10: Maris Ue
Synopsis: The Carter is hit with a blast of energy inside the nebula, knocking Bernie into a coma. He is replaced at helm by a new Lt. - Maris Ue - as the Carter is sent by Star Fleet to a diplomatic mission of vital import: convincing a race inside the nebula to turn from the Klingons - before the Klingons attack! The mission goes badly, but Lt. Maris saves the day at every major juncture. Actually, she's an energy being feeding on the skills and emotional highs & lows, and can best be defeated by convincing her she is just a voyeur & parasite. Some signaling needs to be done that players can expect one of their PCs to be sidelined relatively early in the scenario.
The Hook is a scene in the nebula, where the Carter contiues its mapping, scans & probes. A sudden flash of energy penetrates the shields, shorting out Bernie's console and damaging his arm. He’s rushed to sick bay; Maris takes his station. Nebula scans shows shadows that might be Klingon ships. (Vessels Maris has 'eaten', but she is warping the Carter's ability to find them.) Bernie is in a virtual coma, but his wounds aren't all that bad.
Opening credits, captains log discussing hours of Klingon hunting. Plot Turn 1: Lt. Sigfried, with Maris' help, gets a communication from Starfleet directing them to Chimiset II, nearby. Chimiset holds an independent Anuzi colony (Sakhet's initial diplomatic triumph was an Anuzi treaty); Starfleet wants their aid in the nebula, Sakhet must make it happen. They also learn Chimiset II has ruins that match human architecture!
If anyone looks into Maris, they'll find her records in the computer - an engineer turned pilot, who came on board at New Spain. Lt. Selzo is unfocused, but praises Maris for her work on improving the computer core. Likewise, Sigfried is unfocused after Maris helped him with the message - both under her spell. Maris has a Cuckoo-like ability to fit in, but she must modify the physical records. We introduce new crew every game, so I don't expect the PCs to notice. Also in engineering, Cmdr Fraiser will have a Lysestrata virus relapse and fall into a coma (his worst fear is his health); Dr. Mark will find the strain may reappear in those who were most hurt before. A check on Rossad, will find him in similar comatose condition, but without the blood pressure symptoms. The players might see this as a way to remove Jay's PCs.
I know that Dr. Knox will drag some of PCs down to the ruins for Pinch 1 - these are her obsession after all. Lt. Maris will arrange to come along, claiming an interest in the field. The ruins will not appear terran to Knox, but Maris will point out several subtle counter-indicators. Knox has a wicked high Willpower, so I can expect that Maris will have to fall back on her other plan (just as she did with Bernie, Fraiser & Rossad) - worst nightmare. Knox had been trapped in a cave while doing research in Uzbekistan, so the tunnel will collapse on her and another Federation alien from the delegation. Prompt action by the others will rescue them, but for now she's in a coma…just like the others.
The injured people will be beamed to the Carter, Maris in tow. Once there she'll undercut Dr. Mark's skills with xeno-medicine, stepping in to save the alien patient with a cardio-stimulation guess (just as Alyssa did in her youth, setting her course for xeno-med). After this Bernie will moan Maris' name in his sleep, kicking out another of Dr. Mark's slats. The Difficulty to overcome the effect is higher than Elissa can roll, so she'll be listless and ineffective for some time.
In Engineering the sensor array is still not picking up the Klingons until Maris turns up and offers to help. That does it, undercutting Fujita's expertise & draining her confidence. Maris is also aiming for T'Prin (whose emotional high is helping a famous Vulcan scientist with a sensor enhancement,) but the Vulcan mind resists. Meanwhile, Pelski will be approached by a depressed Dr. Raven - she will reveal that she's planning to leave Star Fleet because her skills aren't up to the task. Why, if Lt. Maris hadn't turned up she would have lost an entire line of experiments needed to save Rossad & Fraiser. After this we'll cut back to the planet: Capt. Sakhet has been making some headway in negotiations but has been fairly well sequestered. The Anuzi she is used to are fussy and detail oriented, but these are also angry. Sakhet gets a break when the Anuzi storm out of the meeting again. I expect some bringing up to date and perhaps new orders to the crew. All of this is the Midpoint, as we have enough people affected to figure out what's going on.
Sensing this, Maris has a Klingon ship under her control warp in to attack - useful if someone is coming to question her. This conflict is Pinch 2, and in it Maris will make two things happen: Funk will face an explosive decompression (as he has before) and T'Prin will deal with rerouting a system where losing her balance would causing a toxic gas plume (the reason for her black mark with the Vulcan fleet). Ideally Pelski will be in command of the ship with Sakhet on the planet and Funk dealing with the decompression.
Plot Turn 2 is when things go insane: Maris appears both on the planet and on the bridge, which should remove all doubts for the players. She'll take command of the ship, if need be revealing that she's actually a Captain in intelligence and whoever resists will face a count martial (ideally Pelski, whose greatest moment was joining the Academy) to defeat the Klingons. On the planet Maris will arrive with the Anuzi so Sakhet can hear the aliens commend this worthy Star Fleet Officer who helped secure the treaty - as more Klingon ships appear in the sky (Sakhet hates Klingon gunboat diplomacy). All Sakhet has to do is sign the treaty Maris negotiated and the Klingons will lose…. Cue the Willpower check.
I don't honestly know if we'll get anywhere near this point before we hit the Resolution. If we do, the players will have to ID what Maris is and find a way to drive her off. As an energy being attacks might destabilize her but they won't hurt her, and she will adapt to them quickly, letting her out-fight Coy Mahn after a few seconds if it comes to that. The best method for handling her is talk: her weakness is her personal insecurity - she isn't good herself, she steals it from others. In a classic episode of Trek this is the captain's job, but anyone who isn't controlled can join in, hammering both her forms as they watch her become less poised and beautiful before disappearing. When she goes, all of the aliens & effects of her actions vanish. The ruins on the planet turn out to be what's left of her homeworld world and the Klingon ships are derelicts, Maris' old victims.
If no one has resisted her Dr. Knox will wake up, having overcome the effect with her very high willpower and focused nature. In addition, anyone who hasn't been affected can snap others out with a positive emotional jolt - high praise, reminding them of past successes, or in the case of Pelski & Raven, a smooch. They might wake Rossad to as a deus ex machina.