- ISBN: 9781416571810 | 1416571817
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 8/12/2008
|The Chimes at Midnight|
|A Gutted World|
|Keith R.A. DeCandido|
|Brave New World|
|Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.|
Eleven Years Later
Scotty!" Kirk called desperately into the ship's intercom. "I need warp speed in three minutes or we're all dead!"
At the science station, Captain Thelin felt the palpitations of his antennae as the adrenaline rushed through the veins beneath his pale blue skin. TheEnterprisewas in danger, and he was, after all, its captain, even though Admiral James T. Kirk was currently in command -- a fact that the Andorian didn't begrudge him, for the admiral's experience had most assuredly saved their lives several times already this day.
But as Thelin looked down at the spherical waveform on his console, growing in intensity with each passing second toward a violent detonation that would surely ensnare them, it appeared that Kirk might have finally exhausted his seemingly endless supply of clever schemes.
"No response, Admiral," Uhura announced from the communications station.
"Scotty!" Kirk fruitlessly continued to shout into the intercom, even as the silence clearly suggested that Commander Scott in engineering was either too busy or, heaven forbid, too badly injured to reply. Kirk turned toward the helm. "Mister Sulu, get us out of here, best possible speed!"
"Aye, sir," Sulu replied. But Thelin knew that impulse drive would not provide them with the necessary speed to escape the blast range of the Genesis Device.
Next to Thelin at the adjacent science station stood Dr. David Marcus, the brilliant son of Carol Marcus and James Kirk -- the man who, despite his youth, was credited with the invention of the Genesis Device. He stared at the readouts on the consoles, quietly wringing his hands, no doubt grappling with the knowledge that his own creation was to be their undoing.
With grim irony, Thelin recalled the scene as the young boy first discovered the wave in the lab on Andor eleven years earlier. He had always wondered why, following his departure from the Institute to return to Starfleet, the whole project had eventually been classified, with the Federation's tightest security protocols managing the flow of information in and out of the Marcus laboratory on space station Regula One. Little did he realize then that the Genesis team had discovered a power so revolutionary that it could transform the surface of an entire planet.
A power that, in the wrong hands, could be an unbelievably potent weapon.
Thelin watched the image of theU.S.S. Reliant,crippled in space, fading into the distance ever so slowly. Too slow, he knew, to save them. Aboard that ship was a madman, Khan Noonien Singh, who had stolen the Genesis Device and now had begun a buildup toward detonation. And theEnterprise,itself crippled and without warp drive as a means of escape, was counting down the minutes to its doom.
"Admiral," Uhura called out. "I have Doctor McCoy, down in engineering."
Standing next to the captain's chair, Kirk stabbed the intercom switch on the armrest. "Bones! What the hell is going on down there?"
"Jim,"the doctor's voice was heard amid a cacophony of activity in the engine room."Scotty's suffering acute radiation sickness. I've given him shots of hyronalin and cordrazine, but he won't be conscious for a few minutes."
"We don't have a few minutes!" Kirk shouted.
Finding himself unable to remain seated any longer, Thelin stood and began walking toward the sound of McCoy's voice in the center of the bridge. "Doctor," he said. "Who is currently in charge of the engineering team? I must inform them what is at stake."
"Thelin, where's the sense in that?"the doctor responded with irritation."Use that thick white-haired head of yours. You trained these kids. They know what's at stake. Now let them do their damn jobs!"
Thelin bit his lip almost hard enough to draw blood and turned back toward the science station. The doctor was right, of course, as he usually was when invoking logic to counteract Thelin's impulsiveness. Truth be told, most of the cadets down there knew their way around a warp coil better than their captain. Nevertheless, to sit idly by and wait to live or die ran contrary to every fiber in his being.
With a loud sigh he fell back into his chair. The image on the display before him cast an eerie glow about him as it grew in intensity. There was no stopping it, and the ship was completely vulnerable without any way to raise the shields. Unless...
"David," Thelin said. "The Genesis wave is primarily meson energy, is it not?"
"That's right," David replied, his tone a mix of puzzlement and curiosity, "at least initially. But once the wave contacts matter, the matrix breaks the covalent bonds between atoms, producing alpha particles that get reconstituted into -- "
"Yes, so we must ensure that the wave doesn't contact the ship. TheEnterpriseshields could be reconfigured to disrupt meson waveforms at the proper frequency."
"But we're in the middle of the Mutara Nebula! I thought the shields were inoperative?"
Thelin struggled to remain patient, despite the situation. "The shields are unable to function in theirstandardconfiguration. The matter and energy of the nebula would overload them in seconds. But what if we altered the scheme to produce selective screening at the subatomic level?"
David considered this. "You mean...we could differentiate between fermions and composite bosons, and tell it to ignore all particulate matter..."
"Precisely. Then use the shield harmonics to cancel the frequency of the wave."
David turned toward Kirk, who was now approaching the two men, intrigued by what he had overheard. The young scientist's eyes darted back and forth, from his father, looming so near with his unspoken expectations, to the technical readouts that grew more alarming with each passing second, as he quickly contemplated the idea. "Well...yes, I suppose, as long as the initial waveform is disrupted, then the matrix can't initialize. But..." He helplessly shrugged his shoulders. "I've got no experience in deflector engineering."
"That's not a problem," Thelin assured him. "Just compute the harmonic values based upon our shield frequency and feed them to my screen. I'll begin reprogramming the emitters."
"Excellent thinking, gentlemen," Kirk said in earnest as David seated himself and frantically began to make calculations. Buoyed by renewed hope, the admiral whirled himself around, back toward the navigation console. "Time, from my mark."
Ensign Croy, the blond-haired male cadet at the navigation console, checked the chronometer. "Two minutes, fifteen seconds."
Kirk approached the young officer and placed his hand upon his shoulder, managing to force a smile through his anxiety. "Well, Ensign," he said. "You have my apologies. Most cadets don't have to face the no-win scenario twice in one week."
"Yes, Admiral," Croy replied, struggling to maintain his composure under the presently harrowing circumstances. "But you yourself said that how we face death is just as important as how we face life."
"Yes, I did," Kirk agreed. "And if we get through this, I'll make sure your record reflects your expertise on the subject."
"Thank you, sir." He paused as if considering whether to say anything further, then turned back toward his mentor. "Sir, do you really think we'll get through this?"
"I don't know, Ensign," Kirk answered with complete honesty. "But in the hands of my science officer and my son...well, I like our chances."
Back at the science stations, his fingers fluttering over the keypads, David entered his final set of equations into the console. "That'll have to do it," he said not altogether confidently.
"I have it," Thelin replied. "Compiling the final configuration now." It wouldhaveto do it. For the sake of Thelin's crew. For the sake of Thelin's superior officer -- a man to whom he had repeatedly pledged his loyalty, and who over the years had earned his unwavering respect.
Additional seconds ticked by, though the passage of time had become impossibly difficult to gauge as the bridge had fallen into an uneasy silence. "Time to detonation," Kirk barked out.
"Thirty seconds," came Sulu's reply from the conn.
"Distance from Reliant?" Kirk asked.
Chekov looked up from the tactical console with resignation. "Four thousand kilometers," he meekly offered.
Not nearly enough,Thelin thought.The shockwave alone might destroy us, even with the adjusted shielding.
Kirk leaned forward in his seat, his exasperation beginning to shatter his mask of confidence. "Thelin? David? I think now might be a good time to try out that new shield configuration."
"Stand by, Admiral," Thelin replied. His hands shook. The console was responding so slowly; he wanted to scream, and to pound his fists into the keypads.Save the new template, reinitialize the modulation sequence...
"Fifteen seconds," Sulu announced.
David watched Thelin from a few feet away, silently urging him on.
"Thelin?" Kirk cried out.
The Andorian finished punching in the final code sequence. "Shields going up now!" he yelled out triumphantly, releasing all his frustrations. He sat back in his chair and exhaled, and for a moment wondered if he had even remembered to breathe the last few minutes.
"All decks brace for impact!" Kirk shouted into the intercom.
Thelin looked over and met David's eyes. Had they done enough? Neither of them seemed to know the answer.
A blinding white flash filled the viewscreen before them.
In roughly the same instant, the wave violently collided with the rear of the ship. The hull lurched forward, and the cadets unfortunate enough to be standing about the bridge instantly found themselves sprawled on the deck. Quickly they scrambled to their feet and stumbled back to their respective stations.
"Report!" Kirk shouted.
Chekov struggled to pull himself back up toward the console. "Structural integrity at fifty percent," he yelled over the din of alarms and voices that now surrounded them. "Inertial dampeners are restabilizing."
"Trying to regain attitude control," Sulu announced from the helm.
Thelin watched the viewscreen as the starfield tumbled about dizzyingly, punctuated by flashes of energy as the shields dispersed secondary waves from the explosion. Thankfully, the ship's dampening field had adjusted following the initial impact, sparing the crew from any additional ill effects as the vessel continued to tumble out of control through space. That they all had not been reduced to their component atoms meant that Thelin's shield modifications had worked. However, the information on his console wasn't all positive. "Aft shielding down to twenty percent," he called out. "Emitters have failed in proximity of decks seventeen and eighteen."
"Hull breaches reported near the landing bay," Uhura relayed from the communications station. "Emergency forcefields are in place. Reports of casualties coming in, Admiral. Medical teams have been dispatched."
"Thank you, Commander," Kirk said, his voice reflecting all too clearly the pain from knowing how many young officers and crewmen had already given their lives on this mission. "Navigator! Ship's status?"
"Yes, Admiral," Croy replied, cycling through the relevant readouts. "Distance from explosion, approximately ten thousand kilometers. Traveling at a rate of two hundred kilometers per second..."
"Attitude control is now restored," Sulu interjected. "Aft view on screen."
The bridge crew gasped at the sight displayed before them. Amid a fiery backdrop as the Genesis effect continued to produce subatomic reactions throughout the matter in the nebula, the boundaries of a great spherical planetoid had begun to take shape, growing in size as additional matter continued to accrete into the globular mass at the center. Already they could begin to make out a solid surface -- primordial seas of magma and superheated elements, vomiting forth flaming geysers into the developing atmosphere of toxic gases.
At the sound of the rear bridge doors sliding open, Thelin turned to see Carol Marcus enter the bridge. Like the rest of the crew, she stood agape, staring at the screen in amazement.
Kirk turned to face her. "My God, Carol," he mumbled. "Look at it!"
Carol walked over to her son and clasped his hand. Their eyes remained riveted to the screen. "David," she whispered. "Did any of our simulations ever produce anything like this?"
"We never even considered the effect of the matrix in a nebula," David said.
Thelin felt a shudder vibrating through the deck, and for the first time he realized that he'd felt precisely the same sensation just a short time earlier -- in fact, it seemed to be repeating at regular intervals.
"Admiral," Croy suddenly said with alarm, breaking the spell over the others. "Ship speed is down to one hundred fifty kilometers per second and slowing."
"Slowing?" Kirk said. "Sulu, go to full impulse."
"Sir, we're at full impulse power now," he replied.
Sensing the danger, Thelin quickly performed a scan of the surrounding space. "Gravimetric waves, sir," he said. "That would explain the sudden accretion of the nebula matter. The gravitational fields are too intense for the ship's weakened impulse engines."
"Sulu! If we get the mains back online, can we warp out?"
"No, sir," he replied. "We couldn't possibly engage warp fields in a gravity well this strong. It would tear the ship apart. I'm adjusting ship's attitude to apply tangential thrust. It's the most conservative way to counter the pull and break orbit."
Another shudder rippled through the hull. Warning lights illuminated on the conn and navigation consoles, and the voice of Ensign Croy rang out in panic. "We're still losing altitude!"
"Keep it together, Mister," Kirk scolded him. "Just keep us in orbit for now."
"But, sir!" Croy replied. "Every time another wave hits us, I need to recompute our parabolic trajectory."
Back at the science consoles, David shook his head in frustration and, seeing no other option, rushed up to the helm at the front of the bridge. "Guys," he said, "this is just simple physics. Keep applying the thrust at a tangent. I've computed the period of the gravimetric waves as well as the drag coefficient. All you have to do is program a delta-V using the...um..."
"The ventral thrusters?" Sulu offered.
"Right!" He paused, as if suddenly realizing where he was and what he was doing, and he turned around to face his father in the captain's chair. "I'm sorry...uh, sir. I just...I knew that I could -- "
"No, David, that's...that's just fine." Kirk stood, and awkwardly placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "That's excellent work!"
David looked down with a sheepish grin. "Thank you," he said simply.
Kirk looked over David's shoulder. "Ensign Croy? Can you work with Doctor Marcus here to plot us an escape orbit?"
The young ensign made a futile effort to conceal his continuing nervousness. "Yes...Of course, sir."
"Have at it, then!" Kirk replied with encouragement.
Thelin smiled as the two young men quickly got to work. He would monitor the course calculations from his own station, but he had no doubt that his cadet and the admiral's son would have the ship safely out of danger in no time. Granted, he was still coming to terms with the shock of discovering that Admiral Kirk evenhada son, but Thelin was happy for him, and touched by the moment they had just shared on the bridge.
"Course laid in," Croy said.
"Altering heading to new course," Sulu said, offering a quick smile to the lieutenant seated next to him.
The minutes passed without incident as theEnterprisegradually ascended into higher orbit, while the viewscreen displayed the amazing spectacle below them as the planet gradually cooled, producing life-giving oceans, clouds, and even the telltale greenish bands of primitive plant life.The fires of creation,Thelin thought,given to mankind.Thus spoke the ancient Andorian legends of Uzaveh the Infinite, who had banished Thirizaz, the originalthaanof the First Kin, but sent the Fire Daemon to feed his insatiable passions -- fires of desire that could serve to bring the kin together and to make them whole...or that could be used to destroy, and to recreate in service to arrogance and vanity.
Thelin had never been a particularly religious man, but at that moment he felt fairly certain that Uzaveh would not be pleased.
Thelin followed closely behind Kirk into theEnterprisesickbay. Immediately the combination of scents assailed his senses -- sterile antiseptics amid the acrid odor of burned flesh. This was the part of a captaincy that Thelin abhorred. The notion that young men and women under his charge had paid such a price with their bodies, some with their lives, was a difficult concept to accept. But on this day, it was Admiral Kirk who was in command, and who was the first to stop at the end of each bed and look each patient in the eye, silently if not vocally thanking them for their sacrifice.
At the far end of the wing, next to the doors leading to other wards and offices, Doctor McCoy finished giving instructions to one of several nurses dealing with the influx of casualties, and after updating the chart of the patient nearest him, he approached the two men.
"Bones," Kirk said warmly but solemnly. "How are you holding up?"
McCoy sighed heavily. "Well, it could have been a lot worse, Jim. Mostly burns, a few broken bones...but fewer casualties than what we got when theReliantattacked us. The kids who got the worst of it are back in the ICW. They're the ones who were in the shuttlebay when the blast from the Genesis wave compromised the hull."
Thelin knew enough about the Genesis wave and its effects to fear the worst. "How bad is it, Doctor?"
McCoy nodded his head in the direction of the hallway behind him. "Come see for yourself."
Kirk and Thelin followed the doctor's lead, but not before Kirk took a quick gander about the room. "I thought David had said he was coming down here."
"He's here," McCoy said, looking back over his shoulder. "He wanted to spend a few minutes alone in the morgue."
"The morgue?" Kirk said.
"Well, yeah, the scientists that Khan murdered at the Regula One spacelab are in there. They were David's colleagues and friends, you know. I'm sure he wanted to pay his respects."
"Of course," Kirk replied with embarrassment. "I'm sorry; I should have realized."
McCoy stopped before the door readingIntensive Care Ward."It's all right, Jim. We've all got a lot on our minds right now." The door slid open and he stepped through. Kirk and Thelin closely followed.
On the bed nearest the door laid a young man, the eyes on his cherubic face closed in quiet but uneasy slumber. The readouts on the monitor above him flashed routine status updates and echoed his heartbeat in a steady audible rhythm. McCoy approached his bedside and gripped the seam of the sheet that lay across the patient's bare torso. "We're keeping him sedated for now, partly due to the pain, but mostly because he's not quite prepared to deal with this yet." He drew down the sheets until the cadet's full frame lay uncovered.
"Oh my God," Kirk gasped.
The man's body appeared strong, chiseled and perfectly healthy from his head and torso down to the lower seams of his undergarments. But about halfway down his thighs, the skin became discolored and increasingly mottled. The muscular tone weakened considerably at about the area where his knees had once been, beyond which the bone structure disappeared, and each of his limbs tapered off into a tentacle-like appendage with a dark leathery surface, the ends gently quivering as they curled up into tight spirals.
"The explosion did this?" Kirk asked with astonishment.
"The wave did it," McCoy clarified. "It's like it fundamentally altered his molecular biology, right down to the DNA. His limbs were reconstituted into something much more genetically primitive."
"Could it be reversed?" Thelin asked.
McCoy blew out his breath and shrugged. "I dunno...Maybe, with genetic modification therapy. It won't be easy for him, in any event."
"Dammit, Bones," Kirk bitterly complained, "I need more than that. What am I supposed to tell this kid's parents?"
"Calm down, Jim," McCoy chided him. "I know what you're feeling, but use your head. It's not your place to plan out his rehabilitation. He'll get the best treatment Starfleet has to offer. Your job is to make sure his parents know that their son put his life on the line to save the Federation from a terrorist with a doomsday weapon."
Kirk held up his hand in acquiescence. "You're right...as usual."
Thelin had always admired McCoy's pragmatic ability to rein in Kirk's headstrong nature -- something Thelin himself, as a highly emotional first officer, had never quite been able to do. It seemed as though the doctor's medical instincts gave him insight into the psychological, as well as the physical, needs of the command crew.
"We've got four more crewmen with similar injuries," McCoy went on. "If you want to see..." He cut himself short and tilted his head to look over the shoulders of Kirk and Thelin, nodding as the sound of footsteps approached from behind them.
"Thanks, Doctor," David was heard to say. "Like you asked, I engaged the security locks when I left the morgue, and I..." He stood looking over his father's shoulder at the unconscious patient. Thelin turned toward David, only to see the young man's face turn as white as the Andorian's own hair. "Oh no..." David moaned, then turned and walked swiftly back out of the room.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," Kirk said, then hurried out the door after his son.
He found David back in the main corridor outside sickbay, leaning against the wall and breathing deeply, as if trying not to become violently ill. Kirk approached him slowly, not sure if he would be emotionally ready to discuss what he had just witnessed. "David? Are you all right?"
"No, apparently not," he softly replied, looking down at the deck. "It seems that I'm some sort of mad scientist bent upon creating Frankenstein's monster."
"David," Kirk said in a firm, fatherly voice as he placed his hand on his son's shoulder. "You didn't do this. What you saw in there was the work of a gang of madmen -- outlaws -- who corrupted your invention into something it was never meant to be."
David was trembling. "I should have known better. I should have been responsible enough to realize that the galaxy is full of evil psychopaths like thatKhan..."He spat the name out angrily.
"David, we can't...paralyzeourselves out of fear of what others might do. We can't withhold our gifts from the universe because we don't trust that they'll be used wisely. We just need to have faith that the good out there will outweigh the bad. That's why we're out here, exploring, seeking new cultures, sharing our knowledge...because we believe that ultimately it can only make us stronger."
David raised his head high enough for his eyes to see out from beneath his knotted brow, and he met his father's gaze, and smiled gently. "Good words," he said. "You know, I was wrong about you...and I'm sorry."
"Well, we all need to forgive," Kirk said, "as much as it may wound our pride. If we were driven only by our anger and spite, we'd all end up like Khan."
David was now steady on his feet, and together they began walking back down the corridor toward the turbolift.
"I know you're angry," Kirk continued. "Angry about the deaths of your friends, the theft of your work, and...angry that I wasn't there to be your father when I should have been." They stopped, and Kirk turned to face David, gripping both of his arms. "But don't let that anger define who you are. You're so much more than that, David...and I'm proud of you."
"I know," David replied with complete honesty. "And I'm very proud to be your son."
The journey back to Earth aboard theYorktownwas rather uneventful for David Marcus and his mother, and the duration, though brief, provided David ample opportunity to reflect upon the sudden appearance of his father in his life.
Surprising to him, James Kirk was not at all what he had expected. Of course, David had never asked his mother much concerning the admiral, but reputation alone had led David to anticipate a brash, swaggering arrogance about the man...when in fact, Kirk's actions during the recent crisis reflected an intelligent, thoughtful leader who obviously cared deeply about those who served under him. The brief moment they had shared outside theEnterprisesickbay had swiftly torn down barriers that David had thought were impenetrable, and the young man now felt committed to further exploring the relationship.
But for now they were separated, as theEnterprisewas left light-years behind, slowly limping back home behind an escort, barely able to sustain warp drive.
David shared a meal with his mother in their quarters that night, then retired for some well-earned rest. His dreams, however, were troubled. Throughout the night, visions of the tortured scientists on Regula One repeatedly tormented him, and the sounds of their screams continually echoed through his mind. He had left them there to die. He had run away and hid deep underground, ostensibly to save Genesis...but had he really only saved himself?
He awoke the next morning in a cold sweat just as theYorktownwas entering the Sol system. After he had showered and dressed, he and Carol devoured a quick breakfast just as the vessel began procedures to enter the spacedock in orbit around Earth -- a planet where David had not lived on a permanent basis since he was vFery young; yet now, with nowhere else to go, he and his mother were faced with the unforeseen prospect of finding a home there. It was while the final docking routines were locked down that the message came through to David and Carol -- an official government communiqué, requesting (or rather, politely demanding) their immediate presence at a formal debriefing.
As they disembarked the vessel along with numerous Starfleet cadets who had transferred from theEnterprisefor the return voyage, they were greeted by a Starfleet admiral in full uniform, accompanied by a shorter, older man smartly dressed in typical business attire. "Doctors Carol and David Marcus?" he inquired.
"Yes, that's right," Carol replied.
"Good morning. I'm Admiral Harold Morrow, Starfleet Command. This is Mack Kane, Federation Secretary of Defense."
The elder gentleman nodded to them. "How do you do," Carol replied in an even tone, though David knew her well enough to realize that she was concealing a fair amount of nervous surprise. Neither he nor his mother had anticipated that this meeting would be with two of the top officials in the Federation's entire defense command structure.
"If you would please just follow me a short way," Morrow continued, gesturing further down the hall. "I apologize for the suddenness of this request, but it was necessary. Hopefully we can keep this brief. I know you are both anxious to return home."
"Actually, Admiral," Carol replied as they moved down the crowded corridor of the spacedock, "we had been stationed at the Regula spacelab for more than a year. Neither of us has a home on Earth."
Morrow seemed taken aback. "Oh, my apologies. Well, if neither of you is able to secure housing right away, you're welcome to stay tonight in guest quarters at Starfleet Command. Here we are," he said, entering the door to a small conference room. The four of them filed in and took seats around a display monitor at the end of a long table, though Morrow remained standing. "Can I get any of you something to drink?"
They all shook their heads. "We're fine, thank you," David spoke up.
"Very well," Morrow said, taking his seat, then grimly focusing his gaze upon Carol and David each in turn. "Doctors, we're in the midst of a crisis. Word has spread much faster than anticipated...though I suppose it would have been naïve to expect the creation of a new planet in the Beta Quadrant to go unnoticed by our adversaries. No doubt the explosion was picked up on long-range scans, probably by the Klingons, and by the next day the entire subspace net was buzzing with rumor and innuendo. Today, I don't think there's a spacefaring civilization this side of the galactic core that doesn't know about the Genesis planet."
"Have they learned anything about the technology behind it?" Carol asked.
"That's one of the things we wanted to ask you," Kane replied. "We've read Kirk's reports, but we need to be very clear. This Khan Noonien Singh...he compromised the Regula laboratory and retrieved the Genesis Device. Is there any possibility he gained access to your technical databases?"
"No," David replied. "We made certain of that. We...that is, several members of our staff sacrificed themselves to buy us time, so that we could get all the data secured in the underground cave."
"And such actions are indeed heroic, and will be recognized," Morrow said. "So aside from the device itself, which was detonated during the battle, all other confidential data was successfully secured? We need to be certain of this."
"Yes," Carol said confidently. "We're quite certain."
"Very well," Morrow said. "Doctors...I'm sure that, in the wake of the incident with Khan, it's clear to both of you the danger that Genesis represents, were it to fall into the wrong hands."
"Yes, crystal clear." Carol nodded.
"Then I trust that both of you will understand why, in the interest of Federation security, President Roth has no other option but to place control of the Genesis Project entirely under the oversight of Starfleet."
Carol sighed. Certainly this was not unexpected, but it carried such a sense of finality -- an abrupt ending to years of intense work -- that was difficult to acknowledge. She turned toward David, whom she expected would not be so agreeable.
But David, feeling defeated but cooperative, shrugged meekly. "I'm not surprised. A few days ago, I would have been infuriated, but now...I understand."
"Good!" Morrow smiled. "I'm glad we're all on the same page. Because the fact of the matter is, we still require your expertise."
"Oh?" Carol said.
Kane leaned forward. "Even though Starfleet will command the forthcoming operations," he said, "we still are going to require civilian involvement. Look, we've got ambassadors from every planet in both quadrants beating down the door wanting to know what this new technology is all about; they've got genuine concerns. But other than the limited data collected by theEnterprise,we still don't know enough to set any policy going forward."
He tapped a couple of controls upon the monitor in front of David and Carol. An image appeared of a smiling, dark-haired Starfleet captain. "This is John Esteban, captain of the science vesselU.S.S. Grissom.He's a good man...smart, creative, but knows to do things by the book. He's putting together a crew for the first fact-finding mission to Genesis. And Doctor," he said, indicating Carol, "we'd like you to be on board. They ship out tomorrow."
Carol looked down at her hands. "Sir, I'm honored by your request, but...is this an order?"
Kane shook his head. "You're a civilian, Doctor Marcus. I can't order you to do anything."
She raised her head and faced him humbly. "It's just that...an awful lot has happened these past few days. And while I fully understand and respect my civic duties, right now I think my first responsibility is to contact the families of Jedda, Zinaida, March, Madison -- all our friends who were killed at Regula One -- to express my condolences."
"I understand," Morrow said. "We can still find..."
"I'll go!" David interjected.
Morrow looked at him under a raised eyebrow. "Are you sure you're up to the task?"
Carol jumped to his defense. "Admiral, my son is more intimately knowledgeable of the Genesis technology than I am. Although," she added, turning to David, "he'll have to promise me that he'll be careful."
David smiled sheepishly. "Mother, I think I can take care of myself."
"Very well, then," Morrow said. "Doctor David Marcus, you'll need to report to Captain Esteban aboard theGrissomat oh-eight-hundred tomorrow morning." He looked both of them over. "I'm sure I don't need to tell either of you that any unauthorized discussion of Genesis withanyoneis prohibited. The existence of the planet may be common knowledge, but the secrets of the technology behind it must be contained at all costs."
"I understand, sir," David replied, "but I am curious. You mentioned the Klingons. What are we telling them about this?"
Morrow looked over to Kane, who gave a slight shrug before responding. "Right now, not much...except that a scientific experiment had some extraordinary unintended consequences."
"And they're buying that?" David asked.
"No, they're not," Kane replied, shaking his head. "Ambassador Kamarag of the Klingon Empire tells me that the High Council is demanding access to the planet. We've assured them that they will be allowed to send a representative, but not yet. Not until theGrissomreturns and we know what we're dealing with."
David nodded. "What about the Romulans?"
"Ah. With them, at least we're making a token gesture." Kane tapped a few keys on the display, and an image of an attractive young Vulcan woman appeared. "Her name is Saavik. Ever heard of her?"
David and Carol shared a glance, and both shook their heads.
"She's become something of a young celebrity -- a Vulcan national, but she's also half Romulan. I don't know her entire background, but she was raised as an orphan at the Gamma Eri science station, so her scientific knowledge is pretty formidable. But now she's become a diplomat." He pressed another key, bringing up a picture of her alongside a middle-aged human male. "Seems that Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan pulled some strings and got her an internship as an aide to John Talbot, the Federation ambassador to Nimbus III. In her eighteen months there, she met the Romulan ambassador, Caithlin Dar, and apparently they became pretty close. Now that she's returned...hell, Saavik's practically the poster girl for Federation-Romulan relations."
He flipped off the monitor. "Anyway, she'll be joining you tomorrow, along with whatever team Esteban can recruit in the next twenty-four hours."
Morrow, sitting with his hands clasped together, nodded and turned back toward the doctors. "Any questions?"
They had none. Morrow and Kane extended their hands, and following a few firm shakes, the Marcuses were dismissed.
As they filed out the door, Carol held her son by the arm. "I mean it, David...please don't do anything foolish out there."
"I'll be fine, Mother," David said. "Maybe this 'Starfleet experience' will be good for me." And then he laughed. "Can you just imagine what my father will think?"
Carol kissed his cheek. "Call me before you ship out," she said.
"I will," he replied.
And Carol walked away, leaving David alone with his thoughts, contemplating what his own reaction would have been a few days ago had he known that he would be embarking on a Starfleet mission.
Copyright © 2008 by CBS Studios Inc.
Excerpted from Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions by Keith R. A. DeCandido, Chris Roberson, Geoff Trowbridge
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.