Tag Archives: Star Trek

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 militia 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 militia.

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:

“Work with what you have, not with what you wish you had.” Rhin is used to making do with whatever is available, as the Bajoran militia was hardly a well-equipped force. 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.

“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, 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.

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, raped, 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.

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.”

.

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.