A fiery nebula and stellar nursery

The Quick and the Dead

After nine days of nervous traveling, the Potemkin finally crossed all of Romulan space and set off into uncharted territory. With Rokan still accompanying, the 'Tem set course for the "Star Fountain." However, the mood aboard ship has been somber during the trip through Romulan territory and a distraction was welcome. One came in the form of a planet which had incredibly high energy readings. However, initial scans showed the world to the be uninhabited. It took a bit of convincing, but Rokan finally allowed the 'Tem to stop and investigate.

The energy readings were coming mainly from the planet's northern continent, but there were no signs of people - including the ruins or derelict machinery that would indicate an extinct civilization. Mystified, Warp decided an away team was appropriate. A large concentration of energy was detected on a particular few kilometer spot and it was decided the team would set down there.

The team, joined by Lieutenant Castleman for extra security, beamed to the planet's surface and arrived in tall grasslands, much like Nebraska or Kansas - only there was a huge battle happening all around them! The team dove to the ground to avoid being hit, but one side quickly encircled them...and then protected them from the opposing army!

Rollands swore sensors showed no life signs and had no idea how they missed the two armies duking it out. The leader of the group protecting the team called for an armored transport and demanded to know if the team was from "command." Several of the crew helped fire at the advancing enemy line, but oddly their phasers which were set to stun ended up vaporizing their targets. Finally an armored transport pulled up next to the pinned down team and they were ushered inside with great haste before the transport sped off.

The leader, who introduced himself as General Attin, repeated his question of whether the away team had been sent by "Command." He was deflated when Prax told him no, and related that Command had instructed them to hold these plains and they have been dong that to the best of their ability for a long time, but they were expecting new commands. Jordan asked how long exactly Attin had been fighting, and the entire team were shocked to hear he had been at it for over 350 years.

Attin led the crew to a holographic duck blind finding his base. He led them through tunnels full of soldiers, armaments, transports, consoles, and motor pools, but the crew soon realized there were no latrines, solider quarters, or mess halls. Attin seemed confused at the very notion of "sleep" and "rest," leading the crew to suspect everyone around them must be holograms. Attin once again asked if they anything about command and expressed frustration that they had followed the orders to fight, but never received any additional commands.

Suddenly another man entered the room and told the crew they were right about their suspicions - it was none other than HIRAM from the Potemkin! Seizing on the moment, Prax told Attin HIRAM was from command and asked the general to momentarily leave the room for them to confer. HIRAM, however, explained he had been on the 'Tem when he felt an extension of the holographic grid and was able to materialize on the planet. He also said he was linked to the central computer producing the holograms and learned this whole thing was a battle simulation for some long forgotten war. Whoever started it had moved on and forgotten to turn off the holograms. He also said the orders Attin were looking for were actually a computer command to shut down the simulation - something HIRAM had no access to.

HIRAM, however, also resisted any notion of shutting down the program or using the away team's weaponry to help one side win or the other. He argued Attin's frustration was the first signs of sentience being show and unilateral action would be destroying a new form of life. He also argued against tweaking the program to change the holograms themselves, saying this was against the prime directive.

Finally, a plan was hatched. Attin and his men were achieving sentience and could comprehend the idea of peace. However, in a war simulation the one thing not programed into the enemy was the idea of surrender or negotiating. HIRAM said he could lead them to where the main computer core was and the crew could do the reprogramming there. The crew secured transport to the spot HIRAM indicated and, after a long ride, they arrived at another hidden base filled with the main computer core. However, the base is in enemy territory and Attin and his men are forced to hold the entrance while Prax and Bom doing the necessary bit of programming. Finally, albeit with no noticeable change, the two engineers were able to accomplish their goal.

HIRAM also managed to clear a hole in the EM field which disrupted transporters and communicators, allowing the away team to get back aboard the 'Tem. However, HIRAM refused to return, saying this world and its holographic inhabitants needed him - on the Potemkin he only sat around in the software. Finally reaching an understanding, HIRAM and Prax shook hands before the team dematerialized, leaving the holograms to bring peace to their world...

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