It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here, with COVID-19 scaring everyone shitless. Although our governor has resisted implementing a statewide shelter in place order (for now), there are plenty of closed businesses and people working from home; including me. You think I’d be happy about being required to stay home and play video games, paint miniatures and work on gaming projects; but as a guy who owns a business, I can tell you that this whole situation sucks out loud. Yesterday I got together with two friends at my office, which isn’t getting used much lately, to play what will probably be our last session for a while, at least in person.
So, continuing where we left off…
Commander Logan didn’t let on that she knew Hoddek was concealing anything, after discovering that Hoddek’s “temporary mining license” was a forgery. She and the away team returned to the Adventure to discuss strategy. On their way out, everyone noticed that for a mine, there was a distinct lack of mining equipment around.
Gathered in the Captain’s ready room, the crew informed Captain Boardman of the situation on the moon. Although no one knew what the “miners” were doing down there, there was no doubt that it wasn’t mining. Hoddek told a convincing tale and said all the right things, but he didn’t count on Logan spotting the forged license. The Captain ordered the away team to return to the moon with some science and engineering personnel, to give the unregistered operation a “safety inspection.” Because the ionic interference on the moon, communication between the Adventure and the mining outpost was impossible. This actually worked to the crew’s advantage as Hoddek would have less time to prepare for the crew’s return once they showed up at his door. Nonetheless, Lieutenant Commander Pak pointed out that a return trip would certainly signal to Hoddek that Starfleet suspected some shenanigans were afoot, and cautioned the team to be ready.
Once again, Lieutenant Beta skillfully piloted the away team down to the moon’s surface without incident. This time the team included Lieutenant Ditko from the Science Division, and Lieutenant J’Zahra from Engineering (two supporting characters). Hoddek opened the airlock at the team’s request, and once again met them at the elevator. He looked puzzled, but seemed resigned to the inspection. He informed the away team that unfortunately, they could not enter the mine itself, as it was currently undergoing radiation decontamination. Radiation was a natural product of vionium mining, and the mine needed to shut down periodically for a couple of weeks at a time until rad levels returned to normal.
While Logan was talking to Hoddek, Lt. Ditko went inside Hoddek’s office and hacked into his computer. He noticed a few things. First, the computer was surprisingly difficult to access, with many layers of security that would certainly be uncommon for a mining operation. Second, the computer was devoid of any programs or files that would indicate mining was occurring: no manifests, supply requests, geological reports or anything similar. It seemed the only thing the computer was doing, other than running the facility’s power and life support, was running a generator projecting a high level of ionic interference on the surface. Lt. Ditko shut that off, and discovered he could immediately communicate with the Adventure if need be.
Meanwhile, Lt. J’zhara and Commander Logan scanned the huge blast door to determine if there was any radiation beyond it, as Hoddek claimed. Their tricorders couldn’t penetrate the door, so their readings were inconclusive. For the first time, Hoddek seemed to be angry. He claimed he had cooperated fully, that any omission of registration was an error of the Harelian Mining Authority, and that Starfleet had no right to treat him and his men like criminals.
That’s when Commander Logan informed him that his mining license was fake, that they knew this facility sent the coded transmission and deliberately projected ionic interference to block communications and transporters, and that she knew he wasn’t running a mine of any kind.
Hoddek sighed resignedly and told Commander Logan that if she keeps looking into this, it’s on her head. He claimed he and his team are part of a top secret project for the Federation Science Council, which is why it’s unregistered. He can’t tell her what they’re doing on the planet, but he can show her and she can decide what to do. He took out an old-style communicator and signaled someone behind the blast door to open the lock.
With the door open, Hoddek led the away team down a corridor towards what looked like a lab. The path took them through stacked crates of supplies and machinery. All the while, Hoddek apologized about the necessity of the deception. But Lieutenant Commander Pak spotted the ambush a split second before it happened, anyway.
Several of the miners, brandishing old-style phasers, began to fire on the away team from the cover of the boxes. Hoddek took off towards the lab while his men traded shots with the away team. Pak blasted a miner off his feet, but was soon felled by a phaser shot herself. Stunned, she was out of the fight.
One of the miners blasted a crate of some kind of particulate, and the dust further hampered visibility. Outnumbered, outgunned, and with her tactical officer down, Commander Logan signaled the Adventure for an emergency beam out. A medical team met them in the transporter room, taking charge of the unconscious Lt. Cmdr. Pak.
Meanwhile, a small ship had entered the system, flying in the general direction of the moon, but not coming too close. They answered a hail immediately, and identified themselves as couriers just passing through the system. They seemed intimidated by the Adventure and its obvious superior armament. Now that the ionic interference was gone, Lt. Beta was monitoring the moon closely, which is how he noticed the fourteen life signs in the mine were suddenly reduced to nine. The ship was beaming the miners aboard!
By the time he could alert Captain Boardman, the ship had managed to beam out six more miners, leaving two on the moon. The ship immediately took off at warp, making a run for the Cardassian neutral zone. The Adventure pursued them and caught them just shy of the neutral zone, but before they could lock on a tractor beam the ship fled again. The Adventure gave chase and caught it just inside the neutral zone.
The turbolift doors opened, and a grim-faced Lt. Cmdr. Pak stepped onto the bridge. She quickly took her position at the tactical station and fired the Adventure’s phaser arrays, targeting the engines of the small courier craft. The ship was quickly and efficiently disabled, but not before Lt. Beta reported a new threat: three Cardassian Hideki-class corvettes entering the neutral zone, on course to intercept the Adventure!
The Cardassians hailed the Adventure. On the view screen, an imposing Cardassian stared down his nose at Captain Boardman. He identified himself as Legate Jabrel, and demanded to know why the Adventure had crossed into the neutral zone. He also said that they have identified the courier ship as a Maquis vessel wanted for crimes against the Cardassian Union, and demanded the terrorists be handed over to them for prosecution, conviction and eventual execution.
Captain Boardman had no intention of complying with this order, and pointed out that the Cardassians had also violated the neutral zone. He beamed the Maquis aboard the Adventure, where they were promptly taken into custody by Lt. Cmdr. Pak and a team of security officers. The Adventure was well-suited for combat, but three-to-one odds are still three-to-one odds. Boardman ordered the Adventure to set course for Federation space at maximum warp, knowing the Cardassians would not cross over the border in pursuit and risk open conflict.
The ship returned to the moon to round up the last two Maquis members, only to find that any evidence of their activity was destroyed by Hoddek prior to his departure from the moon. Now, however, he was sitting in a holding cell, so Starfleet could question him at their leisure, once the Adventure got back to Outpost 51.
First, though, the ship had supplies to deliver to the science outpost on New Coriolanus, which is where it was originally bound before getting sidetracked by the strange transmission broadcast by the Maquis. But that would have to wait until next time…