The USS Stauffenberg was a small ship but a very busy ship. As soon as the Orion stowaways were dropped off, Capt. Williamson ordered the ship to leave starbase 2204 and return to patrol duty on the edge of the neutral zone. Before the ship arrived at the neutral zone, an emergency communiqué from 4th Fleet Command HQ was sent to the entire fleet.
The message carried the news of an outpost sensor station that exploded and all of its crew was killed. Hundreds of these sensor stations were deployed along the neutral zone. They created a type of early-warning radar network. The network could detect any foreign ships passing across the neutral zone and into Federation territory. With one of the stations destroyed, there was a “hole” in the early-warning network. Any ship could enter into Federation territory through the gap and nobody would know about it. The apparent cause of the explosion was a fusion reactor overload. But, even a blind Slirdarian could tell this could only have been an act of sabotage. The Stauffenberg was ordered to rush to the location and provide some sensor coverage for the “hole” until a specialized scout ship could be deployed there.
Skoan suggested deploying several of the ships probe devices into the hole to provide additional sensor coverage. When the ship arrived at the location, they setup four of the five Class-1 probes in a diamond formation around the ship. They pointed the ship’s sensors toward the neutral zone, hoping that no enemy ships had passed that way before they arrived.
Sure enough, one of the Class-1 probes made contact with a ship already in Federation space and it was moving quickly toward the interior planets of the Federation.
The Stauffenberg started to take up pursuit, but the contact was too fast to catch and too far away. Dyesha Fey signaled another Federation ship in position to intercept the contact.
The heavy cruiser USS Republic was able to intercept the contact but confirmed it was only a civilian priority transport. The civilian vessel appeared legitimate and was following an approved course to B-4354, a small colony planet. The Republic broke off contact with the civilian ship and left the area.
Captain Williamson chose to stay and monitor the gap in the sensor network. But, once the scout ship arrived to relieve the Stauffenberg, the captain ordered a sweep of the debris from the destroyed sensor station. Skoan discovered that a fusion reactor overload did indeed cause the explosion. He also scanned the area for any warp signature trails that might indicate that a ship had crossed the neutral zone recently. He did find a trail but could not identify the specific ship that created it.
Skoan laid in a course to colony B-4354. Once there, he put the ship in standard orbit while the captain contacted the local governor. Governor Gordon Seabolt denied that any ship came to the planet and refused to allow any scans of the planet surface. “We are an official Federation colony and home to Federation citizens!” He growled, “Starfleet has no right to invade our privacy by scanning this planet or any other Federation colony!” Captain Williamson contacted Starfleet HQ and confirmed that the planet and its citizens were protected by certain rights. He was not authorized to scan the planet in any way.
But, the captain thought he could justify a routine inspection of the fusion reactors on the colony since there had been a recent fusion reactor accident on the sensor station. Governor Seabolt was furious but quickly realized he could not prevent the inspection. A team led by M’Binga was sent down to the colony.
On the planet surface, the team was met by governor’s aide Matthew Genarro. He gave the team a short tour of the colony. The planet was Class-O meaning it was very similar to Earth but with a much colder climate. There had been several failed attempts at colonizing this planet over the years due to the difficult winter weather. Matthew was confident, however, that his colony would ultimately survive.
The colony was home to about 10,000 people and the community produced agricultural products and imported everything else. The colony also had an excellent fabrication facility. Matthew explained that supply ships normally arrive once a week and this week’s shipment arrived some days ago. No other ships had arrived recently. Since there was no commercial platform in orbit, it was necessary that all supply ships have the ability to land on the planet’s surface. Although the colony was struggling financially, the governor was very wealthy. Just at that moment, the governor’s sport airplane flew overhead. It headed in the direction of the old 3rd colony ruins. Matthew explained that the governor was also the chief surveyor and used his airplane for surveying work. M’Binga was now very interested in exploring the old ruins.
When the team arrived at the fusion reactor building, they found the fusion reactor chief asleep in his office. They started the inspection immediately. All appeared well but Morimoto did everything he could to find an excuse to keep the team on the planet just a little longer. M’Binga decided to leave Morimoto and Maeve Reeju to conduct the inspection while the rest of the team continued the tour.
They stopped at a civilian house to rest and spoke with the lady who lived there. She introduced herself as Mrs. Smith and she was very friendly and hospitable. The team noticed that there were several old photos displayed around the house of ruined settlements. She said that her husband was a history buff and collected a lot of info on the old failed colonial expeditions. She explained that he was working late today at the fabrication plant. Mrs. Smith also spoke of a rocket launch that was to occur this weekend but it was cancelled unexpectedly. The team decided to speak with Mr. Smith at the fabrication plant.
M’Binga used his communicator to update Morimoto. Morimoto had caused an alarm condition in the fusion reactor to allow more time for the team to visit the fabrication plant.
The team met back at the fabrication plant. They were able to get the plant manager to provide a brief tour. The colony was able to produce agricultural machinery, pre-fab buildings, and all sorts of tools at this facility. The plant manager showed them something very interesting; five solid-fuel booster rockets in production. The plant manager was very excited about these rockets and was proud that his facility was able to produce such excellent quality devices. He was obviously disappointed because the payload had not been delivered this week as expected and the launch would have to be delayed. The payload was supposed to be weather and survey satellites which would be boosted into orbit with the solid-fuel rockets.
Morimoto used a brief moment during the tour to speak with M’Binga. He explained that he had been informed that 5 orbital defense satellites had been stolen recently from a Starfleet production facility. How coincidental was it that this factory was constructing exactly five booster rockets?
The team was able to speak to Mr. John Smith. John was excited that Starfleet personnel were interested in the history of his little colony and he agreed to take the team to the ruins of the 3rd colony that following day.
The team returned to the Stauffenberg and made plans to take the shuttlecraft to the ruins of the 3rd colony with John Smith.