At the ops station, Commander Riker leaned on one leg, rested his elbow on his knee, and gazed at the main viewer. Enterprise had followed the quantum drive signatures to a dense asteroid field, the remains of a planetary collision eons ago. “Great,” he said. “If the Romulans are in there, we’ll never find them.”
Data glanced over his shoulder. “Not necessarily, Commander. I believe I may have a method. Are you familiar with Newton’s Third Law of Motion?”
Riker straightened uncomfortably. “It’s…uh…been a while since my academy physics classes.”
“I see.” Data frowned. He didn’t, really, He could never understand why humans thought answering a question with irrelevant information was a valid answer; but he recognized Riker’s response was meant as a negative. He continued: “Put simply, every object in space exerts gravity on every other object. I propose that we could find the cloaked vessel by tracing the patterns of gravimetric force and finding the void where the ship should be, based on the force it exerts on the other surrounding objects; namely, the asteroids.”
“If that works, why aren’t we using that method to find cloaked ships all the time?” asked Riker.
“It would not work in open space, Commander; the distances between objects and the miniscule forces exerted would make measurement functionally impossible. However, this is a unique situation. The cloaked vessel has taken refuge in the asteroid field, no doubt for the extra camouflage it offers; however such close proximity to other bodies may, paradoxically, make it easier to trace the gravimetric force patterns and pinpoint the vessel’s location.”
“That’s still a staggering number of variables to account for, Data,” said Picard, joining them. “Is the Enterprise computer even capable of that many calculations?”
“I believe so, sir; if I interface my positronic matrix to assist with the calculations.”
“Make it so,” said Picard.
Enterprise glided silently through the asteroid field, trusting in its navigational deflectors to keep the massive rocks at bay. The bridge was quiet, all eyes on Data; who sat at the operations console staring straight ahead, unblinking. Although it seemed like hours, only about ten minutes passed before the android spoke. “I believe I have located the ship, Captain.”
The viewscreen focused on an unremarkable asteroid, one among millions. “I believe the cloaked vessel is maintaining a position within 5000 km of this asteroid, sir; but I cannot be more specific than that.”
“He could hide there forever,” said Riker. “All he has to do is stay cloaked.”
“Indeed,” Picard sighed. “Suggestions?”
From the tactical station, Dresa spoke up. “Captain, I believe I have a way to reveal the Romulan vessel, but we must act quickly.”
“Explain,” said Picard.
“There’s no time,” said Dresa. “It has to be now, or we’ll lose our chance.”
Picard looked at Worf and nodded. “Proceed, Commander Dresa.”
Worf stepped back from tactical, and Dresa took his place. She glanced at the controls for a moment, then tapped a few buttons in rapid sequence. Before anyone could react, Enterprise fired at salvo of photon torpedoes at the asteroid, blowing it into chunks of space dust.
Worf sprang forward and flung Dresa away from the console as Riker shot to his feet and whirled around. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
The Klingon woman said nothing, but gestured to the viewscreen, where the unmistakable outline of a Romulan Scout Vessel was flickering in and out of visibility as thousands of asteroid fragments impacted the vessel’s hull. After a moment, the cloak failed completely.
“Report!” ordered Picard.
“Captain,” said Data, “the Romulan vessel’s shields were dowin order n to engage the cloak. I am reading multiple impacts across all decks, resulting in severe damage to the Romulan ship. It is currently unable to raise shields or employ it’s cloaking device.”
“Good,” said Dresa. “They should be willing to talk now.”
Picard stared at her. “Mr. Worf. Get her the hell off my bridge.”
Worf, seething, barely gestured towards the turbolift. “Move,” he said. After a moment, Dresa complied, casting a final look at the viewscreen, where the Romulan vessel began sporadically venting plasma.
“Captain, the Romulan vessel is hailing us,” said Data.
“On screen.” On the main viewer, the image of the damaged ship was replaced by the face of an angry-looking Romulan.
“My name is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise,” said Picard.
“I know who you are!” spat the Romulan. “You dare attack a vessel of the Romulan Star Empire? This is an act of war!”
“To whom am I speaking?”
“Sub-commander Mirak!” sputtered the Romulan.
“We regret the damage caused to your vessel, Sub-commander Mirak; and will certainly assist in any way we can,” said Picard. “Although you have no cause to believe me, it was accidental. We have been tracking a saboteur responsible for the destruction of a Klingon vessel. The trail led us here.”
“You’re right. I don’t believe you,” said Mirak. “I find it strange that the Federation should concern itself so deeply with Klingon affairs.”
“The Klingons are our allies, Sub-commander. Perhaps you can explain your own presence here in the Neutral Zone?”
“We were dispatched to investigate reports of a rogue Federation starship–your starship– crossing the Neutral Zone,” said Mirak. “Your presence here and your unprovoked attack is a clear violation of the treaty. As you can see, there is no saboteur here. Therefore, you should leave. Now.”
Picard turned and gestured to Lieutenant Bailey, who had taken Worf’s place at tactical. She muted communications. He turned a questioning look to Counselor Troi.
She shrugged. “I don’t need to tell you he’s angry, Captain. Very angry, most likely at being discovered. He’s vulnerable and he knows it.”
Picard nodded and signaled communications should resume. “What I find odd, Sub-commander, is that we crossed the Neutral Zone less than one hour ago, and yet here you are, far closer to the Federation side of the border than you should be able to reach in that amount of time. Unless, of course, you were already here in the Zone, or perhaps even in Federation space. That would, as you say, be in clear violation of the treaty. Perhaps we should discuss this matter further in an environment that is less hazardous.”
“There is nothing to discuss. I have already told you we had nothing to do with the destruction of the Mok’tagh.”
Picard exchanged a glance with Riker before replying. “I do not recall giving you the name of the Klingon ship that was destroyed, Sub-commander Mirak.”
“Sir,” Data warned, “I am detecting two Romulan Warbirds crossing the border to the Neutral Zone from Romulan space, headed in this direction at maximum warp. They will be within weapons range in seventeen minutes, four seconds.”
“I think this conversation is over, Captain Picard,” Mirak said with a triumphant smile. “I suggest you take my advice and leave while you still can. I will not advise you again.”
“Your vessel is severely damaged, Sub-commander. Since you have no shields,” said Picard. “we could easily transport you and every one of your crew to Enterprise, where we will ensure your comfort and safety while we continue our discussion.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” said Mirak, uncertain.
Picard let the question linger a moment. “No,” he said. “As a show of good faith, and to prove the damage to your vessel was indeed an accident, we will let things stand as they are; for now. But you have told me all I need to know, Mirak; and the Klingons will be most interested in what I have learned.”
“Some Klingons, perhaps.” Mirak smiled. The viewscreen went blank as the Romulan Sub-commander cut communication.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” asked Riker.
Picard frowned. “I have a feeling we have been led on a snipe hunt, Number One. Ensign McKnight, set course for Varuna three. warp seven.”
Finally! I got to play a game! Unfortunately, it wasn’t very exciting, and recording it fully here wouldn’t do much; but it was a scenario where the outcome would shape the coming story, so a review is in order.
This scenario was simple. Can the USS Enterprise-D find the cloaked Romulan vessel in the asteroid field before it can slip away?
I have a bunch of Heroclix and Deep Cuts Star Trek ships I’ve been dying to use, so I decided to use Star Trek: Attack Wing as my rules set (mainly because I sold my A Call to Arms: Starfleet rules long ago, and I don’t really own any other space combat rules other than War Rocket, which isn’t suitable). I encountered a problem quickly: Attack Wing is by nature a combat simulation and has almost no rules that aren’t combat rules. That will be fine later on in the story if the Enterprise needs to slug it out with some other ships (fingers crossed), but for now, all I needed was some way to play cat-and-mouse with the Romulan vessel.
Not knowing how your opponent will move and what actions he will take is a big part of the challenge of Attack Wing. Since I was playing both sides, how could I work around this? The answer was random movement for the Romulans, to be determined after Enterprise moved each turn. I copied all the allowable movement options for a Romulan Scout ship and assigned them a number, then rolled a die to see what they would do. The Romulans would obviously not fly into an asteroid or the Enterprise herself; but otherwise their movement was determined by a roll on a random table.
In Star Trek: Attack Wing, cloaked ships are given an extra 4 Defense dice while cloaked to represent how hard it is to target them. The Romulan scout ship normally has a Agility of 3, so adding the cloaking device brings it to 7 Defense dice. Not too shabby.
The USS Enterprise-D has an Attack value of 4. I decided Data’s clever idea would give an additional +1, for a total of 5. This represents the Enterprise’s ability to scan for the cloaked vessel.
Each turn, after movement was determined, I would check the range between the ships. Assuming the ships were within firing range, I would make a scanning (attack) roll for the Enterprise-D, resisted by the Romulan defense. If the ships were ever not in range of each other, that counted as a win for the Romulan side. The first side to win three rounds would win the scenario; meaning if Enterprise wins, they detect the Romulan vessel, and if the Romulans win, they manage to slip away and avoid detection.
Well, you can see how it ultimately went. Enterprise basically chased the Romulans around an asteroid for four turns. Not even worth the setup! Even with two fewer dice, the Enterprise managed to detect the Romulan ship 3-1, with the Romulans only scoring one round. Pretty bad rolling for the Romulans, considering the advantage they had! There wasn’t any combat this time around; but you never know what can happen. I might have to break out the Attack Wing rules in earnest soon…but anyway, here’s an excuse to show off my painted Enterprise-D. (That’s a factory job on the Romulan Heroclix ship.)
Meanwhile, what’s happening on Varuna three? We’ll find out Barclay’s fate in the next AAR, which will definitely be more detailed as it will be a return to Fantastic Worlds Trek skirmishing!