Star Trek Voyager: String Theory #2: Fusion [NOOK Book]

Overview

As the Cosmos Unravels
The disruption in the space-time continuum caused by the creation of the "Blue Eye" singularity continues: Thread by thread, the fabric slowly frays and peels away, breaking down barriers between dimensions. As the lines between realities blur, the consequences cascade.
A Sleeping City Awakes
Voyager pursues Tuvok to a long-dormant space station, a place of astonishing grandeur and ...
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Star Trek Voyager: String Theory #2: Fusion

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Overview

As the Cosmos Unravels
The disruption in the space-time continuum caused by the creation of the "Blue Eye" singularity continues: Thread by thread, the fabric slowly frays and peels away, breaking down barriers between dimensions. As the lines between realities blur, the consequences cascade.
A Sleeping City Awakes
Voyager pursues Tuvok to a long-dormant space station, a place of astonishing grandeur and wonder. Ancient almost beyond imagining, the city seduces the crew with the promise that their greatest aspirations might be realized. Such promise requires sacrifice, however, and the price of fulfilling them will be high for Voyager.
A Mysterious Power Stirs
Unseen sentries, alarmed by Voyager's meddling in the Monoharan system, send emissaries to ascertain Janeway's intentions. Unbeknownst to the captain, she is being tested and must persuade her evaluators that their contention -- that Voyager poses a threat to the delicate web of cosmic ecology -- is baseless. And failure to vindicate her choices will bring certain retribution to her crew.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416516279
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Series: Star Trek: Voyager Series
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 185,568
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Kirsten Beyer is the author of Star Trek: Voyager—Protectors, The Eternal Tide, Children of the Storm, Unworthy, Full Circle, String Theory: Fusion, the APO novel Alias—Once Lost, and contributed the short story “Isabo’s Shirt” to the Distant Shores anthology. In 2006 Kirsten appeared at Hollywood’s Unknown Theater in their productions of Johnson Over Jordan, This Old Planet, and Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse, which the Los Angeles Times called “unmissable.” She also appeared in the Geffen Playhouse’s world premiere of Quills and has been seen on General Hospital, Passions, and the indie feature Stomping Grounds. She has also been featured in several commercials. She lives in Los Angeles.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Tuvok was conscious of the song from the first fraction of a second that he began to emerge from his meditative state. He gradually roused himself through the stages of alertness; awareness of the weight of his limbs, his slow, rhythmic breathing, the hum of the shuttle's engines, the soft caress of the environmental controls setting the cabin temperature much warmer than most humans would be comfortable with. Finally, as he recalled where he was, and how he had come to be here, the intensity of the music threatened to plunge his Vulcan restraint into chaos.

With the precision only years of rigorous training in the Temple of Amonak had given him discipline to master, he forced the passion, the longing, and the unutterable pain into the recesses of his mind, and only when he was certain that he, and not the music, was in control did he open his eyes.

"Computer..."

The computer replied with a chirp, awaiting his command.

"What is our current heading?"

The cool voice devoid of all emotion answered as expected. "Current heading remains unchanged: one six seven mark one four."

"Estimate arrival at the singularity."

"One hour, twenty-seven minutes, eleven seconds."

Exactly as he had anticipated.

With great care, Tuvok rose from his knees next to the shuttle bunk, and sat on its edge. He shifted his focus inward, until he had counted exactly one hundred times the quarter of a second between each beat of his heart, and satisfied himself that no matter what, it would continue to beat at precisely the same rate, substantially slower than the normal Vulcan resting heart rate, until he allowed it to do otherwise.

He then turned his attention to the corner of his mind where he had placed the music. It had been a desperate struggle over the last nine hours to maintain his ability to perform even the most rudimentary exercises of piloting the shuttle, but finally he had forced the living presence that now shared his mind into a section of his consciousness that he could examine at will.

He was certain he was experiencing a telepathic communication, source unknown. He had considered the possibility that he might be suffering from an as of yet indefinable side effect of the strange properties of Monorhan space and subspace to which he and all of Voyager's crew had recently been exposed. And after careful consideration, he had dismissed that theory.

The presence that called to him was alive. Its life, though painful and somehow disconnected...no...stuck in between...whatever that meant...was more than life, at least life as he had known it during his hundred-plus years of existence. And somehow, it knew him.

Tuvok.

Vulcan.

Head of security.

Husband.

Father.

Friend.

Traveler far from home.

It saw beneath the disciplined walls of self-control that fortified him against passions and emotional extremes that most humanoid species could only imagine, but all Vulcans knew intuitively as the enemy of stability, logic, and reason. It lived in these extremes and somehow managed to survive them without fear. It contained...no...experienced all that was possible, and merged that reality into harmony that his mind could almost, but not quite, hold. But it was somehow incomplete. The deepest notes, which pounded discordantly against the simplicity and beauty of the rest of the song, were sounds that spoke of yearning...need...desperate painful desire...for home.

But what would an entity of such vast and incomprehensible variety call home?

It was pointless, for now, to even attempt to imagine. It was enough for Tuvok that this presence had effortlessly compromised the deep and secure defenses of pure logic and reason that guided every moment of his life, and forced him to face the desires that he had never allowed himself to feel. They met upon this common ground. They both wanted...needed...desired home.

He was absolutely confident that when he found the source of the song, he would be able to somehow translate the nature of the communication and enter into dialogue with it.

That or it would drive him mad.

Either way, it was a journey best undertaken alone. Whether he succeeded or failed, he felt obligated to fully understand the nature of the presence and any threat it might pose to Voyager. Though to be absolutely accurate, part of him knew already that Voyager was not of intrinsic interest to it, because Voyager was an object with which it could not communicate. It needed someone to know...to help. It needed Tuvok.

The possibility that he would not survive this mission was very real. But, he reasoned, he had already been given up for dead on more than one occasion by his family, both genetic on Vulcan, and adopted in Starfleet. While he was certain they would mourn his loss, in time they would come to terms with their grief and integrate it into themselves in a way that brought meaning to both his life and theirs. That was the worst-case scenario. Much more likely, he would return from an unauthorized absence of a few days, give a full report of his findings to the captain, accept an official reprimand on his record, and return to his duties.

Had he been capable of feeling irony, he would have found it appropriate to describe the reality that the four years he had spent facing violent death at almost every turn while serving as Captain Kathryn Janeway's chief of security on Voyager had bought him, and all of the colleagues who had made that journey with him, a certain amount of latitude. It was not as if any deviation from standard protocol would be looked on lightly, but experience had shown that their odds of survival would have been seriously reduced were it not for the creative thinking and occasional renegade impulses that seemed required of most of the senior officers from time to time. Such ingenuity had saved their lives on more occasions than Tuvok cared to count, seventy-nine, all told.

Such simple evaluations of actions and consequences were one of the many tools, which had allowed his highest logical functions to assert themselves over the cacophony of sounds that threatened unrestrained abandon at every microsecond.

Point-two-five seconds. Beat. Point-two-five seconds. Beat.

Choosing an ancient visualization technique, a simple, non-automated door became the focus of his thoughts.

His hand was on the doorknob.

Point-two-five seconds. Beat.

Clockwise turn, seventeen degrees.

Point-two-five seconds. Beat.

Regulated intake of breath, diaphragm release, lungs filled to capacity.

Beat.

Biceps contract, pulling door forward five degrees.

Sound rushing like wind through his physical being, resonating not in his mind, but in his katra. Temptation, almost unbearable temptation to throw the door open and allow the symphony to swallow him whole. It would be so easy. Just like falling off a cliff.

Exhale.

Point-two-five seconds.

Beat.

His course heading had been accurate. He was almost there.

Kathryn Janeway strode purposefully into her ready room off the bridge of the Starship Voyager and found not one but two unanticipated visitors waiting within.

Her first officer, Commander Chakotay, sat comfortably on the long bench that lined the far wall beneath a large window, engrossed in a sheet of drawing paper. Next to him, occasionally indicating some point of interest on the drawing with the fingers of her right hand, stood Naomi Wildman, the half-human, half-Ktarian daughter of Ensign Samantha Wildman, and the first child ever born aboard Voyager. Though Naomi was little more than two years old, the combination of her human and Ktarian DNA resulted in a child who looked more like five or six and had already demonstrated the cognitive skills of a child nearly twice that age.

As Naomi struggled to answer a question posed to her by Chakotay, scrunching her forehead lined with small pointed horns running vertically from her hairline to the bridge of her nose, and absentmindedly pulling the end of her long strawberry blond braid to her mouth, Janeway noticed that in her left hand, Naomi held a large mug of a steaming beverage that looked, and dare she hope, smelled gloriously like coffee.

"I hope I'm not interrupting something important," Janeway offered casually.

She noted with an inward smile that as Chakotay rose automatically to his feet, handing the paper back to Naomi and greeting her with a warm "Not at all, Captain," Naomi's eyes grew involuntarily wide. The child stood at a miniature version of attention, managing to maintain both the drawing and the mug, though her hair remained fixed in her mouth as she waited, appropriately, for the captain to address her personally before she spoke.

"Good morning, Miss Wildman," Janeway began, not wishing to put Naomi through one more moment of discomfort.

"Captain," Naomi replied seriously, extending her left hand and offering the mug to Janeway as her braid mercifully dropped from her mouth and returned to its proper alignment running straight down her back.

"Thank you very much," Janeway smiled, as she took the mug, her senses calming instinctively as she took in the aroma of the steam rising from the dark liquid.

Definitely coffee.

"Neelix..." Naomi began, but then paused as if unsure as to whether or not she should continue.

"You have just made my morning, Miss Wildman," Janeway offered graciously, placing a gentle hand on the child's shoulder. "Please speak freely."

Naomi relaxed a little as she drew a deep breath and continued. "Neelix was helping me finish this star chart over breakfast when he saw that you had left your quarters and were going straight to the bridge..." She paused before adding, "...without stopping to eat."

Janeway threw a playful glance at Chakotay, who was obviously enjoying this exchange tremendously.

"Am I to understand that Neelix monitors my every move?" Janeway asked with mock seriousness.

Naomi appeared to realize her error immediately.

"No!" she blurted out before she noticed that the captain was still smiling. "It's just...he's programmed the computer to tell him when you get up in the morning...so that he can make sure your coffee is hot."

Janeway stood upright and took a sip, thankful that the morning's brew was replicated and not one of Neelix's usually interesting and completely undrinkable variations on the coffee theme.

"You may tell Mr. Neelix that I am very pleased with his work," Janeway said, as Naomi's smile grew bright enough to light the entire room. "And thank you for delivering this to me."

"Will there be anything else, ma'am?" Naomi asked, apparently oblivious of Janeway's unwritten rule that she be addressed as "ma'am" only in a crunch.

"May I see your drawing?" Janeway asked.

"Sure! I mean, yes, ma'am," Naomi answered, pleased.

Examining the broad strokes of deep purple and blue that filled the page, Janeway was impressed to see that Naomi had actually created a very fair approximation of the stars of the Monorhan system.

"What do you think, Chakotay?" Janeway turned to the commander.

"I think Seven of Nine might want to add this to our astrometric database," Chakotay replied.

"High praise, indeed," Janeway acknowledged, "although, I wonder..." she mused, taking the drawing and placing it on the wall next to the door in a position where she could have an unobstructed view of it from her desk.

"What do you think?" she asked Naomi. "Would you mind very much if I were to hang this here, for the time being?"

The child's sweet, prideful smile was all the gratitude Janeway needed.

"I wouldn't mind at all, ma'am."

"Thank you for this lovely addition to my ready room, Naomi."

"You're welcome, Captain," Naomi grinned.

"You are dismissed, Miss Wildman."

With a curt nod, and a bounce in her step, Naomi took three long strides toward the exit before breaking into a full skip as the door opened to the corridor that would lead her back to Neelix and her day of study and play.

As Chakotay watched Naomi's braid dance in rhythm behind her, Janeway noted the deep lines of worry etched in his tattooed brow. He was still smiling faintly, but the smile no longer touched his eyes.

Nothing about humans irked Seven of Nine quite as intensely as their frequent inability to retain even the simplest series of instructions and perform them to her specifications without demanding infinitely more in the way of explanation and justification than she was ever of a mind to give. In a colleague who had earned her respect, B'Elanna Torres, for example, she had learned to restrain her irritation because she finally understood, largely owing to their recent away mission on Monorha, where they had been forced to function in a "mini-collective" state, that B'Elanna's questions were not meant to irritate, or to imply any ignorance on Seven's part, but instead were part of a process of intelligent debate that often resulted in a better solution than Seven might have arrived at on her own. Naturally, she was confident that she would have eventually seen the same issues B'Elanna would raise, but that was because B'Elanna had a natural gift for thinking ten or eleven steps ahead of any problem. This had earned her the right, in Seven's opinion, to interrupt her course of action, and consider at least a few other possibilities before fully committing herself.

The same could not be said for Ensign Brooks. He was one of a team of engineers who had been assigned to assist her in evaluating the viability of adding quantum slipstream technology to Voyager's arsenal of not-quite-by-the-book modifications. Though to Seven's mind, there were infinitely more pressing matters before Voyager's crew at the moment, Commander Chakotay had insisted that all senior staff were to provide him with regularly scheduled updates of all current projects now that things had returned to something vaguely resembling "normal." She had every intention of obeying Chakotay's request, despite the unpleasant fact that it would throw her into Brooks's path first thing after completing her regeneration cycle.

Brooks was obviously highly regarded by Commander Chakotay. Seven was certain, however, that should he ever be asked to engage in activities that went beyond the theoretical and more toward the practical applications, he would have made Harry Kim's frequent tendency to come within an inch of his life look like textbook procedure rather than innocent excess.

Ensign Brooks was speaking. Reluctantly she forced herself to focus on his question.

"But if the housing of the coil is reinforced with a static forcefield, won't that limit the distribution of the reaction and reduce capacity?" he asked.

Resisting the urge to extend her assimilation tubules and simply spoon-feed him the data he required, she began again, in the most patient voice she could muster.

"The forcefield is a necessary defensive measure. The limited vulnerability is weighted higher than the .0075 capacity reduction that you refer to, and would result in an insignificant reaction increase."

"In your opinion," he continued.

Seven paused.

"In the opinion of a collective of millions of beings who assimilated and then perfected quantum slipstream technology before finding transwarp travel more efficient." She made a mental note to review Starfleet Academy entrance requirements, and determine, if possible, who had felt it was prudent to make Ensign Brooks an engineer.

"Right. The Borg are obsessed with efficiency. But no matter how you look at it, the static field is not the most efficient option," Brooks observed.

"Ensign, if you were to engage the slipstream coil and begin flying at that speed, should the coil be transported from its station by a hostile party, it would result in the immediate disintegration of your vessel. Insignificantly decreased reaction potential is a small price to pay for the safety the static field provides. I can assure you that in the unlikely event you should ever fly that fast, finding a way to move at a higher velocity will not be a primary or even secondary concern."

"I was just saying..." he began, but her level gaze told him he might be taking his life in his hands if he chose to continue.

The next sound that Seven heard was the chirping of her combadge.

"Torres to Seven of Nine."

"Go ahead," she replied.

"Meet me in astrometrics."

"I'm on my way." She toyed with the idea of asking Brooks to realign the coil-locking dampers, but opted to complete the procedure herself when she returned. "Ensign Brooks, please review the coil distribution parameters using the following three antineutrino variances. I will expect your report when I return."

"Yes, ma'am," he stammered, obviously still unsure how one addressed a former Borg, now human, who had spent more time aboard a starship than he had, if you counted the various Borg cubes she had served on, but had never officially accepted a rank aboard Voyager.

Seven had almost reached the door when she remembered to turn and say, "Thank you, Ensign." It was an unnecessary nicety as far as she was concerned, but she had realized in the last eleven months how much more efficient working conditions could be when one observed these simple pleasantries.

"When was the last time you slept, Chakotay?" Janeway began, as soon as the door was closed.

"I could ask you the same question," he replied simply. Chakotay was not at all surprised to see that in the space of a breath, the jovial woman who had just lingered lovingly over a child's drawing was gone and in her place stood the most determined leader ever to ride point on a Federation vessel. Sometimes he thought they had survived this long in the Delta Quadrant only through the sheer force of her will. And now she had her game face on.

"You left the bridge less than two hours ago. It's not as if standing over the conn will get us to Tuvok any faster. As long as we're in Monorhan space..." he began.

"I know. Impulse engines only," she finished bitterly. "And he's got a good head start. At this rate he'll probably reach the singularity at least a few hours ahead of us."

"I am pleased to report that we're becoming much more proficient at navigating the unusual space and subspace curvatures of the Monorhan system. It should cut some time off our pursuit course," Chakotay said.

"And we shouldn't have to worry about any more ships suddenly popping up right in front of us?" Janeway asked.

"Seven has assured me that we should not," he replied.

"Well, that's something," Janeway acknowledged. With a frustrated sigh, she settled into the chair behind her desk, placed Naomi's drawing on her credenza, and pulled the most recent operations reports up on her monitor.

"What could Tuvok possibly be thinking?" she asked rhetorically. "There are several crew members I could easily see charging off on some foolish errand if they felt there was no alternative course of action, even some of our bridge officers, come to think of it. But we're talking about Tuvok. He spent the better part of our early years together making sure I lived up to every comma, semicolon, and period, never mind letter of Starfleet regulations. Tuvok doesn't leave this ship without reporting to at least one of us where he's going and why."

"There was that incident with the Sikarians," Chakotay reminded her.

"I haven't forgotten," she replied, sadness and anger warring for dominance on her face. "But he wasn't the only one who tried to bend the Prime Directive that day. Hurt as I was by his choice, I understood why he did it."

"And you've been absolutely certain, since then, that he would never disappoint you like that again," he finished her thought.

Janeway nodded in silent assent.

"Then you might be a little relieved to hear that the Doctor has completed his report," Chakotay continued, placing a padd in front of the captain, before crossing to the replicator and ordering a cup of orange juice while he waited for her to read its contents. "That's why I stopped by this morning on my way to the bridge."

Janeway scanned the Doctor's findings related to Tuvok's stay in sickbay just prior to the time he left Voyager for reasons unknown. "A neurochemical imbalance in the mesiofrontal cortex?"

"That's the part of the Vulcan brain that regulates their ability to suppress their emotions."

Janeway cast a suspicious eye toward her first officer. "Studying up on Vulcan physiology in our copious spare time?"

Chakotay cleared his throat before offering, without a hint of defensiveness, "I know things."

"This made as much sense to you the first time you read it as it does to me, right?" she asked.

"Right. I asked the Doctor for some clarification."

"What's this about music?" she continued.

"When Tuvok went missing I accessed his personal logs for the past few days. Shortly after we destabilized the Blue Eye, Tuvok noted that he was hearing something he could only describe as music. The Doctor couldn't explain it, though its occurrence seemed to correspond to the decrease in neuropeptide production in the limbic system. He was particularly alarmed by this specific neurochemical imbalance because he's only seen it in Tuvok once before."

"When was that?" Janeway asked in a way that suggested she was not certain she really wanted to know the answer.

"A little over two years ago, when Tuvok initiated his series of mind-melds with Ensign Lon Suder."

"Well, terrific," Janeway said, tossing the padd to her desk and taking an extra-large sip of coffee before rising to her feet. "I mean aside from turning Tuvok into a homicidal maniac, that worked out okay, so I guess there's really nothing to worry about."

"The Doctor believes the 'music' Tuvok was referring to might have been some sort of telepathic communication."

"From whom?"

"He's not willing to speculate at this time."

"Anyone who could force Tuvok to ignore his duties to this ship, never mind altering his normal brain functions..." Janeway said before pausing long enough for Chakotay to see at least a dozen possible scenarios and their probable outcomes play out across her face. "If the circumstances were different, I'd just as soon give them a nice wide berth. In any event, I've seen enough of the peculiarities of Monorhan space and subspace to last me a good long while."

"I agree," replied Chakotay. "But since that's not really an option."

"Take the ship to yellow alert."

Chakotay assented with a slight nod, and started toward the door that accessed the bridge, pausing at the threshold to say, "Don't worry, Kathryn, we'll find him."

Janeway replied with a wan smile as he left her to her thoughts.

"Good morning, B'Elanna," Seven said as she walked briskly into astrometrics, almost faltering in her apparent attempt to establish a conversational tone.

B'Elanna forced herself not to smile too broadly as she felt...no, she corrected herself, remembered...what it was like to live within Seven's conflicted consciousness. Although the residual effects of their linked state had finally passed, the experience of sharing Seven's mind had given B'Elanna an entirely new perspective on her own internal struggles. "I thought I had a rough time of it, balancing my human and Klingon natures," she had recorded in her first personal log once the Doctor had separated them. But Seven's battle to refrain from constantly acting on her own, usually superior impulses, and instead interacting within the limitations of verbal communication among Voyager's crew until a consensus had been reached, made her own occasional bouts of temper seem pale in comparison. At least she's trying, B'Elanna thought, surprised at the sensitivity and genuine warmth she now felt from time to time when she looked at Seven.

"Don't worry," she said aloud. "I'm not much of a morning person myself."

"You require my assistance?" Seven asked as she joined B'Elanna at the astrometric display control console and added softly, "Perhaps for the next four or five hours?"

This time B'Elanna didn't bother to repress her smile.

"You've been working with Ensign Brooks again this morning, haven't you?" she teased.

Seven's reply was uncharacteristic, due more to the heat than the speed with which it was delivered.

"I have, and if I am forced to return there in less time than I have suggested it is my belief that at least one of us will end up reassigned or on temporary medical leave."

B'Elanna knew the feeling all too well. The only shocking thing was to see evidence of it or any other decidedly emotional response in the former Borg. Facing Seven with a hand on her hip, B'Elanna asked, with feigned seriousness, "Are you certain that all of the residual effects of our linked state have dissipated?"

"Why do you ask, Lieutenant?"

"Because I don't think physical violence was ever on your short list of interpersonal problem-solving alternatives before," B'Elanna said, turning back to her workstation.

Seven managed to resist the temptation to rise to B'Elanna's bait. "How may I assist you, Lieutenant?"

"By taking a look at this for me," B'Elanna replied, increasing the magnification of their most recent sensor sweep of the singularity and its surrounding environs. Fun as it was to tease Seven of Nine, there were definitely more pressing matters at hand.

"Does this remind you of anything?" B'Elanna asked, stepping aside and crossing her arms at her chest as Seven analyzed the sensor data and added the readings to her visual scan of the magnified sector.

Finally she confirmed B'Elanna's suspicions. "There is a construct of almost fifty billion cubic meters revolving around the quantum singularity."

"I can see that," B'Elanna responded tersely, "but that's not what I asked. Look at the power distribution signatures. What do they remind you of?"

Seven studied the readings in question again and to B'Elanna's annoyance almost immediately tapped her combadge.

"Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead, Seven."

"Please report to astrometrics immediately," Seven stated simply, in a tone that was more an order than a request before closing the comm channel.

B'Elanna shook her head and sighed deeply.

"What?" Seven asked in a manner that B'Elanna could have sworn dropped the temperature in the room by at least a few degrees.

"Nothing," B'Elanna replied, turning again to the analysis.

"I have offended you," Seven continued, obviously oblivious of B'Elanna's attempt to drop the subject.

"No, not me."

"Lieutenant Torres," Seven began in her most condescending voice.

"Look, Seven, she's the captain. She doesn't take orders, she gives them. Would it kill you to ask her to join us, rather than making it sound like you're the one who's really in charge around here?"

"I didn't mean to imply..."

"No, Seven...you never mean to imply anything. But you just...never mind. We're not having this argument again. You'll just stand there, a picture of frigid inflexibility, and I'll end up wanting to break your nose, and at the end of the day, we've really got much bigger problems than your unbearably inflated ego!" B'Elanna spat hotly, unsure if she was more annoyed with Seven, or herself for once again allowing Seven's implacable demeanor to destroy every good feeling she had ever had about the woman.

The Key to Gremadia, a gift that had been presented to Janeway by Kaytok, one of the scientists who had aided Voyager in their recent successful attempt to destroy the Blue Eye and escape from a subspace fold, sat in front of its intricately carved case in the captain's cabin, precisely where she had left it less than twenty-four hours earlier. It shared a place of honor among some of the other personal souvenirs that Janeway had collected during Voyager's long journey in the Delta Quadrant, among them a coin -- actual currency used on Earth in the mid-twentieth century -- given to her by Amelia Earhart before they had left her and the other 37's on the planet that had been settled by their descendants; a necklace that had belonged to the wife of an Alsaurian resistance fighter named Caylem, who had mistaken Janeway for his daughter in the last tortured days of his life; and a rock that had played an integral part in her journey on the Nechani homeworld to find the ancestral spirits in order to save Kes's life. Once she had completed the ritual, her Nechisti guide had suggested she keep the rock as a reminder that oftentimes our experiences are limited rather than enhanced by our expectations.

To the naked eye, the Key was roughly the same size as the Nechani rock, though it had formed or been carved into a perfect circle. Janeway fully intended at some point to analyze the extremely hard yet porous sphere for any scientific or archaeological data it might reveal. But since Tuvok's strange departure had forced them to leave Monorha abruptly, she had scarcely given the gift a thought. Nor had she noticed that almost as soon as she removed it from its ornately carved case and placed it on a small glass table beside her door, it had begun to vibrate almost imperceptibly.

By the time the first intruder had entered her cabin, emerging from the bulkhead in the form of dozens of plasmatic energy tentacles that oozed down the walls, seeking the strange vibrating sphere, the Key to Gremadia had begun to glow as if lit by an internal pinkish gray light. The second intruder barely arrived in time to activate an energy barrier around the Key, protecting it from the one who it knew instinctively had come to destroy the Key, and anyone who got in its way.

"Bigger problems than inching through a section of space that seems to defy every law of physics in search of our head of security, who has gone absent without leave?" Janeway asked, entering the astrometrics lab and the fray at the same time.

B'Elanna and Seven turned to face the captain simultaneously, and Janeway couldn't help but think that at this particular moment these two eminently capable women resembled nothing so much as errant children who had been caught with their hands in one of her mother's antique cookie jars.

B'Elanna looked to Seven, who nodded with only slightly condescending grace to indicate that she should begin their explanation to the captain.

"Well...? " Janeway demanded.

"I've been scanning the singularity, Captain. So far the gravimetric interference has made it difficult to get any clear readings, but in the last hour or so, I've managed to clean up enough of the signal to see this."

Janeway spent a few moments studying the readings, but quickly turned her attention to the large display screen beyond the workstations that bordered the room. Walking calmly up to the staging area just in front of the display, she allowed her mind to integrate both the visual image and the numeric data scrolling beside the image at the same time.

Finally she spoke, almost reverently. "It's a space station, orbiting a black hole."

"Not just orbiting, Captain," Seven chimed in.

"No," Janeway continued, examining the readings more closely, "you're right. It's powered by the singularity. Amazing, isn't it?"

"Captain," B'Elanna said quietly, "it's a little soon to say definitively, but even from this distance, the power signatures appear to be similar to those we saw when we encountered the alien relay stations that had been coopted by the Hirogen."

Janeway turned abruptly. "Have we detected any Hirogen vessels?"

"No, Captain," she answered, "but with the interference, we might not detect them until we were right on top of them."

Janeway considered for a moment before resolving, "I'm confident that the understanding we reached with the Hirogen after our last encounter will hold for the time being. And even if they have somehow discovered this, I don't see how or why they would want to make use of it. The relay stations allowed them to stalk prey over much wider areas of space while maintaining communications. Unless this station is filled with beings the Hirogen would find challenging to hunt, I doubt we'll get any trouble from them," Janeway said as she turned back to the display. Finally she asked, "Can we date this technology?"

Seven quickly ran the data through a dozen different algorithms before replying, "The station is at least eighty thousand years old."

Janeway shook her head, awed. "So we have another mystery to add to those we've already encountered in the Monorhan system. It's possible that whatever ancient civilization managed to safely harness the energy of microscopic singularities and build the communications arrays we discovered several months ago didn't stop there."

"You're saying the next step was stabilizing a singularity large enough to power a space station?" B'Elanna asked, clearly ready to rethink her earlier supposition in light of this intriguing hypothesis.

"The relay stations were at least a hundred thousand years old. And the similarity in the power signatures is more than the complex mechanics of harnessing the energy of a singularity. I don't think it's a huge leap to suggest that both the arrays and this station were built by similar, if not, the same hands. The size of it, though," Janeway continued, her eyes glued to the viewscreen image, "It's so much larger than any space station the Federation would ever consider building. It's more like..."

"A city," Seven finished.

All three women stared silently at the image of the massive circular construct that orbited slowly around a singularity large enough, by all rights, to have sucked it into oblivion ages ago. Though none of them posed the question aloud, Janeway knew that both Seven and B'Elanna were as curious as she to know exactly what kind of stabilization field would be necessary to keep a piece of engineering that size intact around the densest and one of the most powerful gravitational forces known to the universe.

Finally Janeway broke the silence with a simple order. "I want continuous scans running on every sensor array we have until we reach this. Reroute internal sensors if you have to. We need to know everything we possibly can about it before we get there."

"I wonder if anybody's home, and how they'll feel about our stopping by?" B'Elanna mused aloud.

"We're about to find out," Janeway sighed, resigned. "Because Tuvok's headed right for it."

Copyright © 2005 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 5, 2012

    Highly Recommend!! Awesome book!!

    Love it! So interesting.. cannot stop thinking about those characters

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2005

    Left me eager to read Book 3

    The Monorhans' world is coming apart quite literally, as the anomalous region of space where their system is located rushes toward cosmic doom. In the second third of the tale begun in Jeffrey Lang's Cohesion, Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew continue their efforts to discover what's causing the unraveling process - and halt it - before this intelligent humanoid species loses its home. Since no Monorhan ship can leave the star system, thanks to the same conditions that spell that sytem's doom, relocating them isn't an option. The middle installment of any trilogy presents its author with problems. The plot needs to be complicated, but not to the point of confusing most readers. The characters need to learn from their experiences, yet remain consistent with the first book. The pace must keep the reader turning pages, but at the end there's got to be another book's worth of story left to tell. Kirsten Beyer has done remarkably well, I think, in writing the middle book of this particular trilogy as her first completed and published novel. She clearly knows the characters well, and loves them dearly - they act and speak just as they ought, throughout. I found some of her prose a bit awkward, but that was a minor matter. Overall, a fine outing for my favorite Trek crew! Beyer definitely left me eager to read Book 3.

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