Star Trek: TNG Indstinguishable From Magic

Red Alert!

More alarms went off, and Nog started to announce something. “That was a bloody photon torpedo hit,” Scotty cut him off. “Red Alert!” Qat’qa was already throwing the ship into a roll, but Scotty called out to her anyway. “Evasive maneuvers, Kat!” It was more for the benefit of the rest of the bridge crew, so that they would know he was on top of things. Kat didn’t reply, but Scotty could see her grin from where he was lowering himself into the center seat.

What the bloody hell are the Klingons playing at?
he wondered. Stepping back into history was nice enough, but not when it meant going back to the bad old days of conflict with the Klingons.

The ship rocked again, less severely this time, and the Klingon warship momentarily flitted across the main viewer, swooping toward
Intrepid
and her cluster of support shuttles and runabouts. “There’s something a wee bit off about that ship,” Scotty mused aloud. He couldn’t put his finger on it at first, beyond that it was attacking two Federation ships. He still had to remind himself that it was an unusual act for Klingons in this era.

“Lieutenant Nog, I want a spread of torpedoes up that ship’s jacksie before they can do any more damage. Try to cripple their engines, so we can have a wee chat with them, if we can.”

“Aye, sir.” Nog glanced across his tactical board.

The screen tilted, and the Klingon ship weaved across it again. It was a familiar shape, with two drooping warp nacelles and a long neck stretching out from its infernal red and yellow hull. “That’s it,” Scotty snarled. . . .

Pocket Books
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Cover design by Alan Dingman

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ISBN 978-1-4516-0615-7
ISBN 978-1-4516-0628-7 (ebook)

I wandered through the wrecks of days departed

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

A lot of people deserve a shout-out for this, starting with Marco Palmieri, who gave me my first Treklit assignment,
On the Spot
; Margaret Clark, who edited
Reservoir Ferengi
and worked on this; Jaime Costas, who bought this book; and Ed Schlesinger, who saw it completed.

Also, props to Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward, and especially to the artist at Simon & Schuster who came up with such a great cover.

PROLOGUE

J
ason Lambert was amongst the stars, and all the happier for it. He knew that most of his crew felt that just being aboard the
U.S.S. Intrepid
was being amongst the stars, but it wasn’t Lambert’s definition of the term. Wearing a pressurized environment suit, standing on the plating of his ship’s saucer-shaped hull, he was truly amongst the stars.

Inside the ship, even sitting in the center seat on the bridge, he was just aboard a ship, not really a space traveler. Out on the hull, with just the suit between him and the void, it was more real. This way, he was one with the universe.

The
Intrepid
was alone in the darkness, and Lambert was looking astern at the warp nacelles. The two cylindrical engines might be what pushed the
Intrepid
through the void, but from here it felt more like they were streamers flowing out from behind a kite as it flew.

Growing up, he remembered looking up at the stars over the Nullarbor Plain. If there was a place on Earth from which the stars were more clearly visible, and less distorted by the Earth’s atmosphere, he had never heard of it. Even so, the view out here made the view from his childhood home seem as if he had been looking at the stars through smoke and fog for all those years. He could feel the grin on his face every time he came outside, and suspected it would
be impossible to remove even by surgery. Going back inside was the only, and sadly inevitable, cure.

He turned, focusing his attention on the engineers who had come out to replace some damaged hull plates with newly fabricated ones. The four of them were clomping around just below the large “X” of the ship’s registry number; NX-07 was emblazoned proudly across the saucer, though from Lambert’s viewpoint it appeared to read “LO-XN” which he supposed might well be a word in somebody’s language. If they ever met a race with such a word in their vocabulary, Lambert hoped it would approximate something closer to “G’day” than to anything more contentious or insulting.

He walked across to the engineering team, trying not to look too stupid as he carefully engaged and disengaged the soles of his magnetic boots with the hull. The others turned as he approached. His steps were silent in the vacuum, of course, but the vibrations were transferred to the four engineers through the soles of their boots. The copper-colored EV suits worn by everyone out on the hull were totally anonymous, but Lambert would recognize his chief engineer’s stance and bearing anywhere, and he angled himself to face her. “How’s it going, Anna?”

“Exactly as I said it would, Captain,”
she replied. The speakers in Lambert’s helmet flattened her Cuban accent, making her sound tinny rather than musical.
“We should be done by the end of this watch, no problem.”

“Not a difficult job, then?”

“Replacing a few damaged hull plates? Hell no. Just slow, is all.”

Lambert nodded, knowing she’d see the gesture through his faceplate. “No worries; take as long as you need. I don’t think anyone will be upset if we’re late getting the decorators in.”

“I’d hardly call the upgrade program ‘decoration.’ They say the engine upgrades will enable warp six as a cruising speed, and the new transporter firmware has greater safety margins.”

“Yeah, I don’t doubt it. And warp six sounds pretty handy.” Lambert pointed down at the “X” upon which he stood “Rumor has it that, as well as the transporter and engine upgrades—”

“And the torpedo yield improvements and crew rotation.”

“—they’re going to be redecorating the ship.”

That made her pause.
“Redecorating it? You’re serious. . . .”

“All the NX-ships, and the new
Daedalus-
class are getting a makeover, or so says Johnny Archer. Painting the hull. Changing the registry. All the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo and make-work that comes with switching over to being the United Federation of Planets.”

“A change of government’s a pretty big thing,”
Anna pointed out.

“I hear they’re gonna change our ‘NX’ here to ‘NCC.’ Of course they’ll have to move the Oh Seven round a bit as well, or it’ll be lopsided.”

“I’d have thought they’d have more important things to concern themselves with. Like I said, it’s a big thing to become part of a new type of government.”
Her brow furrowed.
“What’s wrong with lopsided anyway?”

“Search me. Maybe they think having a ship that wears a half-drunk expression will have a negative effect on first contact situations.”

“And what does NCC stand for anyway?”

“I dunno. Could be Not Cloud Cuckoo-land, for all I know.” Lambert made as if to scratch his head, belatedly remembering that he couldn’t, not with the EV suit and helmet on. “I think I’ll ask, next time I talk to—” A flicker out
of the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he turned around just in time to see a bright flash against the blackness between the stars. It was already fading, and there was nothing to gauge its distance against; it could have been a flashbulb a few meters away, or a supernova a few dozen light-years off. “What the hell was that?”

“Captain?”
Anna was looking in the same direction as he, but she’d turned in response to his exclamation, and by that time there was no more to see.

“Didn’t you see that? A flash? Right over that way.”

“No.”

“Anybody?”

“Oui,
Capitaine,”
Georges Toussaint said.
“Just for a second.”

“At least it’s not just my eyes going crook.” Lambert reached for the comm button on his wrist, to call in to the bridge and ask if the sensors had picked anything up, but his crew were way ahead of him. Lieutenant al-Qatabi’s voice filled Lambert’s helmet.
“Captain,”
the tactical officer said urgently,
“lateral sensors have registered an energy spike consistent with the detonation of a Class Four Romulan mine.”

“So that’s what it was. . . .”

“Sir?”
she asked.

“I saw the flash, just a moment ago. What was the distance?”

“Thirty-two thousand kilometers.”

Well out of harm’s way as far as the
Intrepid
was concerned, but Lambert knew better than to assume that a mine would be a lone threat. “Go to Tactical Alert; I’m coming in.” He broke off the connection to the bridge, and turned back to Anna. “It might be best if we all—”

“Hardly, sir.”

“If there are other mines closer to us—”

“Then the last thing we want is to risk encountering a proximity detonation with a gap in our hull plating.”
She grinned through her helmet’s faceplate.
“It will make much more sense to finish the job out here as quickly as possible.”

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