.S. Nagato. Broadcasting on all distress channels, the acting captain, Flight Control Officer, Lieutenant Circe Protagon reports that the Captain and First Officer down, the ship suffering severe damage after an unprovoked attack by a Ferengi squadron. The Nagato was withdrawing, seeking assistance as it could not hold its own in its present condition against the invasion force. Both Parthalon and Vander May were more than nonplussed by the message. However, soon they receive messages from the Investigator and the Peter Marlowe that they are returning to planetary orbit around Sohkta-4 and will be able to retrieve the marooned officers. Acting captains Solon and Sten explain, with much embarrassment, that the command crews had been under the influence of neural parasites which had infiltrated. Actions by the U.S.S. Enterprise on Earth had eliminated the parasites influence; however, the tactical situation here on the perimeter had become critical in view of the shakeup throughout the Federation, causing significant confusion and chaos.
The Investigator and Marlowe enter orbit and beam the officers aboard, along with the captive Ferengi who are beamed to the brigs.
Phase VI: The Battle of Hostile Takeover
Both captains, despite being ragged, dirty and, to some degree, injured, immediately take the Conn. On Vander May’s investigator, his loyal crew is still in shock over the fact that they had been controlled by the parasites and forced to maroon him. His tactical officer is punching up the tactical situation with tears falling onto her consol. Vander May gives a short and to the point speech “Get over it. We have a job to do, and I expect you all to perform to the best of your abilities.” On Parthalon’s Peter Marlowe, the crew get over greetings and apologies quickly. Marine Lieutenant Rascar leaves the bridge to prepare his marines to attempt and/or repel any possible boarding action. Parthalon rejects Security Officer Tal Warrior’s offer to commit suicide to atone for the mutiny and orders a tactical assessment of the situation.
Thus starts the defense of the Federation frontier by two weary captains in what would come to be known as the Battle of Hostile Takeover.
Both ships tracked the departure from the system of the U.S.S. Nagato at top speed. Approaching almost as fast were three Ferengi vessels, a D'Kora-class Marauder and two privateers known as Enforcers. Nagato acting captain Protagon transmitted all data recorded on the three ships that had attacked, wishing both captains “good luck.”
The Investigator and the Marlowe prepared photon torpedo spreads to take the ships as they dropped to sub-light to engage the Federation ships. The Ferengi vessels broadcast a message. “The Federation has fallen into chaos. In view of its weakened position, in the name of the Ferengi Alliance, we announce our hostile takeover bid for this sector. Withdraw, or be destroyed!”
The answer was a full volley of photon torpedoes.
Three torpedoes from the Investigator hit the D’Kora, collapsing its sheilds and severly damaging its sensor array.
Vander May then ordered the Investigator to engage the damaged D’Kora and one of the privateer Enforcers. The second Enforcer began a full assault on the lighter Peter Marlowe. The Marlowe returned fire with incunclusive results. On a return volley, the Enforcer took down some of the Marlowe’s shielding and the ship began to take damage.
Captain Parthalon decided to take a decisive gamble. He ordered his marine contingent to transporters to be ready to board the Enforcer. Then he ordered the Efrosian Flight Control Officer, Sten, to engage the Picard Maneuver. The gambit worked and the next hail of fire missed the Marlowe as she suddenly appeared right next to the enforcer. On Parthalon’s command, his Kzinti tactical officer battered down the Enforcer’s shields and suddenly the Ferengi had a contingent of steely eyed Federation marines on their bridge, in their engine room and at their computer core.
Meanwhile, the Investigator continued to further disable the D’Kora, ensuring the massive ship would not be a threat, taking engines and weapons offline. The Investigator maintained a steady defense against the Enforcer escort vessel. However, before the Investigator could turn its full attention to the Enforcer, the canny Ferengi privateer captain ordered an all out attack with everything his vessel had. The attack proved overwhelming to the Investigator’s defensive systems, and only the valient efforts of the First Officer directing damage control and, even moreso, the Chief Engineer’s actions to hold the ship together with little more than spit and paper clips, prevented a total warp core implosion. For all intents and purposes, the Investigator appeared to be dead in space.
Captain Parthalon viewed with horror the sensor readings on the Investigator. Another hit would undoubtedly consign every being on the ship to their death. They had been about to engage the D’Kora as the larger threat when the Enforcer had pummeled the Investigator.
Again, he reacted with crazed imagination. Abandoning any attempt to bring damaged shield back online, he ordered his engineer to dump power to the engines and the tractor beam system. He ordered the Conn Officer to plot a warp jump followed by a drop to maximum impulse that would bring the ship as close as possible to the Enforcer. He ordered his Tactical Officer to calculate what amounted to a tractor beam lasso which would grab one of the Enforcer’s warp engines as they passed. The planned effect was to charge, lasso and slingshot arround into attack position on the far side of the Enforcer while also damaging or tearing away a warp engine.
Against all sense or reason, the “Parthalon” manuever worked, though the Marlowe burnt out its tractor beam and knocked warp engines off line.
Captain Vander May, from his smoking ruin of a bridge opened communications with the Ferengi ships. “Surrender or die!”
The Ferengi, viewing the seemingly crazed half-Romulan captain muttered “Insane Vulcan” and quickly calculated how to cut their losses.
“We withdraw our bid for this sector.”
Then it was all over but the shouting.
The captains dispatched security teams to each of the Ferengi ships, taking scans of all computer data and logs for analysis by Fleet intelligence. They began to assess and repair damage. They began to write the hard letters home about the dead among their crew.
The Ferengi ships eventually limped off, taking with them the unauthorized personnel and as much equipment as they could repossess from the Omars on Sohkta-4.
The Investigator and the Marlowe were eventually sound enough to limp back to Starbase 42; all told, a month passed between the battle and their triumphal return. Each received Starfleet decorations and commendations. Captain Parthalon was returned to the command of the Nagato.
Finally, all seemed right with the world again.
But the terror of Shore Leave, would eventually leave the two captains wounded and separated.
But that was another adventure.