[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
ROBERT J. SAWYER
Hugo and Nebula Award Winner

SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Armada

Star Trek: Armada

by Robert J. Sawyer

Copyright © 1984 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.


Sample Chapters | Outline

A note from Rob (November 27, 2014):

On January 4, 1984, I queried Mimi Panitch, then the editor of Star Trek novels at Pocket Books, with an idea for a Star Trek novel of my own, a book to be called Armada (this was long before there was a Trek computer game by that name).

I knew my idea was controversial so I wanted to run it past her before I invested much time in writing it. She liked the notion and suggested I develop sample chapters — which I did, beginning on February 11, 1984 (making them the first fiction I'd written on a computer: my Osborne 1, acquired in December 1983, using the word-processing program WordStar). I worked on those chapters in and around my freelance nonfiction writing (including a full-time contract with The Rosewell Group until the end of June 1984).

I submitted the chapters and an outline for the whole book to Ms. Panitch on on November 27, 1984. The next day, the trade journal Locus arrived with the news that she had resigned. Sigh.

I tried submitting the material again in March 1985 to Karen Haas, who was briefly Ms. Panitch's successor — but she thought the core idea, a religious one, wouldn't work for her version of the Star Trek line.

But soon enough she, too, was gone, and Locus announced that yet another person had taken over the Star Trek novel line, David Stern. On September 24, 1985, I sent him a revised version of my four sample chapters (the first four chapters of the book), totaling 20,000 words, and a 1,300-word outline for the entire novel.

Dave Stern liked the submission very much, and asked me to finish it — but I was advised by a friend, the famed editor Judith Merril, not to do so without a contract, since, of course, there was nowhere else one could sell a Star Trek book. So I screwed up my courage and, on July 23, 1986, asked Dave for a contract (this was two and a half years before I landed my first literary agent). Dave said he would hand my submission over to Paramount's approval office, and, if they gave the go-ahead, he would indeed issue a contract for me to finish the book.

On October 27, 1986, Dave wrote back to me, saying, "Paramount Pictures, though tentatively approving your novel, have in that approval rejected unequivocally one of the central tenets of your book (to my way of thinking): the idea of the great Being actually being (no pun intended) the creator of life on Earth. They have also asked that all references to religion be severely abbreviated. As I stated above, to me this robs the novel of its heart — not to mention a great deal of its marketing potential. I'm returning herein your material with a reluctant rejection."

And that was the end of that — although three years later, the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier premiered with a strikingly similar premise. Paramount might say no to God, but never to William Shatner.

Armada predates the last three classic Star Trek movies, as well as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. Much of what follows is contradicted by material presented in those later works. Still, I'm very proud of Armada, and offer it here for those who share my fondness for classic Trek.

Attentive readers of my work will recognize in Armada the seeds for the Waldahudin from my Hugo Award-nominated novel Starplex; some of the themes that ultimately ended up in my Hugo Award-nominated Calculating God; and an early version of Chapter 6 (Afsan at the Hunter's Shrine) of my novel Far-Seer. Meanwhile, Trek trivia buffs will recognize that the chapter titles are all lines of dialogue from the original Star Trek television series.

In 2002, the Canadian fanzine Voyageur, put out by by the Toronto-based Star Trek club USS Hudson Bay, published the first four chapters of Armada in four consecutive issues starting with #137, January-February 2002; my thanks to then-editor Karen Bennett for that opportunity.

Here, on November 27, 2014 — thirty years to the day after Armada was first submitted — I'm adding a never-before-seen bonus: the 1,700-word fifth chapter, "Is Truth Not Truth for All," written July 14, 1984, which I didn't include in either my submissions to Pocket Books or in the Voyageur version. Enjoy!

No violation of CBS Paramount's copyright or trademarks is intended. I never signed a contract for this work, and was never paid for it, so I offer this material here as fan fiction.


Sample Chapters

Here are the first four chapters of Armada, totaling 20,000 words.

Following them is a brief outline for the entire novel.


Chapter 1:
A Hundred Serpents for
the Garden of Eden

       I'll get Jim for this, Doctor Leonard McCoy thought glumly as he pressed a gloved finger against the enable switch on the thruster suit's control arm. He felt a kick in the small of his back as the tiny engine hurled him away from the shuttlecraft's airlock and out into open space. Damned regulations. "Quote," Jim had said with one of his evil smiles, "all senior officers must participate in extravehicular activities at least once a year. End quote." All right, McCoy thought. I could have lived with that. But sending me out with Spock ... Just wait till you get your next diet card, Jim.

       Spock was about a hundred meters up ahead. McCoy could see the Vulcan silhouetted against 50 Fornacis. Though they were only a few million kilometers from the star, McCoy looked at it without having to polarize his faceplate. He found his outstretched hands could just cover the dying coal. About the same size as Jupiter, Spock had said. Not even worth a once-over, except for what it had been. Something like seven billion years ago this star had burned brighter than all the others in the galaxy, a giant's giant. Even this far from home, it would have dominated Earth's night sky. That is, if Earth had existed that long ago.

       And yet, the star wasn't alone. A faint ring of debris still orbited the stellar corpse, a powdery halo in the plane of the star's equator. Flecks of metal dust swarmed in McCoy's field of view, bloodied by the faint glow of the red dwarf.

       "Fascinating." A deep voice, flattened over the helmet speakers. His mind drifting, McCoy had lost sight of Spock. He looked left and right. There: the blue glow of a thruster. "Doctor, my tricorder confirms this material is largely iron and nickel."

       Tapping a contact on his left forearm, McCoy activated the deflector field around his suit and sped forward. He carefully maneuvered in towards Spock, pulsing his thumb on the trigger for the attitude control unit. Closer. Closer. Twenty meters. Ten. Fi — Dammit! McCoy found himself spinning head over heels toward the dead star.

       "Really, Doctor." The science officer's voice took on a reproachful tone. "This is no time for a show of acrobatics."

       "Dammit, Spock. Help me!"

       "I'm sorry, Doctor. There was some static. Please repeat."

       McCoy cursed himself then cursed Spock. "Damn you, Spock. Help me!"

       Spock activated his thruster, sailed deeper into the powdery ring that encircled the star, and quickly intercepted the flailing doctor. He grabbed McCoy's ankles — none too gently — and the two of them pinwheeled on at half the speed at which McCoy had been tumbling. With a few quick bursts of his attitude jets, Spock brought them both to a halt.

       McCoy felt dizzy. "How many times do I have to tell Jim that I'm a doctor, not some goddamn spaceman?"

       They floated facing each other, the ruddy glow from 50 Fornacis enhancing the Vulcan's satanic features. McCoy saw Spock cock an eyebrow behind his faceplate. "You're welcome, Doctor."

       "Don't be so smart, Spock. Just because I wasn't born with stabilizing fins growing out of my head ... "

       Spock's face took on that slightly pained expression he feigned when speaking to McCoy. "Airfoils are useless in a vacuum." He cleared his throat. "Before you went for your joyride, I was pointing out to you the chemical composition of this material."

       McCoy nodded slightly, grateful for the change of subject. "Iron-nickel, you said. So what? Most asteroid material is made out of that."

       "But this star was Population II, one of the first stars of the universe. Iron and nickel are high-level fusion products, associated with second- and third-generation Population I stars." McCoy understood all this, of course, but Spock paused nonetheless, giving the impression of letting the doctor sort out what he had just said. "The ring material is not indigenous to local space."

       "Then how did it get here?"

       "It was imported, Doctor." Spock moved his hand to indicate the thin mist of metal filings around them. "What we are inside at the moment is the oldest evidence known to Federation science of intelligent life in this galaxy."

       McCoy reached out carefully, sweeping a few specks of metal into his glove. He bobbed his chin against a switch inside his helmet, activating the spotlight mounted above the faceplate, and peered at the tiny flashes in his palm. "What was it?"

       "Judging by the amount of material still in the ring after all these millennia, it must have once been something huge. The original mass was likely three orders of magnitude greater than all the matter in orbit around your sun."

       "But why would anyone place that much material around a supergiant star? What could they have been up to?"

       "Harvesting the star," said Spock. "Fascinating. No modern civilization has yet been able to build one."

       "One what, Spock? Dammit, don't talk in riddles."

       "A Dyson sphere, Doctor: a metal shell completely surrounding the star, capturing every photon of power put out by it."

       McCoy gestured at the dead star with a thumb. "But that was the great granddaddy of all supergiants."

       "Precisely. Whatever they were doing required power on a truly cosmic scale. It is difficult to conceive of a need demanding so much energy."

       "God in heaven, the destructive potential is incredible."

       Spock shook his head slightly. "It grieves me, McCoy, to hear a healer constantly expressing power in terms of its ability to lay waste. Surely there are other possible applications."

       "Oh, yeah, Spock? Name five."

       The Vulcan looked away. "At this stage in our analysis, any conclusions would be premature."

       "Alert! Alert! Alert!" The high-pitched voice of the shuttlecraft's on-board computer broke through their headphones.

       Spock chinned a control inside his helmet. "Copernicus, Spock. Nature of alert."

       "Detect unregistered vessel decelerating into this starsystem, bearing 28 degrees mark 177 degrees, range 1.65 billion kilometers, decreasing."

       "Doctor, if you feel capable of flying in a straight line, I suggest we hasten back to the shuttlecraft."

       McCoy tapped the enabler on his control arm and shot in the general direction of Copernicus. The angular deep-space shuttle expanded rapidly in his vision and this time — he couldn't stand a second humiliation — he piloted himself neatly into its rear airlock. Of course, he rammed the inner door far too quickly, but he refused to give any sign to Spock that it hurt. Moments later Spock floated into the chamber and the Vulcan turned the airlock-cycle handle. The outer door slid quietly shut. The reptilian sound made by air filling the lock grew rapidly to a roar. McCoy and Spock settled gently as the gravitation plate in the floorboard slowly increased its attraction to its normal level. A green light came on and the inner door slid aside with a whoosh.

       Spock was over to the sensor station in two bounds, pulling a gooseneck viewer up from the console. "Definitely a large ship," he said. "In excess of 200 meters."

       McCoy moved to operate the large viewer behind the mess table. He lined the camera up with the heading the computer had given and twiddled the magnification knob. A dark violet splotch appeared in the center of the screen. He inexpertly adjusted the sliding control to compensate for the severe blue shift of the approaching object. The splotch ran up and down through the colors of the rainbow. Finally McCoy got a clear picture. "Spock!"

       "I see it," said Spock, moving across to stand near McCoy. "A D-series Klingon battle cruiser." The Vulcan squinted at the screen, then turned the magnification dial. "Or Romulans using a Klingon ship." He tapped a button, frowned at the blank display. "They're shielded against sensors."

       "Dammit, Spock, I don't care which it is. Let's get out of here."

       "They may not have detected us, Doctor, but if we begin to move, they most surely will."

       "It's heading straight for us. We've got to run."

       Spock looked a moment longer at the bulbous prow of the alien ship, swelling in the viewer, then slipped into the left-hand bucket seat in the shuttle's cockpit. McCoy swung the right seat around and dropped into it. "Step on it, Spock."

       The science officer's knobby fingers were on the triple thruster controls. He jerked them forward. McCoy felt an invisible hand pressing him back into the upholstery. The stars wheeled in the window that ran the width of the bow as Spock angled the shuttle away from the approaching battleship. McCoy activated a monitor screen, set flush in the pedestal between his chair and Spock's. The alien vessel was sleek, malevolent, a bronze-and-emerald dragon with flared cobra head, snaking neck, and bat-winged body. As McCoy watched, the gaping round mouth of the cobra began to glow cherry red. "They've activated their main torpedo tube, Spock."

       Spock's voice was calm. "There's no way they could miss at this range." Even so, he began weaving the ship left and right, up and down.

       McCoy looked at the viewer again. "Spock! They're firing!" The pursuing ship spit out a brilliant photon-magnetic force canister. McCoy felt his fingernails digging into the chair's vinyl armrests. A blinding white light filled the cockpit ... from the window, from in front of them.

       Spock slammed the retro-thrusters, halting their headlong rush before they entered the cloud of anti-particles. "Evidently, they don't want to merely kill us." The hull shook violently; steel plates groaned under stress. McCoy felt himself pitching forward in his chair. "Tractor beam," said Spock.

       "Fight it!"

       The Vulcan rocked the ship. The Copernicus rattled from bow to stern. Spock jerked the controls again. A hairline crack appeared in the forward window.

       On the viewer, McCoy could see the alien ship grow larger and larger. On one side it was the color of blood, stained by the dim glow of 50 Fornacis. The other side was dark, save for constellations of glowing round portholes. The image bounced as the shuttlecraft shook. "We can't take any more of this," Spock said. With a sweep of his arm, he shut off the engines.

       Stars streaked in the window as the tiny shuttle snapped back. The tractor beam swung them, bow down, high over the giant vessel. McCoy found himself looking down on the rounded superstructure surmounting the cobra's head, an oval dome which, he knew, housed their bridge. Though Copernicus's internal gravity was unaffected, the perspective made McCoy's stomach do a flip-flop. The shuttle arced back, above the long boom and over the broad, flat engineering hull. McCoy caught sight of a three-bladed symbol on one flank. Klingon, then.

       The shuttle swung around to come to rest behind and between the hanging engine pods. The alien ship was upside down now from McCoy's point of view, but that was quickly remedied. McCoy's guts slid up the inner wall of his abdomen as the tractor rotated them around Copernicus's long axis. Ahead were two glowing impulse engines, set in the rear of the winged hull. Between the two engines glowed a second torpedo tube. On the hull's upper surface was a low, blockish structure. Plated doors were sliding slowly aside on its rear wall revealing a floodlit shuttlecraft hangar deck. Another tractor beam grabbed them from within and hauled the Copernicus inside.

       McCoy pivoted to face Spock. "Now what?" As if in response, the pulsing, whining roar of Klingon disruptors ripped the air. A ragged hole appeared in the inner and outer doors of the airlock, its black edges curled and smoking. The acrid smell of burning insulation stung McCoy's nostrils. As the smoke cleared, six Klingon hoplites stormed in, each clad in black-and-gray battle armor. Two of them were of the Kahless species, swarthy, bearded. Three were of the H'chok kind, taller, with vertebrae growing over the backs of their heads, across pates fringed with black hair, and down their foreheads, terminating in flared nostrils. The last was of the rare Imperial race, pasty-skinned, without the bifurcated eyebrows of the other two species. This one, decorated with a blood-colored sash of rank, stepped in front and, with sidearm casually swinging between McCoy's chest and Spock's, said, in perfect English, "My dear Mr. Spock. And the good Dr. McCoy. The pleasure is all mine."

       McCoy moved forward. "Koloth." He spat the name. "You're way over onto our side of the Neutral Zone. When the Federation finds out what you've done —"

       A new voice. "Dr. McCoy, I assure you the Federation already knows what he's done." From behind the phalanx of Klingons appeared a Human, a civilized, cultured figure in a flowing tawny robe, dwarfed by the burly soldiers. The man's bearing was aristocratic, his face like a crumpled sack, his eyes sunken beneath pouches of skin.

       McCoy had met him only once before, almost five years ago during a mission to — where? Eminiar VII? But he recognized him immediately. "Ambassador?"

       The man bowed slightly and, in that smooth, warm voice that had wooed entire worlds, said, "Robert Fox, Special Ambassador for the United Federation of Planets, at your service."


       The child floated poorly, Jag thought. She had to kick her hooves and draw splayed three-fingered hands against the river's current just to keep on the surface. Jag, floating easily on his back, swung his own feet down, cloven hooves clicking against smooth stones on the river's bottom, and stood upright. The icy waters of the Relba tributary came to the middle of his great rounded belly. Liquid streamed from his beard and dripped off his furry chest. He shook his head, showering the child's flat face with droplets. The child opened her lipless mouth as if to cry but, of course, no sound emerged. For this child was Bistle, the Messiah. The rites of the temple prescribed that a messiah's vocal cords be slit at birth, only to be restored upon her reaching maturity. Until then, lest her infantile whims wreak havoc on Tellar's society, she was allowed no communication, no writing, no sign language. Her every need was tended to by her dame's entourage. She would learn, grow wise. All waited for the day when Bistle would make her first pronouncement as lord over three hundred million Tellarites.

       But that day was years in the future. For now, she was simply a learner, gathering knowledge to augment her divine insight. Toward that end, the task had fallen to Jag, unbidden and unwelcomed, to take her on a retreat into the hinterland of Nicoor.

       He looked down his muzzle at the tiny creature floating before him. This insignificant being? A messiah? He snorted, drawing back the muscles of his snout, flaring nostrils. Why, the child was a freak, hairless and scrawny, tiny nose flush with pink cheeks. Nothing holy about her at all, just an accident of genetics. She was primitive in form, a throwback to the time before Tellar's ice caps had melted, flooding the lowlands, crisscrossing the world with rivers and streams.

       Jag lifted his left paw, still soaked with water, and pressed it gently against Bistle's flat chest. The Messiah folded in the middle and slipped beneath the river's surface. She kicked and flailed, bubbles streaming from nose and mouth. Jag removed his hand and the child bobbed to the surface, coughing silently. Without the extended face that kept proper Tellarites' nostrils clear of the water, poor Bistle could easily drown. Jag clicked his flat teeth together in reflection. Yes, an accident could happen ...

       Bistle looked up at him, eyes red with tears. What's that? thought Jag. You considered yourself safe with a member of your dame's entourage? Jag crashed the back of his hairy paw against the chill surface of the Relba, splashing the Messiah. He knew that in and of herself, there was nothing to hate about Bistle. She was better behaved than her litter mates, the six boys who occupied so much of his time and the time of the other members of Pelsh's entourage. The thought of his beloved Pelsh, mother of Bistle, calmed him. Beautiful Pelsh, round Pelsh ...

       Jag's own litter mates, now scattered throughout the five deltas, said he'd set his sights too high when he entered the courtship contest for Pelsh. Too high? Any female should have been delighted to pair with Jag. His lineage was sterling. Had not his dame been the famed Tood? Had he not been the best student? Not just in the Relba rivercourse, either, but also in the lands fed by the mighty Rastal. And, as if that weren't merit enough to win Pelsh, Jag had been named Tellar's ambassador to the Federation, apprenticed to the famed Gav himself. And since Gav's murder, Jag was the Ambassador Supreme. Truly superior! Truly distinguished!

       Jag had known the competition for Pelsh would be stiff, of course. All courtship contests were, what with six males for every female. But he had been confident when he joined Pelsh's entourage. When it came time for her to select her lifemate, he would be it.

       He looked down at Pelsh's child again. Really an inoffensive creature, he thought, almost pitiful. In a generous mood, one could even see some of Pelsh's exquisite features in the thing's ball-shaped head. The deep circular wells that the eyes rested in, those were Pelsh's. But the eyes themselves, flecks of gold in the brown sclera, those she inherited from Deegur.

       Deegur! How Jag hated him! Pelsh's chosen one: chipped hooves and lumpy gut, almost hairless nostrils — a repulsive creature. And no statesman, he. An optometrist! A grinder of corrective lenses, from a craft-guild family, no less. A nothing. Why did Pelsh choose him? Jag wondered for the thousandth time. The knowledge that five other males were tortured by the same question did nothing to ease Jag's own hurt. Though he and Pelsh's other unchosen suitors formed her entourage, a unit supposedly exceeded in closeness only by the bond that ties litter mates, Jag felt no affection for them. They had all deserved to fail. But he — an ambassador! — he had deserved nothing less than Pelsh!

       Jag's anger and hurt were magnified by his contact with other races. Lisping Andorians, scrawny Vulcans, smelly Humans, each of these had equal numbers of each sex, a mate for every male. Jag cursed what gods there might be for the injustice of Tellarite existence: one female, one monogamous female, for every six males.

       Being mateless had been bad enough, thought Jag, but Bistle's birth tripled his burden. A messiah, true in every characteristic to the description in the ancient writings, down to the lack of ability to squeeze her nostrils shut ...

       Friends had tried to console Jag. Be honored, they'd said. You're an attendant to the holy one. That was nothing, thought Jag. If Pelsh had selected me instead of Deegur, I would have sired the Messiah.

       He pushed again on Bistle's chest, submerging her beneath icy Relba. She writhed, kicking, her tiny hooves cutting into his forearm. Soon ... Soon ...

       "Jag!"

       Jag felt his nostrils flaring and closing spasmodically in fear. He released young Bistle. She twisted to the surface, gulping air, then quickly kicked her legs, moving herself to the near bank. He looked up. An autumn-furred male was backstroking toward him, feet first. Who would invade the privacy of the Messiah while on retreat? Jag squinted at the far-off form. Why, it was old Kreek, the radio astronomer, master of the great dish antenna on the stony bank of the Rastal.

       "Jag!" Kreek had lifted his chin to his round chest, deep-set eyes looking forward instead of up. "Jag, a call for you!"

       "What say, old one?"

       The wizened star-listener pulled up next to Jag. "A Federation starship is in orbit about Tellar. Jag, much has happened while you've been on retreat. We've lost all subspace communication —"

       Jag splashed the oldster with a violent whap of his arm. "Bore me not with your tales of equipment malfunctions. What of the starship?"

       "Its captain requests an ambassador to accompany them on a mission of import."

       Jag's chest swelled with pride. "I will go. You have brought me a communicator?" Kreek handed Jag the device, a black-and-gold clamshell. Jag began to wade to the shore. Young Bistle had already climbed out. She was eyeing Jag suspiciously from the sandy bank. Jag could hear Kreek kicking a few strokes closer behind him, then rising to his feet as well.

       Jag stepped out onto the bank, dripping water onto the hot sand. He turned to face the grizzled astronomer. "Which ship is it?"

       "Enterprise."

       Jag's gums peeled back. He knew Enterprise well, for it had once ferried him and Gav to the Federation Conference Chamber on Babel. He looked at Bistle, tiny, helpless Bistle, standing many paces away. He turned back to Kreek. "Say my farewells to Pelsh's entourage." Kreek shook his head in agreement. Jag flipped the communicator's antenna grid open, exposing the tiny dials within. This one was of Andorian manufacture, not designed for thick Tellarite fingers, but he managed. "This is Jag, Ambassador Supreme for Tellar," he said into the device, "calling Enterprise. I am prepared for transportation."

       "This is James T. Kirk, commanding Enterprise," said the tiny speaker. "Greetings on behalf of Starfleet, Ambassador. We're locking on to your coordinates. Stand by to be beamed aboard." There was a pause, then the voice again, a strong voice, smooth, even for a Human. "We're energizing now, Ambassador."

       A whine grew in Jag's earholes, his stomach lurched slightly, and he had a growing feeling of vertigo. He glanced a last time at Bistle. The gold flecked-eyes stared back, a look of cold hatred on that round, mute face. It'll be ten years before they re-connect her vocal cords, he thought. I hope she forgets ...

       And then, quite quickly, Tellar faded out of existence.


Personal Log, James T. Kirk, Stardate 8666.4

       It's all happened so fast. First the Being's threat of destruction. Then the orders from Starfleet Commander Nogura. Now, thanks to Ambassador Fox, a hastily hammered-out alliance with the Klingons.

       Fox has stayed aboard the Klingon cruiser Devisor, and Captain Koloth has agreed to pick up Spock and McCoy. The message from the Being was received after they left on their flight aboard Copernicus. Unless they were among the lucky few who heard it, they're in for one hell of a surprise. I hope Bones's heart can take it.

       The growing black hole at the galaxy's core has warped space-time so much that subspace communication is now impossible. Acting Science Officer Karl Jaeger estimates that planets closer to the galactic core, including those of Balok's peaceful First Federation, must already be dead. We have less then a month until planetary orbits in the Orion Arm will be perturbed enough by the black hole to pull worlds out of their stars' ecospheres — killing every race in the United Federation of Planets.

       Despite the subspace blackout, we need to speak to the Romulan Praetor: we need his ships. Not even the combined strength of Federation and Klingon starfleets will be enough to stop something as powerful as the Being. Therefore, on my authority as Commander of the Armada, we will risk interstellar war by violating the Romulan Neutral Zone.

       I am facing the most difficult decision of my career. I've dealt with invaders before, although none have been as ... omnipotent? ... as the one threatening us now. On the other hand, there's never been a battle force like the one we're trying to assemble. But if the Being is who it claims to be, do we have a right to fight back? Would it do any good even if we did?


       Captain James T. Kirk clicked off the log recorder and looked at the transcript, black letters against dull white, on the desktop viewer in his quarters. "Ed," he said aloud, leaning back in his chair.

       "Ed," repeated the tinny female voice of the ship's computer.

       "Replace `lucky few' with `chosen few.'"

       The transcript changed on the screen: the chosen few who heard it ...

       Jim read it over a few times. That's the way he felt. He wished, wished to — God — that he'd been among those who'd heard the message. Dammit, Jim thought, if they read this stuff they'll put me in the Tantalus asylum for sure. "Undo."

       The words on the screen changed back to the way Jim had actually dictated them.

       The most difficult decision of my career. Can't say that either. "Delete last paragraph."

       The indicated text winked out of existence. Am I that afraid of what they'll think? He never used to edit his log entries. Of course, he'd never been up for an Admiral's star before either. Not yet forty years old, the youngest Admiral in Starfleet history ...

       Smell the coffee, Jim. Nogura would have promised anything to get someone else to lead the combined space fleets against the Being. He can sit in his plush office in San Francisco and leave it to Jimmy boy to face that thing ...

       To face it, head on.

       Hell with it. "Restore deleted text."

       The words were created anew on the screen. Jim forced himself not to read the whole thing over again. He stabbed the SAVE button, and the log entry was burned into Read-Only Memory crystals in the computer's gallium arsenide heart.

       A boatswain's whistle sang from the speaker on the desk terminal. Jim touched the intercom switch. "Kirk here."

       "Sulu, Captain. We've arrived at fail safe."

       "Sound alert. I'm on my way." He rose from his chair and hurried out of his quarters, down the corridor, and into the turbolift.

       "Bridge," he snapped into the microphone and the car whisked him first horizontally and then vertically. He tapped his foot impatiently on the short journey to deck one, the command center of the Starship Enterprise. A klaxon wailed in time to the flashing of the red alert light set into the lift's wall. The double-pocket doors slid aside with a pneumatic whoosh and Kirk strode onto the circular bridge. He took the steps down to the lower section in a single bound and slid into the black-upholstered low-back central seat. In front of him was the freestanding helm-navigation console. He spoke to the athletic young man seated at its left side. "Status, Mr. Sulu."

       Helmsman Hikaru Sulu spoke without taking his eyes from his gooseneck viewer. "Holding at 100 million kilometers from the Romulan neutral zone. All phaser banks energized. All torpedo tubes loaded."

       Kirk tapped a button on the right arm of his chair. "Computer, record: order to penetrate Neutral Zone given at stardate 8666 point" — he leaned forward, consulting the chronometer set into the astrogation pedestal supporting Sulu's console — "four-three-five." He clicked the switch off. "Proceed, Sulu. Warp factor one."

       "Aye, sir. Warp one." The ship throbbed with power as the main engines came on-line. Jim smiled. Ahead, the central view screen exploded into spectral streaks as Enterprise lanced toward enemy territory at the speed of light. "Five minutes to Neutral Zone."

       Kirk swiveled his chair, checking who was at the ring of stations on the upper level of the bridge. Scotty was down in Engineering, of course, so his bridge console, to the left of the turbolift, was manned by Dale Gabler. Christine Chapel was next, at the life-support station. On the other side of the main viewer, Pavel Chekov sat poised at the defense console and Dawson Walking Bear was operating the navigational computer. The library computer — damn, Jim wished Spock was there! Not that Karl Jaeger wasn't a good man, but ... but nothing. Behind the normal position for Kirk's chair, to the right of the turbolift, Nyota Uhura played the communications board like one of her musical instruments. Jim let his chair swing back to its neutral position facing the main viewer. Sharing the helm-navigation console with Sulu was one of Chekov's old teachers, the tripodal, ruddy-skinned Arex of Edos.

       Kirk heard the turbolift doors hiss open. "Captain," said a strong, deep voice, "I will observe."

       Kirk swung around. The speaker was a sharply-featured man, hair streaked with silver, bushy eyebrows upswept. Jim didn't want him on the bridge, but he had little choice. In fact, he reflected, he had none. "As you wish, Ambassador."

       Simple black robe flowing, Sarek of Vulcan walked around the upper, outer ring of bridge stations to the Library Computer. Was it his scientific training that made him stop there? Doubtless he could read all the displays. Or had he gravitated to where Spock normally worked simply because it was his son's post? Karl Jaeger activated a repeater screen so that the Vulcan ambassador could see what Jaeger was looking at in the hooded viewer.

       "One minute to Neutral Zone," said Sulu.

       "Uhura, tie in the universal translator and record the following for broadcast."

       Kirk could hear little pips as Uhura's fingers danced over her board. "Aye aye, sir. Ready to record."

       Jim spoke into the microphone mounted in his chair's arm. "This is Captain James T. Kirk, commanding the United Federation of Planets starship U.S.S. Enterprise to all Romulan vessels and ground stations. We come in peace. Our deflector shields are down. I repeat, we come in peace." He swiveled so Uhura could see him, then drew a finger across his throat. She shut off the mike.

       Sarek had stepped down into the well to the right of Kirk's chair. "An addendum, if I may, Captain."

       Kirk nodded at Uhura and the microphone was reactivated. Sarek spoke briefly, harsh, alien words heavy with clicking consonants. He nodded curtly to Uhura when he was through. "An echoing of your sentiments, expressed Vulcan brother to Romulan brother, in the tongue that is the root of both planets' languages."

       "Thank you, Ambassador." Kirk faced Uhura again. "Loop those messages and broadcast them continually in all directions."

       "Aye, sir." More pips from her board. "Broadcasting on all radio frequencies."

       "Make it good and loud. I want them to know we're here. Package the same messages for a tightbeam pulse at Romulus."

       "Aye. But without subspace, it'll take over a day to reach there."

       Jim let out a heavy sigh. "I know that, Lieutenant. And we can't afford to wait a day." He swung to face Chekov. "Phasers on stand-by, Mr. Chekov. Just in case."

       "Aye."

       "Thirty seconds to Zone boundary," said Sulu.

       "Jettison log buoy, Uhura."

       "Jettisoning."

       "Twenty seconds," said Sulu.

       "Deflectors on computer control," said Kirk. "I want them up instantaneously if we need them."

       Sulu clicked over a string of rocker switches. "Programmed. Ten seconds."

       Kirk looked left and right, taking stock of his crew. "Stay sharp."

       "Four. Three. Two. One. We are —"

       "Warning," The computer's voice. "Treaty violation. Enterprise now within Romulan Neutral Zone. Warning. Treaty —"

       "Kill that, Uhura."

       "Something on the motion sensor, Captain," Sulu said, his face buried again in the gooseneck viewer.

       "Romulan ships using their cloaking devices," said Jaeger. "A pack of them."

       "Shields, Captain?" asked Sulu.

       "No. Not without provocation. Ship to ships, Uhura."

       "Hailing radio frequencies open, sir."

       "This is Captain James T. Kirk of the Enterprise. We come in peace. There is a threat to both your people and ours. We beg an audience with Praetor G'ten."

       "No response."

       "Damn. Keep trying to raise them, Uhura. Where are they, Sulu?"

       "Approximately above and behind us. Impossible to say precisely, sir."

       "Bring us around. I want to be facing them." The stars wheeled on the screen.

       Kirk leaned forward in his chair, straining his eyes for any sign of the alien ships. Nothing. He turned to face the Library Computer. "Jaeger?"

       "They're closing, sir. That's all I can tell."

       "How many are there?"

       "Multiple readings. Could be —"

       "Keptin!" Kirk swung to face Chekov. "On the screen, sir!"

       They were fading into existence. Ship after ship after ship. Sleek disks with swept-back wings and painted bellies. Five. Eight. Eleven. Fourteen birds-of-prey.

       "Incoming fire!" shouted Sulu.

       "Deflectors!"

       "Automat —" The Enterprise reeled as Romulan photon torpedoes splashed against her shields.

       "Uhura, try that peace message again."

       "I've been trying, sir. No response."

       "It appears they don't believe us," Sarek said simply.

       "A second round of torpedoes incoming," said Sulu.

       The ship buffeted as the torps exploded against the force shields that protected the beveled edge of the primary hull. "Damage reports from decks six and seven," said Uhura. "Casualties on six."

       "Ship to ships, Uhura."

       "Frequency open."

       "This is Kirk on the Enterprise. We urge you to cease fire. We have come as neighbors, not enemies. Nothing less than the survival of the galaxy has brought us here to seek your help. Please respond."

       "More torpedoes approaching."

       "Do what you can to dodge them, Sulu." Stars danced on the screen as the great ship pitched and yawed. But the torps found their marks, their impact throwing Kirk from his chair.

       "Sorry, sir," said Sulu. "We don't have enough room to maneuver."

       "Damage reports, decks seventeen through twenty and the hangar deck," said Uhura. She paused. "One crewmember reported dead."

       Kirk's fist clenched.

       "Bridge, Engineering." Chief Engineer Scott's voice over the intercom. "We canna take much more o' this, Captain. Our shields are buckling."

       "Opinion, Spock," demanded Kirk.

       Sarek raised an eyebrow. "On Vulcan," said the ambassador, "in ancient times, the first twenty-nine envoys of peace from Surak's camp were slaughtered by those of my kind who went on to become the Romulans. Only the thirtieth was given an audience."

       Kirk's breath hissed out. "Great."

       "Another salvo of torpedoes," said Sulu.

       "I, however, lack Surak's patience," Sarek said.

       "So do I," snapped Kirk. He swung his chair forward. "Return fire!" On the viewer twin pencils of blue energy swung back and forth. "Tally, Sulu?"

       "Four ships hit. Damage to one. Its cloaking device seems to be out. The other three deflected our phasers."

       "Disable the one whose cloak is off, Chekov."

       "Aye." Crosshairs appeared overtop of the image on the main viewer. The screen tracked the tiny Romulan vessel. "Laying in computer fire control."

       The little ship was climbing, perpendicular to the Enterprise, its underside painted as an elaborate bird-of-prey, wedge shaped wings supporting tubular impulse rockets —

       What the —!

       "Sulu, give me full mag."

       "Magnification twelve."

       Those weren't impulse tubes, dammit. They were flattened tapered blocks, Klingon-style warp engines. But the Klingons had said nothing about customizing Romulan vessels. "Clip his wings, Chekov."

       "Firing phasers."

       The Romulan ship twisted under the assault, but Enterprise's phasers were locked on tight, one beam on each engine support wedge. The alien's deflectors shimmered and sparked. The port warp drive split off first, trailing fiery plasma filaments. The starboard followed, spluttering away from the ship. "I want one of those engines taken in tow, Sulu."

       "No, Captain." Ambassador Sarek's voice. "This is not a military reconnaissance."

       Kirk snapped a sharp look at Sarek. The ship lurched.

       "We're surrounded, sir," said Sulu.

       "All phaser banks, fire."

       "Firing all banks."

       The ship reeled again and again. "Captain." Scotty's voice from the intercom.

       "Yes, Scotty?"

       "I canna give you all the phasers simultaneously for more than a few shots."

       "Acknowledged. Switch to homing torpedoes, Chekov. Fire at will."

       Chekov nodded. "Torpedo one away. Torpedo two away. Torpedo three —"

       The ship rocked again. "Sulu?"

       "Some of our torpedoes are finding targets. Estimate they've only got eight maneuverable ships left."

       "Only eight, eh?" Kirk glanced at the map display set into the astrogation pedestal. "Pivot, Sulu: 147 mark 88. Fire secondary hull port phasers." The viewscreen automatically flipped to show the new heading. A ball of debris appeared, expanding slowly.

       "Got that one, sir. Seven down, seven to go."

       "Halfway home," Kirk whispered.

       "Hardly, Captain," said Sarek, the only one on the bridge who could have heard the remark. "A single starship cannot defeat an entire fleet."

       "Detecting a large object, sir," said Jaeger. "Main screen."

       "And," said Sarek, "a battle-depleted starship certainly cannot best that."

       That was a Klingon-style battle cruiser, the kind Kirk knew the Empire was selling to the Romulans. "Bearing 23 degrees mark 175," said Sulu. "Range four million kilometers, closing fast."

       "Hail it, Uhura."

       "Trying. No response."

       "The remaining birds-of-prey are regrouping," said Sulu. The screen switched to show a cluster of Romulans fading into view. "They're releasing plasma-energy bolts."

       Expanding orange balls of hellfire hurled towards the Enterprise. "Reverse, Sulu. All engines full."

       "It's no good, Keptin," said Chekov. "Impact in four seconds."

       "Brace yourselves," said Kirk.

       The ship rocked. A plastiform vane from the ceiling crashed to the floor, pinning Hikaru Sulu. Arex moved quickly, operating both his console and Sulu's with three scrawny arms. Nurse Chapel ran from the life support console to Sulu's aid, her medscanner humming. Sarek helped Jaeger, who had been thrown to the floor by the impact. "I will operate the sensors," said the Ambassador. "Assist at the helm." The Vulcan slipped into the bucket seat as Jaeger hurried down to Arex's aid.

       "Scott here, Captain."

       Trouble. "Yes?"

       "Shields are out. We canna take another hit."

       Damn it. Kirk slapped his palm against the arm of his chair.

       "The Romulans are scanning us," said Sarek. Kirk glanced back at the Vulcan, standing, bent over the hooded viewer, his back, like Spock's, as straight as that position would allow. "They know of our predicament."

       On screen the torpedo-tube mouth of the large warship began to glow cherry red.

       "Evasive action, Sulu."

       The Enterprise weaved. "It is merely a question of time," said Sarek.

       "He's firing, sir," Sulu said.

       A staccato salvo of torpedoes belched out of the giant warship. Kirk gripped the polished wood inserts in the arms of his chair. The screen exploded into blinding light and —

       — and the Romulan birds-of-prey were gone.

       "Captain," said Uhura. "I'm getting a signal from the big warship."

       "On screen."

       The view changed to the dimly-lit bridge of the alien vessel. In the central throne, dressed as a full Romulan Commander, sat — Spock.

       The Vulcan's face was impassive, but his tone carried a hint of satisfaction. "I find I make a most convincing Romulan," he said.

       An armor-clad figure stepped into the field of vision. Koloth. "And now," said the Klingon, smiling into the camera, "on to the Praetor's homeworld." He jerked a gloved thumb at Spock. "Out of my chair, Vulcan."


Chapter 2:
Self-Made Purgatories

       His meditation complete, Spock left his quarters on deck five. He approached a recess in the corridor which housed an orange three-sided ladder. Gaunt fingers choking the metal poles, he descended one level and strode to the VIP wing. Finding the door he was looking for, he pressed the buzzer switch in the jamb.

       "Who?" The English word, deep, harsh, spit forth from the speaker grille.

       "Spowkh, ch'he," said Spock, it is I, Spock.

       A pause so short only a Vulcan would notice it. "K'vath." Come. The single-panel door hissed into its pocket.

       Someone had installed metal railings on the ceiling of Sarek's quarters. Hot white arc lamps hung down at even intervals. Spock could hear a slight strain in the soft whine of the dehumidifier as it fought to keep the 60 degree Celsius air as dry as desert sand. Spock glanced past the room divider at the sleeping pallet. The linen was undisturbed. He turned his gaze to his father, seated at the writing desk, his back to Spock, broad shoulders held straight atop a ramrod spine. "Vulcan honors us with your presence," said Spock. "I come to serve."

       "Spock," Sarek said, turning off the desk-top monitor. He swiveled to face his son, fingers held steepled in front of his wide chest.

       Spock stepped fully into his father's room. Prior to Sarek's arrival, while Spock was still away with McCoy aboard Copernicus, Kirk had ordered several Vulcan artifacts moved here from Spock's quarters. Though Spock had been told of it, and did not object, the sight of his own belongings rearranged in a room of somewhat different proportions disconcerted him. His duranium tapestry of the circle-triangle-gemstone IDIC symbol dominated one wall. At last Spock looked at his father. "How is my mother?"

       Sarek held Spock in a steady gaze. "Amanda is in normal health for a Human of her age."

       "And the journey? I would appreciate a tour of your new long-range shuttle. You call it Surak?"

       "Your mother's suggestion, after the great envoy of peace. Spock, you accrue bad habits from your Human companions. These are preliminaries."

       Spock studied Sarek's face: a broader, sharper version of his own. Like the misplaced furnishings, the sight bothered him. It was as though he were seeing his own face, reflected in carved stone. His father's hair had a touch more silver in it than when last he'd seen him, three years ago. "My mother is a real concern, Sarek. Further, I have use for your shuttle."

       "Elaborate."

       "I wish first to explore another topic."

       "Undoubtedly."

       Spock stepped forward, his heels clicking on the plasteel floor. "Why are you here?"

       "T'Pau requested it. I do her will."

       "But you are retired."

       "Your Dr. McCoy did an excellent job of surgery on me. My health no longer hinders my career. I have not worked as an ambassador since the Coridan deliberations because there was no need." Again, Sarek paused. "Now, there is a need."

       "But you do not accept the premise of our current activities."

       "I am providing negotiation expertise for this truce. Peace between the Federation and its neighbors is a goal any Vulcan would pursue."

       Spock shook his head. "The treaty negotiations are not our main mission."

       "We defend our galaxy from one who would do it harm." Sarek rose smoothly to his feet, his unadorned black robe tumbling to accommodate his new posture. "There is no shame in self-defense, Spock."

       Spock looked closely at the older man, at the parchment skin, tanned rich olive from equatorial Vulcan sun. "There is more to it."

       "I deny that."

       "But I, Father, do not."

       "You are Vulcan."

       "I am half-Vulcan."

       Sarek kept his gaze on Spock, his face expressionless. "I see."

       "The Being we are seeking claims to be the Creator of All Things." Spock had grown unused to the steady stare of other Vulcans. For an instant, he averted his own eyes. "I submit that it tells the truth."

       Sarek's hand moved in a gesture of dismissal. "There is no need for a Creator. Sitar's criterion: limit parameters."

       "My Human colleagues speak of Occam's razor. The spirit is the same." Spock nodded once. "I accept that there are adequate models of the universe that do not require an intelligent motive force."

       "Then the issue is settled." Sarek turned his back on Spock and began filing the memory wafers he'd been reading in a storage tray.

       "It is not. For there is no adequate model for my own existence that does not presuppose a higher being."

       Sarek was bent now, placing the tray into a compartment under the desk. Spock saw a slight tensing of the muscles in Sarek's back where his father's robe was pulled tight. "Illogical."

       "Perhaps. Yet I believe as I have stated."

       "Why?"

       "It is because of you."

       Sarek straightened and turned to face his son. "Elaborate."

       "You met Amanda Grayson in Toronto while Vulcan's Ambassador to Earth. Within months, you and she were married."

       Sarek turned back to his desk. "I do not intend to discuss my past with you."

       "Do not," said Spock. "Merely listen. Obviously you do not love her."

       Sarek's eyebrows knit together. "Your mother is an extraordinary woman."

       "True, but not relevant. I submit there were other reasons for your marriage. Your lineage is distinguished. You are a direct descendant of Surak, a maternal-avuncular tri-cousin of T'Pau. Amanda's genetic profile is likewise exceptional."

       "Spock, you state the obvious."

       "Indeed. For it is obvious to me that your marriage was for a purpose. There has been much speculation about you and Amanda, much media coverage of the fact of your marriage. When you took her as wife, it was the height of pon farr on Vulcan. The prevalent theory is that you were overcome with the plak tow mating urge while on Earth —"

       "I ignore rumor mongers."

       "— and were unable to return to Vulcan in time to release yourself. Rather than die, you took a Human woman."

       "Again, Spock, that is speculation."

       "Agreed. It is speculation. And it is inaccurate. Your bondmate died as a child. You had no mental connection with Vulcan to make your blood boil with plak tow. I judge that as fortunate since, although Amanda is a hardy woman, she could not survive coupling with a Vulcan male in heat."

       "Marshal your tongue, Spock. You speak of your mother."

       "Dr. McCoy performed a full biorhythmic analysis on you as a prelude to the heart surgery you required three years ago. I was able to access that information through the Library Computer."

       "Indeed." The word was cold, harsh.

       "You did not undergo plak tow while on Earth. In fact, you seem not to have felt at all the effects of the pon farr of Vulcan Year 8870."

       "You have invaded my privacy, Spock. Leave now." Sarek pushed the button on the desk that opened the door to the corridor.

       "I respectfully disobey. You will hear my thoughts."

       "A Vulcan would not pry so."

       "Hear this, Father: I am not Vulcan."

       "Human, then," said Sarek, seating himself again. "They, too, have manners — after a fashion."

       "Nor am I Human. I am a hybrid. Accept that fact."

       "Noted."

       "Accept it." Spock realized his tone had taken on an emotional edge. He fought to suppress it.

       "Accepted, for the sake of discourse."

       Ignored, the door hissed shut in the background. "Why, Father?"

       "Specify."

       Spock raised an eyebrow in question. "You do not follow my reasoning? You were involved in an experiment. An interbreeding experiment."

       "The inbreeding was tried." The hand gesture of dismissal again. "Vulcans have not crossbred with Humans since."

       "And for that I blame you."

       "Blame, Spock? Recrimination?" Sarek shook his head. "These have their seeds in emotion."

       "Emotion is not a bad thing. It has taken me many years to learn that, Father."

       "To unlearn your Vulcan teaching, you mean."

       Spock felt his own voice take on an unnatural hardness. "I should have had both teachings — Vulcan and Human."

       "We lived on Vulcan." Sarek had steepled his fingers again.

       "Surely that was your choice. Vulcan is too hot, too dry, with too high a surface gravity to be comfortable for your wife."

       "Earth is no place to raise a child."

       Spock shook his head slowly. "Two billion Humans would disagree."

       "Perhaps."

       Spock walked over to the IDIC tapestry. He touched it with spread fingers, feeling the warm metal disks that made up the image. They were vibrating slightly, resonating to the hum of the dehumidifier. "You abandoned the experiment. It makes sense for Vulcans and Humans to interbreed: it is in keeping with the ideologies of both planets. At the root of the Vulcan awakening is the IDIC —" Spock took his hand off the metallic tapestry, the disks jingling softly as they fell back to their normal positions — "the concept of infinitely diverse things combining in infinite ways to form patterns of beauty and meaning." He returned his gaze to Sarek. "A Vulcan-Human hybrid is such a combination: more than the sum of its parts."

       "Modesty becomes you, Spock."

       Spock walked over to the desk. "I speak factually. Neither an average pure-bred Human nor a pure-bred Vulcan can equal me in physical strength, sensory acuity, mathematical acumen, musical ability, or, according to studies by Dr. M'Benga, projected longevity. Physically, I am the best of both worlds. Human farmers speak of hybrid vigor as the mechanism involved." Spock paused. He'd become quite adept at reading Human faces during his two decades in Starfleet, but his father's craggy visage was still a mask to him. "Additionally," he said at last, "I enjoy an ability few hybrids do: I am not sterile."

       "Then this hypothetical experiment you speak of was a success."

       "It was a failure. Why did you stop short, Sarek? Why raise me as a Vulcan? Why not let me be as unique as my dual heritage? You pressed me into the Vulcan mold, then shunned me when I sought an alternative in Starfleet —"

       "Starfleet is an armed force."

       "Starfleet, like most Human institutions, practices brotherhood. It took Jim Kirk to make me understand what that word meant. It is the logical extension of IDIC, the bringing together of the new patterns into a working whole."

       For a second, an instant, there was expression on Sarek face — a look of pain ... or of hurt. Still, the words were monotone, crisp. "Does this conclude you tirade?"

       "No, Father. To end my statements with elegance, I must tie them into the situation at hand. That much of Vulcan rhetoric I retain. You prematurely concluded the experiment of which I am the product, ending it as soon as you had a living hybrid. You refused to let that hybrid bring out the best of both societies. Instead, you disguised me as a Vulcan, had cosmetic surgery performed to hide the Human characteristics in my face."

       "You would prefer to have been left with drooping eyebrows and ears neither pointed nor round?" A hint of a shrug. "It is a trivial enough matter to have the surgery reversed."

       "I mention it only as an indication that you considered the experiment concluded with my live birth. The rest of my life has been immaterial, unimportant. I find that unacceptable. I believe that my life must have some meaning."

       "That assumption will color any conclusions."

       "Granted. But, working from that assumption, if my life has no meaning to Vulcans, because I am perceived merely as a Vulcan, and no meaning to Humans, because I am considered not to be one, then any significance my life does have — outside its intrinsic worth to me — must be to some third party."

       "Your logic is flawed, Spock."

       "Undoubtedly. That does not change my conviction." Spock stepped closer to the desk, tipping his face down to look at his father. "I accept the Being's claim that it is the creator of the universe. I must contact it. I must learn why a life such as mine exists. I must know what results the Being expected from the experiment you gave up on."

       "And your course of action?"

       "I wish to take your shuttle and head directly to where we suspect the Being is located."

       "Why my vessel?"

       "The Enterprise still has much work to do in assembling the armada. Surak is the only warp-driven ship available not required for that purpose. In it, I can arrive days before the others. I will have time to pose my questions."

       "A pilgrimage, Spock?"

       "A quest for knowledge. An honorable pursuit for a Vulcan."

       Sarek rose to his feet. "You are misguided, Spock. I deny you permission."

       Spock was close to his father's face now, so close that he had to focus on either Sarek's left eye or his right. Instead, he found his gaze shifting rapidly between the two hard brown orbs. "Father —"

       Sarek again moved a thick finger to the button that opened the door. "Leave me now. I have affairs of import to attend to."


       The turbolift deposited Jim Kirk on deck six near the messroom. He walked down a concentric hallway and stepped into a radial corridor. Coming towards him was Spock. Kirk smiled at his First Officer with that expectant look that Spock had finally learned meant Jim wanted to talk to him. But the Vulcan continued down the corridor, eyes ahead, giving not the slightest acknowledgment of his captain's presence. Kirk turned on his heel, watching that stiff back until it disappeared around a corner. Spock could have just come from seeing Fox or Jag, whose quarters were down that way in the VIP wing, but that seemed unlikely. Spock had no use for the kind of polite diplomacy of words of which Fox was a master. And Vulcans and Tellarites, creatures of conflicting demeanors, habitually avoided each other. No, Spock must have been visiting Sarek. Things obviously hadn't gone well, whatever they had been talking about. Kirk didn't want to confront the ambassador if Sarek was in a bad mood, but ...

       Kirk turned and strode purposefully toward Sarek's quarters. He pressed the buzzer and, after identifying himself to Sarek, the door slid aside. The heat hit Kirk like a wave from a blast furnace. Immediately his face was slick with sweat. Knives stabbed through the backs of his eyes as he stepped into the floodlit room.

       Sarek rose. "You wish something of me, Captain?"

       The Vulcan's face was cold, impassive, expressionless. What was he thinking behind those dark eyes? For a moment Kirk wanted to ask what had upset Spock so, but he thought better of it and plunged into what he had to say on his own behalf. "Sarek, you countermanded an order of mine on the bridge."

       "Yes."

       "Never do that."

       "You requested we take a Romulan warp engine in tow. This is a mission of peace not war."

       "Granted my ... enthusiasm for knowledge got the best of me."

       "I perceive my error. You are, in fact, in agreement with me that taking the engine would have been the wrong course of action —"

       "Well ... "

       "But you feel my intervention caused your bridge crew to lose respect for you."

       Kirk was mad. This wasn't going the way he had planned. "I wouldn't have put it that way."

       "You are insulted at the suggestion that something so trivial could undermine the faith your crew has in you, yet it is that same fear that compelled you to take an ambassador to task. Kirk, I know something of Human military psychology: the commanding officer must be seen as godlike, perfect. And no one is that. Certainly not myself. You have my apology, Captain. Henceforth, I shall avoid the bridge."

       Jim's head was spinning: Sarek had gone from argumentative to graciousness in a handful of sentences. No wonder he was so highly regarded as a diplomat. "Thank you, sir," he said, hastening from the room. In the coolness of the corridor he reeled at his own stench. His shirt was soaked with sweat. He headed back up to his quarters to change into a fresh uniform.


       Kirk studied the tactical display on the bridge's main viewer. Leonard McCoy stood on the left side of the raised command chair, leaning an elbow on the chair's back. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott stood at ease on Kirk's right. The Romulan Star Empire was a tiny volume of space: just a single binary star system, two planets, and the bulk of an asteroid field. "We sure didn't leave them much after the war," said McCoy.

       "We didn't have to leave them anything, Bones. They started it."

       McCoy shook his head. "You're talking like a soldier again, Jim. That was a hundred and twenty years ago. Everybody who lived through the war is dead."

       "The Humans are dead. But not the Romulans. They live for more than two centuries."

       "Aye," said Scott, with a bitterness that surprised Kirk, "they will still remember."

       The Neutral Zone, appearing as an amber spherical gridwork in the holographic display, completely enclosed the Romulans. On the screen, the Enterprise was marked in blue, Koloth's Devisor in red, and Sarek's long-range shuttle, the Surak, in green.

       Kirk looked over his shoulder at Communications Chief Uhura. "Raise Koloth on the Devisor.

       The woman's hands played over her board, a rising scale of pips responding to her keystrokes. "I have him, sir. Frequency open."

       Kirk pressed a button on his chair arm. The main view screen cut to a low-angle shot of the Klingon bridge, multi-leveled, misty, shock-absorbing buttresses flanking the captain's throne. "Captain Koloth."

       "Kirk."

       "We are three hours from Romulus. I propose a briefing."

       Koloth glanced off-camera. "Two hours forty minutes, by your clock, Captain."

       Kirk smiled and looked over at Spock, now back at his usual post. "Koloth, there's a streak of the Vulcan in you."

       The skin of Koloth's face peeled back, showing teeth. "Insult me not again, Kirk."

       Jim held up a hand. "My apologies, Captain. I only meant that your precision with time reminded me of my First Officer."

       Koloth smiled. "I have studied Human history, Kirk. Bad timing has cost your kind many military campaigns."

       "We'll have plenty of opportunity to spar while we journey to our rendezvous with the Being, Koloth. The forthcoming confrontation with the Romulans requires immediate consultation. Will you and your advisors beam aboard?"

       "We are to come to you?"

       "Forgive me now for sounding like a Vulcan. It's only logical. Ambassadors Sarek, Fox, and Jag are already on this ship."

       Koloth bobbed his head in a V-shaped motion, a Klingon gesture of reluctant assent. "Sufficient, Kirk. I and two others will beam over."

       "Good. If you'll give me your coordinates —"

       "Thank you, no, Captain. I do not trust your noisy teleportation system. You give us your coordinates."

       Kirk heard Scotty swear under his breath and McCoy whisper, "First sensible thing I've ever heard a Klingon say."

       Kirk silenced the Doctor with what he hoped was an angry look. "Very well, Koloth. Lieutenant Uhura will append the coordinates to this transmission. When should I expect you?"

       "In fifteen atrag. Koloth out." The screen faded back to naked stars.

       "Fifteen atrags?" said Kirk. "What the devil is an atrag?"

       Spock walked over from the Library Computer station. "Captain Koloth knew the units of Terran timekeeping — and they're not even decimal."

       "I'm not interested in which of us would win a trivia contest, Spock."

       "A trag is 47.229 seconds. Fifteen of them — atrag is a Klingonaase plural — is just under twelve minutes."

       A frown creased Scotty's features. "Sir, I'm sure you know what you're doing, but I dinna like the idea of those bastards aboard the Enterprise.

       "We are at peace, Scotty."

       "Aye. A temporary ad hoc alliance." The Engineer shook his head. "Those Klingons will leave here the richer for it. They can learn a lot from seeing the Enterprise up close."

       Kirk smiled. "Last report I saw from Cochrane Industries indicated that they're testing flattened warp-drive nacelles patterned after the Klingon units. Maybe we can learn something from each other." He got up and moved toward the orange turbolift doors. "Uhura, have the department heads meet me in briefing room one in ... "

       "Eleven minutes," said Spock.

       "Eleven minutes." The doors slid shut behind him.


       After the briefing, Leonard McCoy followed Kirk back to the Captain's quarters, a spacious pair of rooms separated by a screen divider. When the door had closed behind them, McCoy wheeled on him. "Dammit, Jim. What the hell's the matter with you?"

       Kirk let himself slip down into a chair, his movements heavy, his face weary. "What?"

       "You heard me. You let Koloth walk all over you."

       Jim allowed his breath to escape in a long, whispery sigh. "I'm the host. He's my guest."

       "Bull. You were a million kilometers away. Something's on your mind."

       "I'm just tired, Bones."

       McCoy moved over to the dumbwaiter set in the room divider and slipped a memory wafer into its slot. A few seconds later the door slid up, revealing two crystal snifters half-full of dark green liquid. He offered one to Kirk.

       "It's a little early in the day for Saurian brandy, Bones."

       "Maybe for you. But I'm working nights this cycle. Besides, I'm your doctor." He motioned with the glass. "Consider it a prescription."

       "McCoy's all-purpose wonder cure, is that it?" Kirk took the brandy, but didn't bring it to his lips.

       "I'll go drink with Scotty if you're going to be nasty."

       "Sorry." The word had no feeling behind it.

       McCoy took the second glass for himself and settled into a chair across a small table from Kirk. "Now, are you going to tell your friendly doctor what's eating you?"

       "Do you believe in God, Bones?"

       McCoy frowned. "What the hell kind of question is that?"

       "A timely one, these days. Do you?"

       The doctor drained his glass in a single gulp and set it on the table with a clink. "Hell, Jim, I don't know."

       "You must have thought about it."

       McCoy raised an eyebrow. "I think about a lot of things. Why communism never worked. Why people have appendixes. Why Starfleet can't stick with one damn uniform design." He shook his head. "But I don't lose sleep over them."

       "I haven't been sleeping lately."

       McCoy's tone was a little softer. "I can tell. You're getting bigger bags under your eyes than Ambassador Fox. Let me give you some more of those little red pills."

       "No, Bones. I have to think about these questions. And night's the best time to do it." He looked at McCoy again. "Do you believe in God?"

       McCoy got up and ambled over to the dumbwaiter. "Jim," he said slowly, a trace of Southern drawl protracting his words, "when I was twenty-four I inherited a pack of money from my old Granddad." The memory wafer was still in the slot, so he tapped the repeat button. "I traveled all over Earth and the Martian Colonies, even visited Wrigley's Pleasure Planet." The door slid up with a pneumatic poof and McCoy removed one of the two glasses that had appeared within. "I fell in love — thought I did, anyway — got married, bought a big old house in Atlanta and had me a beautiful baby girl." His blue eyes had a faraway look. "Did I ever tell you I delivered Joanna myself? I had everything I could ever want then." He walked slowly back to his chair and swung his booted feet up onto the wooden table top. "If you'd asked me then if I believed in God, I would have said no. I was happy, then, Jim, so I didn't need a god."

       Kirk took a sip of his brandy.

       "Helen and I broke up. She left me, Jim. I never knew why." A pause. "It wasn't for somebody else, though. It was years before Hell remarried." McCoy took another swig. "Do you know how much that can hurt a man, Jim? She preferred having nobody to having me. Joanna went with her, of course. I was a terrible father. Everyone agreed on that." He fell silent. Kirk was about to prod him again with his original question when McCoy spoke. "I haven't seen Joanna in three years, Jim. Three years!"

       Kirk thought briefly of his own son, David, whom he hadn't seen since he took command of the Enterprise, five years ago. David would be — what? — sixteen now. What grade would that be? Dammit, what the hell kind of father have I been? "You've got a wonderful bedside manner, Bones."

       "Don't get smart, Jim. You asked the damned question, you've got to listen to the damned answer." Another swig of brandy. "I haven't been happy since — oh, since '87 or so. I don't know what I was looking for when I joined Starfleet. Maybe it was a god." He set down his empty glass. "There sure wasn't one in Atlanta, Georgia."

       "And?"

       "And what?"

       "Did you find one?"

       "A god? Hell, Jim, I would have told you if I had."

       "So God doesn't exist?"

       "No," said McCoy, shaking his head slightly. "Not for me, anyway."

       "I have to know. Dammit, Bones, once we assemble the armada, I'll be commanding over a thousand starships in the greatest assault in history. We'll have enough fire power to destroy —"

       "A god?"

       Kirk finished his drink.

       "Jim, if the Being is the God of the Bible and Torah and Koran and all those other books, you won't be able to kill it."

       "Why not?"

       "Well, because ... because, hell, Jim, God is God." He spread his arms in an all-encompassing gesture. "Omnipotent."

       "I thought you didn't believe in God."

       "I don't. But I know the definition of God. Some say God is dead." He pointed a finger at Kirk. "Like that long-haired fellow you like —"

       "Nietzsche."

       "If that's true, it was natural causes. You can't murder a god." Kirk made a face at McCoy's use of the word murder, but the doctor continued. "If it is a real god, then Judgment Day is really at hand, Jim, and there's not a damned thing we can do about it." He fixed Kirk with a steady gaze. "And if the Being isn't God, we're going to blow that bastard right out of the sky."

       "I have to know before we attack."

       "Jim, I can't tell you how to command."

       "You try often enough."

       "But you never listen."

       Kirk looked him in the eye. "I'll listen this time."

       "I can only give you my opinion. The Being's an invader and we've got every right to defend ourselves. There is no God." The last four words were measured, firm.

       "But, Bones, what if it is Judgment Day?" Kirk spread his arms wide. "What will I say? That I knew the Being might be God but I fired full phasers into Its heart anyway?"

       McCoy got up again and fetched the remaining snifter from the dumbwaiter. He brought it back and handed it to Kirk. "Maybe that's exactly what you'll have to do, Jim."


Chapter 3:
March to the Beat of Drums

       "Romulus I," said Spock, nodding at the image growing in the main viewer that covered part of the curving bridge wall.

       Kirk looked at the planet, a harsh gray-and-brown oceanless globe, slightly larger than Earth. Its disk was razor-edged as seen from space, unlike the blurred rim of Earth, indicating a thin atmosphere with low moisture content. The double onslaught of solar winds from the twin stars it orbited must have stripped off the bulk of Romulus's air ages ago. A giant shield volcano, puckered like an infected wound, rose high above its equator, sure sign of an old planet that had given up on plate tectonics. "All engines stop, Mr. Sulu," Kirk said. "Let Devisor take the lead."

       "Aye, sir." Sulu clicked over a series of toggles, putting the impulse engines on standby. The Enterprise's speed remained constant, but her acceleration dropped to zero. The Klingon ship pulled ahead. The main viewer automatically centered on the other ship, the red sphincter of Devisor's rear torpedo tube dominating the view. "I don't like to see us taking second place to a Klingon, though."

       Kirk smiled. He knew that Hikaru Sulu, as pilot of the great vessel, loved the Enterprise in his own way as much as Scotty did. "Scanners, Spock?"

       "All clear." Spock moved from the Library Computer station to stand next to Kirk. "Jim," he said in a low voice, "are you sure this is the correct course of action?"

       "We tried being up-front with the Romulan starfleet at the Neutral Zone," Kirk said. "They didn't believe us, then. Why should we assume they'll believe us now?"

       "Subspace astronomy can only be practiced outside of a gravity well," Spock said. "The entire Romulan Star Empire is deep in the curved space of Romulus and Remus. Therefore, they may be unaware of the massive growth of the black hole at the galaxy's core." The Vulcan nodded. "Without that to give credence to the Being's claims, I, too, would be skeptical." He gestured at the viewscreen, the bat-winged stern of Koloth's ship now silhouetted against the gibbous planet. "Still, I wonder if deception is the route to gaining their support."

       "We've got to be guided by Koloth in this, Spock. The Klingons have been dealing with the Romulans far longer than we have."

       Spock said nothing. After a moment he returned to the Library Computer. Kirk swiveled his chair far to the right to face Spock's station. "Would Romulans use their cloaking devices this deep within their own territory?"

       "Vulcans do not speculate, Captain." Jim translated the Spockism: Your guess is as good as mine.

       Kirk lifted his feet slightly off the pedestal and his chair swung back to its neutral forward position. He spoke to Chekov, seated on Sulu's right this shift. "Mr. Chekov, open a window in our deflector screens. Make them transparent to the wavelengths Klingons use for tractor beams."

       The young ensign was prepared for this. He slipped a new memory wafer into the command slot and pressed a single button. "Done, Keptin."

       Kirk turned his attention to the main viewer. "Uhura, ship to ship."

       He heard an ascending scale of pips from the communications board directly behind him. "Hailing frequencies open, sir."

       Kirk pressed a button on the right arm of his chair. "Koloth, this is Kirk. We're ready."

       The Enterprise lurched in response. Kirk's ears rang as the floor boards vibrated at their resonant frequency. He stabbed the talk button. "Damn you, Koloth." Again, there was no verbal response, but the ship ceased to vibrate.

       "We've been seized by a tractor beam, sir," reported Chekov. "Devisor is taking us in tow."

       Kirk touched a different switch, opening the intercom. "Kirk, Engineering."

       Scott's voice, thinned slightly over the speaker: "Aye, sir?"

       "Shut down all running lights and all lights in rooms with windows. Put warp engines on standby."

       "Aye, sir."

       "And now what, sir?"

       "Now, Mr. Chekov, we wait."

       "But not for long," said Spock. "Four Romulan ships approaching fast."

       On the screen, a pair of D7 cobra-headed Klingon-style ships appeared, flanked by two of the uprated, warp-driven birds-of-prey. The D7s, painted in dappled browns and greens, had the same lines as Devisor. Only the tiny insignias on the port sides of their engineering hulls were different. Kirk glanced at the astrogation pedestal set between Sulu's and Chekov's chairs. The alien vessels were breaking out of low orbit around Romulus I and climbing toward Enterprise and Devisor. "Monitor external communications, Uhura," Kirk said. "Tie in universal translator."

       The screen wavered to reveal the gaunt, aquiline features of a youngish Romulan male wearing a subcommander's sash. His red hair — the color of some races' blood, not the carrot shade Humans called red hair — was cut in bangs, like Spock's. "S'tren of the Praetorian guard to Klingon vessel, identify." S'tren's lipless mouth moved independently of the words the translator provided in English. But Kirk knew the harsh, cold tone was an accurate simulation of S'tren's original timbre and inflection.

       The screen cut to show Koloth, all evil smiles, seated in the high-backed central throne of his bridge. "Captain Koloth of the Klingon Imperial Fleet. My ship is the Devisor. Felicitations, Subcommander S'tren." Kirk was surprised to note on the status line at the bottom of the screen that Koloth was talking in Romulan highspeak, rather than Klingonaase.

       The image cut back to S'tren, his arched eyebrows narrowed in naked suspicion. "We are not expecting Klingon envoys, Koloth."

       Cut to Koloth, thick, moist Klingon air swirling around him. "Naturally, if this were a social call, we would have sent advance word. However, it is not."

       Kirk spoke quietly. "Split screen, Sulu." The helmsman tapped a series of button in quick succession and the main viewer divided into three images: sleek Koloth in the upper left, hawkish S'tren in the upper right, and the pack of Romulan vessels filling the lower half.

       "Your business, then?" asked S'tren.

       Koloth smiled. "We bring you spoils of war: a Federation starship, captured in a skirmish. S'tren, appreciate my predicament. We are far from home. I can't drag a dead hulk all the way to Klingon space. I invoke our trade treaty. Bring us provisions." He leaned forward in his chair. "And take the Enterprise."

       On the bottom half of the screen, Kirk could see that the Romulan ships had broken formation. One of the birds-of-prey moved closer to the Enterprise, its belly glossy with a painted ebony-and-gold winged reptile. S'tren's gaze was no longer straight into the camera pickup. "Your ship shows no signs of having been in a battle."

       "We took the Federation cruiser by surprise," Koloth said.

       S'tren was still consulting readouts off camera. "I detect no power generation from the other ship. Yet it seems only superficially damaged."

       "Earther weaklings. The craven scum surrendered to us."

       "That is inconsistent with our knowledge of Human psychology —"

       "You dispute my statements?" Koloth's lips peeled back to show filed teeth.

       Sulu changed the lower view on the screen. "I'm piping in external video from the Devisor," he said over his shoulder to Kirk. The view showed S'tren's tiny bird-of-prey looping slowly beneath the long axis of Enterprise's cylindrical secondary hull.

       "I detect life forms aboard the alien ship. In excess of four hundreds," S'tren said.

       "Prisoners under guard."

       "This is most unusual, Koloth."

       S'tren's ship continued circumnavigating the Enterprise. It moved up past the clamshell hangar doors at the rear of the secondary hull, swung high over top of the twin warp nacelles, passing over the impulse engines at the rear of the saucer-shaped primary hull, over the dome containing the bridge, over the Enterprise's giant painted registration number —

       "Now, Chekov!"

       "Firing phasers."

       Twin beams of coherent photons stabbed forth from the Enterprise's upper phaser banks. S'tren's ship reeled and bent. A white cloud formed around it: freezing air from a rent in its hull. "Tractor off," reported Spock.

       "Pivot, Sulu!" The Enterprise sheered away from the Devisor. On screen, the two Romulan D7s and the remaining preybird were grouping to attack the Federation vessel.

       Kirk could hear Koloth's translated voice over the speakers. "The Human dirt have overwhelmed my guards! Romulans, assist us!" The Devisor wheeled through 180 degrees.

       "Incoming fire," said Chekov.

       "Shields to maximum," snapped Kirk. "Dodge it, Sulu." The Enterprise dipped low as the two cobra-headed Romulan D7 ships cut loose a round of photon missiles. Koloth's torpedo tube glowed red. "Devisor is firing," Chekov called out. "At us."

       The ship rocked again, throwing Kirk from his chair. "Glancing impact by Klingon torpedo," said Sulu.

       "Glancing?" Kirk shook his head. "Dammit, that was closer than necessary for show." He pulled himself back into his chair, unreeling the seat belt and shoulder strap from their compartments. "If you get a chance, Chekov, take a few shots at Koloth's ship."

       "With pleasure."

       "Romulans off our port and stern." Spock's voice.

       "Swing around, Sulu. Fire at will, Chekov."

       "Coming to heading 197 mark 44."

       "Firing phasers! Firing torpedoes!" The remaining bird-of-prey exploded across the sky, one of its engine pods pinwheeling away, trailing crimson plasma.

       "Just the two D7s left, sir," said Sulu.

       "Pick one, Sulu. Aim for its hangar deck, Chekov."

       "The hangar — Keptin, they're not likely to launch a shuttle into this."

       "Do it, Chekov. Concentrate all fire on the hangar." Kirk felt gravity pressing him from the wrong direction as Sulu put the Enterprise into a climb. Chekov locked his crosshairs on to the rear of the bat-winged Romulan warship. The screen flared as full Romulan phasers carved into the Enterprise's deflectors. "Fire, Chekov!" Angry cylinders of blue energy lanced out of the bottom of the Enterprise's main saucer. They found their target, the blockish superstructure in the rear center of the Romulan ship. "More power, Chekov." The beams grew darker in color, flashing with ultraviolet lightning.

       "They're twisting, sir," said Sulu. "And the other D7 is swinging around."

       "Stay with this one. Full warp power to the phasers."

       Scotty's voice cut in over the intercom. "Captain, you'll burn out the banks for sure."

       "Maintain firing, Chekov."

       "The other Romulan ship is completing its turn," Spock said.

       "Just a few more sec —"

       White light exploded on the screen. The Romulan cruiser split down the center, the two hanging engine pods crashing together. A tongue of flame shot back from the dying ship. The Enterprise shook as wreckage slammed against her deflector shields.

       "The other D7 is firing," reported Sulu, his face turned to his gooseneck viewer. "A full salvo of photon torpedoes." The Enterprise rocked again. Sulu looked warily at the vanes in the ceiling. The hasty repairs from the last battle were starting to give.

       "Head straight into it, Sulu. Return fire, Chekov." The Enterprise flew into the torpedo onslaught. "Concentrate all deflectors to our bow." The bulbous head of the Romulan ship loomed on the screen. Phaser beams began to sweep across the Enterprise. Kirk glanced back at Spock. "What's the status of his deflectors?"

       Spock answered without looking up from his hooded viewer. "He, too, has diverted all to his forward shields."

       "Scotty?"

       "Standin' by in the Engineering Bridge, Cap'n."

       "Now, Spock!"

       The ship shook again, but from inside. Kirk felt the blasts of explosive bolts transmitted through the decks. The upper saucer of the Enterprise split clean away from the cylindrical secondary hull. The saucer flew over top of the Romulan, unleashing photon torpedoes onto the enemy hangar deck. The rest of Kirk's ship dived beneath and brought phasers to bear on the Romulan's flattened warp engines. With shields diverted, the warship crumpled like an aluminum toy.

       Chekov let out a triumphant cheer and Kirk released his breath.

       Koloth's face appeared on the main viewer. "Congratulations, Kirk. That wa —"

       Spock's voice interrupted. "Another bird-of-prey," said Spock. "Snuck up under his cloak."

       "Dammit, all we've got is impulse power. Scotty, how's your half holding up?"

       "We're badly hurt, Cap'n. Arex is here navigating, but we canna steer well."

       "Can you take out the Romulan?"

       Scott's voice was filled with frustration. "I can't."

       Kirk swallowed hard. The tiny winged Romulan was barreling towards them. "We're a sitting duck. What about Devisor?"

       "It's still maneuverable," said Spock.

       "The preybird is closing fast," said Sulu.

       "Raise Devisor, Uhura," said Kirk without looking back.

       "Frequency open, sir."

       "Koloth," Kirk said, "we could use your help ... "

       "I'm getting no response," said Uhura.

       Jim rubbed his hands together. "Come on, Koloth."

       "The Romulan is activating his plasma weapon," Chekov reported.

       "Come on, Koloth ... "

       "We can't take even a single shot at this range," Spock said.

       The bolt emitter on the leading edge of the Romulan disk began to glow cherry red. "Koloth —"

       Klingon phasers cut across the bow of the Romulan ship. The preybird pivoted and cut loose its plasma bolt at the Devisor. Koloth fired again and again. The Romulan spun across space, crippled. But the expanding bolt lobbed forward, closer and closer to Devisor.

       "Status!" snapped Kirk.

       "Koloth's in trouble, Captain," Sulu said. "He's trying to turn under impulse power."

       "Can he make it, Spock?"

       As if in response, the bridge was filled with blinding light. Kirk threw a hand up to cover his eyes. The Enterprise rocked as debris slammed into her shields. Squinting around afterimages, Kirk focussed on the screen. The long boom connecting Devisor's command pod with the rear hull was badly bent.

       "Koloth's ship is dead, leaking air," said Spock. "The engineering hull is uninhabitable. Their engine governors are out. The antimatter pods will rupture soon."

       "Oh my God ... " Kirk stabbed the intercom button. "Kirk, Transporter Room. Kyle, start beaming over Klingon survivors."

       "Captain, I have an incoming message from the Romulans," said Uhura, surprise in her voice.

       "What Romulans?" Kirk said, looking out at the naked starscape.

       "I imagine she means those Romulans." Spock looked up from his hooded viewer and gestured toward the main screen. They were fading in on all sides, dozens and dozens of birds-of-prey. Some were the new uprated warp design with flattened engine pods; most were the familiar disks with tubular impulse rockets. All had their deadly prows aimed right at Enterprise's primary hull.

       "The Engineering Hull is similarly surrounded," said Spock.

       Sulu reached to touch a control on his console. "Raising shields."

       "Negative, Helm," Kirk snapped. "Keep those shields down until we've beamed all the Klingon survivors aboard. He motioned to Uhura. "Put the message on screen."

       The main viewer wavered as it matched the video scan rate of the Romulan transmission. A silver-haired Romulan male appeared, his face broader and flatter than S'tren's. He spoke English without aid of a translator. "I am Commander Tidek. You have been identified as Federation Starship 1701, Enterprise —"

       "They can read!" Chekov whispered to Sulu in mock surprise.

       "Prepare to be destroyed."

       Kirk looked over his shoulder at Uhura. "Ship to ship."

       "Hailing frequencies open, sir."

       Kirk wet his lips. "This is James T. Kirk, commanding Enterprise. Greetings from the United Federation of Planets. We come in peace and wish an audience with Praetor G'ten."

       The Romulan smiled. "You will see G'ten sooner than you suspect, Human."

       "He's charging his plasma weapon," Sulu reported. "About forty seconds till he'll be ready to attack."

       "Hold your fire, Tidek!" said Kirk, now wishing Sarek hadn't banned himself from the Bridge. "The wrecked Klingon vessel should be your first priority. Its antimatter reserves will explode soon, devastating your planet."

       "Our salvage crews are removing its engines and will shortly warp them out of orbit. Pity you won't live long enough to see that happen. Prepare to die, Human."

       "Wait!" Kirk shouted. "Surely the Enterprise is of value to you intact. Destroy us and you destroy secrets your finest spies couldn't uncover."

       The Romulan shook his head. "You crawl for your life, Human. Hold your head up; try to die with dignity."

       Uhura spoke up. "Captain Koloth has been beamed aboard, sir. He demands access to the bridge."

       "Blast, Uhura. Not now."

       Spock stepped close to Kirk's chair. "It is his right under the terms of the special alliance, Jim."

       "Dammit, all right." He turned to face Uhura. "Have Security escort him up here."

       "Tidek's plasma weapon is at full charge," said Sulu. "He's about to fire."

       To come this far, through this much, for something this important, only to fail ... Why did I listen to Koloth? Jim stabbed his talk button. "This ship is sheathed in a protective substance called Corbomite. Any destructive force brought to bear on it will be reflected back on the aggressor —"

       The Romulan let out a heavy sigh. "You're the Human with the Klingon name, aren't you? The one called Kerk? There's a Romulan saying I will share with you before opening fire. On the first occasion, the deceiver carries the blame. On the second encounter, the one deceived is at fault. Goodbye, Captain ... "

       "Wait! I claim —" Kirk stole a quick glance at Spock — "I claim the Romulan Right of Statement."

       "Speak if you must, then. My recorders are active."

       "I insist on making my statement to Praetor G'ten in person."

       "We Romulans have another saying: Federation Intelligence is an oxymoron. G'ten is dead."

       Dead! "I would speak with the new Praetor, then."

       "I don't think so."

       "Dammit, man! Do you think we came all this way just for the hell of it? We've got vital, important news to share with your Praetor. Do you dare risk his wrath —"

       "Her wrath."

       "— her wrath by keeping us from seeing her?"

       The bridge turbolift doors whooshed apart and Koloth entered, accompanied by two red-shirted Security lieutenants.

       On the screen, Kirk could see Tidek's eyes track the Klingon as Koloth strode towards Jim's chair. The Romulan placed a long, thick finger on his chin. "Is that Koloth?"

       Koloth squinted at the screen, the bridge lighting bright for his eyes. "T'tust, Koloth." Kirk could tell by the clicking accent that the Klingon captain was speaking a Romulan dialect. "Y'trinsk atrisk Leestra."

       Tidek nodded. "Very well. Kirk, you may land your ship."

       Land? The primary hull was capable of it, of course, when separated from the stardrive section, but Kirk had never had reason to do it. Pike had grounded her once when he was Captain — just before the Enterprise had been drydocked for a major refitting. "Couldn't I just beam down?"

       "I believe you said the coin for your visit would be your ship. The part you are in is obviously aerodynamically designed; the other section is just as obviously built only for use in vacuum. I think I will not have to worry about your engineering section trying to warp away if we have you and the bulk of your crew prisoner on Romulus. Prepare for descent."

       Uhura spoke up. "Transporter room reports all 107 Klingon survivors successfully beamed aboard."

       Sulu turned expectantly to Kirk. Jim regarded the young officer. "Are you up to it, Mr. Sulu?"

       "I've never actually landed a p-hull, of course, Captain. Oh, I've done simulations at the Academy, but —"

       "No buts, Sulu. We're going down."

       Sulu nodded once, then swung his chair around to face his panel. "Deflectors to full intensity," he said, clicking over toggles. "Somebody should be monitoring ship's gravity, Captain, to bleed it off as we come under the planet's influence."

       "Uhura, get Chapel up her to operate the environmental controls."

       "Nurse Chapel to the Bridge, stat."

       "Address intracraft, Lieutenant." Uhura opened a public address channel for Kirk's chair microphone. "This is the Captain speaking. All stations stand by for atmospheric travel. Strap yourselves in. The primary hull is about to land on Romulus." Kirk clicked off the intercom and spoke to Sulu. "Nudge us out of orbit."

       "Thrusters, point two-five, Captain." Kirk turned his eyes to the main viewer. Romulus was growing slowly on the screen.

       "We're being fed landing coordinates by the lead preybird," Uhura reported.

       "Transfer to Chekov's station."

       "Aye."

       Spock looked up, hearing it first. Then Kirk noticed it: sound from outside the ship, a growing whine as rarefied air whipped past the smooth curves of the hull. "We've entered the stratosphere," Spock reported.

       The ship continued to fall toward the planet. "Impulse engines on," said Sulu as he brought them into a powered descent.

       "Hull temperature rising, Captain," Spock said. "Five hundred degrees Celsius. Considerable air is leaking in through our deflectors."

       The entire viewscreen was filled with windswept gray landscape. The primary hull skimmed through the atmosphere at two times the local speed of sound. A city flashed by, far beneath.

       "Seven hundred degrees and rising."

       The turbolift doors slid open, depositing Christine Chapel on the bridge.

       The whine of air had increased to a roar. "Altitude ten thousand meters," Sulu said. "Eight thousand meters. Six. Four."

       The ship buffeted left and right. "Atmospheric turbulence," Sulu called out, as he fought with the controls. "One thousand meters." Ahead on the screen was a floodlit landing field. The lead ship of their preybird escort was already down. "Five hundred meters. Two hundred."

       "Let's hope Scotty keeps the landing gear well-oiled," said Kirk.

       "One hundred meters. Retro-thrusters on full." Sulu jockeyed into position for a vertical touchdown. "Deploying landing legs." The hull shook as great panels slid aside in its convex underbelly, shock-absorbent bent legs groaning as they came out. "Fifty meters. Hold tight every —"

       The primary hull — all eleven stories of it — slammed hard into pavement, bounced once, then stopped as the legs settled back. All was silence for a second.

       "We made it," said Chekov at last.

       "Piece of cake," Sulu replied, grinning.

       Kirk tried to rise from his chair but staggered under unaccustomed weight. The Enterprise's grav plates were off; he was feeling a full Romulan gee. "Can't you do something about the gravity, Chapel?"

       "Sorry, sir. It's one thing to create an artificial g-force. It's quite another problem to shield against natural gravity."

       Kirk gestured to Koloth, who had somehow managed to remain standing throughout. "Shall we go meet the Praetor, Captain?" The Klingon hissed and followed Kirk into the turbolift.


Chapter 4:
Saints Into Savages

       The elevator platform carrying Kirk and Koloth thrummed softly as it slid slowly down from the hatchway on the underside of the primary hull. Kirk was torn between two sights. Part of him wanted to admire the graceful white curves of the Enterprise's main saucer, always in his thoughts but so rarely seen in reality, a disk almost 130 meters across, now arching high over head. Part of him wanted to examine the rolling vista of the Praetor's palace. He had no doubt that that was what the ancient stone building was. It had the look of a castle and a cathedral and ancient parliament buildings all at once. Parapets, yes, and stately towers, too, one with a revolving arrangement of gilded concentric ovals that Jim realized must be a timepiece. The grandeur of Egypt's pyramids, the exacting lines of Greece's Parthenon, the beauty of Vulcan's crystal capitol — all the great buildings Kirk had seen in his life came to mind, all paled in comparison. He stole a glance at Koloth. Did the beauty move the Klingon? Did a warrior care about such things? He tried to read the alien's expression. It hit him at last: bored recognition. He's been here before.

       The platform clanged against the castrock of the landing field. Five Romulan centurions, wearing traditional helmets, stood waiting for them, sidearms unsheathed. Kirk and Koloth stepped forward. Jim knew that the gravity was just as uncomfortable for the Klingon, but at least Kirk was used to hot, dry air from the summers of his childhood. Koloth's breathing sounded raspy, like sandpaper on leather. They stepped forward and guards moved in front, on either side, and behind them. The primary hull was like a great circular roof, arching far above, the four massive landing legs holding its lowest point — the deck 11 sensor dome — five meters off the brown castrock. The hull's metal plates clicked and hissed as they cooled. When Koloth and he stepped out of its shade, Kirk blinked at the light of Romulus and Remus, twin red fires near the zenith, and the Klingon threw a hand up to shield his eyes. Jim looked behind himself, noting the double shadows he cast and the dark core where the two overlapped. They marched wordlessly toward the palace for what seemed like an eternity. A glance at the timepiece implanted on the inside of Kirk's wrist told him it was actually five minutes. And still the buildings appeared no closer? The palace must be huge! Eventually they came to the perimeter of a force-field dome that encased the buildings. It crackled and hissed in the air, sparking now and again where dust motes and Romulan insects touched it. The atmosphere was tinged with ozone. A female sentry relieved Koloth of his disruptor, then negated a section of the energy curtain and gestured them inside with a violent motion of her pistol.

       The palace hallways were built to a giant's specifications. Intricately-carved wooden doorways arched eight meters high; a hundred people could stand abreast in each marble corridor. Kirk thought of the money that must have gone into building such a place, then kicked himself mentally when he realized that his own Enterprise, dwarfed though it might be in comparison, probably represented a greater investment of time and resources than anything one could build on a planet's surface. Still, the palace was impressive.

       So was its lord. A quick turn around a corner, passing through a curtain of olive-sized gemstones strung on silken strands, and they had arrived in the audience chamber. The woman on the throne took Kirk's breath away: tall, lithe, clad in simple, form-fitting black, a face that could launch a thousand starships, delicate arched eyebrows, ebony hair falling loose to her waist.

       "Kneel before Leestra, Praetor of Romulus," commanded the centurion on Kirk's right. Jim dropped to one knee. This child the Praetor? In Human reckoning she appeared no more than eighteen. What was her name? Leestra? Wasn't that one of the words Koloth had spoken to Tidek on the Enterprise's bridge? The Klingon must have known of G'ten's death. Why hadn't he mentioned it?

       The throne was polished white marble, piled high with lush green and gold animal skins, sickle claws and strange pointed-eared heads still attached, faceted gems set where once predators' keen eyes had gazed out. Leestra rose, a fluid, feline movement, her hair falling straight down her back. She brushed at an ear with her long-nailed hand, revealing its gracefully tapered tip. Her voice was cold, giving no quarter. She spoke Interworld, a common trading tongue used on many of the independent planets. "Which of you has claimed the Right of Statement?"

       Kirk rose to his feet. "I, madam. Captain James T. Kirk, of the Federation Starship Enterprise."

       "We do not take captives, Kirk. Once your statement is recorded, you and your crew will be executed."

       Jim spread his arms wide. "Believe me, Leestra —"

       Kirk felt like he'd been slammed with a wooden board. He was sent sprawling on his face by a centurion. "You will address the Praetor by her title, Human!"

       Kirk looked at the Romulan guard, his face hawkish, like Spock's, but twisted in rage. Kirk slowly rose to his feet. "My apologies, Praetor. We come in peace."

       "My starsystem is littered with dead Romulans and wrecked vessels. I take your intent from your deeds, not your words."

       "There are many dead Federation personnel, as well."

       "And Klingons, too," said Koloth. "Many of the Empire's bravest perished this day."

       "Would we have taken such risks if it was not absolutely vital that we see you?" asked Kirk.

       "There is a subspace channel," said Leestra, "reserved since the war of a previous age. If you had words to say, that could have been your medium."

       Kirk stole a glance at Koloth. So Spock was right. The Romulans had not detected the steepening of the galaxy's gravity well, the effect of the growing black hole that made subspace communication impossible. "Believe me, Praetor, if we could have used that means, we would have. There is a disruption in the fabric of space, interfering with all subspace communication. We had no choice but to seek to speak with you face to face."

       "So you came charging in, phasers blasting —"

       "We had to speak with you," Kirk repeated.

       "You lie. And for that you shall die. Guards —"

       "Hear me, Praetor," said Koloth.

       "I've heard your words before, Koloth. You die by torture."

       "Praetor," said Kirk. "All we ask is that you listen to us. If, after hearing what we have to say, you still do not believe us, then I will accept death. Koloth will die by torture."

       "Neither of you are in a position to bargain. Both are already dead."

       "Then what have you to lose by giving us an audience, Praetor?" asked Koloth.

       Leestra appeared to consider for a moment. "Speak."

       "We require the presence of our ambassadors," said Kirk.

       "Ambassadors?"

       "Yes. With us are Sarek of Vulcan, Jag of Tellar, and Fox of Earth."

       "Among my number," said Koloth, "is Kaven, Exactor of Terms."

       "I have heard of Sarek." She was quiet for a moment. "Summon them."

       "Doubtless your time is of great value, madam," Kirk said with a bow. "If your centurions could open a window in the force screen, I will have the ambassadors teleported here."

       Leestra touched her hand to a gray ropish tentacle that ran from the arm of her chair, under the furs, and out through a gold-rimmed hole in the wall. She closed her eyes for little more than a blink, then, flowing back onto the throne, said, "It is done."

       Some sort of genetically-engineered nerve fiber, thought Jim, connecting her by mind-touch to the palace staff. He pulled his communicator off the magnatomic patch on the rear of his trousers and flipped its antenna grid open. The device seemed wholly inadequate in comparison. He spoke rapidly in hushed tones to Transporter Chief Kyle. A rising hum built up in the audience chamber and Jim caught a glimpse of Koloth wincing at the sound. Moments later four cylinders of sparkle began to coalesce in the air. They filled out in form, then details faded in. One was Robert Fox, craggy, pompous in bearing. Next was Jag, rotund, pig-faced, shaggy. Then Kaven, a giant H'chok Klingon with vertebrae running down his forehead. Last was Sarek, severe, tall, with upswept eyebrows and pointed ears.

       "Praetor Leestra, may I present our ambassadors," said Kirk. "Sarek of —"

       "You've told me their names once, Kirk. Surely you credit me with being able to tell which is the ape, which the swine, which the squabbling brat, and which kindred to Romulans."

       Kirk was about to protest, but Fox stepped smoothly forward and said, "We come in peace, my lady," followed by a deep bow.

       "But we are not at peace, Human. Nor do I wish to be."

       "Yet common benefit requires an alliance," said Sarek.

       "You will join us," said Jag, bluntly.

       "Will we, now, Tellarite? Why?"

       "It is preferable to death."

       "So you do come on a military campaign. You will all die, most horribly, I assure you. None may violate my borders."

       "No," said Sarek. "The Tellarite speaks plainly, as is the way of his kind. But you misinterpret his words. All life in the galaxy may face destruction."

       Fox spoke up. "My lady, surely you know of the Being's threat."

       "Being? Threat? What trick is this?"

       "God has come," said Jag. "It is Judgment Day."

       "Nonsense. Guards, kill them."

       Kirk had had enough. "Madam, listen to me."

       "Leave this to the experts, Kirk," said Fox.

       "Shut up, Ambassador." Kirk stepped forward. A burly Romulan guards took hold of his arms. Jim twisted but the Romulan held him easily.

       "Bring forth the Human Captain," said the Praetor. Jim was dragged forward, his heels leaving black scuffs on the stone floor. "I had heard you were a warrior, Kirk."

       "I am. Was. Once. I'm an explorer now."

       "Indeed. In any event, you lack discipline. That offends me."

       "I apologize, Praetor. But this game could go on all day. What the ambassadors say is true. Surely — dammit, let go of me!" The Praetor nodded to the guard and Kirk was released. "We're not naive. Regardless of what you think of our individual races, you must know that to be true." Jim nodded at the assembled beings. "Humans are skeptical by nature. Vulcans are creatures of logic. Jag's kind, those of Tellar, test each proposition by heated debate. And a Klingon would never accept the word of any of the others without absolute, independent proof."

       "Prove your words to me, then," said Leestra, her dark eyes flaring.

       "Federation science has known for centuries of a black hole at the center of our galaxy," said Jim. "In the last few weeks, our subspace astronomers have detected a surge in its size — a massive increase in its rate of growth. That could be a natural phenomenon. Indeed, none of us would have considered it anything else, despite its deadly consequences, if it weren't for the message from the Being and the — the happenings. Surely something similar has occurred here, Praetor. Something cutting through your civilization to its archetypes, exposing the roots of your mythology."

       "Speak plainly, Human, or not at all."

       "I am, Madam. Believe me. I don't understand it all myself. But these happenings can't be easily explained."

       "Specify."

       Jag shuffled forward. "On my planet, a messiah has been born."

       "The affairs of Tellar do not interest me."

       "It's not just Tellar, dammit," said Kirk. "It's every planet, every society."

       "Sarek, your presence is the only thing that causes me to give credence to these ravings. What say you?"

       "On Vulcan," said Sarek, "an occurrence private to my kind has taken place."

       "Specifics, Vulcan."

       "The mere fact of the occurrence is sufficient. Its nature is immaterial."

       "We are cousins, Romulan and Vulcan. Our stock sprang from a common sea. I will know what has befallen the disciples of Surak."

       Sarek was silent for a moment, then: "Every seven years, T'Kuht, a rogue planet, draws close to Vulcan. The year that it dominates Vulcan's sky is pon farr, the time of mating. At some point during the year of pon farr, plak tow will seize each sexually mature male. Each will feel his blood boil, his logic stripped from him. He must ... seek ... his bondmate, the female he mind-touched as a boy, upon completion of the kahs-wan, the male rite of passage."

       Kirk noticed that Leestra looked fascinated. Evidently, the details of mating differed for Romulans.

       "Plak tow for each individual rarely lasts more than a day," Sarek continued, "assuming the bondmate is close to hand. Further, though the orbit of T'Kuht defines pon farr, the year of mating, the individual sexual frenzy of plak tow may begin for any male at any time during the pon farr year. Thus only a small proportion of Vulcan males are usually effected by plak tow at one time."

       "Usually ... ?" said Leestra.

       Sarek gave an almost imperceptible nod. "There is a Vulcan fiction dating to just after the Reform. It tells of a day when all males will undergo the plak tow simultaneously, a day when all will reveal their inner selves." He paused. "That day has come. The cities of ShiKahr and TilKahr'fin are in ruins. More than a million died in the space of two days."

       "I hadn't heard about that," said Kirk.

       "In the family," said Sarek, "all is silence."

       Nobody spoke for several seconds. "And from Earth?" Leestra said at last. "I suppose you have some fairy tale to tell me as well, Humans?" Leestra sounded cavalier, but Jim could see that Sarek's story had upset her. He looked at Fox.

       "As you know," said Fox, "Earth is unusual as planets go. Great bodies of water separate it into discrete nations, each, historically, with its own culture."

       "So I have heard. It's an intriguing scenario from a domestic military standpoint."

       "Sadly, that was true — in the past. Because of this there are many, many religions, sub-religions, and cults on Earth. One that is major is Christianity."

       "Yes."

       "It is a worship of the son of God."

       "Which god?"

       "No, no, no. The God."

       "You have only one?"

       "Of course."

       "The universe has been unkind to you. Romulus has fourteen gods. Still, the story you tell has a familiar ring to it. Tell me: this Godson lived a long time ago, no? And since that time, you've been expecting your God to have further progeny?"

       "No. We — that is, many of us — expect the same son to come back."

       "Seriously?"

       "Yes."

       "And he has?"

       "No. Not yet, anyway."

       "Then what miraculous thing has happened on Earth?"

       "No one has claimed to be the son of God for months."

       "What you say makes no sense."

       "You see," said Fox, "on Earth, it is common for people to claim to be God's son, the Christ."

       Leestra looked thoughtful. "Humans are a deceitful ilk. They would lie about such a thing."

       "They are not lying. Many of those who say it genuinely believe it."

       "How do you know they aren't telling the truth?"

       "Well, it's complicated —"

       "But now the influx of children of your God has ceased —"

       "There's been a complete lack of reported cases of the delusion."

       "And this is miraculous?"

       "Perhaps not," said Fox. "But it is inexplicable."

       Leestra barked a laugh. "Here are the finest of the Federation and the Klingon Empire, cowering because of children's stories."

       "Surely something similar has happened on your world," said Fox.

       "Of course not. Romulans are creatures of reason." She looked pointedly at Sarek. "We used to say the same was true of our cousins, the Vulcans. But no longer."

       "Has no Romulan received the message?" asked Kirk.

       "What message?"

       "From the Being."

       "What being?"

       "I was one of those who heard it," said Fox, stepping forward. "A full one percent of the Humans on Earth also heard it. That's twenty million people."

       "One common delusion has replaced another for your people, then."

       "Tellarites heard it, too," said Jag.

       "And Vulcans," said Sarek, "including T'Pau, matriarch of the nome."

       "T'Pau? And what did this message say?"

       "It said —"

       Suddenly the Praetor crumpled from her throne. Sarek quietly twisted free from his guard, rendering him unconscious with a nerve pinch to the base of his neck. He bent low beside Leestra and placed a hand on her side, feeling for a pulse. "Summon a healer," he called in Romulan highspeak. Across the chamber one of the other guards fell as well. Sarek turned his face to Jim. "Kirk, it is happening to her. Now."

       Dammit, thought Jim. She's receiving the message. Why wasn't I one of those who heard it? How can I make my decision —

       Sarek had spread his fingers and placed them over the Praetor's face. "Kirk, Jag, Koloth, come quickly," he said in a low voice. Jim could see the Praetor's eyes rolling around under closed lids. Her breathing was ragged, raspy. Sarek closed his eyes as well and began chanting in ancient Vulcan. "Tyla afsan k'too p'pra —"

       The guards rushed to Leestra's side, but did nothing. There was nothing to do.

       Fox spoke. "Jag, Kirk, hold hands." Jim clasped the Tellarite's shaggy three-fingered paw. "Koloth, take mine."

       "Tyla afsan k'too p'pra —"

       "Now place your free palms flat on Sarek's back — quickly!"

       "Tyla afsan k'too p'pra —"

       "Clear your minds, all of you!"

       "Tyla afsan k'too tun!"

       Kirk felt his mind reel under contact with Sarek's. The Vulcan was shielding himself, but Leestra, unconscious, was bare before Kirk. He felt her joys and sorrows, her goals, the terrible thing that had happened to her as a child ...

       Suddenly another presence was there. Not Sarek, not Praetor Leestra, not Jag or Koloth. Someone else. Something else.

       Size. Great size and strength. Force. Power. Intellect. Kirk's mind burst with sensations. Beauty. Imagination. Ideas. Age. Age.

       Images. Spheres. Filaments. Tendrils. Tentacles. Swirling gases. Lightning.

       Words. Thetaskshav —

       Concentrate on the words. The tasks have been completed. Now the day ofjudgmentisa —

       Concentrate harder! The day of judgment is at hand —

       Every millimeter of Kirk's skin was charged with electricity. What I have created, I will end —

       More images. Stars rushing together. Blue shifting. Coalescing. Collapsing. A singularity. Darkness. Entropy. Peace.

       Prepareyoursel —

       Concentrate! Prepare yourselves ...

       Sarek lifted his fingers slowly from Leestra's face. His cheeks were flushed green with blood. Kirk fell back. His legs wouldn't move. He shook himself, slowly regaining control of his body. Fox helped him to his feet. There was a little smile adding another crease to the Earth Ambassador's features. Fox had recovered more quickly, for he'd heard/felt/seen the message before. Kirk smiled back at the ambassador. For the first time he felt affection for the older man. A bond had formed between them, for now they had both been touched by the Being.

       Leestra was regaining consciousness. Her eyelids fluttered. Romulan guards helped her to her feet. She rose and walked with a stiff movement. Kirk recognized the gait, that of a leader in pain who refused to show weakness — a posture he had affected many times.

       Leestra straightened her dark robe and seated herself stiffly on the Praetorian throne. "Kirk —"

       "Yes, Praetor?"

       "Kirk, it was — real?"

       Jim wished he knew the answer. God, how he wished he knew! "I don't know."

       "And you, Klingon? What say you?"

       Jim turned to face Koloth. A vertical ridge of flesh, gorged red, was raised up on Koloth's forehead. His gums were drawn back showing teeth. "I shall fight the Being," he said at last. The words were hard, measured, each syllable accompanied by a clenching of fists. "No one commands a Klingon! If the galaxy is to have a day of judgment, it will be at the hands of Kahless's champions."

       "Sarek."

       "I do not intend to passively stand by as the galaxy collapses into a black hole. If the collapse is indeed controlled by a sentient creature, then that creature must be stopped. In this, I stand by the Klingon."

       "Praetor," said Kirk. "The collapse of the galactic core is a fact: it's really happening. Soon the increased gravitational pull will knock planets out of their orbits. Earth will boil away; Romulus will freeze solid. We can't fight a black hole. But we can fight the Being that claims to be causing it."

       "And if this Being is a god?" asked Leestra.

       "Many people have come to believe that," agreed Jim. "Many more are terrified. I — I don't know what to make of it. But I do know that we're entitled to answers. Even God owes his children that much."

       "And how do we get such answers?"

       "We know where the message came from."

       "Indeed?"

       Sarek stepped forward. "We know the times the message reached the various Federation worlds as well as when it was heard on the planets of the Klingon Empire. If we assume the message was but a single broadcast at a set speed, it is simple enough to deduce its source. Or, rather, it was a simple matter. I am at a loss to explain why the message is some days late in reaching Romulan space."

       "And where do you believe the Being to be?" asked Leestra.

       "Deep in the territory of the Tholian Assembly."

       "Then why come to Romulus?"

       "We need you," said Kirk. "We're assembling a fleet to confront the Being."

       "An armada? A great battleforce?"

       Kirk felt a knotting in his gut. He wished she hadn't called it that. Koloth stepped forward, his claws extending in reflex. "It will be the most devastating power in the universe. Not even a god will be able to resist it."

       "And you would have Romulans fly with you?" asked Leestra.

       "Yes," said Kirk.

       "There would have to be terms."

       Robert Fox bowed. "That's what my colleagues and I are here for."

       "The challenge is great ... " said Leestra, a glimmer in her eye. "To fight a god —"

       Jim thought of the images he'd seen in the Being's message: The end of the universe ... "Maybe that's exactly what we'll have to do," he said at last.


       Spitting dust onto the ground, Koloth forced his legs another step against Romulus's cruel gravity. The shrine was built atop a giant cairn of rocks. The summit was less than a thousand paces from the Praetor's palace, but he cursed each step. His hearts pounded out of sync as he climbed higher, finally getting his first clear look at the shrine up above. It was a stark frame, like a wooden building abandoned before completion. Dry wind shrieked through the gray members as his knuckles, shredded on the rocks, found handholds to hoist himself higher. He climbed nearer, wearing a backpack of kleetzadt hide, the straps cutting into his shoulders. Romulus and Remus were low on the horizon, gaseous streamers stretched between them. Koloth scrabbled to the top of the knoll. Klingon blood welled forth from a crack in the rocks. Cautiously, he lowered a finger into the hot liquid and flared his nostrils, testing for the smell of death. He brought the wet finger to his mouth. The taste was bitter with mineral salts. In front of him the rocks were scarred by a gridwork of double red shadows as the twin suns, bloated and dim, dipped behind the shrine. He bent to the spring and splashed his face with the bubbling liquid, ruby-colored in the dying light. Rising, shifting the weight of his pack, he forced himself over the final distance to the shrine.

       He grabbed one of the beams, a short cylinder knobbed at each end, to steady himself. He hated the ragged sound of his breathing, was glad no one else could hear it. His eyes stung with perspiration. The beam was hard and cool to the touch. It glinted in the fading light, apparently coated with clear plastic or resin. He stood back a few paces to get a good look at the shrine. It was by no means a huge structure: some twenty paces in length, half that in breadth, and perhaps twice his own height. The design was an eerie lattice, a twisted skeletal structure.

       Skeletal. By Kahless's claws, the thing was made of bone! Gnarled columns of a hundred vertebrae rose high over his head. Femurs joined to form archways; ribs and assorted smaller bones traced out geometric shapes. Through the wide gaps between the bones, Koloth saw a geodesic dome of Romulan skulls at the center of the shrine, empty eyesockets facing out in all directions.

       Fresh sweat soaked his brow. He stepped to the shrine's opening, a doorframe of shoulder blades. Wind whistled through the structure, tossing his hair. He didn't know where to leave his package. Klingon custom, of course, would have had it burned in the funeral pyre with the dead one's inedible remains.

       "His is the white skull, near the top."

       Koloth jumped, twisting at the apex of his leap. He hit ground, claws extended, facing the intruder. A figure stepped from the shadow: lithe with hip-length ebony hair whipping about her. "Leestra?"

       The young Praetor stood quietly. Koloth straightened. "I meant no disrespect, Leestra." He stepped towards her. His nostrils caught her Romulan odor, different now than last he'd smelled her. He took off his backpack, grateful to be free of its weight. "I've brought a gift for your father," he said, pulling at the gut ties. "I don't know what your custom is, but on Qo'noS we show our respect for the one who died thus." Her eyes were on him, unblinking. Koloth wished she would speak. "It's a game board," he said, pulling a wooden pyramid into view. He held it in front of him for her to see the lacquered wood, the strong lines of its craftsmanship. "Your father enjoyed the clouded game." Koloth looked back at the sphere of skulls, finding the fresh one. "Now," he said, his voice soft, "he can play only the reflective game."

       "My father needs no gift from you." The words were sharp.

       "I ask for nothing in return." Koloth tried to fathom her expression. "I simply wish to mark his passing in the manner of my people."

       Leestra stepped sideways, blocking the exit arch. Koloth eyed her again, then moved slowly back to the sphere of skulls. He set the pyramid at its base. The skulls seemed to float a distance above the ground, each not quite touching the one near it. A support, then, he told himself, concealed by a cloaking device. He reached a hand forward to feel the space between skulls, but jerked it back, deciding he'd rather not know if he was wrong.

       "It's a strange custom," he said, his back to Leestra, trying to sound brave, "this erecting structures of bones."

       She was silent for several heartbeats. "They are the bones of Praetors Past," Leestra intoned finally, as if it were a line from a litany. "Here rests the katra of each."

       Koloth had heard the term before: living spirit, immortal soul. He turned to face her. "I thought that was a myth."

       "You Klingons are so blind." She spread her arms wide. "I hear them." She closed her eyes. "S'tark and Tipna. Karzan the Elder and S'torat. The younger Karzan and Mekt. And my father, G'ten."

       "My people do not grieve the ending of a life well-lived, Leestra. Your father was a great man."

       "He was a fool."

       Koloth shook his head. He must be out of practice in Romulan highspeak. That can't have been what she said. "He was a man of sweeping vision."

       "You mean you found him easily duped."

       "I know not what you mean."

       "I expect lies from Klingons —"

       "Leestra!"

       "— but your lies are transparent. You rose to prominence in your Empire by weakening my people. Did they honor you on your return to Qo'noS?"

       "To be the Empire's envoy to our great neighbor was considered an honor in itself."

       "Oh, the vanity of the creature!" She laughed, a cold, throaty sound like a metal pick breaking up ice. "It was your punishment, your penance for losing that colony world in the Donatu sector to the Federation." She stepped toward him. "Your race is a race of children, squabbling, toothless, and weak." Her voice rose. "I am Praetor now, heir to G'ten's throne. There will be reforms."

       "A Praetor would serve her people well by not insulting benefactors."

       Leestra fixed Koloth with a stare. "We've gained nothing by association with your kind."

       "Warp drive is a trifle to you, is it?" Koloth shook his head.

       "You gave us nothing we wouldn't have developed on our own. We would have harnessed the forces of matter-antimatter annihilation ourselves."

       "Eventually, no doubt." Koloth, still weary from his climb, lowered himself onto the rocky floor of the shrine. "Perhaps even in your lifetime, Praetor."

       "I give your spies credit for more perception than that, Klingon. You knew we were within two years of having an operational warp drive. And you were terrified."

       "A Klingon fears nothing." Koloth bared his teeth.

       "Klingons fear everything."

       "Insult me again, woman, and you will feel my talons."

       "You threaten me, Klingon? You threaten the leader of Romulus? Attack me if you dare."

       Koloth spread his arms. "Praetor, our peoples are at peace."

       "A Klingon using treaties as an excuse not to fight? You're pathetic, even for your wretched species."

       Koloth felt his blood boiling. His claws extended, a reflex action.

       "Attack me — coward."

       He leapt to his feet, lunging at Leestra. She grabbed his arm and threw him across the shrine. He hit hard against a lattice of leg bones, tasting salt blood in his mouth. She was over to him in one fluid motion, tossing him against the rocky ground. Koloth, dazed, tried to get up, but Leestra planted a boot firmly in the center of his chest. "Lie still, weakling, and hear my words."

       Koloth, eyes flaring, teeth bared, could think of no response.

       "I know of your treachery, Klingon." She let more of her weight rest on Koloth's chest. "Our plasma-energy bolts can melt the crust of worlds. Your ships were faster but our cloaks of invisibility let us penetrate deep into your territory undetected. We would easily have defeated you then." She lifted her boot and crushed it into his chest. Koloth winced as a rib cracked. "But you swindled my father."

       "We brought to Romulus the gifts of advanced technology."

       "Silence, Klingon, or you die now. The Federation has us hemmed into a small area. My father thought he could conserve our resources by obtaining weapons and ships from your kind. He gave you what you wanted. Our cloaking devices. Our weapons. But you cheated us with obsolete technology."

       "My Lord, I assure you —"

       "You've seen my new birds-of-prey. We have our own warp-driven ships now. And our spies have brought us the plans of your new K't'inga-class vessels." She took her foot off Koloth's chest. "Soon all Klingons will quake under the fist of Romulus." Koloth tried to get up, but pain sliced through him like a knife. Leestra was at the exit, her body haloed by the archway of shoulder blades. "Before this mission is over, Koloth, I will exact from you revenge for my father."


Chapter 5:
Is Truth Not Truth For All?

       Jim imagined he should feel an instinctive panic, seeing as how he was floating in zero-g outside his beautiful Enterprise wearing nothing but his standard mustard-and-black uniform. He was glad that he didn't, though, for the vista in front of him was awe-inspiring and, after all, it was the pursuit of that feeling, that sense of wonder, that had driven him to join Starfleet in the first place. "Sure puts our orbital drydock to shame, eh, Scotty?"

       Scott was floating next to Kirk, his red shirt rippling in the breeze. "It's nae efficient, Captain," he said, his highland brogue edging the contempt in his words. "They canna do vacuum welding."

       Jim filled his lungs with the cool air. "But it's certainly more comfortable for the workers."

       Scott just looked at him as if to say who would worry about something like that?

       Kirk and Scotty were floating above a companionway about halfway up the side of the floodlit docking chamber. The Enterprise's two hulls — the saucer shaped primary, now returned to orbit, and the cylindrical secondary with twin warp nacelles attached — were suspended separately in the bay, held in place by tractor beams.

       Kirk looked out the open end of the bay at the naked stars and the blood-red sickle of crescent Romii, Romulus's twin planet. Just a thin force field separated them from empty space. He swung his gaze back towards the innards of the bay, a metallic sphere almost a kilometer across. "How long to reassemble the Enterprise?"

       "It's nae a big job if these Roms are up to it."

       "Be tolerant, Mr. Scott," He smiled at the Engineer. "They didn't have the benefit of being your students at the Academy."

       "Aye."

       There was a throm-throm-throm sound from the Romulan communicator Scott was holding. The engineer thumbed its on switch.

       "We are prepared, Lieutenant Commander Scott," said a voice with a sharp Romulan accent, clicking the final consonant in most of the words.

       "Aye, lad. Stand by for my command."

       Kirk looked out into the bay again. Close to a hundred Romulan workers floated in the cavernous chamber along with two dozen or so Enterprise crew. There were Scotty's men, Gabler, Watkins, and Cleary, working with large pieces of equipment up by the impulse exhaust panels at the rear of the primary. And Spock, Chekov, and a mix of Romulan and Federation techs working on the parabolic antenna of the main sensor. Arex's three-legged body was easy to spot over by the port warp engine. And there was chubby ambassador Jag himself looking over the Enterprise's hangar deck.

       Scott activated his tiny Romulan aerosol thruster and hissed away from the companionway towards the crew working at the impulse engines. A violent movement caught Kirk's eye: something going on above the dorsal that normally connected the primary to the engineering hull. Two figures, one in green Romulan overalls, the other in a mustard-colored Enterprise shirt. Sulu. And he was in a fight. The navigator had the Romulan in a shoulder hold. Kirk kicked off the companionway and sailed towards the scuffle. The engineering hull swelled in his field of view. He arched his body to get some lift and steered himself past the giant parabolic dish that capped the cylindrical hull. He sailed up twenty meters or so, past the seven porthole-pocked levels of the interconnecting dorsal. A burst from his thrust canister brought him not far from Sulu and the Romulan, floating just above the upper edge of the dorsal. Kirk looked down at the series of clamps running around the dorsal's rim and at the red circular plates that had swung across the severed turbolift shafts. The tables had turned: the Rom had Sulu in a grip from behind. Sulu bent over and tossed the Romulan over his shoulders, sending him pinwheeling across the bay.

       "Explanation, Mister," Kirk snapped.

       Sulu was embarrassed. "None, sir."

       Kirk looked the young lieutenant up and down. "Damn it, Sulu. I expect a hot-head like Chekov to get involved in fist- fights. But you —"

       "It won't happen again, sir."

       "We're guests here, Sulu. Behave like one." The Romulan had recovered and was gliding back towards them. Kirk raised a hand to forestall any further hostilities, but the Rom simply floated stiffly a half-dozen meters away. "I apologize for my crewmember," Kirk said.

       "T'ntuk ekeit ankgleik."

       "He doesn't speak English, Captain." Sulu said.

       "So I see." Kirk turned back to Sulu. "Mr. Sulu, you're confined to quarters until your next watch."

       "Yes, sir."

       "And Sulu?"

       "Sir?"

       "You'll have to show me that body throw sometime. I didn't think it was possible for a Human to beat a Romulan."

       Sulu grinned. "Yes, sir."

       Jim shook his head as the helmsman glided up towards the airlock on the underside of the saucer. Kirk turned to the Romulan, trying to read any expression in that angular face. Kirk raised his hand in a salute, paired fingers separated into a V, an ancient gesture used still by both Vulcans and Romulans. "I'm sorry."

       "Ekeit ankgleik."

       "No English. I know." The Romulan pulled an aerosol can from his wide belt and flew away. What the devil had they been fighting about? Jim had expected incidents, but he'd thought the first outbreaks of violence would be between his people and the Klingons. If it had been any other time, Kirk would have been harder on Sulu. But you can't just tell a man to treat his sworn enemies like brothers and expect it to work. He pulled his communicator off his belt and called Scotty. "How long?"

       "Just a few more minutes, sir."

       Kirk looked up. Six spidery Romulan workpods had gripped the two-story-high edge of the primary hull. At the lower rear of the hull was a slot for the dorsal, lined with clamps. Running the length of the slot were the red disks blocking the continuations of the turbolift shafts. From Kirk's point of view, Scotty was silhouetted in front of a floodlight, just to one side to the primary. The engineer raised both arms then dropped them. There was a simultaneous flash of thrusters from all the work pods and the saucer-shaped primary hull started a slow descent towards the dorsal. Scott floated down to join Kirk.

       As the saucer moved closer and closer its huge shadow fell over the two of them. They moved slightly away from the dorsal. The primary continued to descend. Closer. Another twenty meters. Ten. Five.

       "Jesus, lads, be careful!" cried Scott. The saucer slammed against the dorsal with a deafening clang. Kirk could feel the air vibrate around him as the clamps in the dorsal found their opposite numbers in the primary hull. With a series of thunderclaps, they locked together. He palmed his communicator. "This is the Captain speaking," he said into the device's tiny microphone. "All Enterprise personnel to stations please. Pre- launch countdown to begin in ten minutes." He replaced the device on the back of his pants. "Well, Scotty," Kirk said, taking stock of his beloved ship, whole again. "I don't know anything about vacuum welding but it sure is quieter working without air."

       Scott rubbed his ears. "Aye, Captain."


       Nyota Uhura seated herself next to Sulu on the couch in his quarters and crossed her shapely legs. "Is this just another one of your hobbies, Hikaru?"

       Sulu grinned at her. "Would you believe me if I said it wasn't?"

       She grinned back. "Probably not."

       "New Human groups are it back on Earth."

       "So is head-shaving in the Deltan style. And plomeek soup. And a hundred other fads." She shook her head. "I try to avoid fads."

       "Look, our five-year mission would be over next month anyway. After the rendezvous with the Being, I guarantee we'll be ordered to return directly to San Francisco for debriefing and that'll be the end. Don't you want to be up on what's current on Earth?"

       "I'm not shaving my head for anything. And Vulcan food makes me vomit."

       "Give this a try. You'll like it."

       "I didn't like fencing. I didn't like botany."

       "Trust me."

       "That's what you said on our last shore leave —"

       "Shhh!" He got up and walked over to the divider that separated his living room from his bedchamber. Set into the it was a storage panel. The keypad bleeped and blooped in response to his fingers and the door slid up. Inside was a fist-sized translucent gold crystal, sitting on a sheet of black velvet. Picking the crystal up carefully with both hands, he carried it back to the couch.

       "It's beautiful," said Uhura. "What is it?"

       "It's a mind-crystal. It's what makes New Humanity possible. Here." Sulu took Uhura's hand and placed it on one side of the crystal.

       "Hey! That tingles. It's not radioactive, is it?"

       "Of course not. It vibrates sympathetically with mental energy. It's a variant of the crystals we use in lifeform sensors."

       "Oh."

       Sulu silently took her other hand and pressed it against the crystal. Then he placed both his hands over Uhura's.

       "Now, just relax, Nyota. Get yourself into rhythm. Close your eyes. That's right. Relax."

       "It feels strange — like free-fall."

       "Don't talk. Don't think. Just relax."

       She did relax. She trusted Hikaru. They'd known each other for years, been in the same graduating class at the Academy. Been assigned to the Revere together. Transferred to the Enterprise only months apart. Been friends always, lovers occasionally. We both enjoy sports and singing, him always loudly enthusiastic, always off-key. And we have the same goal: to captain a starship. Of course, Hikaru will make it first. Navigation's a quicker route up the ranks than Communications, and that doctorate in physics will help, but I'll make it, too. It'll just take a little longer. After all, I'm a better officer than he is. Are not! Am too. You're always off on some — God, Sulu, I can hear your thoughts! It's —"

       A boatswain's whistle pierced the air. "Lieutenants Sulu and Uhura to the bridge." It was Arex's voice, high, piping. "We're about to leave Romulus."

 



Star Trek: Armada

Outline

by Robert J. Sawyer

Copyright © 1984 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.


The five sample chapters above — representing about one-third of the planned 60,000-word book — are all I wrote. But below is the brief 1,300-word outline for the entire novel.

Thirty years on, I'm sorry I never finished writing Armada. As Commander Kor once said, "It would have been glorious."


The galaxy is collapsing in upon itself, becoming a single, giant black hole. Through telepathic contact with many minds on many worlds, a great Being, claiming to be the creator of life, has announced itself as the agent of the galaxy's destruction. It's Judgment Day, according to the Being, the end of the Milky Way. The Federation (including Humans, Vulcans, Tellarites, and Andorians) and the Klingon Empire form an alliance to confront the Being. The starship Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk is selected as flagship of the combined armada.

But even more firepower will be needed and time is running out. The gravitational curve of the galaxy has already deepened enough to make subspace communication impossible. The Enterprise and the Klingon cruiser Devisor storm the Romulan Neutral Zone in order to enlist the Praetor's support. Devisor is crippled in a battle with the Romulans. Klingon captain Koloth and the Klingon survivors are beamed over to the Enterprise, which is then captured. Kirk and Koloth gain an audience with Leestra, the new Praetor. She sees the Being's threat as a great military challenge and pledges her ships to the cause. But she has a score to settle with Koloth who, as Klingon envoy to Romulus, fed them obsolete technology.

Gorns and Tholians join the armada as well. Among the ambassadors negotiating the alliance between races is Spock's father, Sarek of Vulcan. Spock wishes to take Sarek's long-range shuttle Surak to meet the Being prior to the attack by the armada. (The Surak is the only small warp-drive ship available.) He feels his life has lacked purpose since Sarek gave up on the Human/Vulcan crossbreeding experiment that lead to his birth. Spock accepts that the Being may be telling the truth. It may be able to explain what his miserable life was supposed to represent. Sarek does not believe the Being's claims and refuses Spock use of his shuttle.

Kirk is tortured by the magnitude of the decision facing him. If the Being is what it claims to be, if it is Judgment Day, can he in conscience open fire on his creator? Would it do any good if he did? And how could he account for his actions?

Sarek consents to a mindmeld with Spock. He realizes for the first time what Spock has been going through and agrees to let him take his shuttle.

It's the season of blood on Andor, the time when Andorians butcher other sentient races. (Andorians can serve in Starfleet because the bloodlust only arises in large groups.) But, in the first of a series of acts of sabotage, someone deliberately changes the crew schedules, bringing a critical mass of Andorians together, sparking a bloody rampage through the ships of the armada.

Kirk and McCoy try to quell the uprising, but Kirk receives an intense message from the Being, beckoning him. Seeing this as his opportunity to determine what the Being really is, he catches up with Spock who is about to leave in the Surak. The two depart the armada and head off to intercept the Being. But the life-support system aboard the shuttle has been tampered with, making the voyage one of near-death.

In Kirk's absence, Koloth seizes command of the Enterprise under the terms of the alliance. His soldiers wipe out the bulk of the Andorians, leaving so few alive that the bloodlust subsides. A mutiny ensues. Many members of the crew see religious significance in the Being and refuse to be party to an attempt to destroy it. Scotty is severely injured because of sabotage in the Engineering section. McCoy, senior Federation officer, is thrown into conflict with Koloth to try to restore peace aboard Enterprise.

Sulu, who has been experimenting with the group-mind techniques of New Humans, is revealed as the saboteur. New Humanity, it develops, is a puppet religion of the hive-mind Tholians, who wish to subsume the Being's consciousness into their own.

Kirk and Spock are overdue for their return. Koloth orders the armada to head toward the Being. Leestra, wishing to be battle commander, now exacts her revenge. Through nerve-pinches and mindmelds, she leaves Koloth appearing dead to the Klingons. In a cannibalistic funeral ritual, Koloth's raw body is devoured. But Koloth is conscious, feeling every sensation.

Kirk and Spock arrive at their destination, a giant creature living in free space. Spock sets up a three-way mindmeld between himself, Kirk, and the Being. Kirk learns that the Being did, in fact, guide the evolution of life in the Milky Way. But it wants to die — and is unable to commit suicide. So it has turned its children against itself. An attempt seven billion years before involving a giant Dyson sphere weapon failed. Fighting back on an instinctive level, the Being had wiped out all life in the galaxy and had to start anew. This time the Being has developed a galaxy full of warriors to kill it. (Through interludes on Tellar and Andor, during the Andorian rampage, and in encounters with Gorns and Tholians while the armada was being assembled, we've seen the diverse mechanisms the Being used to craft creatures of violence.) Is the Being a god? It doesn't know. Did a greater force create the Being and start life in the galaxy? After pondering the question for billions of years, the Being has concluded the only way to find out is to pass out of this existence, to die and meet its maker ... if there is one.

The Being has erected an energy barrier around the galaxy to keep the poison of the violent races it created from infecting the rest of the universe. Kirk returns to the armada, now grown to ten thousand starships. They attack the Being, which instinctively defends itself. In a battle royale, depending as much on Kirk's cunning as on brute strength, the Being is defeated and finally dies.

But there is hope for the life forms of our galaxy. Humans, Andorians, Tellarites, Klingons, Romulans, Tholians and Gorns, all of whom joined in the armada, are still savage, violent races. But Vulcans have found a way to overcome their genetic predisposition to violence and Spock, as a Human/Vulcan hybrid, has shown that it's possible for Humans, too. In the epilogue, providing a bridge between the TV episodes and the first Star Trek movie, Kirk, broken by the weight of killing a god, accepts an admiral's desk job. Spock, still tortured by a need to understand himself, returns with Sarek to Vulcan to undergo the Kolinahr, a purging of all remaining emotion. McCoy, having had his fill of death, returns to private practice in Georgia.

REFERENCES

CHARACTERS
  • Klingon Captian Koloth is introduced in "The Trouble with Tribbles." His ship is referred to as the Devisor in the animated episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles."
  • Sarek of Vulcan appears in "Journey to Babel," in the animated episode "Yesteryear," in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
  • Ambassador Robert Fox (who appears in the sample chapters) was introduced in "A Taste of Armageddon."
ALIENS
  • Tellarites appear in "Journey to Babel," "Whom Gods Destroy," "The Lights of Zetar," in the animated episode "Time Trap," and, briefly, in the fourth Star Trek movie.
  • Andorians appear in "Journey to Babel," "Whom Gods Destroy," and "The Gamesters of Triskelion," in the animated episodes "Yesteryear" and "Time Trap," and, briefly, in the first and fourth Star Trek movies.
  • Gorns appear in "Arena" and "Time Trap."
  • Tholians appear in "The Tholian Web."
MISCELLANEOUS
  • The long-range shuttle Surak is used by Spock in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
  • New Humans are discussed in Gene Roddenberry's novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and developed in the original Pocket Books novel Triangle by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.
  • The Energy Barrier Around the Galaxy is introduced in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and also figures prominently in "By Any Other Name."


More Good Reading

The outline for Rob's Star Wars-universe novel, Alien Exodus
The opening chapters of Rob's Star Wars-universe novel, Alien Exodus

Science fiction trivia quiz by Robert J. Sawyer

Original novels by Robert J. Sawyer


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