The discovery of the trader Aristophenes inside the Temptation nebula exposes the Carter's crew to a disease that kills anyone with a Y Chromosome. An away team needs to comb the freighter to discover the diseases' cause while Dr. Mark struggles to keep the men of the crew alive, and the men face their impending mortality.
Hook (in the form of the captain’s log)
"It's been a week since concluding our exploration of the Generosity system, the third and last of the inhabited planets revealed by our Betazed guest. We don't know what the inhabitants call themselves, as they are a pre-transmission aquatic culture whom we have no easy means of observing, but somehow the nickname of Innsmoths has circulated amongst the crew. They are cephalopods evolved to live at high pressures, and while what we saw of their culture looks fascinating it appears unlikely they'll ever develop warp technology. This puts them outside the prime directive, and so we went on our way.
"We are about to enter what the romantic cartographer who mapped this system called 'The Sin', a starless expanse running across the sector. Lt. Blake has orders to take us to warp 6 when we enter the expanse, to both shorten a dead route and speed our return to the Sagan Observatory. Not only has Mr. Pelski discerned a location for the Gamma I's passengers, but Mr. Funk informed me last night that T'Prin had cracked Xenocrates encryption. I have a strong suspicion that the computer's contents will shed significant light into what the Klingons and Orions are doing in the Burning Nebula.
"Speaking of Nebula, we'll be passing one at the border of the Sin, and another one at its center, the only stellar object within three hundred light years on either side. The one we're approaching is the Temptation nebula, the other is the 'Heart of Sin'. I'm sure Cmdr. Funk will just love these names."
Once she finishes her log, I'm sure she'll be calling for a scan of the Temptation nebula - her or someone else. If no one does, Sigfried will announce a very faint signal coming from inside. This should institute a bevy of scanning that will reveal the presence of a small trading vessel inside the Nebula - roughly 3/4 the size of the Carter. The ship is floating in space, operating only on minimal emergency life support. The beacon announces that the ship the Aristophenes, under the command of captain Salihah… Demi Sakhet's lost love! (Obviously you should substitute your own captain’s lost love interest here – or actually a brother of same, since it’s not really him….)
Plot Turn 1
Sensors determine that the ship is maintaining life support systems at a minimal level. No distinct life forms are apparent on scan. The air aboard is good, though cold, and the artificial gravity is turned off. A records search shows that the Aristophenes had not been heard from in nearly two years. Records also showed that the Captain is the brother of one of the PCs old love interests
I assume an away team will transport over, and will head to the bridge, engineering or both by splitting up.
The bridge team will find three male corpses in the turbolift. There are 18 corpses, all male, floating in engineering. The bodies bear signs what may be explosive decompression. This accounts for all 21 of the ship's male crew; none of the 14 female crew were among the dead. The crew on the bridge finds signs that something might still be living on the ship (including some recently dropped food), as well as clothes and type 1 phasers on the bridge deck.
I assume this will lead to a hunt for whatever is still alive on the ship the Players might think that there’s a monster on the loose rather than what it is – the last survivor, an 11 year old girl. This is Sheila Mirarchi, daughter of one of the crew, who has been living her alone for months after the last of the female crewmembers went mad from isolation and grief and killed themselves with the phasers (quick red lightshow = no bodies). She can be tracked through the Jefferies tubes and conduits with a tricorder, but once the PCs catch her (and she will make a game but non-violent try to flee) she will pass out from exhaustion, malnutrition and possibly the effects of gravity if the PCs have turned that back on. It is logical to assume that the PCs might transport her to medlab since the Aristophanes only has a dispensary, but they may treat her there.
The evidence collected by the away team, in the form of logs from the dispensary, and the logs of Captain Saleha and his first officer Melissa Sleiffer, tells the PCs that the crew of the Aristophenes contracted a lethal disease while on Patience II loading deuterium ore and other minerals. The disease is carried by males and females, but it appears to attack only men. It kills by inducing massive pressure in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. This accounts for the look of the corpses. The players may have have unwittingly contaminated the Carter. If the disease is still active, the first symptoms will probably begin appearing in three to five days.
The PCs should start doing the logical things at this point: figuring out what to do with the the Aristophenes, what to do with the infected crew (which might be the Carter if they weren’t careful – and I expect them to be not careful, but they might surprise me) and so on.
Things get worse: The Patience II disease is not only active, but has mutated into a more virulent form. The doctor/science officers can identify the pathogen as a heretofore unknown virus. The largest and/or least healthy men will collapse first, well before the 3-5 day timeframe. A general outbreak of the exposed will be in hours and sickbay can only treat symptoms. (In my game they also used the transporter’s pattern buffer to hold the sick in stasis – by the laws of Star Trek the transporter can’t solve the problem since it didn’t cause the problem, but it’s still a handy tool.)
This is a pinch so this information should come out in a tense, medical drama way – this is the equivalent of a fight scene for the ship’s doctor, so make sure to play it that way.
Plot Turn 2
The restof the crew will have to figure out what to do next, but the Doctor will be able to theorize that if they can work from an un-mutated version of the virus they might have more luck. Of you can develop something else. Whatever rules system you use should have something for a really complex for the medical and science offers to have to do – the equivalent of a long ship to ship combat – for them to work out a possible solution to the virus.
This section of the episode is really a chance for the players to investigate how they react in the face of impending death and or perpetual isolation based on their gender. This part is basically there for the narrativists, genre fiends, tragedians, and other “plumb the depths of my character’ psyche” types to strut their stuff for a bit; it’s later in the campaign than Tooth and Claw so we can see the characters operating under different stressors (I’ll be doing this one more time in the campaign with a third emotional stress point). If a limited number of PCs are infected than they get a chunk of spotlight time here mulling over the life in their isolation tank while the others race to save them.
This is where the medical crew gets to implement whatever solution they’ve developed. If they aren’t doing well on the mechanics they may start having bodies of dead crew members piling up – while we assume the PCs are going to pull this off it is not without any risk. To my mind any solution that gets the other members of the crew involved is a better one, which is why in my game the medical officer learned that they had to get a pure sample of the virus from Patience II, so the engineering crew had to ramp up the engines, the science officers/astrogator plot the fastest gravity slingshot course and the helm officer had to pilot the ship along said corpse to get back to Patience II in time to get the needed mcguffinite to save the crew.