An original novel set in the universe of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—a direct sequel to the New York Times bestselling story arc, The Fall!
The entire sector is waiting to see what the newly reopened Bajoran wormhole will mean for the shifting political landscape in the Alpha Quadrant. On Deep Space 9, Captain Ro Laren is suddenly drawn into the affairs of the People of the Open Sky, who have come to the station in search of sanctuary. Despite the opposition of the station's security officer, Jefferson Blackmer, Ro Laren and Deep Space 9's new CMO, Doctor Beverly Crusher, offer the People aid. But when Dr. Crusher’s highly secure files are accessed without permission—the same files that hold the secrets of the Shedai, a race whose powerful but half-understood scientific secrets solved the Andorian catastrophe—the People seem the likeliest suspects.
As tensions rise on the station, the science vessel Athene Donald arrives as part of its journey of exploration. The brainchild of Doctor Katherine Pulaski, this ship is crewed by different species from the Khitomer Accords and the Typhon Pact. Pulaski’s hope is that science will do what diplomacy has not: help the great powers put aside their hostilities and work together. But when the Athene Donald is summarily stopped in her voyage by the powerful vessel of a hitherto unknown species, Pulaski begins to wonder—will this first contact bring her crew together or tear them all apart?
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Missing One Captain’s Log, Personal.
It has long been my intention to set down some general thoughts on the nature and purpose of exploration, with some particular observations on first-contact missions. This is as good a time as any to attempt to organize my thinking: not only because Beverly remains away but also because war is, at last, over, and it is my hope that Starfleet can, as a result, return to its primary mission of peaceful exploration. My small hope is that these reflections might prove of some use to a reader embarking upon voyages such as those that have been the boon and the challenge of my life.
What is the purpose of exploration? Why do we search? What draws us on the quest and makes us leave behind the considerable comforts that our homeworlds might offer? What makes us absent ourselves and choose to make a transient home among the stars?
The pursuit of scientific discovery, of course, has driven many of my colleagues: to be the first to document a new species, or hear a new language, or see the ancient ruins of a civilization that was gone before life had emerged from Earth’s oceans. There is, too, a fascination with the unknown: to chart not only the farther reaches of space but the farther reaches of knowledge as well. And then there is the challenge of it all—not simply the logistics of crewing and commanding a vessel such as the Enterprise, but the challenge that one sets oneself: to be pitted against the unknown and to find within oneself the capacity to respond not with fear but with curiosity, empathy, and humility.
War has, for too long, distracted us from these purposes: from the pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of others; from the pursuit of self-knowledge for the benefit of ourselves. Let us hope that peace will usher in a new era of discovery . . .
Doctor Katherine Pulaski knew that people didn’t like her, and she didn’t care. She led a good life—a life she loved, full of travel, adventure, and a handful of excellent friends who did not trouble her beyond her interest or inclination to socialize with them. Above all, she had her work, to which she was devoted passionately and with a degree of absorption that made it the primary love of her life. Friends, lovers, husbands—they came and went, but work was always there, a companion, a challenge, and a source of great satisfaction and pride. She was an expert in several fields and had made breakthroughs in genomic therapy that had markedly improved the lives of many people. She was successful and busy, and had never compromised her ideals or opinions to get where she was. So why the hell should she care that others thought she was cantankerous and awkward? That was exactly what she was—and she knew herself well, loved what was there, and didn’t worry about the rest.
And now Katherine Pulaski had a spaceship to play with, the fruit of many hours browbeating the decision makers at the Rosalind Franklin Institute for Biomedical Research until they gave her exactly what she wanted in the hope that she would go away for a long time (it was a technique that worked, so why would Pulaski pass it up?). The ship was called the Athene Donald (after a scientist Pulaski had long admired), and it was, she was pleased to tell anyone who asked (and a few who didn’t), a civilian science and exploration vessel. There had not been enough of these in recent years, in Pulaski’s opinion. In grand old-fashioned style (Pulaski was both grand and old-fashioned), this ship—with its crew of scientists and researchers—was going to travel into uncharted space to explore what was out there, doing science all the while.
Pulaski had wasted no time in assembling a team, and right now the Athene Donald was on its way to Deep Space 9 for some final pickups before setting off on its maiden voyage. She had exactly the crew she wanted. First, as the ship’s director of research (and de facto commanding officer), was Pulaski’s old friend Maurita Tanj. Pulaski and Tanj—a joined Trill—went back to postgraduate days, when Pulaski (kicking and screaming, naturally) had been forced by her advisers to do an interdisciplinary study with another student from the xenosociology department. Pulaski thought that the social sciences were pretty much a waste of time (not even decades of friendship with Tanj had entirely altered that opinion), but Tanj—a specialist in interspecies group dynamics—had known from the get-go how to handle her difficult study partner, and their project (looking into different care strategies for patients across five separate species groups) had won several academic prizes that year. Pulaski, who set store by results, had thus been convinced that Tanj’s specialty had at least some worth, and Tanj, who found the other woman’s spikiness and frankness hilarious, had warmly accepted Pulaski on her own terms. They had been friends ever since, and Pulaski knew that the person to make the Athene Donald the success that she wanted (and who was interested in failure? Not Kitty Pulaski) was her old friend Maurita Tanj. The Trill knew how to handle people: not only Katherine Pulaski (that was always a bonus) but also the very special crew that they had assembled.
Because the Athene Donald’s big sell—what had made the folks at the institute balk initially at giving her the ship but had eventually persuaded them of the worth of the mission (with a little oil on the joints from Tanj; Pulaski was no fool)—was that the crew was multispecies.
So far so good. But the Federation by definition comprised many species, so plenty of its vessels had multispecies crews. The Athene Donald had gone farther. Pulaski had invited colleagues from Ferenginar and the Klingon Empire; there were several Cardassian females crunching numbers in data analysis. And that wasn’t all. What Pulaski had wanted—and what she got (with more help from Tanj than perhaps she realized)—was a truly multispecies crew. Several Romulans had signed up to participate in some of the more obscure branches of temporal warp physics. But the cherry on the top of the cake that was the Athene Donald was the person running the genetic-screening program. Her name was Metiger Ter Yai-A, and she was the first Tzenkethi ever to be permitted (by both governments concerned) to travel on board a Federation vessel. Pulaski had read her papers and wanted her: not only for Metiger’s expertise but also for the message that her presence would send.
“Science,” Katherine Pulaski informed the board of Rosalind Franklin Institute in her presentation (quite aggressively and with no apparent sense of irony), “will do what diplomacy can’t.”
“This project will be the first of its kind,” explained Tanj (more calmly, and with an eye on how the board members were reacting). “The first to be truly serious about peace among all species across the Khitomer Accords and the Typhon Pact. There’s been too much tension and strife in recent years—unnecessarily so. It’s time to set this aside and put scientific research and the exploration of space back at the heart of what the Federation does. And that means reaching out in friendship to those whom previously we would have treated with suspicion. Peace with the Klingons was a massive achievement. We can replicate this with the Romulans, and we can replicate it with the Tzenkethi—if we put our minds to it. Think of the Athene Donald”—and here Tanj’s eyes had lit up, because this was the heart of the project for her, the reason she was on board—“as a laboratory not only for the scientific research it will carry out but also for discovering strategies that will enable all the species concerned to live in peace and mutual respect.”
The board loved that, and Pulaski thanked her lucky stars that Maurita Tanj seemed to know exactly how to phrase what Pulaski could say only with gruff impatience. Not only did they have their ship, they also got their Tzenkethi.
“What do we think of Metiger?” Pulaski said to Tanj as the Athene Donald made its approach to Deep Space 9.
Doctor Maurita Tanj looked up from the notes she had been studying. “She’s an outstanding scientist. Closed, of course, but she’s opened up to me once or twice in the past few days.”
“Oh, yes?” Pulaski’s eyes sparkled in fascination. Everyone wanted to know something about the aloof Tzenkethi and their mysterious homeworld. “What’s she told you?”
“Not much,” Tanj admitted. “A few hints here and there about how their research projects are organized. She was surprised, but not disappointed, at how freely we all shared our information. Nothing I couldn’t have guessed given what we know about them already, but I’m taking heart that she’s opening up to us.”
“Are you happy with how it’s going so far?” Pulaski asked anxiously.
Tanj held out her arms to encompass their beautiful new ship and the promise it contained. “Look around you. How could I not be happy? We’re doing again what we’re supposed to do, and we’re being bolder than ever. Everyone should be happy.”
Pulaski smiled. “Let’s hope so.”
* * *
“Katherine Pulaski? Coming here?”
Ro Laren, unused to seeing her chief medical officer as anything but calm in the face of trouble, almost took a step back. “Is that going to be a problem?”
They were in the medical unit, a well-lit and spacious area where no effort (or expense—Ro couldn’t help thinking in pre-Federation terms sometimes) had been spared on either equipment or staff. The current chief medical officer was a case in point: Doctor Beverly Crusher was one of the most eminent and well-respected CMOs in Starfleet. She’d been assigned to DS9 after the previous CMO, Julian Bashir, had been court-martialed and convicted for his part in using classified data from the Shedai meta-genome to work on a cure to the Andorian infertility crisis. Ro didn’t know how long Crusher intended to stay: the doctor had a husband and child back on the Enterprise. But in the meantime, Ro was glad to have the best at her disposal. She certainly didn’t want her CMO unhappy.
“Problem? Well, no,” Crusher admitted. “At least I hope not.”
“Do you want to fill me in on this? Is this something to do with the part she played in Julian’s escapade? If there’s going to be trouble, I should know—”
“Trouble . . .” Crusher frowned. “It’s not that she’s trouble. More that she’s difficult.”
“Difficult?” Ro laughed. “Is that all? Difficult I can handle. People think that I’m difficult, and I can handle me.”
“There’s difficult and there’s difficult. Pulaski is brilliant, of course. An inspired researcher.”
“What’s her specialty?”
“Well, it was her expertise in genomic therapy that made her interesting to Bashir,” Crusher said. “But that’s not all she’s worked on. She’s a whiz at statistical modeling, for one thing, and that always made my head hurt at the academy. But she’s cowritten papers in several disciplines.”
“Multiple specialisms?” Ro was impressed. “She must have a first-class mind.”
“She does,” Crusher said unequivocally. It seemed the doctor’s professional respect was not undermined by whatever personal matter lay between the two women. This would be important to getting the next few days to go smoothly, Ro suspected. Keep them off the personal and on the professional. “She’s an excellent doctor too,” Crusher said.
“So what’s the problem?”
Crusher paused to consider her words. “She’s an excellent doctor if you’re not too bothered about bedside manner.”
Ro gave a crooked smile. “Ah. I think I’m starting to see.”
“Then let me not put too fine a point on it. Katherine Pulaski is self-centered, bad-tempered, and blunt to the point of offensive. In sum, she’s a pain in the damn neck.”
“I’m liking this woman more and more by the second,” Ro said.
“That’s your prerogative,” Crusher said. “And you can have the pleasure of her company when she gets here.”
“There’s more to this, isn’t there? Come on, Beverly, give me the full story.”
“Very well, since you asked, although I hate bringing personal animosities into professional life, and I’ll thank you not to breathe a word of this beyond these four walls. Simply put, I don’t like her. She held my post on the Enterprise for a while, during which time she was extremely thoughtless toward Data. I’ve never quite forgiven her for that.”
Ro whistled under her breath. “You really don’t like her.”
“I don’t like her at all. Jean-Luc can’t stand her either. She knows exactly how to raise his blood pressure.”
Here Ro had to suppress a smile. The thought of the usually supernaturally serene captain of the Enterprise driven to distraction by his chief medical officer—and a woman, to boot—was far too enjoyable. But Beverly’s anger was so clearly deeply felt that she resisted the urge to tease. “What happened with Data and Pulaski?”
“She saw Data as a curiosity to be examined and explored. But Data is a person in his own right. There was a terrible fight at the time to prove that, and I’m not sure Pulaski ever understood what it was all about. I got the impression that given half a chance she’d have opened up Data like a tin can, as if he were nothing more than a specimen suitable for investigation.” Crusher paused for breath. “All of which is hard to forgive, but I do admire her mind. I’d give anything for a quarter of the dedication and brilliance that she’s shown in her research over the years. Why exactly is she here?”
“She’s on the crew of a civilian science and research vessel that’s heading off into uncharted space. The Athene Donald.”
Crusher nodded. “Yes, I’ve heard about its mission. The kind of thing I might have signed up for myself once upon a time.” Her lips twitched in sudden amusement. “So Katherine Pulaski is heading off into uncharted space? I hope uncharted space is ready.”
“I’m sorry about Data,” Ro said, “but you do realize you’re selling this woman to me? Bad-tempered, brilliant, gets the room jumping when she walks in. She sounds like who I want to be when I grow up.”
“Hmm. Well, wait till you meet her.”
“I’m already looking forward to it. Anyway, she’s not the only face from the past putting in an appearance over the next few days,” Ro said. “We’re also expecting a visit from Odo, the former chief of security here.”
Ro lifted a finger. “I think these days we’re meant to say ‘Founder.’?”
“Yes, yes, of course . . .” Crusher looked embarrassed. “That’s me told. So why is he here?”
“I don’t know much yet,” Ro said. “Except for one thing: it involves Cardassians.”
“Cardassians?” murmured Crusher. “Oh, dear.”
“I know,” said Ro. “Cardassians. There are always Cardassians. They’re something of a constant in this universe.”
* * *
A little peace and quiet, thought Ro as she made her way to her office to meet Odo. The new station, barely a year old, had already been the site of too many crises and dramas. What Ro wanted now was to be in command of a station that was functioning normally. She didn’t want to be bored—may the universe preserve her from boredom (and the associated paperwork)—but she did want a little time to enjoy her new station. Just a day or two to see how smoothly station and crew could operate when untroubled by galactic politics, assassination attempts . . .
Ro shook herself hard. They were still recovering from the shock of the death of President Bacco, here on DS9. It had hit them all hard that it had happened here, and it had hit her security chief, Jefferson Blackmer, particularly hard, since the death had happened on his watch. That was another good reason to want some quiet time. So that the crew could see exactly how well they were able to work together and, perhaps, get a little confidence back. It had hardly been the most auspicious start for the new place and its people. But that would change.
The door to Ro’s office opened smoothly. Odo was already waiting for her there, and Ro crossed the room to greet him. Whatever had brought the former security chief of DS9 from Bajor, Ro could only hope that his mission would not cause her too many complications.
Odo rose from his chair and gave her a brusque but by no means unfriendly nod. He gestured around. “Most impressive.” His voice was a kind of growl, the voice of a man who liked to stamp his authority on any given situation. “Nothing like the old place.”
Ro, smiling, took her seat, and Odo followed suit. “I can’t help missing the old place, though,” she said. “It had . . . let’s call them idiosyncratic charms.”
Odo snorted. “Too idiosyncratic, if you ask me,” he said, and—was that a sniff? Could a Founder even sniff? Whatever it was, Ro warmed to this gruff no-nonsense man with the strange half-formed face.
“You’re very welcome here, Constable,” she said.
Odo lifted his hand, as if to stop her. “Just Odo. I am no longer a constable. I am simply Odo,” he repeated, much more softly.
“Nevertheless, I’m glad to welcome you here, although I have to admit I’m curious. Of all the former crew, I’d heard that you were the one least likely to drop by.”
“My reputation precedes me,” Odo said, and Ro swore that was a twinkle in his eye. Could Founders twinkle?
“I’d be a fool not to listen to gossip,” Ro said.
“Quark, by any chance?” Odo said the name as if it had a slightly unpleasant flavor.
But Ro laughed, memories of many tales told out of turn by her Ferengi friend coming to mind. “Quark is always gossiping. As I’m sure you know.”
Again, the snort. “And Quark would, it pains me to say, be quite right. I’ve been . . . let us say that I have been taking advantage of quiet to reflect upon my past and consider my future.”
“I understand the monastery at Trishella is very beautiful,” Ro said. “A balm to the soul.”
Odo’s face remained expressionless, but a low rumble sounded at the back of his throat. (Does he have a throat?) “Quark has been keeping tabs on me. I must return the favor.”
“Feel free,” Ro said. “But tell me what’s brought you out of . . .” She hunted for the right word.
“Out of my hermitage?” Odo suggested with a sigh. “A favor, for an old friend.”
“An old Cardassian friend?”
Odo studied her dispassionately. “Will that be a problem, Captain?”
“I don’t know,” Ro said. “You haven’t told me about the friend yet.”
Again, the low rumble. “This old friend,” he said, “and make no mistake, this is a friend, came to me on behalf of her son. He was a glinn in the Second Order at the end of the Dominion War.”
“Second Order . . .” Ro thought for a moment. “They were on the Romulan front, weren’t they?”
“Indeed they were. When the war ended, the Cardassians serving there were taken prisoner by the Romulans. Since then, most have been repatriated. But some have not. My friend’s son is one of these.”
“He’s still being held captive by the Romulans?” Ro was astonished. “It’s been ten years!”
“And so you see why I want to help. There is an injustice here, Captain. I don’t like injustice—not even,” he added slyly, “toward Cardassians.”
Ro, who didn’t in general mind seeing a little retribution in action when it came to Cardassians, had to agree. Ten years was a long time to be a prisoner of war.
“According to my friend—her name is Mhevita Pa’Dan, by the way—I have acquired something of a reputation as a peacemaker,” Odo said. “She believes that my intercession might spur the Romulans toward some kind of resolution. Ideally, that would be the release of her son and the others still being held. But some communication would be a good place to start.”
“And I guess you want to use DS9 as a neutral friendly space to hold these negotiations?” Ro said. “Shall I be expecting a Romulan representative any hour now?”
“Not quite. We don’t have anyone with whom we can negotiate. I gather from Mhevita that the Romulans are silent on the matter. Impenetrably silent.”
“Then I’m not sure what I can do,” Ro said. “This seems to be something that the Cardassians and the Romulans need to sort out between them. Your friend should be speaking to her own government—”
“Also proving unhelpful. This is partly why we have come to you. Not only are you a high-ranking Starfleet officer, you also are Bajoran. If a Bajoran is willing to intercede on behalf of Cardassian prisoners of war, then perhaps this will send a signal to the Romulans that it’s time to put this enmity behind them and let these people come home.”
“That’s an interesting idea,” Ro said, “and I respect the principle behind it. But I’m not sure I like the idea of meddling in the affairs of others, and I’m not sure my superiors would like the idea either—”
“In fact,” Odo interrupted, and he did, Ro noticed, have the decency to sound slightly embarrassed as he did so, “I’ve taken the liberty of speaking to your superiors at Starfleet Command. They are of the opinion that assisting me can do no harm, and, even better, it will show support for the Cardassian-Federation alliance and possibly even foster the opening of channels of communications with the Romulans. I gather,” Odo continued, “that your superiors are keen to see relations with the Romulans shift from hostile to merely mildly chilly. Any chance to negotiate with them is a chance to gather some goodwill.”
Or irritate them beyond measure. And they wouldn’t be the only one. “You spoke to my superiors?” Ro said, a chill creeping into her voice.
There was a slight pause.
“You might like to check your recent communications,” Odo said politely.
Ro did so. And there it was: a friendly message from the powers that be asking her to give Odo all reasonable assistance.
“I’m sorry to have gone behind your back—”
It was Ro’s turn to growl.
“—but I couldn’t risk your turning me down, and I do want to help Mhevita. It is a very good cause, Captain. At the least, will you meet her? She’s here on the station right now. Will you listen to what she has to say?”
Ro sighed. What choice did she have in the matter? There were her orders. “Of course I will.”
Odo gave a rumble of satisfaction. “Thank you, Captain.”
“Hmm.” Ro’s eye fell on the next message down. It was from a Commander Peter Alden, of Starfleet Intelligence, advising her of his imminent arrival and requesting a meeting with her as soon as possible. Another sigh. If Cardassians were a universal constant, then so was Starfleet Intelligence. And neither of them was likely to contribute to the longed-for peace and quiet.
Una McCormack is the author of seven previous Star Trek novels: The Lotus Flower (part of The Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Hollow Men, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, Brinkmanship, The Missing, the New York Times bestseller The Fall: The Crimson Shadow, and Enigma Tales. She is also the author of three Doctor Who novels from BBC Books: The King’s Dragon, The Way Through the Woods, and Royal Blood. She has written numerous short stories and audio dramas. She lives in Cambridge, England, with her partner of many years, Matthew, and their daughter, Verity.