The turbolift doors opened. Lieutenant Reginald Barclay took a few hesitant steps onto the bridge of the Enterprise. No matter how long he served in Starfleet, he never felt at home on the bridge; even when he was summoned. It was like he didn’t belong here, and everyone knew it. He cast a glance around, meeting first the stern gaze of Lieutenant Worf, the ship’s Klingon Chief of Security, who had instinctively turned to verify who was exiting the turbolift. Barclay managed a weak smile (which was not returned) and continued to scan the bridge before he found the reassuring face of his superior, Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge, smiling at him from his position at the Engineering station. LaForge surreptitiously beckoned Barclay over.
On the viewscreen at the fore of the bridge, the enlarged face of K’Vaakh, Captain of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey Mok’tagh, looked past Captain Picard and focused directly on him. The Klingon abruptly stopped conversing with the Captain and did something that would normally make anyone in Starfleet–let alone a person of Barclay’s disposition– uneasy. He laughed.
“There he is, Picard!” growled K’Vaakh through his broad smile. “Hail, Lieutenant Barclay! My chief engineer Gel’rogh has informed me you have increased our warp engine efficiency by 2.9%!” Captain Jean-Luc Picard turned slightly to regard Barclay, a small smile on his lips. “Two-point-nine percent!” K’Vaakh continued, shouting now. “Truly outstanding! The Klingon Empire thanks you for your service, lieutenant!”
Barclay fidgeted uncomfortably. LaForge put his hand on his shoulder, smiling. Picard nodded, indicating he could respond directly to Captain K’Vaakh.
“It…uh…it…was nothing,” Barclay stammered. “Happy to help, Captain…but…uh…it was a team effort.”
“Yes, but it was YOUR team!” exclaimed K’Vaakh, still smiling. “No need for modesty here, Lieutenant; but of course a good commander knows when to share the glory with his soldiers! Know that you and your men have impressed the Empire this day!”
Barclay flushed with embarrassed pride. “Thank you, Captain. But…uh…it was only that…um…once we figured out the plasma flow was slowed at junction 42, it was a small matter to reroute the EPS conduits to temporarily adjust for the slack; then apply the Bergstrom coefficient to compensate for the…”
“Thank you, Lieutenant Barclay,” Picard interjected smoothly. “Captain K’Vaakh, may we be of any further assistance?”
“None, Captain. You have done more than enough. Lieutenant Barclay, when next we meet, my chief engineer owes you a barrel of blood wine!” Barclay managed to keep the disgust from showing on his face. “Glory to you! And your house!” The Klingon broke transmission, and his face was replaced with a view of the Mok’tagh, turning away from the Enterprise, it’s red nacelles powering up in preparation for warp speed.
“I think you’ve made a friend, Mr. Barclay,” said Captain Picard, straightening his uniform with a smile and returning to his seat. “Well done, Lieutenant.”
LaForge squeezed his shoulder. “Good work, Reg,” he said. “I’m off duty in an hour. Meet you in Ten-Forward. I’ll buy, and no worries. It won’t be blood wine.”
Suddenly, the viewscreen flashed as the image of the Mok’tagh suddenly exploded. Klaxons began to blare aboard the Enterprise as Commander Riker bellowed, “Red Alert!”
“Report!” Picard said, leaping from his chair and taking three full steps towards Ops.
Commander Data paused just long enough to confirm the information on the console in front of him. “The Mok’tagh exploded upon activation of it’s warp drive, sir,” said the android, flatly. He turned in his chair, glancing at the stricken face of Lieutenant Barclay before turning to Picard.
“Survivors?” Picard asked, breathlessly.
Data looked at his console and frowned. He turned again to Picard with a slight shake of his head. “No life signs detected, Captain.”
What’s this? What’s this? Why, it’s a new idea I’m gonna try out this year! I have been INSPIRED!!!!
Tale of the Manticore is a podcast that blends together narrative storytelling and the actual-play game mechanics of old-school Dungeons & Dragons. The creator and producer of the show, Jon, spins a tale of Dark Fantasy by playing a solo game of old-school Red Box D&D and leaving the outcome of story events (including the fate of the characters) to the whims of the dice. It’s one of my favorite podcasts because it’s so unpredictable and so well-done. As Jon says, the dice determine all, and no one is safe.
It’s a great idea; and it has inspired me to try something new. As many of you know, I love miniature games, and I love Star Trek. My last foray into Trek gaming back in late 2019-early 2020 was Hubbard’s World, a series of linked scenarios using the Fantastic Worlds rules and featuring the Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701.
I’ve been considering a return to Trek; this time in the Next Generation era. The above is the prelude to a story I have in mind; but like Jon’s podcast, the events and progression of the story will be determined by the outcome of gameplay.
The story is called The Pawn, and sometimes (like now), I will post short fiction that moves the narrative forward. Eventually, I’ll have to play a game to determine where the story goes next. Then I will post an After Action Report and continue from there.
I will continue to post lots of other stuff in between, so if The Pawn is not your thing, feel free to skip those posts.