Star Trek: Insurrection [NOOK Book]

Overview


Star Trek: The Next Generation® is the most popular, longest-running series in science fiction history. Now, after the spectacular worldwide success of Star Trek: First Contact©, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise™ return to the big screen in a thrilling new adventure that captures all the fun and excitement of Star Trek at its best.

Star Trek: Insurrection reunites the hugely popular crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Jean-Luc Picard, ...

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Star Trek: Insurrection

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Overview


Star Trek: The Next Generation® is the most popular, longest-running series in science fiction history. Now, after the spectacular worldwide success of Star Trek: First Contact©, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise™ return to the big screen in a thrilling new adventure that captures all the fun and excitement of Star Trek at its best.

Star Trek: Insurrection reunites the hugely popular crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Jean-Luc Picard, Starfleet's finest officer; Commander William T. Riker, his stalwart first officer; Lieutenant Commander Data, the indispensable android; Commander Deanna Troi, the empathic Betazoid counselor; Lieutenant Commander Worf, the fierce Klingon warrior; Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, chief of engineering; and Dr. Beverly Crusher, the ship's able medical officer.

Together, they have faced many challenges over the years, but nothing has prepared them for the unexpected crisis that tests both their skills and their convictions.

On an unnamed planet in a distant sector, Starfleet, in an uneasy alliance with a mysterious new alien species of unknown origin, has discovered a secret with astounding implications that could transform the future of the entire Federation. But this secret has a price that may be more than some are willing to pay.

The secret first turns Data against Starfleet, then draws Jean-Luc Picard and the Starship Enterprise into a tense and dangerous situation that has unexpected effects on every member of the crew -- and presents them with an agonizing moral dilemma. Faced with orders he cannot obey and a crisis he cannot ignore, Picard finds himself torn between his conscience and his uniform.

Bestselling author J. M. Dillard has written a powerful and exciting novel based on the major motion picture directed by Jonathan Frakes ("Commander William T. Riker"). Star Trek: Insurrection is sure to delight audiences throughout the world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743455640
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek
  • Publication date: 8/22/2002
  • Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation Series
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 603,486
  • File size: 854 KB

Meet the Author

J. M. Dillard is the author of the bestselling Star Trek: First Contact©. She lives in California.
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Read an Excerpt


CHAPTER ONE

The morning of what would become the Day of Lightning began like all other spring days: cool first, then warmed by the rising sun. Anij paused in her walking to gaze up at the mountains, stark and serene against a cloudless sky. Timeless they were, as timeless as the sunlight, warm upon her homespun-clad shoulders; as timeless as the morning, or the cool air moving through her lungs, or her consciousness itself. She had walked this particular path into town every day for the past -- how many mornings? Always, she told herself, forever; for she did not care to remember the Time before this one. Forever the Ba'ku had lived here, or so it seemed; forever they had enjoyed the wealth of the fertile valley. And every day, regardless of season, it was the same: she set upon her way and saw the same sights -- the valley lush and verdant, fragrant with wildflowers and herbs, the tilled crops healthy in the dark, eternally fruitful soil; the imposing backdrop of mountains sometimes taupe, sometimes rose, sometimes blue or mauve, everchanging with the play of the light. Even when the rains came, they were gentle: perfect, simply perfect, never enough to keep her inside.

And every morning, the intense beauty of her world startled her afresh and filled her with joy.

Anij glanced up at the sound of a bleat: upon the lower, greener hillsides, shaggy pack animals grazed, a few of them glancing up at the shouts of children playing on a nearby farm. She followed the animals' curious gazes to a group of children clearly on the prowl for something hidden. Two of the boys were scanning the hay-strewn troughs between mounds of tender young plants -- careful, of course, not to trample the all-important crops. Meantime, a mixed trio ran giggling through the nearby orchard.

Anij smiled absently at them -- she knew them by name, of course, and their parents -- and resumed her customary stroll as she watched them. Suddenly, a golden head popped out from a haystack, and glanced about, searching for pursuers.

"There he is!" one of the girls bellowed, and Anij's faint smile turned to a wide grin as small shoulders, elbows, knees, and finally, an entire body, erupted from the haystack in a flurry of airborne straw. This was her youngest friend, the twelve-year-old Artim. His mother Barel had been a dear friend, too, and upon her tragic early passing immediately after the boy's birth, Anij came to serve as a foster aunt. Artim had proven such a delight -- wise beyond his years, with his mother's sweet disposition -- that Anij judged the child to be the true benefactor in the relationship.

Laughing to the point of breathlessness, Artim scrambled past the reach of his pursuers and up the trail that led into the rocky foothills, leaving a shower of pebbles in his wake. Anij watched as the others followed him, crying out in happy indignation at his escape, while she continued her journey. It would lead her on a slowly upward-winding trail into the village, where her path would intersect that of the children as they emerged from their steeper, more challenging route.

Sojef, Artim's father, would be waiting there; Sojef, straight and solemn, always and forever with a question in his eyes.

And Anij, with the same answer in hers: Not yet, not yet...

She had always thought her answer was based on purely solid reasoning: that she was still young, and Sojef, too; that there was still time for such commitments, for children. True, he was a good man -- leader of the entire Ba'ku community, six hundred now, and growing slowly again after so many were lost during the Time of Sorrows. She knew, also, from the now-departed Barel, that Sojef had been the most devoted of husbands, the gentlest of lovers.

A year after Barel's death, on his son's first birthday, Sojef had professed his love to Anij. Had asked her to commit to a permanent partnership. Forever, he had said.

Forever, Anij knew, was a very, very long time. Even so, she did not say no; at the same time, she did not say yes. I don't know. Give me time, Sojef. Give me time...

Time to accept that she would wed not out of passion, but friendship.

Sojef had given her time, of course; he was Ba'ku, too mature and intelligent to let something as foolish as his emotions cloud his judgment. And so, he and Artim remained her friends, visiting daily; it was understood in the village that perhaps someday, they would announce a formal commitment.

Anij drank in a long breath of cool morning air as she rounded a sharp curve in the path; the mountain that had blocked her view gave way suddenly to reveal the village square, encircled by the blooms of spring in dazzling shades of yellow, fuchsia, blue-violet. No matter how many times she saw that particular view, she always experienced pleasure.

How many springs had she experienced? Many, so many, and while she had always been aesthetically moved by the season's heady beauty, she had always reacted with wisdom and restraint. Only the youngest, most spoiled children indulged their emotions freely.

This spring was different; or perhaps it was she, Anij, who had somehow changed, grown tired of denying her feelings in favor of responsibility. The night before, she had dreamed a foolish dream: that she was free of all commitments, that she flew like a bird from the village and found her heart's desire in an offlander, a stranger whose face she could not clearly see, but whose strong arms held her firmly, whose whisper evoked in her an intensity of physical craving and emotion she had never before experienced.

She had wakened with a cry of disappointment at finding herself in her own bed, alone; even now, gazing upon the village nestled against mountains, sky, and quicksilver river, she felt a pang of yearning.

It followed her across the wildflower-filled meadow, past the pond into the village square, as she reasoned with it silently:

You are a fool, Anij, to think such thoughts. You know how craven, how amoral offlanders are; how could you even dream of loving one? Even dream of giving up this...?

And the beauty and serenity of the valley soothed her, as it always did; by the time she greeted her first fellow villager, her smile was once again genuine. This was the place she belonged -- had always belonged -- and the joy of being here far outweighed any childish cravings for true passion.

People began milling into the square. Some of the first merchants to arrive had already set up their stalls in the shade of a large rockface, where the mountain met the village, and were displaying wares: homespun clothing, honey, medicinal herbs.

"Gen'a, good morning," she called, to a woman carrying pails of fresh milk for sale, and to her dark-haired husband, eldest of the Original Group: "Jat'ko, how are you?"

And there beside the market stall stood Sojef, dressed in plain homespun. Anij banished all thoughts of the hot-blooded offlander and looked upon Sojef with admiration: he was clothed like everyone else, yet a stranger could easily have identified him as a leader. Not because of any affectation or condescension in his manner or speech; Sojef's attitude was one of gentleness. But there was a strength behind it -- a strength Anij had seen many times before, especially during the Time of Sorrows, when Sojef had taken responsibility for making the hardest decision of all.

She greeted him as she had every day for the past eleven years since his proposal: with a slight, complicitous smile, as if their agreement to become engaged someday were a secret unshared by the entire community. And he responded as he always did, with the same coconspirator's smile, the faint uncertainty in his eyes: Do you love me yet, as I do you?

And her unspoken answer: Give me time...

He nodded, ending the exchange, and turned his attention to others headed for market; he considered it his task to know each villager's challenges, hopes, needs...and dreams. Especially dreams.

Anij turned from him and headed for a produce stall, where a vendor was busily unloading the season's first maj'ra fruit for display. As Anij neared, the vendor stopped, produced a paring knife, and began to peel away a piece of the oblong fruit's white exterior to reveal the juicy, violet-colored flesh inside.

He sliced a dripping square of flesh off and passed it across the wooden stall to Anij, who took a grateful bite and winced with pleasure at the tartness. A sudden shudder passed through her -- and with it, the unbidden, unsettling memory of the Time of Sorrows, the time when forever had almost stopped.

Within the rockface, behind the shields that rendered him invisible, Gallatin watched as the Ba'ku woman shuddered, then lifted her head and stared right at him.

Instinctively, his heart had begun to beat rapidly; impossibly, she had sensed him, perhaps recognized him --

No, he commanded himself. See, she is just distracted, that's all, and staring into the distance...It's your own foolish guilt that has discovered you, Gal'na, not this woman.

Still, he gazed down at his monitor to assure himself that the shields were in perfect working order. And of course, they were; she could no more see him than she could the uniformed Starfleet officer sitting beside Gallatin at the console, or the other researchers hidden in the blind -- or, for that matter, the other isolation-suited researchers milling around the village square, rendered invisible by the force field that appeared to Gallatin as a bright red glow. One of them stood right beside her -- close enough, at the moment, for her to touch should she suddenly start flailing her arms about.

But she would not, of course; she was a well-mannered Ba'ku, and like all her people, handsome. Particularly so, with her sun-bleached, close-cropped curls that framed delicate features...

...and those damnably ageless eyes. All the Ba'ku had them, even the children, and for the umpteenth time that hour, Gallatin found himself struggling to master his hatred and envy.

Look at her, so casually wiping away the scarlet juice of the maj'ra fruit from her chin, from that soft, unmarked skin...Gallatin drew in a silent breath at its perfection. How radiant it was, how firm and unlined -- while he and all his fellow Son'a were old, irretrievably old and bound soon for death, their genes so damaged that there was no hope of progeny, of sons and daughters to remind their parents of the beauty of youth. Many of the Son'a had already died. With none to replace them, they were an aged and dying race, destined for extinction within a decade, perhaps two. The mere sight of the Ba'ku offended him and filled him with longing.

Beside him at the console, a Starfleet lieutenant spoke into a companel. "Base to Ensign McCauley. Please report to area seven and assist the edaphology team."

"Acknowledged." Outside the duck blind, the glowing red observer next to the Ba'ku woman turned and moved away.

Gallatin paused to look at the lieutenant beside him -- a middle-aged human female with wrinkles beginning to appear in the corners of her eyes, upon her brow. Any respectable Son'a would have taken prompt action to have them removed; yet humans and most other Federation races tolerated wrinkling gracefully, as if it were a natural event and not a disgusting side effect of mortality. Somehow, on them it seemed less hideous -- but on a Son'a face, the slightest sag, the tiniest wrinkle, was a moral affront. Gallatin's own facial skin was pulled taut -- like a rotten melon about to split, he thought in disgust. Between the daily facial surgeries and the genetic damage, he was just beginning to develop the chronic algal growth all Son'a dreaded, for it caused an unsightly dark-green mottling just beneath the skin. Over time, it disintegrated layers of delicate tissue from the inside out.

The sense of another warm body standing beside him drew his attention back to the present; he turned, and discovered another Starfleet officer, this one an ensign, proffering a computer padd. Gallatin took the padd and glanced cursorily at the readings, then at the ensign, a young human male of Caucasian variety, with skin an astounding fresh-scrubbed pink. How did the Son'a appear to him? Grotesque and decadent, most likely, with stretched, bloodless skin and sumptuous, ornate robes augmented by precious jewels. Not that Gallatin considered his own dress excessive; it was not the Son'a's fault that the entire known galaxy lacked any sense of style, or that Starfleet's designers adored the drab and unimaginative. A little gold-pressed latinum and onyx at the collar and shoulders, perhaps a large central ruby on the utility belt, just a few subtle changes here and there...

Decadent, Gallatin decided. That is what they think we are: decadent, decrepit, and dying. And at the sight of the ensign, and of the vibrant, unadorned beauty of the Ba'ku woman, he knew they were right.

He thrust the padd back at the ensign and snapped: "Admiral Dougherty is waiting for this. Transmit it to the ship."

Before he uttered the final word, the companel, set on audio, crackled loudly, and an excited Son'a voice shouted:

"Alert, area twelve!"

The blast of a weapon. Gallatin watched as the Ba'ku and their invisible observers turned toward the hills in astonishment.

On audio, the sound of scuffling; the thud of flesh striking flesh. A groan. The voice began speaking again, but the signal was breaking up. Gallatin could make out only a few garbled words.

"...the android has..."

A burst of static. The realization of what could happen propelled Gallatin in a swift lunge to the nearest companel. He slammed a control with his fist. "Report!"

More static; gasping. The words: "...can't bring him down..."

Next to Gallatin, the pink-skinned ensign pointed, following the gaze of the startled Ba'ku to the nearby foothills. "Over there!"

Invisible to the villagers, a figure in a glowing isolation suit was running down the rock-strewn hills with preternatural speed and agility.

Gallatin stepped toward the main viewscreen. "Magnify!"

The image bloomed abruptly, enlarging to reveal the foothills with such detail that Gallatin might have been there beside the fleeing figure as it scrambled down the steep hillside toward the village, preceded and followed by a small avalanche of stones and sand and dust. Two other glowing figures -- Son'a, from their posture and movements -- armed with plasma weapons gave chase. Alongside them ran a group of Ba'ku children, clearly terrified by the blast and entirely unaware that their path -- also toward the village square -- kept them in the midst of the invisible runners.

Something horrible had happened, Gallatin realized, with a heaviness in his heart, something that threatened the entire mission here. Even worse, that threatened to expose the deeper reasons for it to his Starfleet partners. Unlike the Federation scientists surrounding him, Gallatin knew that the first runner was Starfleet, and those following, Son'a. But there was still time; the Ba'ku had heard the blast, but probably only the children had actually seen it. If nothing else happened to arouse their suspicions, perhaps --

Too late. One of the Son'a guards lifted his plasma weapon and took aim at the fleeing figure. A streak of blinding brilliance surged toward the runner, barely missing him; at the accompanying thunder, the children shrieked.

On one of the companels that still showed the village square, the curly-haired Ba'ku woman demanded: "What is it? What's happening?" In her eyes and voice was more indignation than fright.

Anij, Gallatin remembered suddenly. Your name is Anij, and of them all, you are the most fearless. And he felt an intense, fleeting self-loathing.

Beside him, the Federation scientists rose as a group to their feet and watched with dismay as the chase continued down into the village; another eye-searing plasma blast caused the locals to scatter.

Gallatin's worst fears had come true; a Starfleet intruder had made an unfortunate discovery. By all rights, the Son'a should kill him. But if he permitted his people to kill a Starfleet officer here, in front of all these Starfleet scientists...

"Hold your fire!" he shouted at the com to the Son'a guards, then with a single look, conveyed an order to the Starfleet lieutenant seated beside him.

She knew immediately what he meant; she was quick-witted, intelligent, as were all the Starfleet personnel he had worked with; and that, he thought grimly, is precisely the source of our problem now.

She touched a control. "Base to Commander Data."

The voice that answered was halting, dazed -- but not the least bit winded after the wild run. "Rerouting...microhydraulic...power distribution...regulating...thermal...overload..." On the viewscreen, the android ran staggering toward the village square.

Disoriented, damaged, Gallatin realized; perhaps there was a way out, after all. To destroy him gracefully, without insulting Starfleet.

"Data, report to base immediately," the lieutenant ordered.

If the android understood, he gave no sign; his mutterings seemed self-directed. "Transferring...positronic...matrix functions...engaging...secondary protocols..." As he ran, he lifted both gloved hands toward the neck of his helmet.

The Starfleet ensign who had handed Gallatin the padd cried out in horror: "He's trying to remove the headpiece!"

Gallatin tapped his own companel. "All field units. Intercept the android."

The boy Artim ran gasping through the village in search of his father...and an explanation. Father would explain it calmly; Father would lay his, Artim's, childish fears to rest. Sojef was old and wise and knew everything.

There had to be a simple explanation; there always was. Yet Artim could think of nothing at the moment that could account for the strange thunder he and his friends -- Jusa, Nal, and the girls -- had heard coming from down by the lake. Lightning, they all decided; but the sky was perfectly cloudless.

"Magic lightning," Nal suggested, and they had laughed at his foolish explanation. They were almost adults, after all; the changing time would soon be upon them, when the girls would no longer seem to be annoyances, but creatures of compelling interest. (Or so Father said, but to Artim the idea was still repellent.)

They had laughed, but then the girl Je'na had seen another impossibility: pebbles and dust, and clumps of grass trampled, as if someone invisible were running toward them.

"Look!" she had cried, pointing; "look!" And the fine hairs on Artim's neck and arms had lifted.

The disturbance passed, only to be followed by another -- the same trampling of grass and stirring of dust, doubled -- and all vestiges of Artim's maturity fled. He and the others broke into a run, away from the noise. Ghosts, he thought wildly; only ghosts could be so invisible; but ghosts were inhabitants of children's tales, not of reality.

Then the strange lightning split the air beside him, dazzling his eyes so that he closed them and saw streaks of blue. Lightning, yet not lightning; he could feel no electricity, smell no ozone. And with it came a boom of thunder so loud that his teeth rattled, and he shrieked like a shameless infant. All thoughts were banished save one.

Find Father...

Another blast; another roar of thunder.

Artim made it, sweating and gasping, past the pond and into the village, then the square. As he passed adults, he scanned their faces, hoping to find comfort -- but saw instead only confusion.

And when at last he found Sojef directing others away from the approaching disturbance, Artim cried: "Father...?"

It was a question, a demand for an answer, but there were no answers to be found in Sojef's expression. It was the same odd look that came upon him during those few times he had spoken of an earlier, evil time: when his own people had killed each other with weapons. What was the word for it? War.

And the look on Sojef s face had been fear.

Only Artim saw it there; only Artim knew his father well enough. To the villagers, Sojef no doubt appeared calm village leader.

But there was panic in the way he roughly grabbed Artim and held him tightly to him, as with his free arm, he directed his people toward the meeting hall: "Get inside! Find shelter!"

A loud splash behind them, as if someone had just plummeted into the pond.

Artim wriggled in his father's grasp and broke free, turning to look behind them just in time to witness the most impossible sight of all:

The floating head and neck of a man, barely more than an arm's length away. But not a man -- at least, not Ba'ku. His skin was pale, shimmering gold, except for a deep, ugly wound across his neck -- as if someone had branded him there with a white-hot poker.

His eyes were a bright, unnatural amber...and they stared directly at Artim.

The boy screamed and leaped backward, falling to the ground even as he struggled to turn and flee. Father had lied, lied to spare Artim the hideous truth that ghosts were real, and this particular one seemed to be after him...An angry ghost, perhaps murdered, decapitated by a hot poker.

Or worse, an offlander.

The other Ba'ku scattered at once; Father remained long enough to seize Artim's arm with painful strength and pull him away, just as the ghost's head spoke.

"Secondary protocols...active."

Not exactly what Artim had expected to hear. He let himself be dragged along, but could not help looking over his shoulder.

The head grimaced, grunted, as if fighting off invisible enemies. A noise Artim had never heard before, the ripping sound of a material somewhere between linen and metal, was followed by a flash of red, then the abrupt appearance of another man. At least, part of another man, head and torso in strange, torn clothing, suspended in the air beside the golden head. This second one seemed somewhat more Ba'ku, but he too was clearly offlander, his tight, masklike face mottled with ugly green sores.

In the middle of the square, these two wraiths battled hand-to-hand: the green-mottled man flailing out, his partially visible arms wrestling invisible ones beneath the golden ghost head.

Inside the duck blind, the Starfleet lieutenant half rose from her seat. "They can see him!"

"Stop him!" Gallatin bellowed, watching decades of work -- and the very goal of his life -- undone in seconds before his eyes. "Now!"

"Commander Data, stand down!" the lieutenant shouted into the companel. "That's an order! I repeat! Stand down!"

Artim watched as the shrieking mottled man rose into the air, then plummeted down headfirst to the ground. There he lay, unconscious, while the golden head and scorched neck suddenly became a golden head, neck, torso, arms, and last of all, legs and feet. The first offlander parted the air as if it had been a cloak wrapped about him, and stepped forth from it.

In one swift, smooth move, he took the lightning weapon from the unconscious man's hands. He will kill us now, Artim thought frantically; but instead, the golden man turned the weapon toward the bare rockface, and fired.

Something within the stone itself sputtered; the man fired again, again, again, each time filling the air with light and thunder.

The rockface shimmered as if made of moonbeams rather than mountain, then faded away to reveal a sight more impossible than any other Artim had yet seen. Hiding behind them were people, most of whom had apparently ducked for cover; as Artim and the rest of the astounded Ba'ku watched, those people rose slowly, sheepishly to their feet.

"What is it?" villagers murmured. "Who are they?"

Who, indeed? Artim wondered. Here was another mottled one, apparently a leader, dressed in garish purple-and-green robes, bejeweled with glittering gems and gold. Beside him stood a brown-skinned woman in a more sedate jumpsuit, just like the others, who were of different-colored skins and even of different species. They were clearly of one clan, and the mottled one of another.

A renewed wave of murmuring passed among the Ba'ku behind them, and Artim turned to see more offlanders there, dressed in the same bulky garb as the golden ghost had been.

As for the golden ghost, he lowered his weapon and stood surveying the results of his attack -- not with maliciousness or hatred or any of the other emotions a homicidal ghost ought, Artim decided. If anything, the expression on his bland features was one of simple satisfaction.

Copyright © 1998 by Paramount Pictures.

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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

The morning of what would become the Day of Lightning began like all other spring days: cool first, then warmed by the rising sun. Anij paused in her walking to gaze up at the mountains, stark and serene against a cloudless sky. Timeless they were, as timeless as the sunlight, warm upon her homespun-clad shoulders; as timeless as the morning, or the cool air moving through her lungs, or her consciousness itself. She had walked this particular path into town every day for the past -- how many mornings? Always, she told herself, forever; for she did not care to remember the Time before this one. Forever the Ba'ku had lived here, or so it seemed; forever they had enjoyed the wealth of the fertile valley. And every day, regardless of season, it was the same: she set upon her way and saw the same sights -- the valley lush and verdant, fragrant with wildflowers and herbs, the tilled crops healthy in the dark, eternally fruitful soil; the imposing backdrop of mountains sometimes taupe, sometimes rose, sometimes blue or mauve, everchanging with the play of the light. Even when the rains came, they were gentle: perfect, simply perfect, never enough to keep her inside.

And every morning, the intense beauty of her world startled her afresh and filled her with joy.

Anij glanced up at the sound of a bleat: upon the lower, greener hillsides, shaggy pack animals grazed, a few of them glancing up at the shouts of children playing on a nearby farm. She followed the animals' curious gazes to a group of children clearly on the prowl for something hidden. Two of the boys were scanning the hay-strewn troughs between mounds of tender young plants -- careful, and Sojef, too; that there was still time for such commitments, for children. True, he was a good man -- leader of the entire Ba'ku community, six hundred now, and growing slowly again after so many were lost during the Time of Sorrows. She knew, also, from the now-departed Barel, that Sojef had been the most devoted of husbands, the gentlest of lovers.

A year after Barel's death, on his son's first birthday, Sojef had professed his love to Anij. Had asked her to commit to a permanent partnership. Forever, he had said.

Forever, Anij knew, was a very, very long time. Even so, she did not say no; at the same time, she did not say yes. I don't know. Give me time, Sojef. Give me time...

Time to accept that she would wed not out of passion, but friendship.

Sojef had given her time, of course; he was Ba'ku, too mature and intelligent to let something as foolish as his emotions cloud his judgment. And so, he and Artim remained her friends, visiting daily; it was understood in the village that perhaps someday, they would announce a formal commitment.

Anij drank in a long breath of cool morning air as she rounded a sharp curve in the path; the mountain that had blocked her view gave way suddenly to reveal the village square, encircled by the blooms of spring in dazzling shades of yellow, fuchsia, blue-violet. No matter how many times she saw that particular view, she always experienced pleasure.

How many springs had she experienced? Many, so many, and while she had always been aesthetically moved by the season's heady beauty, she had always reacted with wisdom and restraint. Only the youngest, most spoiled children indulged their emotions freely.

This spring was different; or pe rhaps it was she, Anij, who had somehow changed, grown tired of denying her feelings in favor of responsibility. The night before, she had dreamed a foolish dream: that she was free of all commitments, that she flew like a bird from the village and found her heart's desire in an offlander, a stranger whose face she could not clearly see, but whose strong arms held her firmly, whose whisper evoked in her an intensity of physical craving and emotion she had never before experienced.

She had wakened with a cry of disappointment at finding herself in her own bed, alone; even now, gazing upon the village nestled against mountains, sky, and quicksilver river, she felt a pang of yearning.

It followed her across the wildflower-filled meadow, past the pond into the village square, as she reasoned with it silently:

You are a fool, Anij, to think such thoughts. You know how craven, how amoral offlanders are; how could you even dream of loving one? Even dream of giving up this...?

And the beauty and serenity of the valley soothed her, as it always did; by the time she greeted her first fellow villager, her smile was once again genuine. This was the place she belonged -- had always belonged -- and the joy of being here far outweighed any childish cravings for true passion.

People began milling into the square. Some of the first merchants to arrive had already set up their stalls in the shade of a large rockface, where the mountain met the village, and were displaying wares: homespun clothing, honey, medicinal herbs.

"Gen'a, good morning," she called, to a woman carrying pails of fresh milk for sale, and to her dark-haired husband, eldest of the Original Group: "Jat'ko, how are you?"

A nd there beside the market stall stood Sojef, dressed in plain homespun. Anij banished all thoughts of the hot-blooded offlander and looked upon Sojef with admiration: he was clothed like everyone else, yet a stranger could easily have identified him as a leader. Not because of any affectation or condescension in his manner or speech; Sojef's attitude was one of gentleness. But there was a strength behind it -- a strength Anij had seen many times before, especially during the Time of Sorrows, when Sojef had taken responsibility for making the hardest decision of all.

She greeted him as she had every day for the past eleven years since his proposal: with a slight, complicitous smile, as if their agreement to become engaged someday were a secret unshared by the entire community. And he responded as he always did, with the same coconspirator's smile, the faint uncertainty in his eyes: Do you love me yet, as I do you?

And her unspoken answer: Give me time...

He nodded, ending the exchange, and turned his attention to others headed for market; he considered it his task to know each villager's challenges, hopes, needs...and dreams. Especially dreams.

Anij turned from him and headed for a produce stall, where a vendor was busily unloading the season's first maj'ra fruit for display. As Anij neared, the vendor stopped, produced a paring knife, and began to peel away a piece of the oblong fruit's white exterior to reveal the juicy, violet-colored flesh inside.

He sliced a dripping square of flesh off and passed it across the wooden stall to Anij, who took a grateful bite and winced with pleasure at the tartness. A sudden shudder passed through her -- and with it, the unbidden, unsettling memory of the Time of Sorrows, the time when forever had almost stopped.

Within the rockface, behind the shields that rendered him invisible, Gallatin watched as the Ba'ku woman shuddered, then lifted her head and stared right at him.

Instinctively, his heart had begun to beat rapidly; impossibly, she had sensed him, perhaps recognized him --

No, he commanded himself. See, she is just distracted, that's all, and staring into the distance...It's your own foolish guilt that has discovered you, Gal'na, not this woman.

Still, he gazed down at his monitor to assure himself that the shields were in perfect working order. And of course, they were; she could no more see him than she could the uniformed Starfleet officer sitting beside Gallatin at the console, or the other researchers hidden in the blind -- or, for that matter, the other isolation-suited researchers milling around the village square, rendered invisible by the force field that appeared to Gallatin as a bright red glow. One of them stood right beside her -- close enough, at the moment, for her to touch should she suddenly start flailing her arms about.

But she would not, of course; she was a well-mannered Ba'ku, and like all her people, handsome. Particularly so, with her sun-bleached, close-cropped curls that framed delicate features...

...and those damnably ageless eyes. All the Ba'ku had them, even the children, and for the umpteenth time that hour, Gallatin found himself struggling to master his hatred and envy.

Look at her, so casually wiping away the scarlet juice of the maj'ra fruit from her chin, from that soft, unmarked skin...Gallatin drew in a silent breath at its perfection. How radiant it was, how firm and unlined -- while he and all his fellow Son'a were old, irretrievably old and bound soon for death, their genes so damaged that there was no hope of progeny, of sons and daughters to remind their parents of the beauty of youth. Many of the Son'a had already died. With none to replace them, they were an aged and dying race, destined for extinction within a decade, perhaps two. The mere sight of the Ba'ku offended him and filled him with longing.

Beside him at the console, a Starfleet lieutenant spoke into a companel. "Base to Ensign McCauley. Please report to area seven and assist the edaphology team."

"Acknowledged." Outside the duck blind, the glowing red observer next to the Ba'ku woman turned and moved away.

Gallatin paused to look at the lieutenant beside him -- a middle-aged human female with wrinkles beginning to appear in the corners of her eyes, upon her brow. Any respectable Son'a would have taken prompt action to have them removed; yet humans and most other Federation races tolerated wrinkling gracefully, as if it were a natural event and not a disgusting side effect of mortality. Somehow, on them it seemed less hideous -- but on a Son'a face, the slightest sag, the tiniest wrinkle, was a moral affront. Gallatin's own facial skin was pulled taut -- like a rotten melon about to split, he thought in disgust. Between the daily facial surgeries and the genetic damage, he was just beginning to develop the chronic algal growth all Son'a dreaded, for it caused an unsightly dark-green mottling just beneath the skin. Over time, it disintegrated layers of delicate tissue from the inside out.

The sense of another warm body standing beside him drew his attention back t o the present; he turned, and discovered another Starfleet officer, this one an ensign, proffering a computer padd. Gallatin took the padd and glanced cursorily at the readings, then at the ensign, a young human male of Caucasian variety, with skin an astounding fresh-scrubbed pink. How did the Son'a appear to him? Grotesque and decadent, most likely, with stretched, bloodless skin and sumptuous, ornate robes augmented by precious jewels. Not that Gallatin considered his own dress excessive; it was not the Son'a's fault that the entire known galaxy lacked any sense of style, or that Starfleet's designers adored the drab and unimaginative. A little gold-pressed latinum and onyx at the collar and shoulders, perhaps a large central ruby on the utility belt, just a few subtle changes here and there...

Decadent, Gallatin decided. That is what they think we are: decadent, decrepit, and dying. And at the sight of the ensign, and of the vibrant, unadorned beauty of the Ba'ku woman, he knew they were right.

He thrust the padd back at the ensign and snapped: "Admiral Dougherty is waiting for this. Transmit it to the ship."

Before he uttered the final word, the companel, set on audio, crackled loudly, and an excited Son'a voice shouted:

"Alert, area twelve!"

The blast of a weapon. Gallatin watched as the Ba'ku and their invisible observers turned toward the hills in astonishment.

On audio, the sound of scuffling; the thud of flesh striking flesh. A groan. The voice began speaking again, but the signal was breaking up. Gallatin could make out only a few garbled words.

"...the android has..."

A burst of static. The realization of what could happen propelled Gallatin in a swift lung e to the nearest companel. He slammed a control with his fist. "Report!"

More static; gasping. The words: "...can't bring him down..."

Next to Gallatin, the pink-skinned ensign pointed, following the gaze of the startled Ba'ku to the nearby foothills. "Over there!"

Invisible to the villagers, a figure in a glowing isolation suit was running down the rock-strewn hills with preternatural speed and agility.

Gallatin stepped toward the main viewscreen. "Magnify!"

The image bloomed abruptly, enlarging to reveal the foothills with such detail that Gallatin might have been there beside the fleeing figure as it scrambled down the steep hillside toward the village, preceded and followed by a small avalanche of stones and sand and dust. Two other glowing figures -- Son'a, from their posture and movements -- armed with plasma weapons gave chase. Alongside them ran a group of Ba'ku children, clearly terrified by the blast and entirely unaware that their path -- also toward the village square -- kept them in the midst of the invisible runners.

Something horrible had happened, Gallatin realized, with a heaviness in his heart, something that threatened the entire mission here. Even worse, that threatened to expose the deeper reasons for it to his Starfleet partners. Unlike the Federation scientists surrounding him, Gallatin knew that the first runner was Starfleet, and those following, Son'a. But there was still time; the Ba'ku had heard the blast, but probably only the children had actually seen it. If nothing else happened to arouse their suspicions, perhaps --

Too late. One of the Son'a guards lifted his plasma weapon and took aim at the fleeing figure. A streak of blinding brilliance surged towar d the runner, barely missing him; at the accompanying thunder, the children shrieked.

On one of the companels that still showed the village square, the curly-haired Ba'ku woman demanded: "What is it? What's happening?" In her eyes and voice was more indignation than fright.

Anij, Gallatin remembered suddenly. Your name is Anij, and of them all, you are the most fearless. And he felt an intense, fleeting self-loathing.

Beside him, the Federation scientists rose as a group to their feet and watched with dismay as the chase continued down into the village; another eye-searing plasma blast caused the locals to scatter.

Gallatin's worst fears had come true; a Starfleet intruder had made an unfortunate discovery. By all rights, the Son'a should kill him. But if he permitted his people to kill a Starfleet officer here, in front of all these Starfleet scientists...

"Hold your fire!" he shouted at the com to the Son'a guards, then with a single look, conveyed an order to the Starfleet lieutenant seated beside him.

She knew immediately what he meant; she was quick-witted, intelligent, as were all the Starfleet personnel he had worked with; and that, he thought grimly, is precisely the source of our problem now.

She touched a control. "Base to Commander Data."

The voice that answered was halting, dazed -- but not the least bit winded after the wild run. "Rerouting...microhydraulic...power distribution...regulating...thermal...overload..." On the viewscreen, the android ran staggering toward the village square.

Disoriented, damaged, Gallatin realized; perhaps there was a way out, after all. To destroy him gracefully, without insulting Starfleet.

"Data, report to b ase immediately," the lieutenant ordered.

If the android understood, he gave no sign; his mutterings seemed self-directed. "Transferring...positronic...matrix functions...engaging...secondary protocols..." As he ran, he lifted both gloved hands toward the neck of his helmet.

The Starfleet ensign who had handed Gallatin the padd cried out in horror: "He's trying to remove the headpiece!"

Gallatin tapped his own companel. "All field units. Intercept the android."

The boy Artim ran gasping through the village in search of his father...and an explanation. Father would explain it calmly; Father would lay his, Artim's, childish fears to rest. Sojef was old and wise and knew everything.

There had to be a simple explanation; there always was. Yet Artim could think of nothing at the moment that could account for the strange thunder he and his friends -- Jusa, Nal, and the girls -- had heard coming from down by the lake. Lightning, they all decided; but the sky was perfectly cloudless.

"Magic lightning," Nal suggested, and they had laughed at his foolish explanation. They were almost adults, after all; the changing time would soon be upon them, when the girls would no longer seem to be annoyances, but creatures of compelling interest. (Or so Father said, but to Artim the idea was still repellent.)

They had laughed, but then the girl Je'na had seen another impossibility: pebbles and dust, and clumps of grass trampled, as if someone invisible were running toward them.

"Look!" she had cried, pointing; "look!" And the fine hairs on Artim's neck and arms had lifted.

The disturbance passed, only to be followed by another -- the same trampling of grass and stirring of du st, doubled -- and all vestiges of Artim's maturity fled. He and the others broke into a run, away from the noise. Ghosts, he thought wildly; only ghosts could be so invisible; but ghosts were inhabitants of children's tales, not of reality.

Then the strange lightning split the air beside him, dazzling his eyes so that he closed them and saw streaks of blue. Lightning, yet not lightning; he could feel no electricity, smell no ozone. And with it came a boom of thunder so loud that his teeth rattled, and he shrieked like a shameless infant. All thoughts were banished save one.

Find Father...

Another blast; another roar of thunder.

Artim made it, sweating and gasping, past the pond and into the village, then the square. As he passed adults, he scanned their faces, hoping to find comfort -- but saw instead only confusion.

And when at last he found Sojef directing others away from the approaching disturbance, Artim cried: "Father...?"

It was a question, a demand for an answer, but there were no answers to be found in Sojef's expression. It was the same odd look that came upon him during those few times he had spoken of an earlier, evil time: when his own people had killed each other with weapons. What was the word for it? War.

And the look on Sojef s face had been fear.

Only Artim saw it there; only Artim knew his father well enough. To the villagers, Sojef no doubt appeared calm village leader.

But there was panic in the way he roughly grabbed Artim and held him tightly to him, as with his free arm, he directed his people toward the meeting hall: "Get inside! Find shelter!"

A loud splash behind them, as if someone had just plummeted into the pond.

Artim wriggled in hi s father's grasp and broke free, turning to look behind them just in time to witness the most impossible sight of all:

The floating head and neck of a man, barely more than an arm's length away. But not a man -- at least, not Ba'ku. His skin was pale, shimmering gold, except for a deep, ugly wound across his neck -- as if someone had branded him there with a white-hot poker.

His eyes were a bright, unnatural amber...and they stared directly at Artim.

The boy screamed and leaped backward, falling to the ground even as he struggled to turn and flee. Father had lied, lied to spare Artim the hideous truth that ghosts were real, and this particular one seemed to be after him...An angry ghost, perhaps murdered, decapitated by a hot poker.

Or worse, an offlander.

The other Ba'ku scattered at once; Father remained long enough to seize Artim's arm with painful strength and pull him away, just as the ghost's head spoke.

"Secondary protocols...active."

Not exactly what Artim had expected to hear. He let himself be dragged along, but could not help looking over his shoulder.

The head grimaced, grunted, as if fighting off invisible enemies. A noise Artim had never heard before, the ripping sound of a material somewhere between linen and metal, was followed by a flash of red, then the abrupt appearance of another man. At least, part of another man, head and torso in strange, torn clothing, suspended in the air beside the golden head. This second one seemed somewhat more Ba'ku, but he too was clearly offlander, his tight, masklike face mottled with ugly green sores.

In the middle of the square, these two wraiths battled hand-to-hand: the green-mottled man flailing out, his partially visibl e arms wrestling invisible ones beneath the golden ghost head.


Inside the duck blind, the Starfleet lieutenant half rose from her seat. "They can see him!"

"Stop him!" Gallatin bellowed, watching decades of work -- and the very goal of his life -- undone in seconds before his eyes. "Now!"

"Commander Data, stand down!" the lieutenant shouted into the companel. "That's an order! I repeat! Stand down!"


Artim watched as the shrieking mottled man rose into the air, then plummeted down headfirst to the ground. There he lay, unconscious, while the golden head and scorched neck suddenly became a golden head, neck, torso, arms, and last of all, legs and feet. The first offlander parted the air as if it had been a cloak wrapped about him, and stepped forth from it.

In one swift, smooth move, he took the lightning weapon from the unconscious man's hands. He will kill us now, Artim thought frantically; but instead, the golden man turned the weapon toward the bare rockface, and fired.

Something within the stone itself sputtered; the man fired again, again, again, each time filling the air with light and thunder.

The rockface shimmered as if made of moonbeams rather than mountain, then faded away to reveal a sight more impossible than any other Artim had yet seen. Hiding behind them were people, most of whom had apparently ducked for cover; as Artim and the rest of the astounded Ba'ku watched, those people rose slowly, sheepishly to their feet.

"What is it?" villagers murmured. "Who are they?"

Who, indeed? Artim wondered. Here was another mottled one, apparently a leader, dressed in garish purple-and-green robes, bejeweled with glittering gems and gold. Beside him stood a brown-sk inned woman in a more sedate jumpsuit, just like the others, who were of different-colored skins and even of different species. They were clearly of one clan, and the mottled one of another.

A renewed wave of murmuring passed among the Ba'ku behind them, and Artim turned to see more offlanders there, dressed in the same bulky garb as the golden ghost had been.

As for the golden ghost, he lowered his weapon and stood surveying the results of his attack -- not with maliciousness or hatred or any of the other emotions a homicidal ghost ought, Artim decided. If anything, the expression on his bland features was one of simple satisfaction.

Copyright © 1998 by Paramount Pictures.

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    Great book

    Always wanted to read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Fbi washington operations

    Dann augest

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2012

    JUST WATCHED THE MOVIE

    AND IM FLIPPING OUT

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  • Posted January 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    We are explorers

    When i started this book i thought it was going to be about space. and sorta boring but as i got off unto it was great. it had drama, sadness and romance. in this book you get glimpse of everyone's life and from there prospective about a situation that is accruing. my fav character of this book has to be Sisko he was strong intelligent reasonable scar tic at times as well... <BR/> Commander Benjamin Sisko who has been stationed on Earth since the tragic events of Wolf 359 in which his ship, the USS Saratoga, where he was serving on as first officer, participated in the defense of Earth from the Borg. As with most starships on that dreadful day, the Saratoga was destroyed and Sisko was able to escape with his son Jake, but his wife, Jennifer lost her life. As any man would, he's been suffering that loss since that day. <BR/><BR/>The story opens as Benjamin Sisko and his son Jake arrive at Sisko's new assignment on Deep Space Nine. Sisko is ambivelent about his new Star Fleet posting and what greets him at the station does not encourage him to stay. The Cardassians had stripped both the planet and station of everything of worth before their departure. As the DS9 crew began to assemble and attempt to restore order to the situation each was struck by the enormity of the problem(s) that faced them. Then, depending on your point of view, either the Celestral Temple (Bajoran heaven) or a stable wormhole was discovered near the station. Whatever it was called it was a pathway to the Gamma quadrant, a short cut that would place Bajor at the crossroads of major trade routes. It would also make Bajor a highly coveted prize that many civilizations would be willing to fight over.Quote"The most important thing to understand about humans.It is the unknown that defines it existence.We are constantly searching-not just for answers to our questions but also for new questions.We are explorers .We explore our lives day by day, and we explore the galaxy trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge.-sisko

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2002

    Star Trek: First Contact: A great novle

    It has been six years since Captain Jean Luc Picard was once part of a collective known as the Borg, half organic, half cybernetic life forms whose only goal is to assimalate other beings into their collective. But now, the borg have traveled back in time to the year 2063 to stop humans from making first contact with aliens from another world so they can assimalate the Earth. Jean Luc Picard and his crew must follow the Borg back in time and repair the damage they have done, if they fail the future of humanity will be lost.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2000

    Two Captiains, One Mission

    This book went by in a flash. It was good. Generations was the first Star Trek book I ever read. Once I saw it, I knew I had to get it. This is the book that got me hooked on actually reading anything. Before this book, I despised all books. This got me interested in reading a lot more often. Since then, September, I have read over 20 Star Trek books. They all are really good. I particularly liked Generations.

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