We Are Not Ourselves, Part 1

Starter Campaign (2nd Scenario)

As a bit of distraction for the Holiday Lockdown it Italy … and the fact that I was in-between D&D campaigns at the time … I thought I would see about putting together a quick playthrough of the Starter Campaign, A Star Beyond the Stars, provided by Modiphius for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game. Star Trek is one of my favorite franchises and I’ve been running the game off-and-on since it was published in August 2017. However I’d never run the official starter campaign. So I put out a CFP on Roll20 to see if anyone was interested, and I ended up with 4 players with little or no-experience with the system. Perfect for the Starter Campaign! We played through the first scenario, “The Alcubierre,” but I hadn’t thought to put together a Campaign Diary. I could go back and add one now, but things aren’t quite as fresh in my memory. So I’m starting with the second mission. The player characters are Pre-Gens from the campaign: Lt. (JG) Hanor Del is the Chief Engineer, Lt. Commander Cuellas Zharath is the Chief of Security, Lt. Natala is a Science Officer, and Lt. T’Prel is a medical officer.

Contains Spoilers

Following the discovery of the neural parasites aboard the USS Alcubierre, the USS Magellan (our PCs’ Galaxy-class starship) was sent, at the request of the Klingon Empire, to the Klingon station, Kortar. This station was the destination of the Romulan starship that had dropped off two Romulans, who were hosts to the neural parasites. Starfleet Intelligence had also picked up a deranged message from Kortar’s Commander, B’Trell son of Meketh, who had vented the station’s atmosphere while screaming the phrase, “We are not ourselves!”

Upon arrival, sensor scans indicated that the Kortar was lifeless and without an atmosphere. The only place that had retained any atmosphere was the medical bay as the bulkhead door was jammed shut. Sensors also detected a lone life-support capsule floating in the nearby asteroid belt with a faint life sign inside. The USS Magellan moved into the asteroid field in an attempt to rescue the escape capsule. The ship suffered minor damage, in addition to the wounded pride of Lt. Hanor Del, who was at the helm when the ship was struck by one of the asteroids.

A Castaway

With a concern for any possible bio-hazards, sickbay was prepared to receive the Klingon when beamed aboard with a medical force field in place. Unfortunately the Kelbonite in the asteroids began to disperse the Klingon’s signal. Quick thinking on the part of Lt. Hanor Del, possibly trying to redeem his earlier actions, was able to reinforce the transporter pattern but was only able to place the Klingon back into the escape pod. Switching tactics, the team used a tractor beam to pull the pod into a shuttle bay. Lts. T’Prel and Natala had quickly organized a triage unit in the shuttle bay, including a few security officers on the catwalk above and a two-layer force field to contain any potential dangers. The crew remembered the extraordinary resilience of Sub-Commander D’Nal aboard the Alcubierre and didn’t want to take any chances. The first force field encircled the escape pod and the second around the lieutenants and the life-support capsule.

from A Star Beyond the Stars: Starter Campaign, page 22.

Remotely opening the capsule released the gases contained within, which contained elevated levels of Nitrogen. It was nothing that might pose a threat to the Federation officers but also not standard on a Klingon vessel. Before approaching, Lt. T’Prel did a visual inspection where she noticed a thickening of the cranial plates as well as blood pooling around the neck area and bits of flesh and muscle on the Klingon’s hands. T’Prel was able to repair the damage to the shredded carotid artery, which at this point appeared to be self-inflicted. Unfortunately, despite Lt. Natala’s efforts they were unable to provide the unique atmospheric conditions that this Klingon required and so asphyxiated.

from Star Trek the Motion Picture, 1979

The lieutenants began an autopsy of the Klingon and discovered that the deceased Klingon had ripped something out of their own neck. It also appeared that there was significant changes done to the DNA structure of the Klingon, forcing the individual to revert into a more primitive form of evolution. The DNA analysis concluded that a mutated form of the neural parasite’s DNA was also present (they had obtained a sample in the previous mission). Research into the gaseous mixture found in the escape capsule matched the atmospheric conditions on Qo’nos millenia ago, before the evolution of the modern Klingon. They wanted to compare changes with other fatalities at Kortar and so needed to do autopsies on the other Klingon fatalities floating in space after being ejected during the atmospheric purge. The kelbonite again interfered with their transporters, causing all the matter to be fused together on the transporter pad. Uncertain if the DNA patterns might have been corrupted in the transporter accident, all samples were unreliable. With more questions than answers, Lts. T’Prel, Natala, and Hanor Del were beamed over to the space station to figure out what happened.

Kortar Station

Lt. T’Prel beamed directly to the Kortar’s sickbay while Lts. Natala and Handor Del donned EV-suits and were transported to the command deck of the station. Upon arrival in sickbay, T’Prel witnessed a rather gruesome scene. The bodies of several, de-evolved and mutilated Klingons were on the biobeds in addition to larger, and apparently also genetically-modified-versions of the neural parasites. Sprawled on the ground was a Klingon with a D’k tahg dagger sticking out of his back. Lt. T’Prel’s tricorder readings confirmed the genetic modifications in the Klingons and neural parasites as identical with the samples attained from the Klingon they found drifting in the asteroid field. Initial investigation of the murdered Klingon also confirmed death was approximately 10 days previous, which corresponds with the timeframe of the station commander’s cryptic message. Lt. T’Prel tapped into some of her codebreaking skills gained from reading mystery novels and accessed the doctor’s log. She discovered that around a month previously the doctor’s style and tone in the medical entries abruptly changed, as well as the deletion of all records pertaining to the corpses in sickbay. The only relevant entry was the doctor’s last. In it the Klingon doctor called the Kortar experiment “an abysmal failure,” and that “besides myself and few notable exceptions, the Klingons are proving to be an incompatible species for integration.” The doctor recommended the discontinuation of the experiment, but the log was abruptly ended … possibly the result of the D’k tahg in his back. T’Prel keyed in on the phrase “myself and few notable exceptions,” she scanned the DNA of the Klingon medical officer. The doctor’s DNA was transformed into a compatible, Klingon-Parasite hybrid. He was not simply a host body but something new!

The first priority upon materializing in the station’s command center was to reestablish an atmosphere. One of Del’s previous hosts had been involved in Klingon diplomacy and so he was well-versed in their language and security protocols giving him an advantage in operating the station’s systems. With the assistance of Lt. Natala, they were able to override the system’s lockout features and restore a breathable atmosphere. Hanor Del’s first breath on the station seemed to still detect the smell of gagh but that might have only been his imagination. They quickly pulled up B’trell’s commander’s logs with two relevant entries.

from A Star Beyond the Stars: Starter Campaign, page 26.

The log shed light on the scene in the station’s infirmary but also led to the need to learn more about the “filthy Tellarite sickness.” Natala and Hanor Del proceeded to access the station’s logs and did find evidence of regular deliveries to the station from a Tellarite freighter originating from the sixth moon of Cordolan IV. Further analysis of the security footage uncovered the image of a Romulan inside the freighter, however they were not able to ascertain the individual’s identity. There was nothing left for them to discover on the station, and so they made their report to their captain, Eshan Ch’iqikriss, who forwarded the information back to Starfleet. The mystery continuing to widen, Starfleet Command ordered the Magellan to proceed to the Cordolan system.

Trek Philosophy

The journey to the Cordolan system, which was scheduled to take a week at high warp, provided the players an opportunity to discuss some concerns and to begin the process of planning. It was in this period that the player characters had an opportunity to go beyond the written scenario and begin to discuss among themselves one of the unique qualities of Star Trek, its moral compass and ethical framework. The PCs began to theorize about the possibility of creating some form of chemical agent that was capable of attacking only the neural parasites. They came to the conclusion that this plan of action would be equivalent to employing a chemical weapon and Starfleet, and ultimately the player characters themselves, would never approve such an action.

Now that chemical weapons were not an option, they thought of researching a serum able to separate the two types of genetic material in the hopes of restoring the mutated Klingons or the Klingon-Parasite hybrids to their original form. But if this hybrid is a new form of life, what right does Starfleet have to change the genetic structure of a sentient being without their request or permission? Is this new form of life capable of reproducing on it is own, thus negating the need for further experimentation on species of the Beta Quadrant? And if they are a new form of life, is contact and peaceful coexistence with them something for which the Federation strives? Their solution was that the Federation should attempt, despite the already hostile intent as evidenced on the Alcubierre and the Kortar, to try diplomacy but the Federation will defend itself and its citizens. #ThisIsWhyILoveStarTrek

The philosphical discussion complete, Lt. Hanor Del turned to the practical engineering of trying to cut through the interference caused by the diamagnetic mining on the moon. Given the extensiveness of the interference, he was able to configure a sensor array to give them an advantage when scanning from the USS Magellan; a handheld-version was not possible because of the energy requirements.

Arrival at Cordolan

In orbit around the moon, initial scans confirmed the presence of several individuals in the abandoned mining facility, including several Romulans, a Klingon, and even a Trill. The modifications to the sensors were not working as intended because something in the mining facility was artificially amplifying the diamagnetic distortion. It helped them in their scans but did not completely clear up the problem. With the uncertainties of the distortion’s effects on transporters they Away Team opted to take a shuttle down to the facility.

from A Star Beyond the Stars: Starter Campaign, page 29.

A cursory examination of the ground level gave the illusion of an abandoned station, however the station’s antimatter reactor had the diamagnetic amplification device attached. Deactivating the module immediately cleared up the further distortion, which cleared up communication with the Magellan. Absent any signs of life on the ground level, the Away Team proceeded into the facilities lower level and entrance to the mine. Directly across from the turbo lift as the doors opened was the infirmary with yet another deformed Klingon lying dead on the ground!

Inside the infirmary was a scene reminiscent of the Kortar with more dead Klingons and neural parasites. T’Prel’s examination of the bodies indicated that whomever or whatever is modifying the DNA is progressing and becoming more sophisticated, though ultimately both the Klingons and neural parasites continue to reject the transformation. There was also a new strand of DNA introduced in these test subjects not found in the ones at Kortar. Trill genetic material had been introduced, the player characters surmised it was a result of Trill physiology’s ability to readily accept symbionts. Armed with the new information, the Away Team requested backup before they proceed further into the mine. Captain Ch’iqikriss is sending Lt. Commander Cuellas Zharath to join them. And that is where we ended the session.

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