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A Rock And A Hard Place

Posted on Aug 22, 2017 @ 3:31am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Romulan Way


"A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE"

(Continued from "I Spy With My Eye...")

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Captain's log, supplemental - after a voyage through the heart of the Romulan Star Empire, we are approaching our destination...

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Location: USS Phoenix, approaching Azri Drakara system
Stardate: [2.17]0821.1930
Scene: Bridge - deck 1, saucer section


Michael Turlogh Kane tried to focus on the immediate situation, but there were a lot of distraction os the bridge right now. The Yellow Alert lights were blinking out their warnings as the ship prepared to drop out of warp, but the bridge was quite crowded right now. Seated to his left was Praetor Delora Radaik, and standing in a tight group behind Jasmine Yu were the other Romulan senators, impassive faces watching the main viewer. At their stations, the Phoenix's bridge crew were also doing their best to stay focused on the job at hand.

So, this was the Azri Drakara system. Nine worlds - all of them great balls of gas except the Minshara-class second planet - and mostly unremarkable, save for the primitive indiginous life-forms on the second planet. The Romulans had explored this system already, and had prepared a colonisation report on the second planet and on the Baelorn, its inhabitants. As was the fate of many primitive species within the borders of the Empire, it had been recommended by the explorator mission to simply exterminate the Baelorn via an orbital barrage. Such an act needed to be voted on by the Senate, but the colonisation report had never made it that far. The war hawk faction - a powerful alliance of senators that favoured a decisive strike against the Federation while it was weak - had arranged for the report to be buried, presumably to avoid the gaze of the Senate falling on this isolated star system. Now, everyone was about to find out why.

Nobody said anything - only the low background rumble of the ship's engines and the occasional mechanical chirp from a control station could be heard. Everyone on the bridge, Romulan and Federation alike, knew that things were coming to a head.

Cantor Von and Tomas' Vukovic manned their stations at the fore of the bridge. Jake Crichton sat to Kane's right, watching the Ops and Tactical data streams on his own monitor. Jasmine Yu stood at Tactical, and Lynette Ryan, Byte and Arak Schad were working the read bridge stations.

"Now entering Azri Drakara system," announced Tomas' at the conn.

In the main viewer, what had been white streaks on a black background changed, solidifying and coalescing into a starfield as the Phoenix erupted from warpspace and back into space-time. In the distance, a cobalt-coloured sun sparkled dully, but it was the forground that caused a dozen voices on the Phoenix's bridge to give vent to a series of gasps.

Azri Drakara II -the planet mentioned in the colonisation report - was there alright, a verdant sky-blue jewel crowned with scudding stars and atmospheric weather systems that shrouded much of the surface.

Hanging in space between it and the bronze sun was a space station the likes of which Kane had never seen. It was unmistakeably Romulan in origin - dominated by a large saucer at its zenith, which then petered down to a point at the nadir. It reminded Kane of an inverted spinning top hanging in space, not in orbit of the planet, but close enough to it to project a menacing air.

Kane and Jake stood up and advanced to the centre of the bridge. "What is it?" asked the ExO.

Cantor Von's brow was furrowed as he followed the data stream on his console. "A space station of some kind - wait, maybe not." He looked up. "Captain, that structure is putting out power on a scale like I've never seen. Look here - sensors are reading power generation well into the Planck scale."

"Good God!" said Jake. "A thousand Phoenix warp cores couldn't generate that amount of power."

"I was not trained as an engineer, gentlemen," said Kane testily.

Jake held up his hands like he was trying to capture the entire universe in them and constrict it down to a ball. "Sir, when we measure power - that is, the ability to do work in a set period of time - we measure it in ever-increasing scales. Your basic scale is the watt, and the more of them there are, we measure in scales like megawatt, terawatt, et cetera. At ten to the twenty-fourth power - that's a trillion trillion watts - we reach the yottawatt, which is the entire energy that Sol projects onto the Earth."

Cantor Von continued. "The Plank scale is a theoretical scale above that, which takes its measurements from the universal constants, like gravity and the speed of light. Put simply, that space station is putting out more power than an entire star, so much that's into theoretical ranges."

Kane's jaw dropped as he realised the enormity of what was being said. "The Federation hasd no technology like this. How have the Romulans managed it?"

"There's more, sir," said Cantor Von, indicating a display. "Sensors show inordinately high amount of gravitrons in the immediate vicinity of the station. It's like - " He paused a moment. "Captain, it's like there's a subspace rift *within*the space station."

Kane and Jake looked at each other. "We know the Romulans power their starships with artificial quantum singularities," muttered the ExO. "Is this some kind of variant on the technology?"

"What is the meaning of this!" demanded Delora Radaik. She too had risen to her feet and was looking in some confusion between the main viewer and the other senators. Her steely gaze homed in on Chevet. "Do you know anything about this space station, Tribune?"

"No, Praetor," Chevet replied evenly. "I took the liberty of checking Imperial records on this star system before we departed, and there is no data available. A survey mission was dispatched here four years ago, but there are no records of the outcome of that mission. I think it safe to say that the Imperial bureacracy known nothing of this space station."

Kane looked on in growing alarm. His attention was fixed on Nevar, the leader of the war hawk faction, whose face did not betray one single notion of surprise. The Romulan senator's satanic features bore a look of grim determination - the look of a man committed to upcoming, imminent action.

Delora Radaik followed Kane's gaze, even as Nevar suddenly stepped to the fore of the group of Romulan senators. "Nevar!" she hissed. "You traitorous dog, this is your doing!"

A series of alert chimes from Jasmine Yu's Tactical station interrupted her. Jasmine's jaw dropped as she looked at what her displays were telling her. "Captain, multiple Romulan Warbirds decloaking - they're all around us!"

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Scene: Space


In the distance, the blue sun's light cuts through space, cold and sharp like a scalpel. Below, the green planet tumbles through space, heedless of anything except the natural laws that compel it to move. Above, the gunmental grey hull and the menacing violet nacelles of the Phoenix seem to ripple and snarl, but the visual effect is not emanating from the ship itself - a dozen Valdore-class Warbirds are decloaking all around the Phoenix, their weapons primed, the sickly green of their shield bubbles clashing garishly wit the cold blue sun, the verdant green planet, the gunmetal grey hull and the menacing violent nacelles of their quarry.

A gathering of vultures, come to pick over a carcass.

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Location: USS Phoenix, as before
Scene: Bridge - deck 1, saucer section


The red alert klaxons blared into life as the decloakign Warbirds triggered the proximity sensors - as the Romulans looked on, the Phoenix's bridge crew scrambled into action.

"Activate shields and weapons!" called Jake, as he stared at the tactical analysis on his display. He swallowed hard and shook his head. "Twelve B-type Valore-class Warbirds, Captain. They're ready to fight. I know this is the Phoenix, but the odds are fearful."

Kane looked on grimly. Surrounding the Phoenix was a good move by the Romulans - in a battle, the dreadnought would be unable to concentrate its defences and firepower in on area, and, power reserved stretched thin, would likely eventually succumb to multiple wounds on all sides.

But not, he swore silently, without taking a few of the bastards down first.

"Captain Kane!" exclaimed Nevar. The Romulan senator stalked down from the rear of the bridge, chest puffed up. "There is no need for this panic - those Warbirds out there answer to me."

"What!" Delora Radaik rounded on Nevar while the other senators milled in apparent confusion. "Answer to you? Wrong, Nevar - they answer to the Senate and People of Romulus! Explain yourself, now!"

Nevar ignored her. "Captain Kane, if you do not want this vessel to be obliterated, may I suggest opening hailing frequencies with the space station? My colleague there will explain your situation to you."

Kane stood up slowly. He gave the nod to Jasmine to open the hail. "You've just lost the game, Nevar," he growled. "No Romulan Warbird is going to fire on a ship carrying their own Praetor and a half-dozen senators. And if they do answer to you, then there's no way in this galaxy that you're leaving this ship alive."

Nevar's dark eyes flickered. "I am prepared to die for my people. Can you say the same?"

Kane leaned in close to him. "If those Warbirds out there even twitch, I'm going to make sure you do."

"Hailing frequencies open, Captain," announced Jasmine.

"On screen, Lieutenant."

Nevar, Delora Radaik, and the other senators looked on as the main viewer winked on. On the screen was the face of a beatiful female Romulan, wearing the uniform of a naval Sub-Commander.

At the conn, Cantor Von's jaw dropped.

{{Greetings,}} said the Romulan woman. {{I am D'Mara, commander of this space station.}} She looked at Never, her eyes sparkling. {{Am I to take it that events have reached an impasse?}}

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Location: The Imperial Romulan Vessel Shai'Dan, cloaked nearby
Scene: Main Bridge


Commander Jaron, watching carefully on his main viewscreen, steepled his fingers and sat back into the centre seat. Checking his tactical display, he duly noted that none of the other Warbirds nor the Phoenix seemed to have detected his ship.

"What will do, Commander?" asked one of the bridge crew.

Jaron couldn't give him a definitive answer beyond the obvious. "We will watch and wait, Centurion," he replied. "We will watch and wait."

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NRPG: I'll leave it there. Right, let's recap. There are multiple story elements active now, and you might need to bear some in mind when you're writing.

1. Most importantly, the entire story is now freeform. There is no fixed endpoint or outcome. Your posts will resolve the dangerous situation that the starship Phoenix faces.

2. Your Phoenix characters are not the only resources available to you. Several of you also created Romulan senators, whose loyalties and political allegiance might not be as they appear (now you see why they were created). Since this story is The Romulan Way, your Romulan characters are all now on the table as PCs. Use 'em or lose 'em.

3. Commander Jaron and the Shai'Dan are a wild card that nobody seems to know about. Have they a part to play?

The war hawk scheme has been exposed now, and they want to win. Delora Radaik also wants to win and secure her rule over the Empire. We also need to protect the technology of the Phoenix. When planning what you want to do, consider the elements on the board:

(a) the mysterious space station with its strange power and gravitron readings;
(b) the power struggle between the Praetor and the war hawks;
(c) the interpersonal realtionships between your characters and the other senators;
(d) the as-yet-unknown motivations of Commander Jaron;
(e) the planet and its native inhabitants.

WHY have the war hawks constructed this space station? WHAT is inside it? WHO will win the struggle between Nevar and Delora Radaik? WILL the Phoenix survive, and will we find a way to protect its technology in the heart of the Romulan Star Empire?

One more thing.

The decision to shift to open-ended story-telling for the climax of this story has been triggered from reading several message in the chat that say something like "I don't know what to post" or "I'm not sure in which direction to go".

If there was a perception before that stories were tightly structured, or that you didn't think you could write because I and/or Shawn were holding on to too much information and you were going to make a mistake, then please consider those perceptions no longer accurate. Check with me about what you're going to write if you like, but I'll likely only veto an element of your post if it's completely batshit-crazy-off-the-wall. Since we're all thirtysomethings (and older) who have been doing this for a long time, I know you're not going to write a batshit-crazy-off-the-wall-post. Because we're older now, we have the capability to write more complex stories (would we have bothered with the motivations of the Romulans in the 1st Ed. beyond "they're the baddies and must be stopped"?) , stories that are more layered and nuanced than we were ever capable of.

Whoever posts next is going to be in a position to advance the story in whatever they way they chose - maybe they'll write the opening shots of a space battle, or maybe they'll write how the tense situation is affecting their character. Maybe they have a new angle that nobody has thought of.

You CANNOT be afraid to write a post that advances the story now. In the 1st Edition FRPG, we did this ALL THE TIME, and when we didn't know what to write about, we wrote a post where our characters interacted with one another in some way, even if it was to voice our feelings about what was happening. Do that again. Collaborative story-telling is a great thing, but only insofar that it doesn't stultify our collective vision of what the STORY SHOULD BE.

Am I shooting too high here? I don't think so. If you think so, then take my hand and I'll haul your butt up to where I'm standing.

It's a wonderful view, and when you write, you make it even better.


Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer
USS PHOENIX


"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117
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