Star Trek Vanguard #1: Harbinger

Star Trek Vanguard #1: Harbinger

by David Mack

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416521815
Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek
Publication date: 08/01/2005
Series: Star Trek: Vanguard Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 350,666
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

David Mack is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies. His writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), film, short fiction, and comic books. He resides in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2

The sultry jungle night buzzed with the sawing song of nocturnal insects. With a casual sweep of his hand, Cervantes Quinn pulled a long twist of his tangled, bone-white hair from his eyes and tucked it behind his ear. An insidious humidity amplified the post-sundown radiant heat and left Quinn's sweat-sodden clothing clinging like a skin graft with pockets to his thick-middled, past-its-prime body.

He straightened from his crouch and reached into his left pants pocket. Nestled deep inside, under the lock-picking kit, past his last snack stick of meat-flavored synthetic something-or-other, was his flask. As quietly as he was able, he pulled it free, unscrewed the cap, and downed a swig of nameless green liquor. It tasted horrible. He kept it in his flask only because his most frequent employer, an Orion merchant-prince named Ganz, had an irregular habit of demanding that other people pour him impromptu drinks -- and then shooting anyone who poured something he didn't like. Ganz liked the green stuff.

Awful as it was, it still constituted a minor improvement over the stale aftertaste of the pseudo-beef snack stick Quinn had devoured an hour ago. He took another swig, then tucked the half-empty flask back into the bottom of his pocket. This stakeout was taking longer than he had expected. He had imagined himself long gone by now, the pilfered device securely hidden behind the false wall panel in the cargo bay of his private freighter, the Rocinante. Instead, he swatted blindly at the high-pitched mosquitoes that he could hear dive-bombing his head but couldn't see unless they passed between him and the lights of the camp below.

From his vantage point deep in the undergrowth, beyond the tree line that marked the perimeter of the mining camp, he saw the prospectors moving from one semipermanent building to another. Most were winding down for the night, settling into their bunks, making final trips to the latrine. Vexing him were the two who continued to sit inside their Spartan mess hall, playing the most uninspired game of cards Quinn had ever seen.

He was certain he could beat them handily in just about any game, from Texas Hold'em to Denobulan Wildcard. For a moment, he allowed himself to consider scrapping his mission of covert confiscation in favor of card-sharking the mining team. Quinn's common sense awoke from its slumber and reminded him not only that it would be wrong to cheat honest working folks but that, if he returned to Vanguard without the sensor screen he'd been sent to steal, Ganz would garnish his next buffet with Quinn's viscera.

Patience was not one of Quinn's stronger virtues, but his impulses were usually kept in check by his healthy fear of death, injury, and incarceration. Long after he had become convinced that his knees had fused into position and would never allow him to straighten again, the last two miners restacked their cards, snapped an elastic band around them, and left them on the table as they got up. They turned out the mess-hall lamp and stepped out the door into the murky spills of weak orange light from lamps strung on drooping wires between their shacks. Despite the multilayered soundscape of the jungle that surrounded Quinn, he heard their every squishing step as they trudged across the muddy dirt road and passed out of sight on the far side of the barracks. Their shadows, long and blurred, fell across another building. Deep, repetitive clomping sounds echoed around the camp as the miners kicked the wet filth from their boots. Finally they entered their barracks, and the door slam-rattled shut behind them.

Batting away lush fronds and dangling loops of thorny vines, Quinn skulked forward toward the camp. An arthritic aching in his knees threatened to slow him down, but he ignored it, lured forward by the promise of an easy night's work. He paused at the edge of the tree line. There was no sign of automated security devices -- no cameras, motion detectors, or sentry guns. Not that he had expected any, necessarily, but the presence of the sensor screen in a mining camp had aroused his suspicion. It wasn't the kind of equipment normally found in civilian hands. Ganz hadn't said how he had come to learn of its presence here on Ravanar IV, and Quinn wasn't foolish enough to ask.

He unholstered his stun pistol. The street was empty. In the distance, something shrieked three times in quick succession and something else roared in reply. With his hand resting lightly on the grip of his sidearm, he emerged from the trees and moved in a quick, low jog across the street. The mud under his boots made every step an adventure; it slipped like congealed hydraulic lubricant and stank like the open sewers of Korinar. Several quick steps brought him back into the cover of shadow. He leaned sideways and cast a furtive glance around the corner into the dark, narrow stretch between the barracks and the equipment shed. It was empty, and he stole into it, his feet seeking out the driest -- and therefore quietest -- patches of ground from stride to stride.

The sensor screen was larger than he had expected. Ganz's drawing of the device had not been to scale, and it had led Quinn to believe that its removal would be as simple as unplugging it and tucking it under one arm. On the contrary, the cylindrical machine was almost as big as Quinn himself, and, if his approximation of its duranium content was on the money, it was at least twice as heavy. He considered stealing one of the miners' cargo pallets, but then he remembered how much noise the lifter would make. Damn thing'll wake the entire camp, he groused silently. This would've been easier if my ship had a transporter. He had often toyed with the notion of installing one, but his ship's limited power-generation capability meant that to operate a transporter would require sacrificing another system of equal energy level. Unfortunately, the only one that came close was the inertial dampener, and since it was the one thing that prevented routine starflight from turning him into chunky salsa, he was loath to part with it.

An idea occurred to him: I could just steal the active component and leave the power module. Just take the part that's hard to get. Examining the device more closely, he realized that the top segment constituted the screen generator, and that once it was separated from the much larger and heavier power supply he would be able to carry it out on his own. He dug into the lower pockets along his pants leg, found the tools he needed, and set to work. Another quick scan registered no sign of power inside the device; it appeared to be inert. That was for the best, in Quinn's opinion. A few simple twists and toggles later, he decoupled its primary power-supply cable.

No sooner had the cable come free than a scramble of data flooded his scanner. Eyeing the readings, he made the belated discovery that the sensor screen had, in fact, been active the entire time he had been here -- and, true to its intended function, it had fooled his scanner.

His ears detected the muffled din of an alarm klaxon. Doors banged open against sheet-metal shelter walls. Running footfalls slapped through the mud, converging on his location. Using a sonic screwdriver he'd swiped from a rather daft chap back on Barolia, he torqued off the sensor screen's restraining bolts, wrapped his arms around the screen generator, and hefted it with an agonized grunt. He stumbled backward, tripped over something that he couldn't see in the dark, and dropped the device.

With the unmistakable crack of something breaking, the device struck whatever unseen piece of junk had found its way under Quinn's feet. A sizable chunk of it struck his foot hard enough to launch a string of vulgarities from his mouth. Hopping on his good foot proved an unwise reaction, as he immediately slipped and wound up on his back, in the mud, and looking at a cluster of angry miners at the end of the alley.

"Hey, fellas," he said, flailing in the muck to get himself upright. "I know this looks pretty bad, but -- " One of the men drew what Quinn was certain was a Starfleet phaser pistol. Assessing the situation calmly, Quinn ran like hell.

With his arms and legs windmilling as he struggled for traction on the greasy mud, his movement was so clumsy and erratic that the first phaser shot -- whose tonal pitch Quinn recognized as level-five heavy stun -- narrowly missed him and scorched the wall behind his head. Finding his footing, he sprinted out of the alley on a mad dash for the tree line. As he crossed the street, he heard the group of armed men running up the alley to follow him.

Two more simultaneous phaser shots quickened Quinn's already frantic pace. One sizzled the mud behind his heel; the other passed over his shoulder and crisped its way through the foliage. He plunged straight into the stygian forest, zigzagging through the densely packed trees and ducking through nooses of vine. Blue phaser fire shimmered in the gloom, slicing wildly around his chaotic path.

Where's the damn trail? Seconds seemed stretched by the adrenaline coursing through Quinn's brain. He felt like he'd been running twice as long as necessary to find the path back to his ship. Then he broke free of the jungle's clinging tendrils and stumbled out onto the narrow, dry creek bed he had followed down this side of the hill from his ship. At the time, landing on the other side of the hilltop had seemed clever. Banked in steep, thick cloud cover even at this low elevation, it had enabled him to glide in unseen and unheard.

Now, unfortunately, it meant running for his life uphill.

His pursuers were getting closer. Time for tricks, he concluded. Several meters ahead, a sizable boulder offered him some cover. He reached the rock and dove to the ground behind it just before another volley of neon-blue phaser beams lashed across its pitted face. Fumbling through assorted bits of junk in his pockets, he found the detonator. The angry whine of another phaser blast bit off nearly a quarter of one side of the boulder that was shielding him. The odor of scorched carbon and iron reminded him of the stink of an empty pot left on a flame. The crackle of trampled underbrush resumed. They were coming.

He keyed the detonator switch.

Crimson flashes lit up the ink-black night, and a series of tooth-rattling concussive blasts provoked a mighty cacophony of startled noises from spooked animals -- followed by the squeak and groan of splintered tree trunks jackknifing and collapsing under their own weight. Alarmed cries of "Fall back!" and "Get down!" mingled with the dull impacts of dozens of high-canopy trees, which dropped in an overlapping pattern carefully planned to foil pursuit. A heavy curtain of smoke obscured his pursuers' line of sight, and the crackle of small fires caused by the diversion covered the sound of his mad dash through the loose secondary-growth brush. He heard someone in the group below, probably the leader, confirm that all his people were okay, then order them back to the camp.

Quinn was glad that no one had been hurt. He had long ago learned the value of simple lies, clear exit strategies, and unexpected diversions. There were few "codes" he actually considered worth living by; most lacked the "moral flexibility" and "ethical adaptability" that he had come to consider indispensable. But the one that he clung to was that no job was worth killing someone over. Sucker-punching them? Sure. Stun them? If need be. But serious harm or killing? That was a line Quinn crossed only in self-defense.

Minutes later, rounding the crest of the hill to its steeper, rockier side, he clambered across loose chunks of flat stone toward the Rocinante. Beneath a sloped shale overhang, the ship looked at home in the shadows. Its center fuselage was shaped like a long, thin wedge. Attached to either side were ponderous warp nacelles, bulkier-looking than most and nearly two-thirds as long as the main hull section. Navigational fins, which normally were extended down at a slight angle from the nacelles, were folded upright into their landing configuration. Quinn stepped over the deep gouges the ship's landing gear had cut through the broken rock and dry, granular soil beneath. The entire vessel was dark gray, mottled with slightly lighter-toned splotches where its hull had been crudely patched in one alien shipyard or another over the years. Its four-seat cockpit bay was hidden behind a dark-tinted viewport.

Reaching under his belt, he found the security remote. His fingers were still shaking, from the panic response of almost being shot, as he keyed in the code to open the ventral gangway. The plank separated from the hull and descended with a hydraulic hiss. Plumes of vapor from leaky coolant coils tumbled down like the ghost of a waterfall as he climbed the ramp into his ship. Once inside, he pressed the ramp-closing switch on his way forward to the cockpit. With a sickly gasp and a grinding groan, it lifted shut behind him as he collapsed into his seat.

He was sweating. Trickles of perspiration raced down his face and forearms. Ragged breaths wheezed in and out of him. Catching his haggard reflection in the cockpit windshield, he was dismayed by how cruelly the years had treated him. Not getting any younger, that's for damn sure, he admitted to himself. Runnin' on fumes and luck these days. And I ain't so sure 'bout the luck no more.

His left hand reached up and started flipping switches to power up the onboard systems, while his right hand worked the controls to energize the impulse drive and warp coils. As an afterthought, he spun his chair half around and turned on the subspace-radio jammer. Pretty good bet those guys who shot at me are callin' for help. Temporarily blocking their communications would give Quinn time to leave the system before anyone could come to investigate. He had been cautious about his landing, waiting for six full days after the Sagittarius left orbit before he maneuvered his ship out of hiding and dared to set it down so close to the camp. Still, he reasoned, no point gettin' careless -- well, at least not more careless.

The warp engines were still warming up when the impulse drive indicator light changed to ready. Eager to get off this planet, Quinn keyed the antigrav circuit, retracted the landing gear, and guided the ship forward. As soon as it cleared the shale overhang he angled the nose upward and throttled it out of the atmosphere as quickly as its thrusters could manage.

By the time the Rocinante broke orbit, its warp coils had finished their start sequence. Without so much as a look back at the shrinking curve of Ravanar IV, Quinn plotted the longest, most roundabout course back to Vanguard that he could think of, given his current fuel reserves, and made the jump to warp speed. It would be roughly a week before he set foot on the station again. That should give me enough time to figure out what to tell Ganz, he figured. Or else plan a nice funeral.

Commander Dean Singer looked up as the search party returned to the narrow alley behind the barracks. "Did anyone get a good look at him?" His team responded with dour shakes of their heads. He gave the ruined sensor-screen generator a small kick and sighed. "Great. Just great." Sweeping aside the bulky mining jacket he wore, he plucked his communicator from his belt and lifted the cover plate. It announced the open channel with a double chirp. He set the frequency to the one used by the underground survey team and keyed the transmitter.

The rest of the team milled around looking confused while Singer waited for a response from the research group working underneath the camp, which had never been more than a poor facsimile of a real prospectors' outpost.

Ensign T'Hana answered Singer's message, her uninflected Vulcan voice as bright as a clarion. "T'Hana here."

"T'Hana, this is Singer." There was an urgency in his tone. "Is it shut down yet?"

"Not yet, Commander. It will take approximately twenty-one minutes to successfully power down the entire system."

Singer frowned, then resigned himself to circumstances that were beyond his control. "Understood, Ensign. Please expedite the process if the means becomes available."

"Acknowledged, sir."

"Singer out." He flipped his communicator closed with a slap of his hand. As he bent his arm to put it back on his belt, it beeped twice, signaling an incoming message. With a flick of his wrist he flipped it open. "Singer here."

"Commander, the subspace channel's been restored," said Lieutenant John Ott, the communications officer. "Opening a secure channel to Vanguard. What do you want to tell them?"

"Hang on," Singer said. Once again fixing his search party with a fiery glare, he asked, "Can anyone tell me whether the intruder was a Klingon?" Shrugged shoulders and shaking heads accompanied the chorus of mumbled answers. "Miguel, you were the first one into the alley. Can't you tell me anything about him?"

"Not in this light," said Chief Petty Officer Miguel Velez. "I'm pretty sure he had light-colored hair, but I can't really say if it was white, gray, or yellow." No doubt reading the acute disappointment in Singer's expression, he added, "Sorry, sir."

"Not your fault," Singer said. Turning back to his other conversation, he said into the communicator, "Ott, inform T'Prynn we had an intruder, identity unknown. And make sure she understands we need a new sensor screen, on the double."

Copyright © 2005 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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Star Trek Vanguard #1: Harbinger 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Star Trek novel is a must read. I have read hundreds of Star Trek novels. This book easily falls into my "Top 10 Favorite Star Trek novels."
reviewerDW More than 1 year ago
I have been reading sci-fi for many years and have loved all aspects of the star trek movies and tv shows. I have however never read a star trek novel before this one. Wow, I seem to have been missing out on some great sci-fi. This book was an excellent starting point for me to jump on the bandwagon and I will continue to read all the star trek that I can in the future.
mmtz on LibraryThing 26 days ago
I enjoyed this retro TOS novel by David Mack. Mack introduces a fleet of new characters for this story arc, all very intriguing, as is the mystery of the Taurus Reach. Of course, Kirk, Spock, and a few other familiar characters are there. I¿m looking forward to the rest of the story.Published in mass market paperback by Pocket Books.
TheMadTurtle on LibraryThing 26 days ago
I like the idea of creating a new Star Trek series in which TOS characters only appear on the periphery. It's well written in that regard. Mack does almost all of the new characters justice by making the reader genuinely interested in them - especially Cervantes Quinn. Some parts of the story seemed to be thrown in for mere shock value, however. One scene in particular consists of maybe 3 pages and advances the story in no way that I can see at this point. Perhaps the nuance to these two characters whom I'm referring to will be expanded upon in much more detail in the following Vanguard novels. It really didn't advance the story in Harbinger, though.
M.L.Robison on LibraryThing 26 days ago
David had done an excellent job here on the start to a wonderfully written series within the crux of Star Trek: The Original Series time-line.(Review Coming)
The.Star.Trek.Reader on LibraryThing 26 days ago
This is the beginning of the Vanguard series, which I highly recommend reading. Starbase 47 is at the edge of the Taurus reach, a remote region of space at this particular time frame (The Original Series). Starfleet establishes the starbase to partake in a secret mission involving alien technology, which proves to be extremely powerful, something which if Starfleet can develop and expand on could significantly boost their hold in the galaxy against their enemies.David Mack is one of my favorite authors in the Star Trek universe. He can take a character and give that particular element many different dimensions which richly adds to the story. Key think I note is that he can set up the characters dimensions without loosing the reader along the way with long and drawn out diatribes.
DanieXJ on LibraryThing 26 days ago
I don't like Star Trek The Original Series on Television, never have, never will, so, needless to say, I haven't read many of the tie in books that are set in that time period. Well, I picked this one up for a very specific storyline, I wasn't anticipating liking it at all, but I found myself drawn in anyway.David Mack is nothing to sneeze at. It's a well written novel, and it's a complicated universe that he's set up. Many storylines he kept helpfully dangling for the next author/authors down the line who write in the Vanguard Universe. All in all, I can't wait to get the next Novel in the series.
Anonymous 7 months ago
The story kept me glued to the book until I'd finished it. Great storytelling and a fast read.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Everyone must read this!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I have enjoyed this author's other works as well. This was a nice change of pace, I have been reading mostly STNG and DS9 as far as Star Trek is concerned. I enjoyed TOS xharecters and look forward to the next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining and entwined story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel will bring you back to the gung ho days of Kirk and Spock. Back to the days when Starfleet still kicked serious butt!
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seahawk1984 More than 1 year ago
This book realy disapointed me, I'm half way through the book and I still don't know what the plot is. Not even sure if I will finish reading it at this point. I was expecting the story to be more centered around the original Star Trek crew, but after reading 158 pages, there have only been a few scenes that have envolved crew of the Enterprise. I get the feeling that the book is more about Starbase 47 than anything else. As for the characters, there a many, each with there own little story, and again after reading half the book, I just don't see how the side stories have anything to do with he main plot. If your looking for a book that pulls you into the storie, and wont let you put it down, this is not the book for you. But if your a Star Trek fan and have read all the other books but this one, then buy this one and read it just so you can say you have read all the Star Trek books. Personaly I'm going to read all the other Star Trek books first, then finish this one. This is just my personal opinion of corse, and I'm sure that others might find this book to be a good one, it's just not one that I liked.
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