Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Season of Scenery 2022: Terok Nor

Today is July 4th; and here in America we celebrate our liberation from the tyranny of the evil British with day-long festivals of song and story (i.e. your drunk uncle reminding you that “There’s NOTHING more important than family” , somehow making family a five-syllable word, and yelling for Skynrd’s Freebird). These festivities almost always include copious amounts of barbecued meat, deviled eggs and potato salad; washed down with the alcoholic beverage of your choice (i.e. cheap beer). Since we are America, there’s a better than average chance of firearms being involved, too; and not necessarily in a good way (if there is such a thing).

Note: A quick look at the news, and guess what? Fucking predictable. (Fucking preventable, too; but this is supposed to be a happy post.)

But: this is not the way of things here at the palatial estate of The Angry Piper. Sure, there’s barbecued meat and drinking involved, but here, all I’m thinking about is the Season of Scenery, and what my plans are for it.

So, what am I doing for the Season of Scenery this year? I’m making my first non-wargaming plastic model kit in decades, and it’s a good one. From 1994: the AMT official Star Trek model of space station Terok Nor, a.k.a. Deep Space Nine!

I picked up this kit a couple of years back. The box is in sad shape, but it was never opened (as the stale waft of air I got when removing the shrink wrap can attest).

I opened it up, and it’s complete and in good shape. It even has this Star Trek Fan Club card in it. Wonder if I can still join?

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this will be my second attempt at this kit. I first tried it way back in 1995 or so; but I didn’t get very far. I put together the ring pieces, but was distressed by the gaps between them. So, I did what any modeler worth his sack would do. I used putty.

Of course, back then, this is what I had for putty: Testors modeling putty, which, like most Testors products (with the notable exception of Dullcote) SUCKS DONKEY BALLS. This has the consistency of watery toothpaste; not putty. They actually still make this shit, believe it or not. Anyway, suffice it to say that I used a lot of this and not only failed to fill any gaps, I made my model look so bad, I never wanted to touch it again and I threw the entire fucking thing in the trash. What a waste, I know. Almost 30 years later, I’ve learned a thing or two about modeling and more important; I’ve learned how to fill a fucking gap with ACTUAL, REAL putty, not whatever this shit is. I think I got this.

Also, I seem to remember that “Skill Level 2” was bullshit. This is a more advanced kit that includes the option for LED lights, should you wish to add them. I think you need to add them while you’re building it, though…I’ll have to take a look.

Deep Space Nine is probably my favorite Star Trek series (although I waffle between TNG, TOS and DS9 depending on my mood). Sadly, July 1 marked the last day the series was available for streaming on Netflix here in the US (damn you, Paramount Plus!), so I can’t watch it any time I want to any more. I thought: what better time than now to take a second crack at this kit?

Of course, Dave the Gracious (that’s a new nickname for you, Dave) gives us TWO months for this challenge; and I’d like to think I can get this done with time to spare…so I have these as a backup project: Assets and Hazards for the Alien: Another Glorious Day in the Corps board game. You know, that same board game I was so excited about that I still haven’t played, despite painting all the miniatures?

Oh, wait…that doesn’t actually narrow it down, does it?

Anyway, next time will be a full rant. I promise.

Character Studies: Rhin Valim (Star Trek Adventures) Part 2

The backstory for Lieutenant Junior Grade Rhin Valim, Starfleet Security Division can be found here. What follows is an explanation of his Attributes and Disciplines, his Talents, Values and Focuses: all the things that come into play quite a lot in Star Trek Adventures. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty of how these things work mechanically, I’ll just give a broad description of each and how it relates to his character; in other words, why I chose them and why I think they makes sense for this character.

Attributes and Disciplines

Attributes have a score range of 7-12, while Disciplines have a range of 1-5. Rhin Valim’s highest Attribute is Fitness at 12 (he’s in spectacular shape), and his highest Discipline is Security at 5 (not surprising, he’s been fighting all his life). His second highest Attribute is Daring at 11 (He’s used to taking risks) and his next highest Discipline is Engineering at 3 (he’s more than competent). His remaining Attributes (Control, Insight, Presence and Reason) and Disciplines (Command, Conn, Science and Medicine) are fairly average.

Attributes and Disciplines are used in combination with each other to attempt tasks. Rhin is a very physical character with a good knowledge of both combat and engineering.

Focuses

These are the things Rhin is really good at: his particular set of skills, if you like. He has a better chance of succeeding at these tasks and of achieving better results than most people. Rhin’s focuses are: Small Unit Tactics, Infiltration, Espionage, Hand to Hand Combat, Hand Phasers and Hazard Awareness. All of these focuses fit a character who grew to adulthood in the Bajoran resistance and spent most of his life waging guerilla warfare.

Talents

These are traits that give Rhin bonuses in certain situations. Once again, these are primarily a result of his work in the Bajoran resistance.

Constantly Watching: Rhin is very good at seeing threats. He’s pretty tough to ambush or blindside.

Pack Tactics: Rhin knows how to pile on when he needs to. Other characters benefit more than they normally would if Rhin assists them during combat.

Crisis Management: He can give commands in combat situations, even if he isn’t in command. This isn’t “official” command status; it’s just that he is the kind of guy who people listen to when things go south.

Fire at Will: Usually, it’s difficult to fire with accuracy the more times you shoot, but Rhin doesn’t suffer from that. Rhin is used to laying down fire.

Values

Finally, these are the things that Rhin thinks are important: his ideals and aspirations. In game terms, you can invoke (or challenge) a value in order to gain big bonuses; so when your values come into play, it’s a big deal.

For example: one of Captain Kirk’s values is “I don’t believe in a no-win situation.” People familiar with Kirk would agree he’s not the kind of guy who gives up, even in the face of overwhelming odds. When faced with a seemingly no-win situation, Kirk’s player could invoke this value to get a big bonus on his intended action. It also tells us a bit about Captain Kirk, so anyone could use this value to guide their roleplay of the character.

Rhin Valim’s values are:

Resistance Fighter: The Bajoran resistance was hardly a well-equipped force. Rhin is used to making do with whatever is available, working with what you have, not with what you wish you had. It’s great to have the right tool for the job, but sometimes you need to use a rock because you don’t have a hammer. Starfleet has all the hammers anyone could ever need. Rhin’s still not used to that.

“Put faith in yourself. It’s the only thing worth believing in.” Rhin doesn’t put faith in a higher power or the promises of politicians, because he’s seen what those amount to: nothing. If you don’t do it yourself, it won’t get done. Don’t trust anyone or anything to act in your best interests. Only you can do that.

“No one gets left behind.” This one is pretty self-explanatory. Rhin will go out of his way and risk life and limb for his fellow soldiers, even if he doesn’t particularly like them. As much as possible, the wounded get evacuated, bodies get recovered and identified, and most of all, prisoners get rescued. Otherwise, what are you really fighting for?

“Improvise. Overcome. Adapt. Or die.” Again, pretty self-explanatory. Don’t stick to a plan if it isn’t working. There’s nothing noble about getting killed because you were too stupid to zig when someone commanded you to zag. This value is probably why Rhin hasn’t advanced much in rank; he’s not afraid to buck the chain of command if it means saving lives, including his own.

As stated above, you can also challenge a value if it’s dramatically appropriate, and if successful, you can get big results just as if you had invoked it. For example, let’s say Rhin was in a situation where he was faced with trusting someone he didn’t know. Normally, because of his “put faith in yourself” value, he wouldn’t be able to do that easily, and he’d have to fend for himself. But what if I challenge it instead of invoking it? Rhin takes the chance and gets the bonus, but then I would have to cross out that value and choose a new one. People change.

Sadly, I never got to play this character. Maybe one day I will. I think he could be interesting, as he clearly lacks the mindset for Starfleet; but could be an asset to the right crew. He’s a lot like Major Kira Nerys at the beginning of Deep Space Nine, only Kira had her faith in the Prophets to guide her decisions. Rhin doesn’t. It would be fun to see how he reacts to serving alongside someone similar.

Forgotten Heroes 2022: The Hypno-Hustler!

A couple of years back, Bill Maher had a segment on his show called “I don’t know it for a fact; I just know it’s true.” He would say amusing things like “I don’t know for a fact that Justin Trudeau moonlights as a tantric yoga instructor; I just know it’s true.” See? That’s a joke, because Justin Trudeau is a good-looking youngish guy who probably gets laid a lot; but he’s also the Prime Minister of Canada.

I don’t know for a fact that Jeremy, a.k.a. Carrion Crow, sounds exactly like Lenny Mclean, a.k.a. Barry the Baptist from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; I just know it’s true. That’s a joke, too, because lest there be any confusion, I’ve never actually heard Carrion Crow speak. Still, I find it amusing to imagine him saying things like “If you don’t wanna be countin’ the fingers you ‘aven’t got, I suggest you get those guns! Quick!”

I don’t know for a fact that Forgotten Heroes is the greatest painting challenge in the history of painting challenges, I just know it’s true; because this year it gave me the opportunity to create one of my favorite all-time villains: the Hypno-Hustler!

From Wikipedia: Antoine Desloin is the lead singer of the Mercy Killers, going by the name of Hypno-Hustler. He and his band were scheduled to perform at a nightclub called “Beyond Forever”. When the club’s manager catches Hypno-Hustler robbing his safe, Hypno-Hustler used his hypnotic equipment on the manager. When it came time to perform, Hypno-Hustler and his band used their hypnotizing equipment on the audience in a plan to rob them as well. Peter Parker was at the club at the time and changed into Spider-Man. During the fight, Spider-Man discovered that Hypno-Hustler’s headphones protected him from his own hypnotic music. Spider-Man managed to remove them from Hypno-Hustler causing him to become a victim of his own hypnosis. When the audience was free of the hypnosis, Hypno-Hustler and his Mercy Killers were webbed up and left for the police.

So: Hypno-Hustler can hypnotize people with his music; but, failing that, he can resort to the toe-spikes and knockout gas he has hidden in his big platform heels. He also plays the guitar.

Hypno-Hustler made his debut in November, 1978 in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #24; and then promptly vanished from comics for 24 years, until Spider-Man: Tangled Web #16 (released in November of 2002). He was created by the great Bill Mantlo; who sadly has been dealing with long-term injuries from a hit-and-run accident in the early 90’s. Bill Mantlo worked on a ton of incredible comics in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and created some great characters; like Cloak and Dagger, Jack of Hearts, Rom: Spaceknight and (most famous nowadays) Rocket Raccoon; the royalties of which allowed him to finally leave the nursing facility he’d been living in for 25 years and return to home care.

Before we dive in to the miniature conversion process, please feel free to get in the mood with this sketch from Key and Peele, which still cracks me up every time I watch it.

To make Hypno-Hustler, I used this DC Hypertime Booster Gold Heroclix miniature as the base. I trimmed him off his flight disc, but kept the plastic under his feet to give him some height afforded by his KISS-esque boots.

From there it wasn’t too hard to add green stuff and Magic Sculpt to make his afro, chest speaker/amp, belt and shoulder trim. I also added his headphones and tried to define his goggles a bit. Then I gave him a microphone so he wasn’t empty-handed.

But something was conspicuously absent (and no, it wasn’t the Mercy Killers). Hypno-Hustler needed a guitar, and, not surprisingly, Booster Gold didn’t come with one. I looked for a suitable guitar I could cannibalize amongst my many miniatures and bitz. No luck.

My next step was to find a 28mm scale guitar bit somewhere else. I looked at silver charms (for charm bracelets), and found something perfect, except that it was just too big enough to look wrong. I finally looked for manufacturers that make musical instrument conversion bits. I thought for sure Reaper did, but nope. All Fantasy themed instruments, no electric guitars. Eventually, PaulCollins at The Miniatures Page pointed me to two British companies: Spellcrow and Zealot miniatures, respectively.

Although available in the USA through Amazon and Noble Knight, the Spellcrow guitars are a bit too Slaanesh Noise Marine for me (and certainly for the Hypno-Hustler). They weren’t the right shape, either.

In contrast, the Zealot miniatures guitars were awesome. Just what I needed. Unfortunately, they are only available from the company in the UK, and I’m not going to pay that much shipping for one little guitar sprue.

Which means I had to make my own. I know it sucks, but it’s for the Hypno-Hustler; so who cares? I put it on his back, anyway. I was going to sculpt the guitar strap, but it would clutter up the front of the miniature if I did, so I left it out.

And here he is, ready to funk up the place: The Hypno-Hustler! Painting him was pretty easy, as Hypno-Hustler has a limited color palette: white with purple acoutrements. I listened to a lot of Earth, Wind and Fire and Parliament-Funkadelic while I did.

I’m least happy with his base. I didn’t know what to do, so I just painted it like a spotlight. I considered adding glitter to it; but as anyone who’s ever been to a strip club knows (so I hear), glitter gets everywhere.

With Spider-man’s greatest (I said greatest, damn you!) nemesis now complete, I have no excuse not to break out the Super Mission Force any longer. It’s been way too long!

Thanks as always to Carrion Crow for hosting Forgotten Heroes. He did a member of Spidey’s Rogues Gallery himself this year: The Spot! Go check it out, along with a link to everyone else’s fun contributions!

Make Mine Forgotten Heroes!

The Pawn: Part 7

At the ops station, Commander Riker leaned on one leg, rested his elbow on his knee, and gazed at the main viewer. Enterprise had followed the quantum drive signatures to a dense asteroid field, the remains of a planetary collision eons ago. “Great,” he said. “If the Romulans are in there, we’ll never find them.”

Data glanced over his shoulder. “Not necessarily, Commander. I believe I may have a method. Are you familiar with Newton’s Third Law of Motion?”

Riker straightened uncomfortably. “It’s…uh…been a while since my academy physics classes.”

“I see.” Data frowned. He didn’t, really, He could never understand why humans thought answering a question with irrelevant information was a valid answer; but he recognized Riker’s response was meant as a negative. He continued: “Put simply, every object in space exerts gravity on every other object. I propose that we could find the cloaked vessel by tracing the patterns of gravimetric force and finding the void where the ship should be, based on the force it exerts on the other surrounding objects; namely, the asteroids.”

“If that works, why aren’t we using that method to find cloaked ships all the time?” asked Riker.

“It would not work in open space, Commander; the distances between objects and the miniscule forces exerted would make measurement functionally impossible. However, this is a unique situation. The cloaked vessel has taken refuge in the asteroid field, no doubt for the extra camouflage it offers; however such close proximity to other bodies may, paradoxically, make it easier to trace the gravimetric force patterns and pinpoint the vessel’s location.”

“That’s still a staggering number of variables to account for, Data,” said Picard, joining them. “Is the Enterprise computer even capable of that many calculations?”

“I believe so, sir; if I interface my positronic matrix to assist with the calculations.”

“Make it so,” said Picard.

Enterprise glided silently through the asteroid field, trusting in its navigational deflectors to keep the massive rocks at bay. The bridge was quiet, all eyes on Data; who sat at the operations console staring straight ahead, unblinking. Although it seemed like hours, only about ten minutes passed before the android spoke. “I believe I have located the ship, Captain.”

The viewscreen focused on an unremarkable asteroid, one among millions. “I believe the cloaked vessel is maintaining a position within 5000 km of this asteroid, sir; but I cannot be more specific than that.”

“He could hide there forever,” said Riker. “All he has to do is stay cloaked.”

“Indeed,” Picard sighed. “Suggestions?”

From the tactical station, Dresa spoke up. “Captain, I believe I have a way to reveal the Romulan vessel, but we must act quickly.”

“Explain,” said Picard.

“There’s no time,” said Dresa. “It has to be now, or we’ll lose our chance.”

Picard looked at Worf and nodded. “Proceed, Commander Dresa.”

Worf stepped back from tactical, and Dresa took his place. She glanced at the controls for a moment, then tapped a few buttons in rapid sequence. Before anyone could react, Enterprise fired at salvo of photon torpedoes at the asteroid, blowing it into chunks of space dust.

Worf sprang forward and flung Dresa away from the console as Riker shot to his feet and whirled around. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

The Klingon woman said nothing, but gestured to the viewscreen, where the unmistakable outline of a Romulan Scout Vessel was flickering in and out of visibility as thousands of asteroid fragments impacted the vessel’s hull. After a moment, the cloak failed completely.

“Report!” ordered Picard.

“Captain,” said Data, “the Romulan vessel’s shields were dowin order n to engage the cloak. I am reading multiple impacts across all decks, resulting in severe damage to the Romulan ship. It is currently unable to raise shields or employ it’s cloaking device.”

“Good,” said Dresa. “They should be willing to talk now.”

Picard stared at her. “Mr. Worf. Get her the hell off my bridge.”

Worf, seething, barely gestured towards the turbolift. “Move,” he said. After a moment, Dresa complied, casting a final look at the viewscreen, where the Romulan vessel began sporadically venting plasma.

“Captain, the Romulan vessel is hailing us,” said Data.

“On screen.” On the main viewer, the image of the damaged ship was replaced by the face of an angry-looking Romulan.

“My name is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise,” said Picard.

“I know who you are!” spat the Romulan. “You dare attack a vessel of the Romulan Star Empire? This is an act of war!”

“To whom am I speaking?”

“Sub-commander Mirak!” sputtered the Romulan.

“We regret the damage caused to your vessel, Sub-commander Mirak; and will certainly assist in any way we can,” said Picard. “Although you have no cause to believe me, it was accidental. We have been tracking a saboteur responsible for the destruction of a Klingon vessel. The trail led us here.”

“You’re right. I don’t believe you,” said Mirak. “I find it strange that the Federation should concern itself so deeply with Klingon affairs.”

“The Klingons are our allies, Sub-commander. Perhaps you can explain your own presence here in the Neutral Zone?”

“We were dispatched to investigate reports of a rogue Federation starship–your starship– crossing the Neutral Zone,” said Mirak. “Your presence here and your unprovoked attack is a clear violation of the treaty. As you can see, there is no saboteur here. Therefore, you should leave. Now.”

Picard turned and gestured to Lieutenant Bailey, who had taken Worf’s place at tactical. She muted communications. He turned a questioning look to Counselor Troi.

She shrugged. “I don’t need to tell you he’s angry, Captain. Very angry, most likely at being discovered. He’s vulnerable and he knows it.”

Picard nodded and signaled communications should resume. “What I find odd, Sub-commander, is that we crossed the Neutral Zone less than one hour ago, and yet here you are, far closer to the Federation side of the border than you should be able to reach in that amount of time. Unless, of course, you were already here in the Zone, or perhaps even in Federation space. That would, as you say, be in clear violation of the treaty. Perhaps we should discuss this matter further in an environment that is less hazardous.”

“There is nothing to discuss. I have already told you we had nothing to do with the destruction of the Mok’tagh.”

Picard exchanged a glance with Riker before replying. “I do not recall giving you the name of the Klingon ship that was destroyed, Sub-commander Mirak.”

“Sir,” Data warned, “I am detecting two Romulan Warbirds crossing the border to the Neutral Zone from Romulan space, headed in this direction at maximum warp. They will be within weapons range in seventeen minutes, four seconds.”

“I think this conversation is over, Captain Picard,” Mirak said with a triumphant smile. “I suggest you take my advice and leave while you still can. I will not advise you again.”

“Your vessel is severely damaged, Sub-commander. Since you have no shields,” said Picard. “we could easily transport you and every one of your crew to Enterprise, where we will ensure your comfort and safety while we continue our discussion.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” said Mirak, uncertain.

Picard let the question linger a moment. “No,” he said. “As a show of good faith, and to prove the damage to your vessel was indeed an accident, we will let things stand as they are; for now. But you have told me all I need to know, Mirak; and the Klingons will be most interested in what I have learned.”

Some Klingons, perhaps.” Mirak smiled. The viewscreen went blank as the Romulan Sub-commander cut communication.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” asked Riker.

Picard frowned. “I have a feeling we have been led on a snipe hunt, Number One. Ensign McKnight, set course for Varuna three. warp seven.”

Finally! I got to play a game! Unfortunately, it wasn’t very exciting, and recording it fully here wouldn’t do much; but it was a scenario where the outcome would shape the coming story, so a review is in order.

This scenario was simple. Can the USS Enterprise-D find the cloaked Romulan vessel in the asteroid field before it can slip away?

I have a bunch of Heroclix and Deep Cuts Star Trek ships I’ve been dying to use, so I decided to use Star Trek: Attack Wing as my rules set (mainly because I sold my A Call to Arms: Starfleet rules long ago, and I don’t really own any other space combat rules other than War Rocket, which isn’t suitable). I encountered a problem quickly: Attack Wing is by nature a combat simulation and has almost no rules that aren’t combat rules. That will be fine later on in the story if the Enterprise needs to slug it out with some other ships (fingers crossed), but for now, all I needed was some way to play cat-and-mouse with the Romulan vessel.

Not knowing how your opponent will move and what actions he will take is a big part of the challenge of Attack Wing. Since I was playing both sides, how could I work around this? The answer was random movement for the Romulans, to be determined after Enterprise moved each turn. I copied all the allowable movement options for a Romulan Scout ship and assigned them a number, then rolled a die to see what they would do. The Romulans would obviously not fly into an asteroid or the Enterprise herself; but otherwise their movement was determined by a roll on a random table.

In Star Trek: Attack Wing, cloaked ships are given an extra 4 Defense dice while cloaked to represent how hard it is to target them. The Romulan scout ship normally has a Agility of 3, so adding the cloaking device brings it to 7 Defense dice. Not too shabby.

The USS Enterprise-D has an Attack value of 4. I decided Data’s clever idea would give an additional +1, for a total of 5. This represents the Enterprise’s ability to scan for the cloaked vessel.

Each turn, after movement was determined, I would check the range between the ships. Assuming the ships were within firing range, I would make a scanning (attack) roll for the Enterprise-D, resisted by the Romulan defense. If the ships were ever not in range of each other, that counted as a win for the Romulan side. The first side to win three rounds would win the scenario; meaning if Enterprise wins, they detect the Romulan vessel, and if the Romulans win, they manage to slip away and avoid detection.

Well, you can see how it ultimately went. Enterprise basically chased the Romulans around an asteroid for four turns. Not even worth the setup! Even with two fewer dice, the Enterprise managed to detect the Romulan ship 3-1, with the Romulans only scoring one round. Pretty bad rolling for the Romulans, considering the advantage they had! There wasn’t any combat this time around; but you never know what can happen. I might have to break out the Attack Wing rules in earnest soon…but anyway, here’s an excuse to show off my painted Enterprise-D. (That’s a factory job on the Romulan Heroclix ship.)

Meanwhile, what’s happening on Varuna three? We’ll find out Barclay’s fate in the next AAR, which will definitely be more detailed as it will be a return to Fantastic Worlds Trek skirmishing!

Character Studies: Rhin Valim (Star Trek Adventures) Part 1

This is a character I created for an online game of Star Trek Adventures. The game never ended up happening; but I thought I’d share him here anyway. In this first post, I’ll detail the character’s back story. In the next post, I’ll discuss a bit about his Atributes, Disciplines, Talents, Values and Focuses; all of which play an important part in Star Trek Adventures.

Rhin Valim

Rhin Valim was born to artisan parents in Kendra Province on Bajor. His mother was a potter, his father a landscape architect. Perhaps Rhin Valim could have been talented in one or the other, but he never got the chance. When he was four, the Cardassians came to Bajor. Once your planet is occupied and your family is sent to a labor camp, pottery and flowers seem a lot less important.

Unlike most Bajorans, Rhin Valim is not a man of faith. He believes the Prophets, if they even exist, stopped caring about Bajor long ago. For his part, Rhin stopped caring about the Prophets when he was ten. By then, he was an orphan; and not a single prayer or appeal to the Prophets had ever done him or anyone else he knew any good. Now that their supposed “Emissary” is a Starfleet Commander in charge of a former Cardassian labor camp/mining station, he can’t understand why no other Bajorans can see the absurdity of their entire religion. The Prophets never did a damn thing for Bajor, certainly not in recent history.

Who actually did something for Bajor? He did. Rhin Valim, and those like him in the Bajoran Resistance. The Resistance is who liberated Bajor, one dead Cardassian at a time; not the Vedeks, or the Kai, or the Prophets. At least some of the Vedeks were Resistance fighters. The Prophets were nowhere to be found.

Once the Cardassians withdrew, Rhin was dismayed to see the various factions of the provisional government quickly degenerate into a disorganized mess, praising the Prophets for their liberation while securing their own power bases. If it weren’t for the Federation, the Cardassians never would have left; and Rhin would still be avenging every Bajoran who was beaten, abused, murdered or worked to death in a filthy camp by a Cardassian overseer. Rhin long ago lost count of how many Cardassians he has personally killed.

It’s a large number, and he doesn’t regret a single one.

Like all Bajorans who weren’t collaborators, Rhin is grateful for the Federation’s help in ending the occupation. But he knows the Federation had a vested interest in keeping the Cardassians off of Bajor; and since the discovery of the wormhole, that determination seems to have increased. Rhin Valim joined Starfleet because he couldn’t stomach working for the Bajoran Provisional Government, not out of love for Starfleet. For now, Starfleet’s interests align with his; but he is no career soldier. He has no interest in rising through the ranks, and little use for exploration and discovery when his home world is still very much under Cardassian threat.

Because of the skills he learned in the D’arana Resistance Cell, Rhin Valim was best suited to Security Division. Rhin already knew how to fire a phaser and check an ID; and he knew how to hit someone and make it hurt. His instructors at the Academy were impressed.

Unbeknownst to them, though, he also knew how to defeat security systems, jury-rig explosives, extract information from those unwilling to impart it, plan and execute an ambush so that not a single target got out alive, blend into the surrounding terrain and/or population to escape detection, sabotage a power generator, blackmail an asset, infiltrate a high-security outpost, and silently and effectively murder a Cardassian Gul in his bed while his wife slept peacefully beside him.

Skills not taught at Starfleet Academy, but learned at great cost in the Bajoran Resistance.

Rhin Valim is a quiet man with few friends, not because he is difficult to get along with; but because he is extremely focused on survival, even now. He knows how quickly things can change for the worse. Although not obvious, he constantly scans his environment for threats and takes the measure of his companions early and often, taking nothing for granted, not even food and basic necessities, things that should not be a concern for a member of Starfleet. At Lieutenant Jr. Grade, he is a low-ranking officer; but despite this he likely has a better understanding of the capabilities of the individuals on his team than they have of themselves. Rhin’s opinions on the Prophets of Bajor are not popular among his own people and he does not go out of his way to share them; but neither does he wear the traditional earring symbolic of the Bajoran faith. Likewise, despite the inclusivity that Starfleet tries to instill in its recruits, Rhin Valim hates Cardassians. All Cardassians, without exception.

He tries to keep that to himself, too.

Forgotten Heroes 2022: Rainbow Boy

For my first submission to Forgotten Heroes 2022, I present: Rainbow Boy!

Before anyone calls bullshit on me, Rainbow Boy is a REAL character, and he certainly fits the designation of “Forgotten Hero”. He only appeared a total of nine times in comics. I’m a lifelong comic fan, and I’d never heard of him in my life, until @howardswinford, a guy on Instagram, posted a picture of him. Then I found this book: The League of Regrettable Super Heroes, which contains an entry for Rainbow Boy (and a plethora of inspiration for future Forgotten Heroes submissions). Since then, I’ve been utterly fascinated by him.

Rainbow Boy, real name Jack Walton, gained the superpower of “rainbow control” through unknown means. He can fly (or perhaps “cavort merrily”) at the speed of light; and when he does, he leaves a rainbow trail in his wake that he can shape into various forms. Those are his powers.

He needs nothing else. Rainbow Boy is FUCKING AWESOME.

June, the month of Forgotten Heroes, happens to be Pride month here in the USA. Now I know what you’re all thinking, but you’d be wrong. I did not choose Rainbow Boy in celebration of Pride Month. Rainbow Boy debuted in 1942. Like all men who wore tights back then, there is absolutely nothing to indicate that Rainbow Boy is anything but a heterosexual, cisgender white male.

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Of course, it was the 40’s, and gay people didn’t exist back then. Rainbow Boy is in the public domain now; and the times, they are a-changin’; so nowadays he should feel free to be whoever he wants, be it breakfast cereal mascot (as suggested in his entry) or LGBTQ+ icon. After all, he just turned 80. If not now, when? (Edit: I feel the need to specifically qualify the blatantly ignorant first sentence of this paragraph as sarcasm. I shouldn’t have to, as it takes away somewhat from the humor intended; but it’s possible I will be misunderstood as homophobic and uninformed. Lest anyone think I am homophobic, uninformed, or in any way serious when I write that gay people didn’t exist in the 40’s, I am not. I am aware that gay people existed in the 1940s; also prior to the 40’s throughout history, and every day since.)

To make Rainbow Boy, I used two miniatures: a Heroclix Aquaman, and a Heroclix Rogue; Aquaman for Rainbow Boy himself, and Rogue’s weird air contrail for Rainbow Boy’s eponymous rainbow. With my meager sculpting skills, I was able to form Rainbow Boy’s cowl and Spartan-like mohawk, his bracers, and his circular belt buckle from green stuff and Magic Sculpt.

You would think painting Rainbow Boy would be easy; after all his costume is mostly white and red. Not so much, though. As is common with many Clix models, Aquaman was caked with paint that is so difficult to remove I didn’t even try; I just painted over it. The result is a little heavy-handed, as you can see.

I primed him white and gave him a good wash of Nuln OIl before highlighting up. His odd, pastel rainbow was more of a challenge, as it appears on his chest, cowl plume and wristbands. I did my best; but freehanding something so small and lightly-colored was tough.

Finding free time has once again proven to be a challenge for me this month. I had hoped to have Rainbow Boy done earlier than this, because I have one more miniature I really want to get to by month’s end…someone I’ve been dying to make for a long time. A return to Star Trek is also planned as Lieutenant Barclay has been patiently waiting to learn his fate for over a month, now! Just gotta find the time somewhere…

Monster May(hem) 2022 Roundup!

Well, another Monster May(hem) has come and gone; and once again, I am so happy to welcome everyone who participated, both out here in the blogosphere and on Instagram! After a glacial start to the month, I managed to crowbar in a few more monsters at the eleventh hour. Not the way I like to work, but it’s what life dealt me this month…

It was a Nolzur’s kinda year for me, as 75% of my submissions this year came from that exceptional (as far as monsters are concerned, anywway) line of miniatures. I posted my Manticore previously; but since then, I’ve completed three more miniatures, starting with this Cave Bear.

What’s that? Not a monster, you say? Merely an animal? Well, my Lamentations of the Flame Princess players might disagree with you, as they recently came face-to-slobbering-face with one of these, which happened to be rabid, to boot! That could have ended in a very different way, but they managed to drive it off in a hail of black powder and lead bullets!

I used mostly Citadel paints on this. The bear was primed black, then painted Mournfang Brown,, highlighted with Deathclaw Brown, then washed in a 50/50 mix of Agrax Earthshade and Nuln Oil, then drybrushed with Vallejo Ivory. A final wash in the recesses with some straight Nuln Oil and it was done. I used some Woodland Scenics leaves on the base and I think he looks ok (although not as fierce as the one in my game, perhaps).

Up next, this Venom Troll; the submission of which I have the most pictures, but the least to say. I actually bought this months ago because I thought it would look good as a boss zombie. I was going to paint her (?) with mottled, zombie-like flesh; but I decided to go with a standard-looking greenish troll instead.

Her skin tone was achieved by using two types of Vallejo greens washed in old GW yellow wash, then the recesses were done in Athonian Camoshade. Her gross pustules are dripping GW’s Nurgle Rot, but you can’t really see it against the skin. Oh, well.

Finally, I repainted a Wizkids factory paint job on perhaps my favorite Lovecraftian monster: The Great Race of Yith. Why should Matt hog all the Mythos monsters?

Here is what it looks like out of the box. (Of course I didn’t take a picture of my actual miniature first; but this is what they ALL look like.) Big surprise: the miniature is great, the paint job sucks. Pretty bland, and a far cry from Lovecraft’s description, which is: They seemed to be enormous iridescent cones, about ten feet high and ten feet wide at the base, and made up of some ridgy, scaly, semi-elastic matter. From their apexes projected four flexible, cylindrical members, each a foot thick, and of a ridgy substance like that of the cones themselves. These members were sometimes contracted almost to nothing, and sometimes extended to any distance up to about ten feet. Terminating two of them were enormous claws or nippers. At the end of a third were four red, trumpet-like appendages. The fourth terminated in an irregular yellowish globe some two feet in diameter and having three great dark eyes ranged along its central circumference. Surmounting this head were four slender grey stalks bearing flower-like appendages, whilst from its nether side dangled eight greenish antennae or tentacles. The great base of the central cone was fringed with a rubbery, grey substance which moved the whole entity through expansion and contraction.

I didn’t have the time to do much about the four slender stalks surmounting the head, but I could sure do a better paint job. Here it is, with a Pulp Figures reporter (a.k.a. hapless Mythos investigator) for scale.

I fell back on my old-school Tyranid scheme for the body. For the snakelike appendages, all I had to do was give him a thorough wash of Agrax Earthshade and Nuln Oil. The head was colored with Yellow Wash and the eyes painted black and given a coat of gloss varnish. I painted the claws black and drybrushed them crimson, and added some highlights to the pink trumpet thingy.

Inscrutable, isn’t it?

This is technically a repaint, but I’m calling this a submission, because it’s my challenge, so nyah nyah.

Here are the wonderful hobbyists who took part this year, along with a list of their impressive achievements. I will update this list over the course of the next week or so as the inevitable straggling entries make their way onto the web.

Jeremy, aka Carrion Crow; from Carrion Crow’s Buffet, has finished his Straw God from Crooked Dice miniatures! It looks smashing and boasts some impressive base work. Jeremy is hosting his own challenge this month, one I look forward to every year: Forgotten Heroes! Drop by his blog to check it out and join up! It’s a blast!

Roger from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table, sculpted Jason Voorhees from scratch; then did an amazing job and lavished much attention on the bony growths of a “Generation 1 Mutation” from Deadzone. I was unaware of this figure, but it’s awesome. I don’t play Deadzone, but I’m already thinking of a ton of uses for this beast in Supers or Scifi games. Well done, Roger!

As usual, I found it impossible to keep up with Matt from PM Painting. The guy never stops painting monsters (at least not in May). In order, Matt completed a Queen of Hell, an avatar of Hastur, some Hell Hounds, a Tomb Tapper, a Rock Troll, a swarm of Muccins, a Chaos Dragon Ogre, a Reaper Bathalian Centurian, an old-school Chaos Slaanesh rider and a Keeper of Secrets. I can’t say enough good things about them here, so I’ll just point you in the direction of Matt’s blog. Trust me, every one of them is worth a look. And a hearty thanks to Matt for really rolling up his sleeves (as he does every year).

Edit: Not content with letting his impressive tally stand, Matt also completed another submission after zero hour: a possessed Chaos Dreadnought for Warhammer 40K. It’s both a paint job and a conversion; Matt turned an old-school Space Marine Dreadnought (and I mean OLD SCHOOL, i.e. Rogue Trader-era) into a demonic war machine. It looks so cool!!!!

Azazel from Azazel’s Bitz Box is another inspiring overachiever; he started with a Burrowing Horror; then moved on to a Byakhee, some Earth Elementals, a Spawn of Ungoliant ( I love this one), a couple of Yetis and some Citadel ogres from one of my favorite sculptors, Bob Olley! He also managed to find time for a Chaos Minotaur and a Mordor Troll; but not before he did some incredible work on some Ghostbusters stuff: Gozer, Slimer, the Demon Dogs and yes, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. (Jeremy, if you haven’t checked this out yet you’ll love it!) Thanks, Azazel; for showing up again this year and for really bringing it!

“Mr. Star Wars”; a.k.a. Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop (I think that might stick, Dave) once again displayed his sculpting skills to great effect this year. Last year’s Krayt dragon was so incredible it deserves another mention here; but this year Dave scratch-built a TON Star Wars monsters (not in order): a purrgil (space whale); a blurrg, a sand ape and a sand bat, all from Tattooine; and a krykna (giant space-spider) that I think I saw on The Mandalorian. He also scratch-built and painted Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s somewhat effeminate cousin who sounds like he’s from Louisiana. (I hear it, anyway.) And that’s just what he sculpted himself. He still found time to paint a pair of Wampas, gibbering horde and a chaos spawn. Dave: as always, lovely and inspirational work.

Tom from over on Instagram was back for a second year, contributing several monsters from various miniatures games: a “corrupted were-deer”, a werewolf, a gibbering mouther, and a (really disturbing) bug person. Check out Tom’s Instagram account; he’s another guy who never stops posting miniatures!

Thanks to all the newcomers this year! Jon from Jon’s Hobby Desk painted a big, gross Nurgle-thing called a Glottkin, and surprised us with a half-dozen giant spiders! That’s NINE monsters for Monster May(hem)! Think my math is wrong? Go visit Jon’s blog!

Simon, aka Blax the Kleric, from Fantorical Wargaming, completed a bevy of cool Crooked Dice miniatures, further rubbing my nose in how unfortunate I am to live in a country with no Crooked Dice stockist! In between various other projects, Simon painted a massive Mighty Simian, the popular-with-good-reason Straw God, and two Harryhausen-esque Bronze Titans! Lovely work, Simon! please come back next year!

And finally, Malcolm, also from Instagram, painted a Reaper basilisk and a Nolzur’s wyvern. Malcolm is a gaming buddy of mine who lives in far-away lands (i.e. the Midwest). I have a feeling we’ll see him around these parts again…

Please support these hobbyists by visiting their sites (or IG accounts; you don’t need an account to have a look) and leaving a comment or two. I count myself fortunate to know so many talented and welcoming people in our hobby!

So, what’s next here? Well, if all goes as planned, June will include a return to Star Trek to find out the fate of Lieutenant Barclay, as well as more Pop Culture. Oh, yeah…and there’s one more thing…

Forgotten Fucking Heroes.

I’m giddy. Giddy, I say!

The Pawn: Part 6

Captain Picard, Lieutenant Worf and Chief O’Brien escorted the three Klingons and a visibly-nervous Lieutenant Barclay to transporter room three. Although the trip to deck six was not long, it was awkwardly silent. Once they arrived, O’Brien slid behind the console while the Klingons and Barclay prepared to ascend the platform to the transport pads. Dresa turned to Captain B’rul and spoke quickly in Klingon. B’rul looked surprised, then nodded once. “My first officer would like to remain aboard your vessel, Captain,” said the Klingon captain, “to assist in your search for the Romulans. Is this acceptable?”

Captain Picard smiled. “I already have a first officer, Captain B’rul. But Commander Dresa’s assistance would be most welcome.”

“My loss is your gain,” B’rul said, stepping onto the transporter pad. “Q’pla!

“I feel the same way, Captain,” said Picard. “Farewell. Mr. Barclay, we shall see you soon.”

“Don’t be so certain, Picard,” sneered Gr’val, gripping Barclay’s shoulder for emphasis. “You have a saboteur to find, first.”

Picard looked at O’Brien and nodded. The transporter hummed and a curtain of shimmering light appeared to envelop the the Klingons and Lieutenant Barclay. A moment later, they were gone.

Picard turned to Dresa. “I won’t belabor the point, Commander; but I fear it must be made. While aboard Enterprise, you will be subject to the chain of command. In addition to myself, you will follow the orders of my senior staff, including my Chief of Security, Lieutanant Worf; regardless of whatever personal feelings you may harbor. Is that clear?”

Dresa regarded Worf silently. He stared back. “Perfectly clear, Captain,” she said. “I’m here to advise; not to take over your ship.”

Picard straightened his uniform. “Good. We will rendezvous on the bridge in one hour. Mr. Worf will show you to your quarters.” The two Klingons were still staring at each other. Picard glanced at O’Brien, who returned a questioning look.

“Dismissed,” Picard said. That seemed to do the trick.

“Please follow me.” Worf turned on his heel and exited the transporter room. Dresa followed behind, her expression unreadable.

The pair walked in silence to the turbolift. “Deck eight,” Worf said. The doors closed and the lift began to move.

“Are the stories true?” Dresa said, speaking Klingon. “That you’re a traitor?”

Worf stiffened at the insult. He should be used to it by now, but it was still a raw subject. He waited until the turbolift stopped and the doors opened before replying. “I have accepted discommendation.”

“‘Accepted discommendation’,” Dresa echoed. “Interesting. Words chosen carefully. Gowron must owe you a great deal.

Gowron owes me nothing,” said Worf. He stalked down the corridor, his anger obvious. Starfleet personnel quickly made way for his passage.

“So it’s true, then. Your father was a traitor. Mogh betrayed the Empire to the Romulans at Khitomer.”

Worf knew he was being baited, but it didn’t make him any less angry. “These are your quarters.” He thumbed the access panel much harder than he needed to. The doors slid open.

BaQa’!” Dresa cursed, ignoring him. “You aren’t a good liar, Worf. I’d sooner believe a Ferengi.”

Worf turned and glowered at her, his eyes blazing. “I do not care what you believe! You know nothing of my father, or of me.”

“I know you were K’Ehleyr’s mate. That is enough. And that you killed Duras. Thank you for that.”

Worf was speechless. Whatever he expected to hear, this was not it. Finally, he found his voice. “You…knew K’Ehleyr.” It was not a question.

“Knew her and admired her,” Dresa said. “It takes a great deal to earn my respect, Worf; even more to earn my friendship. K’Ehleyr had both. When she spoke of you, it was always with pride.”

Worf said nothing. He did not know what to say. Dresa suddenly stepped closer, her posture challenging, her gaze critical and appraising. Many men–many Klingon men– would have reflexively stepped back. Worf did not.

“I do not believe you are a traitor, Worf,” she said. “Why is it that you wish us all to believe so?”

I have said all I will say on the matter,” Worf said.

Dresa nodded as if this confirmed a private suspicion. She entered her quarters, then turned back to face Worf. “K’Ehleyr did not speak highly of many,” she said. “See you in an hour.”

The door hissed shut between them.

The Klingon research station on Varuna three was every bit as inviting as Barclay imagined it would be. He was doing his level best to hold it together; but he was still trembling from a combination of the cold, his captivity and from having to beam down from a Klingon ship. Barclay hated transporters and felt he’d spent entirely too much time in one today. The other Klingons had found his disquiet amusing; but Gr’val seemed even more annoyed than usual. Meanwhile, the adjutant was barking orders to the three Klingons that had accompanied them here from the Vor’kag.

Captain B’rul had departed orbit almost as soon as they had transported down to the research station. The station was running on minimal power, which meant there was no heat and the air was stale. Gr’val had detached two of the Klingons to bring the main power back online while the third scouted the abandoned facility, looking for supplies and for an appropriate room to serve as a jail cell. He told Barclay to sit down and be quiet, so that’s exactly what he was doing.

Twenty minutes later, the air was no better and Barclay couldn’t feel his fingers. Gr’val was visibly angry; more angry than usual, anyway. The two Klingons still had not managed to get the power back online, and had removed several panels to access the interior of the command console. The third had found a storeroom and was clearing it for use as a cell.

Gr’val cursed and turned to Barclay. “Do you believe you can get the power online, engineer?” Barclay nodded. “Good,” the Klingon said. “Then do so, before we both freeze to death.”

Gr’val shouted at the two Klingons, who moved away from the open panels as Barclay took their place. Barclay quickly identified the problem and a few minutes later, power was restored. The lights brightened and the room soon grew noticeably warmer. The other Klingons made sounds of appreciation and wandered over to Gr’val, who casually drew his disruptor and shot them both.

Barclay almost jumped out of his skin. The disruptor shots brought the last Klingon running into the room, his own pistol drawn, instinctively pointing it towards the prisoner. Gr’val shot him before he could realize his mistake. Then he pointed the disruptor at Barclay.

“You killed them!” Barclay exclaimed.

“No, I didn’t,” said Gr’val with a smile. “YOU did, lieutenant, when you tried to escape. It’s a good thing I was here to stop you.”

Just then, the air shimmered as the forms of four Romulans materialized in the room, three men and one woman; a commander by her uniform. One of the men looked suspiciously like the Vulcan saboteur aboard the Mok’tagh. They quickly drew their own disruptors and scanned the room. Gr’val smiled broadly and holstered his weapon. “No need for those,” Gr’val said. “Everything is contained.”

“So I see,” said the woman, barely glancing at the bodies, but looking around the rest of the Klingon facility with undisguised disgust. She had uncharacteristically blond hair, for a Romulan. Had Reginald Barclay ever served with Lieutenant Tasha Yar, he would have been struck by the uncanny resemblance between the two women; but Yar was killed in action the year before Barclay transferred to Enterprise. He never knew her.

“When can I expect my payment?” asked Gr’val. “My house has suffered much since the Klingon succession.”

“The plan failed,” the woman said, “and now the Klingons and the Federation are united in their mission to find the saboteur.”

“And there he is,” said Gr’val, pointing at Barclay. “It was Lieutenant Barclay all along. He will be killed trying to escape, but for now there’s no reason you can’t interrogate him yourself.”

“When will the Vor’kag return?” the commander asked.

“Four days. Plenty of time to ask your questions and leave; then I’ll kill him and explain to my people what happened: he got hold of Klag’s disruptor and started shooting.” He kicked one of the Klingons at his feet. “Klag always was inattentive.”

“Four days…” the commander appeared to consider this. “We can work with that.” She looked over at Barclay, but the Starfleet engineer was nowhere to be seen. He must have taken the opportunity to flee.

She sighed. “The Romulan Star Empire thanks you for your service, Gr’val,” she said, nodding to her uhlans. The three men raised their disruptors and fired, vaporizing the Klingon before he could react.

“Find the engineer,” she said. “He can’t have gone far.”

.

“Would you kindly…?”

It’s pretty tough to overstate how much of a big deal Bioshock was when it was released back in 2007. It still holds up today; both graphics and gameplay, and as for the story, forget about it. Your plasmid-fueled trip through the failed, Randian underwater dystopian city of Rapture is a tale well worth revisiting and replaying, even fifteen years and two sequels later. Scary, thrilling, darkly comic and somewhat grotesque, Bioshock is art.

Among the many adversaries you will face as you traverse the leaking, seaweed-choked halls and passages of Rapture, the most iconic (and deadly) are the Big Daddies. There is no escaping them. You will meet them, you will kill them; and you will most certainly be killed by them. Many, many times.

The Big Daddy’s sole purpose is to protect the Little Sisters, who are the main source of ADAM, the raw material substance which allows genetic alteration. In game terms, this is how your character gets cool abilities and powers. Little Sisters were once normal young girls who have been altered to reclaim ADAM from the corpses of genetically altered people. When meeting a Little Sister (after killing her Big Daddy first), you have the option to either Save her or Harvest her. Saving her returns her to normal and grants you some ADAM; harvesting her kills her and grants you a lot more.

I’ve been called heartless before; but I save all the Little Sisters. (I’m not a fucking monster.)

The Little Sisters call the Big Daddies “Mr. Bubbles”. For my “Mr. Bubbles”, I chose this “hardsuit” miniature from Recreational Conflict. It’s about as close to a Big Daddy as you can get.

After priming it black, I based it with Citadel Tin Bitz before layering on Vallejo Bronze. I didn’t like the look of it (too uniformly metallic), so I washed it in Vallejo Sepia Tone. This gave it a really nice, warm color. I highlighted up with more Bronze and finally, Citadel Shining Gold. I also used some Brown Ink to line the seams, and some Citadel Typhus Corrosion to grime it up a bit.

I fucked up on the base, though. I should have mounted him on a Tech Base, but instead I based him on a 40mm MDF disk, which I then covered in sand. I couldn’t remove him without having to assemble him all over again (screw that), so I did what I could. Big Daddies can go underwater just fine, so I added a starfish made out of Magic Sculpt (I stole the idea from Matt’s zombie shark base; thanks, Matt!). The seaweed is the remains of a Heroclix cape from a DC Hypertime Hawk model. I used the main body when making Blue Diamond for Forgotten Heroes, way back in 2017! I never throw anything away. ( Looking back on those Liberty Legion conversions, I realize I hadn’t yet admitted to myself that I can’t see shit anymore. If I was doing them today, I think they’d look a lot better, thanks to my magnifiers. Maybe I should revisit them…)

For the seashell, I took a trip to Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts. Actually, it’s not much of a trip, considering I live within spitting distance. Going to the beach just to get a shell reminded me how much I take living near the ocean for granted. Although I’ve lived here all my life, I hate going to the beach in summer, because I hate people, I burn easily, and I don’t like to swim in salt water. Horseneck Beach is also good for a great white shark sighting or two every couple of years; but just because you don’t see any on a given year doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. (They are.) I usually get bored and annoyed very quickly when I’m forced to go to the beach; but days like this, when it’s overcast and windy and I’m the only one in sight…I could get used to this.

Up next, a return to Trek!

The Pawn: Part 5

In the observation lounge, Chief Miles O’Brien stood dumbstruck, his confusion obvious. He had been summoned to the meeting and had just heard his own voice requesting a second transport to the Mok’tagh. “I don’t understand,” he said to Picard. “That wasn’t me, sir.” His gaze swept the assembled senior staff and the Klingons. “I swear it. I never said that.”

“And yet that is your voice,” said Captain B’rul. “How do you explain this?”

“I can’t,” said O’Brien. “There was only one transport. A full pad. An engineering crew of five, and Lieutenant Barclay.”

“Yes, yes…and then a Vulcan, alone,” said B’rul, scowling. It was clear he was losing patience.

“No, sir. There were no Vulcans,” O’Brien said. He looked at Barclay for confirmation. Barclay shook his head. “But you don’t have to take my word for it, Captain,” O’Brien continued. “We can check the transporter logs easily enough.” O’Brien looked at Picard. “With your permission, sir?”

“Granted,” Picard said. O’Brien moved to the wall panel and tapped a few buttons. “According to the records, Dr. Selar was the last Vulcan to use a transporter aboard the Enterprise. She was returning from the medical conference on Starbase 67.”

“That was two weeks ago,” said LaForge.

“Transporter logs can be faked!” shouted Gr’val, apparently forgetting he wasn’t supposed to speak. “Your man lies!”

O’Brien’s face hardened. “Now, wait just a bloody minute–“

Picard raised his hand and O’Brien fell silent. “I have never known Mr. O’Brien to lie, Gr’val. I trust him implicitly.”

B’rul wasn’t the only one losing patience. “Why would we seek the destruction of the Mok’tagh?,” Riker snapped. “Why would we risk our alliance with the Klingon Empire for no good reason simply to destroy one single Bird-of-Prey? What sense does that make?”

“None,” said Dresa. All eyes turned to the tall Klingon woman. It was the first time she had spoken. “It doesn’t make sense. In fact, it makes no sense at all.”

“What?!” Gr’val stared at her in disbelief. “The reason does not matter! You require more evidence? Look there!” Gr’val pointed at Worf. “We sit at the same table as a traitor to the Empire! What does that say about them, that they would dishonor us so?” Worf set his jaw and bore the insult stoically, staring straight ahead.

“For once in your life, try not to be an idiot, Gr’val.” Dresa said calmly. She turned slightly in her chair to address B’rul, leaving the adjutant sputtering in rage. “Captain, this is a waste of time. It’s obvious they didn’t do this.”

B’rul stared at Lieutenant Barclay. The engineer was fidgeting nervously. He certainly didn’t look like a saboteur. His gaze shifted to Picard. Although he would never say so, B’rul admired the Federation captain. He had heard that when Picard served as Arbiter of Succession, he performed his duties in strict accordance with Klingon law. He would not be swayed by Gowron or Duras; though reportedly both tried to influence him. In some ways, although not a Klingon himself, Picard had more regard for honor than those who served on the Klingon High Council. B’rul did not believe Picard would be a party to treachery, nor would he knowingly shield one who was. As for Worf, the so-called “traitor”, there were still too many unanswered questions about his discommendation for B’rul’s liking.

B’rul let out a long breath. “Very well,” he said, smiling grimly. “I tend to agree with my second. Dresa is usually wiser than me.” Gr’val looked like he was about to speak, but B’rul silenced him with a look. “Still,” he continued, “the fact remains that a Vulcan saboteur beamed aboard the Mok’tagh and was likely responsible for its destruction. If he didn’t come from Enterprise, where did he come from?”

“I believe there is a Klingon research station on Varuna Three,” said Data, “roughly thirty-nine thousand kilometers from our present position. That would appear to be the most likely point of origin.”

“Your intelligence is out of date,” snorted Gr’val. It’s been abandoned for decades.”

“Are you certain?” Data asked.

Thirty-nine thousand kilometers is almost at the limit of transporter range,” said LaForge, before Gr’val could answer. What do you think, Chief?”

“Why should his opinion matter? asked Gr’val.

“Because Chief O’Brien here has forgotten more about transporter technology than most of us will ever know,” said LaForge, smiling. “Except me, of course.”

“At that range, you’d have to be very sure of your coordinates, sir,” said O’Brien. “I wouldn’t try it. Not if there was another way.”

“Something closer, then,” Picard said. “What else is nearby?”

Data shrugged. “Nothing that I know of, Captain.” B’rul shook his head. “Nothing,” he agreed.

“Perhaps a cloaked ship,” Worf said.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon the observation lounge. Uneasy glances were exchanged. Suddenly, Dresa laughed; a short bark of amusement. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll say what we’re all thinking: Romulans.”

Data appeared to consider it. “The Romulans would likely possess the technology necessary to fake the Chief’s voice, and to beam someone aboard the Mok’tagh and make it appear as if they came from the Enterprise.”

“Then they might still be out there!” B’rul exclaimed, standing.

“If it is the Romulans, it’s more likely they took off soon after the Mok’tagh’s destruction,” said Riker. “Why would they stick around and risk getting caught? They’ve got a decent head start now.”

Picard stood up and straightened his uniform. “Mr. LaForge, scan for the quantum singularities indicative of Romulan warp signatures and coordinate our findings with the Klingons. Captain B’rul, I assume you will wish to return to your ship.” B’rul nodded.

The other two Klingons stood. “Captain,” Gr’val addressed B’rul, “this will not be acceptable to the High Council!”

B’rul sighed. “He is right, Captain Picard. A Klingon vessel was destroyed, and although I do not believe you or your crew had anything to do with it, the Council expects we take action. I must insist Lieutenant Barclay come with us for now. As a gesture of good faith.”

“But he doesn’t know anything!” Troi protested. “You know that!”

“Perhaps not,” said B’rul. “But we must have something to show. We will hold him only until this matter is resolved. I give you my word.”

Picard looked about to refuse, but Barclay spoke. “It’s all right, Captain. I’ll go with them, if it will help.”

“Where are you taking him?” Riker asked.

B’rul shrugged. “I see no reason to bring him all the way back to the Empire. The outpost on Varuna Three is as good a place as any. Although abandoned, it should still be serviceable. Lieutenant Barclay will be our guest there for the time being, until our investigation is concluded. Gr’val, see to it.”

Picard walked up to Gr’val, locking eyes with the taller Klingon. “I expect that my officer will be treated with respect, adjutant.”

Gr’val sneered. “He is a prisoner, Picard. His comfort is hardly our concern.” He caught sight of B’rul. The Klingon captain was glaring at him. “But,” he conceded quickly, “though he may not be as comfortable as he would be in a Federation prison cell, neither will he be mistreated.”

Picard turned to Barclay. “Are you certain of this, lieutenant? I will not order you to go.”

Barclay nodded. “Yes, sir. But…uh…the quicker the better, sir. If it’s not too much trouble, maybe tell everyone to work fast.”