The cataclysmic events of Star Trek: Destiny have devastated known space. Worlds have fallen. Lives have been destroyed. And in the uneasy weeks that follow, the survivors of the holocaust continue to be tested to the limits of their endurance.
But strange and mysterious occurrences are destabilizing the galaxy's battle-weary Allies even further. In the Federation, efforts to replenish diminished resources and give succor to millions of evacuees are thwarted at every turn. On the borders of the battered Klingon Empire, the devious Kinshaya sense weakness -- and opportunity. In Romulan space, the already-fractured empire is dangerously close to civil war.
As events undermining the quadrant's attempts to heal itself become increasingly widespread, one man begins to understand what is truly unfolding. Sonek Pran -- teacher, diplomat, and sometime adviser to the Federation President -- perceives a pattern in the seeming randomness. And as each new piece of evidence falls into place, a disturbing picture encompassing half the galaxy begins to take shape...revealing a challenge to the Federation and its allies utterly unlike anything they have faced before.
Rebecca Greenblatt hated the fact that the Capellans were so much taller than she was.
Not that she minded being short in general. She'd gotten used to it. Although she was born on Benecia, Rebecca had spent most of her childhood on Pangea, a high-gravity world. Living there stunted her growth, so she topped out at a meter and a half. When dealing with most other humanoids, this wasn't too much of an issue, but on Capella the shortest native cleared two meters.
She'd spent most of her time on Capella staring up nostrils.
This was not how she had hoped her first job as a supervisor would go.
Not that she was complaining. Hell, right now, she was just thrilled to be alive. Like everyone else, she saw the images on the Federation News Service of thousands of Borg cubes swarming into the Federation -- this only seven months after a giant cube entered Earth's solar system, consumed one of its planetoids, and almost destroyed Earth. All things considered, it was good to be alive.
But it was better to be alive and to have finally made supervisor.
She had started working for Janus Mining as an intern while studying structural engineering at Imprek University on Tellar. A tectonic shift under one of Tellar's oceans had led to a discovery of uridium, and Janus had gotten the contract to mine the ore for the Federation. They were eager for staff and so they trolled the universities. Mostly they hired Tellarites, but Imprek had a twenty percent population of non-Tellarites, including Rebecca, who found that her talent and background in structural engineering fit nicely with mining work.
Of course, she didn't do any actual structural engineering on Tellar. Janus mostly wanted people to fetch and carry and run errands, but she did well enough that she was offered a job upon graduation.
That was ten years ago. Last month, she was called into the office of her boss, Torvis-Urzon, at Janus's headquarters on Bre'el IV. The building was small and functional, as was her boss's office, a cramped space with no windows and a desk behind which the Grazerite barely fit.
"Do you recall that promotion we'd discussed?" Torvis-Urzon had asked without preamble as she entered.
Rebecca hadn't been surprised by this. Torvis-Urzon had always viewed politeness as something other people did. "Yes. And I also recall that everything was on hold."
"That was due to our belief that we'd be assimilated. That is hardly a concern now. And in fact, the Borg invasion directly relates to your new job as supervisor."
Her heart racing, Rebecca had said, "What new job?"
"We suddenly find ourselves with a topaline shortage. So you'll be in charge of getting some."
That had made sense to Rebecca. In the wake of the Borg, the need for atmospheric domes had increased a thousandfold, and if you wanted them to work, you needed topaline. "Where?"
Her heart had slowed considerably. "Capella IV already has a mining operation. In fact, they've had it for more than a century."
"And in all that time, they have yet to perform an upgrade. Capella's topaline production is about a tenth of what it would be with modern facilities."
Rebecca had grinned, then. She'd known nothing about Capella beyond that it was a trading partner with the Federation for topaline, but that was enough. She started scratching her chin. There used to be a mole there, which she'd had removed, but it continued to itch for no good reason long after the mole that caused it had been vaporized. "And the Federation wants us to do it?"
"In fact, the Federation wanted the S.C.E. to do it."
"You're kidding," Rebecca had said with disgust. She hated those Starfleet glory hogs.
"Yes, but the Capellan government refused. Something about an exiled king of theirs or something."
Torvis-Urzon made a noise like a plasma leak, which was how Grazerites shrugged -- or, at least, how this one did. "I know nothing of Capellan politics -- that is simply what I was told."
"Fine, then. When do I start?"
He dug around the dozens of padds on his desk before finding the right one and handing it to her. "Two days. This has all the information you will require, as well as who is available for you to take."
Now her heart raced again. "I can take who I want?"
"Within reason," Torvis-Urzon said.
Rebecca called up the list in question on the padd's bright display. She immediately noticed that there was no list of options for the post of primary computer technician.
Scowling, she stared at her boss. "You're making me take T'Lis."
"She's the only technician available who has the experience you need."
Waving the padd back and forth as if she wanted to slap Torvis-Urzon with it -- which didn't seem like all that bad an idea, then or now -- she said, "She creeps me out."
"The translator must have malfunctioned. What did you say?"
Rebecca knew damn well that the universal translator could handle that particular bit of slang, but she also knew that Torvis-Urzon hated people who conversed in slang in any language. "She makes me uncomfortable. She always stares at me like I'm a lab experiment that's gone horribly wrong."
"Perhaps you are." Torvis-Urzon had almost smiled at that one.
With a heavier sigh than the situation really warranted, Rebecca had clutched the padd and left the office, taking it to one of the hotel rooms Janus had reserved for nonlocal staff when they were on-planet.
Within a day, she'd picked her team and contacted most of them. She didn't actually contact T'Lis, figuring that Torvis-Urzon already had -- and if he hadn't, maybe she wouldn't come, and Rebecca would be able to get someone else.
But T'Lis did show up, along with the other one hundred and seventy-six people whose job it would be to upgrade the Capellan mining system. They went from Bre'el to Capella in one of Janus's massive carriers, the Hecate.
Then she arrived at the capital of Capella and found herself looking up the nostrils of the teer.
In all the material on Capella she'd read over the previous week, none of it mentioned how tall they were.
They were also honest to a fault. Their ritual greeting involved open hearts and open hands, and they valued the truth. The teer had said to her on arrival -- after the greeting was complete, which put him one up on Torvis-Urzon -- "You are welcome on Capella for as long as it takes to restore our ability to trade you for our rocks. You will be welcome for no longer than that."
Realizing that coexisting with the locals wasn't going to be a priority, she threw herself into the task of upgrading Capella's mining operations.
Or, as it turned out, overhauling and/or replacing them. She got a lecture from T'Lis on the subject. "These mines," T'Lis explained, "were built in 2267, at the height of the duotronic age. While these computers were of the best possible quality in 2267, they are woefully antiquated by 2381 standards, as even you might imagine."
Gritting her teeth at the insult but refusing to respond to it, Rebecca instead asked, "Why haven't they upgraded?"
She regretted the question instantly, as the Vulcan woman gave her that damned look. "Since reading the history of Capella that came with our materials is obviously beyond your capabilities, I will tell you. While Capella did agree to a treaty with the Federation in the previous century, relations soured when a group known as the toora Maab succeeded in overthrowing the teer, a young man named Leonard Akaar."
Rebecca started scratching her chin. "There's a Capellan named Leonard?" You saw that kind of name mixing in the Federation, of course, but she wouldn't have expected it from snotty isolationists like the Capellans.
"Apparently, he was delivered by a human of that name. In any case, he and his mother were exiled and declared dead. Akaar's tomb is in the capital city."
"City. Right." On Pangea, cities sprawled over thousands of kilometers. On Benecia, cities were built into the mountains. On Capella, what they called a "city" was a few small, poorly constructed buildings that happened to be near each other.
T'Lis went on. "After Akaar's ouster, the Capellans were willing to trade with the Federation but were not willing to allow Federation technicians to perform necessary upgrades."
"So as time went on, the equipment got less efficient, and trade declined."
"Leading to an eventual near-collapse of the Capellan economy," T'Lis said. "It has taken this long only because the mining equipment Starfleet installed a century ago was quite durable. Still, the Borg attack was fortuitous for the Capellans. Without the increase in topaline exports brought about by our presence here, most economists estimated the collapse of the Capellan socioeconomic infrastructure within the decade."
Rebecca excused herself, wishing she had a computer technician who could have simply answered her question by saying that the stuff was old and the Capellans didn't like us enough to let us fix it.
The next day, Rebecca was going over some reports, and called in her assistant, a Zakdorn named Jir Roplik, who had the dual advantages of being incredibly smart and efficient and being one of the few people here who was shorter than her.
"Why is T'Lis taking the computer core offline again?"
"Because the diagnostic program works better if she takes it offline."
Scratching her chin, Rebecca said, "Jir, I've worked with computers all my life. In my experience, diagnostics are usually more, ah, robust than that."
"T'Lis has been experiencing problems in the changeover to isolinear systems. She says this might be the last time she has to take the core offline for this reason."
" 'Might'? What's the circumstance under which that'll happen?"
"The diagnostic actually functions."
"You know, I was only willing to put up with her because she's supposed to be good a...