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.”