Category Archives: Sci-Fi

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.”

The Pawn: Part 4

Lieutenant Worf stood in Holodeck 4, watching LaForge and Data as they wandered through the three-dimensional holographic recreation of the interior of the Mok’tagh. The isolinear rod had provided enough data to make this simulation possible, and LaForge thought it was the best way to determine what had happened and why. Worf looked around, noting how different the interior of the Mok’tagh was compared to the Enterprise; spartan and cold, with no thought given to aesthetics. He felt his Klingon blood stir. What would it be like to serve aboard a ship such as this–a warrior’s ship–rather than a ship of exploration like Enterprise? He glanced at the PADD in his hand and growled in exasperation.

Data looked up from the holographic EPS conduit he was examining. “Is there a problem, Lieutenant?”

Worf’s eyes narrowed. “Commander, we are wasting time. The Klingons will have little regard for–” he gestured at the simulation, “this.

“We are using our most effective method of determining the cause of the accident aboard the Mok’tagh given the data we have at our disposal. I fail to see how that is an inefficient use of time.”

“The Klingons have already decided Lieutenant Barclay’s guilt. They will not be swayed by holograms.”

“Maybe they won’t have to be.” LaForge sounded puzzled. “Worf, besides Barclay, who else was on the engineering detail?”

Worf regarded the PADD. ” Enisgns Mokta and Ramirez, Crewmen Steinway and Cortland, Specialist J’zhara.”

That’s six,” LaForge said, “and they’re all here. But that makes no sense. The conduit that exploded was one level down. None of our crew were anywhere near there.” Geordi regarded his tricorder. “Wait a minute. This shows some modifications were done from the engineering deck.”

Data spoke. “Computer: please display the engineering deck of the Mok’tagh, same time stamp.” The room shimmered and the EPS conduit tubes were replaced with the environment of the Klingon engineering deck. Several Klingons were manning their positions. All seemed calm and in order, except for one thing.

“Guys,” said LaForge, “who the hell is that?”

“A Vulcan?” Picard asked. “Explain.”

“We don’t know, sir,” answered LaForge. He regarded the display screen in the observation lounge, where the image of a tall, middle-aged Vulcan man in a Starfleet engineering uniform was pictured. He looked around the room at the senior staff, seated once again at the conference table. “One thing’s for sure, he’s not an engineer on this ship. I’ve never seen him before.”

“Someone not in Starfleet, then?” asked Troi. “There are plenty of civilians aboard.”

“Computer,” Picard said, “How many Vulcans are presently aboard the Enterprise?”

“There is a total of 84 Vulcans aboard,” the ship’s computer answered.

“Are all accounted for?”

“Affirmative.”

“Identify this person.” Picard commanded.

“Identity unknown.”

“We inquired already, sir,” Data said. “There is no record of this individual ever setting foot on the Enterprise.”

“Near as we can tell, he must have split off from Barclay’s team and went to the engineering deck on his own,” said LaForge. “That’s probably where the sabotage occurred.”

Barclay protested. “But he didn’t split off! He was never with us, Commander! I’m sure of it!” He seemed to realize he was shouting, and lowered his voice. “I think I would have noticed someone I don’t know on my team…”

“As you were, Lieutenant,” Riker said. “No one in this room doubts your word.”

“That is about to change,” said Worf, as the doors to the observation lounge opened, signaling the return of the three Klingons.

“Well, Picard?” asked B’rul. “Are you ready to hand your officer over for interrogation?” Picard gestured to the empty chairs again. After a moment, B’rul sat, the others following suit.

“It seems, Captain,” Picard began, “that we have something of a mystery on our hands.” He briefly explained the situation to the Klingons. “We strongly suspect this man,” Picard indicated the image of the Vulcan on the screen, “is our saboteur, but we have been unable to identify him.”

“Not surprising,” laughed Gr’val. “One Vulcan looks much like another.” His remark was met with stony silence. Even B’rul looked disgusted. “Shut your mouth, you ignorant fool,” he said in Klingon. Gr’val flushed and stared at the table.

“What are you playing at, Picard?” demanded B’rul. “This Vulcan transported to the Mok’tagh from the Enterprise. He’s one of your engineers!”

“I assure you, he is not,” Picard said. “We have no record of this individual ever being aboard this ship.”

“Lies!” shouted Gr’val, pointing at Picard.

B’rul turned to him slowly, his eyes flashing. He did not bother to address his adjutant in the Klingon language this time. “If you dare to speak without my leave again, you will not leave this room.” Gr’val clamped his mouth shut. Dresa smirked.

B’rul stood up and approached the viewscreen console. He stared at the unfamiliar interface for a moment, then began to access the data from the isolinear rod. “These are the transportation communications between the Mok’tagh and your ship,” he said.

Everyone listened as the logs began to play. “Enterprise to Mok’tagh,” came the voice of Transporter Chief O’Brien. “Six to beam aboard.”

“Acknowledged,” came a gruff Klingon voice. A moment later, the whine of the transporter could be heard.

“Transport complete,” came the Klingon voice again.

Barclay began to speak. “Yes, that was when we beamed over. But there was no Vulcan with us. Specialist J’zhara is Andorian and Ensign Mokta is Tellarite, the rest of us are human–“

“Silence!” B’rul said, holding up his hand, as O’Brien’s voice began again.

Enterprise to Mok’tagh: looks like we forgot one. He’s on his way over now.”

The Pawn: Part 3

Most of the senior staff were assembled in the observation lounge, Barclay seated between LaForge and Troi on the far side of the oblong table. On one end sat Commander Data, flanked by Worf; while on the other, in his customary seat, sat Captain Picard, Commander Riker by his side. The doors from the main bridge opened and a nervous-looking security officer glanced in before turning back and stepping aside to allow the Captain’s guests passage.

B’rul entered, flanked by two other Klingons; one male, one female. “Greetings, Captain,” said Picard, then gestured to three empty chairs at his right. “Please, be comfortable.”

The Klingons sat. “My first officer, Dresa,” B’rul said, indicating the tall woman on his right, “and my adjutant, Lieutenant G’rval. ”

Picard made his own introductions quickly. Although B’rul and G’rval stiffened and glared when Worf was introduced, they said nothing. Dresa just stared at him, her expression neutral. “And this,” Picard said at last, “is Lieutenant Reginald Barclay.”

“Uh…hello,” Barclay said awkwardly.

“The murderer!” shouted G’rval, pounding a gauntlet on the table. “Why is he not in the brig?” Barclay visibly quailed. Troi, to his left, placed her hand over his in a reassuring gesture.

“I am not in the habit of confining my officers without cause,” Picard said. “All we know is that the Mok’tagh was destroyed. Mr. Barclay has denied doing so.” Picard glanced at Barclay, who nodded emphatically.

“Of course he denies it,” G’rval said. “Would a guilty man say anything else?”

“Would an innocent man say anything else?” Picard countered. “I do not believe my officer had any ill intent when he boarded that ship; at Captain K’Vaakh’s request, I might add.”

B’rul leaned forward over the table and laced his large hands together, staring hard at Picard. “Fortunately for us, Captain, your beliefs are not proof. We have the data logs of the Mok’tagh. It is standard procedure for all Klingon vessels to transmit ship data when in close proximity to other vessels, so the Empire always has fleet records that are as accurate as possible. That way,” B’rul smiled, “if any accidents should occur, there are fewer unanswered questions as to their cause.”

“You have these records now?” asked Picard. “I should like to review them.”

“I thought you might,” B’rul said, nodding to his adjutant. G’rval grinned and produced a small isolinear data rod. He gently placed it on the table and slid it to Picard, who made no move to take it. B’rul stood up and the other Klingons rose with him. “You have three hours, Picard. Review it to your heart’s content; but take no longer than three hours. Then, I will expect this man to be turned over to the Empire for further questioning. Do not make me come and get him.” He turned, his weighted coat flaring behind him as he strode through the doors of the observation lounge back out to the main bridge, G’rval following. Dresa stared hard at Lieutenant Barclay for a moment, then back at Worf, her face unreadable. Then she, too, left.

Picard looked at the rod on the table. “Mr. Data, Mr. LaForge; I want you to scour whatever is on this rod for any clues as to what might have happened. Mr. Worf is at your disposal for all things that may require his expertise in Klingon protocol. Mr. Barclay, return to your quarters for now. I’m sure Commander Data and Lieutenant LaForge will have questions for you soon.”

Barclay stood. Worf rose alongside and gently placed his hand on Barclay’s shoulder. “That won’t be necessary, Lieutenant,” Picard said to Worf. “I’m sure Mr. Barclay can find the way to his quarters without a security escort.” Barclay managed a grateful smile. Before he left the observation lounge, he turned to the room. “Thank you, everyone.”

Geordi picked up the isolinear rod and raised it to Barclay in a half-salute. “Don’t worry, Reg. We’ve got this.”

The Pawn: Part 2

Captain Jean-Luc Picard stared at the viewscreen, where the Vor’kag, an older (but still formidable) Klingon D7 battle cruiser hung in space like a silent, waiting Talarian hook spider. As he watched, another K’Vort class Bird-of-Prey suddenly decloaked on its port side, joining two others. To his right, Commander William Riker shifted in his chair. “Well, that’s four,” he said. “Getting crowded out here.”

“And that’s just the ships we can see, Number One,” said Picard. “There are likely more out there, cloaked. “

Riker took a steady breath. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Klingons are trying to make us nervous.”

“It’s working,” game the gruff voice of Lieutenant Worf, behind them.

Picard turned to silently regard his Chief of Security. From his position at Tactical, Worf elaborated. “It is clearly a show of force, Captain. The Klingons are informing you that they are in control here; not you.”

Picard turned to look to his left at his ship’s counselor, Deanna Troi. “Thoughts, Counselor?”

Her deep, black eyes gazed back at him. “They’re not happy, Captain; but I sense no imminent threat of attack.”

“That is fortunate,” said Worf. “Against so many Klingon warships, the Enterprise would find victory…difficult.” he said.

Picard stood up and straightened his uniform. “It won’t come to that,” he said. “The Klingons are our allies, Mr. Worf. Open a channel to the Vor’kag.

“Aye, sir. Channel open.”

The scowling face of a Klingon captain filled the screen. He did not wait for introductions. “Captain Picard,” he said, “the Klingon Empire demands the surrender of the saboteur responsible for the destruction of the Mok’tagh. We await his transport.”

Picard frowned. “Forgive me, Captain. I did not get your name.”

“B’rul,” said the Klingon.

“Captain B’rul,” Picard said, “I am sure you have many questions, as do we all. Rest assured we are taking this very seriously. Please join me on my ship, where we may sit and discuss matters; and hopefully find some answers together.”

“No!” snapped Captain B’rul. “We will interrogate the prisoner ourselves. You may be certain we will find all the answers there are to find. There has been enough delay already. Surrender him to us now, Picard!”

Picard glanced around the bridge and took a deep breath, exhaling through his nostrils. “I’m sorry, Captain. I am not yet prepared to do that.”

“I did not offer you a choice,” said B’rul.

“No, you did not,” said Picard. “But I am offering you one, now. We would be honored to host you here, aboard the Enterprise; where you may meet with Lieutenant Barclay and ask whatever questions you wish. I give you my word, Captain, that should those answers prove unsatisfactory and should Lieutenant Barclay be guilty of this crime of sabotage; I will not hesitate to act in the best interests of our allies, the Klingon Empire, as I have done in the past.”

B’rul’s eyes narrowed in understanding. Just over a year ago, Picard had been appointed Arbiter of Succession by K’mpec, the previous Klingon chancellor. K’mpec had discovered too late that he had been fatally poisoned by one of his rivals: Gowron or Duras. Once Picard uncovered the treachery of Duras and his role in K’mpec’s assassination, Gowron was installed as new Supreme Chancellor. This was accomplished without a Klingon civil war due in large part to Picard’s efforts, and Gowron would certainly not forget that; nor would he look kindly on anyone who dealt dishonorably with Picard henceforth.

As for the traitor Duras, he was killed by Picard’s own Security Chief, Worf, in a Rite of Vengeance. Briefly, his eyes flicked over Picard’s shoulder to the tactical station. Worf straightened and met his gaze, scowling. Worf’s name was disgraced in the Empire. Like many Klingons, B’rul secretly thought there was much more to the story than was publicly known.

“Very well, Picard,” said B’rul, grudgingly. “Your service to the Empire has earned you this meeting. But I warn you that–“

“Excellent, Captain,” said Picard. “In one hour, then.” He motioned for Worf to cut communications, and Worf complied. “Where is Lieutenant Barclay now?

“He has been confined to quarters, Captain, as has the rest of the engineering detail,” said Worf. “I believe Commander LaForge is with him.”

Picard nodded and tapped his communicator. “All senior staff report to the observation lounge in one hour. Mr. LaForge, please bring Lieutenant Barclay along. Picard out. Number One, you have the bridge.” Picard turned towards the door to his ready room.

“Sir, if I may–” Worf called. Picard looked at him and nodded. Together they both entered the ready room. Picard seemed about to go to his desk, but abruptly turned. “Well, Lieutenant?”

“Sir, I must remind you that my presence at this meeting will certainly anger the Klingons, and may be seen as–“

“We’ve been over this before, Mr. Worf. Any visitors to this ship will need to interact with my Chief of Security. Even Klingons.”

“But, sir; they will–“

“Mr. Worf,” Picard interrupted. “do you believe Lieutenant Barclay intentionally sabotaged the Mok’tagh?

The absurdity of the question stunned him. Worf reflexively came to attention. “No, sir.”

“Nor do I, Lieutenant,” Picard said; “but what I do believe is that someone wants us to think so; and that Lieutenant Barclay is going to need every friend he has with him in that room in one hour. Including you.”

Though Worf would hardly call Barclay a friend, neither did would he stand by when a fellow officer needed him. Worf nodded. “Understood.”

“Dismissed.”


The Pawn: Prelude

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.

Achtung! Barsoom

I can’t resist a huge sale. Modiphius’s US store had a sale at the end of last month; and there were some ri-fucking-diculous deals to be had. Here’s what $70.00 US got me:

The John Carter of Mars RPG Slipcase set: contains both the Core Rulebook and the Phantoms of Mars Campaign Guide: $21.00. Regularly $105.00!

The John Carter of Mars Narrator’s Toolkit and GM Screen: $7.00. Regularly $35.00!

The John Carter of Mars Player’s Guide: $6.00. Regularly $28.00!

In addition, I picked up the Helium Dice Set and the Landscape Location Deck. Usually, I’m not a fan of special dice and/or add-ons like this deck, neither of which you need to play. But, at $4.00 and $5.00 respectively (regularly $17.00 and $21.00), I figured what the hell.

While I was at it, I picked up some Achtung! Cthulhu fiction for $3.00; and EIGHT Deep One metal miniatures for the low, low price of $6.00!!!! (Regularly $14.00 and $28.00!)

That’s a total of $52.00, regularly $238.00! That’s 78% off the total! Makes the $18.00 shipping charge seem pretty worth it, considering I ALSO get the digital PDFs of everything (except the dice and the miniatures, obviously)!

Of course, like most of the games I buy nowadays, I doubt I’ll ever play this. The Achtung! Cthulhu fiction will definitely get read, and I will certainly paint the miniatures; but I don’t have high hopes for playing a John Carter game. Most of my friends aren’t familiar with the characters and setting, and those that are familiar are not particularly interested. Still, I’m a huge Burroughs fan, and, like most Modiphius stuff, these books are simply gorgeous. They are laid out in landscape orientation, and the artwork is some truly stunning stuff.

Time for a visit to Barsoom…even if it’s just to find out what Carrion Crow‘s been up to on his periodic jaunts to Mars. I have a feeling this is going to make me want to dust off my copy of A Princess of Mars

Apocalypse Me: Hungry Bertha

I’m used to storms here in New England. Unfortunately, sometimes they screw with my painting time. Since I had no power to Piper’s Painting Pit on some key days last month, I was unable to get my entry for Dave Stone’s “Apocalypse Me” challenge done on time. Here she is, better late than never; and no, she doesn’t look like me at all.

This lovely lass is “Hungry Bertha”, an OOP Horrorclix miniature from the Freakshow set. As many of you know, repainting and rebasing Clix is something I quite enjoy. So I decided to make Bertha look a little better, paint-wise, and a little more zombified. That way she could (theoretically) be my entry for Zombtober, too.

The lollipop stuck to her backside is a nice touch, as are the mysterious and loathsome slime trails emanating from her various folds. Lovely.

Anyway, I decided to add some gore to her base…a few GW zombie bits, some green stuff intestines…you get the idea.

Add copious layers of Blood for the Blood God, some gloss varnish on her lollipop and slime trails, and here is the result.

This close up shows that I should clean up her eyes a bit, methinks.

Upon reflection I thought it might be fun to make a diorama out of Bertha here, with her teetering upon a veritable mound of body parts and gore; but I was under the gun as it was. This will have to do for now. Still…it’s a thought for later.

Apologies for being late, Dave!

Imperial Assault, Twin Shadows Part Two: The Heroes and The Hunter

Part Two of my Imperial Assault: Twin Shadows painting is complete, which means I have finished all the miniatures from the boxed expansion and the ally and villain packs released along with it.

There are two rebel heroes in the Twin Shadows boxed set. This is Saska Teft, a combat engineer. As far as I can tell, she makes things blow up pretty good.

The other hero is Biv Bodhrik, the stereotypical “heavy weapons guy.”

Looks like he has some skin problems. Chalk it up to poor layering on my part.

Next, an Ally Pack featuring some familiar faces: R2-D2 (does he even HAVE a face?) and C-3PO.

Another fun fact: I bought this pack twice, because I purchased the first one from “Amazon World Marketplace”. The description said that was based in Great Britain, but the package shipped from Spain, and I got this in the mail: the Italian version. Although the miniatures are the same, all the game materials are in Italian. This is useless to me as I don’t speak or read Italian. So, I put this on eBay, thinking someone else must need it. So far, no one needs it.

Between the primer fiasco and the duplicate droids, this Twin Shadows project was getting fucking expensive.

Like many of my Imperial Assault miniatures, I painted these by following Sorastro’s tutorials on YouTube. I like his tutorials because I often learn new ways of doing things. For example, the gold base color on C-3PO is not gold paint. It’s GW’s Leadbelcher washed with GW’s Seraphim Sepia, then highlighted up. This provides a nice depth of tone and it’s a trick I will absolutely use again, whether I’m painting shields or armor.

Finally: Boba Fett, a bounty hunter who is even cooler than Dog, the Bounty Hunter (didn’t think that was possible, did you?). He’s featured prominently on the box cover and in several Twin Shadows missions; so naturally he’s sold separately. Thanks, Fantasy Flight.

Boba Fett is a great-looking miniature, especially for Imperial Assault, where some of the miniatures are pretty lame (just wait until I get to Ahsoka Tano). Of course, the Star Wars Legion version of Boba Fett is so much better-looking, I try not to think about it lest I get depressed.

That’s it for Twin Shadows, but I have many more Imperial Assault miniatures to go. I’d like to collect the entire run of the game, but that doesn’t seem likely. Two days before I wrote this post, a Grand Admiral Thrawn villain pack sold on eBay for $152.50.

That’s one hundred fifty-two dollars and fifty cents for one plastic miniature. That’s fucking stupid.

It’s ok. I can live without Thrawn for sure. In addition to two more boxed expansions (Return to Hoth and Bespin Gambit), I have 18 more ally and villain packs waiting for my paintbrush. When will I ever get to them all?

That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for…