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Wrath of the Prophets

Peter David

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  An Original Publication of POCKET BOOKS

  POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

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  Copyright © 1990 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  STAR TREK is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures.

  This book is published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc, under exclusive license from Paramount Pictures.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

  ISBN: 0-7434-2051-9

  POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

  Table of Contents


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Look for STAR TREK fiction from Pocket Books

  This one's for Katie, who remains steadfast in her love and enthusiasm whenever Daddy starts one of these books


  For Kalliope





  This book was tougher than its predecessors (Doomsday World and The Disinherited—still in print, so go buy them) in that we had to find a reasonable point in the unfolding saga of Deep Space Nine to place the story. As you'll see, this takes place after Sisko becomes a captain, but before Worf's arrival on the station.

  People ask how three guys can manage to write a book simultaneously (yup, that's how we do it) and the answer is … practice. By now, we have a good understanding of what each writer brings to the table and which elements of a novel we can expect from each other.

  I have always been the initial idea man, spinning a yarn designed to be broken into three segments (or more, in the case of Doomsday World, where Carmen Carter was a collaborator as well).

  Mike is the thoughtful polisher, examining how the three components best come together, sanding a spot here or adding some filler there, and then welding it shut so it looks seamless to the casual observer. Peter brings to the partnership a sense of energy and usually comes up with the running themes and gags that allow a novel to breathe. His characterizations and dialogue also keep me and Mike on our toes, pushing us to avoid the routine wherever possible.

  Once a thoroughly prepared outline is completed and approved by the understanding Paula Block at Paramount, we divvy up the three segments, each of us fighting for the character arc that interests him the most. (As usual, we're not going to tell you who got what, so you can approach us at conventions and tender your guesses.) There were extremely few new-to-the-fold characters on which to draft background, nor did they commingle as much as in our previous joint efforts, so we were able to skip that phase. We double-checked a few final facts, signed our contracts, and began work.

  The biggest complication this time around was Time itself. As in the Jim Croce song, there never seemed to be enough of it. Mike was committed to a schedule for the by-now bestselling hardcover Kahless and the DS9 novel Saratoga, and Peter spent most of the latter half of 1995 in Montreal, overseeing his TV series Space Cases (still airing on Nickelodeon) while completing his work on Jimmy Doohan's bio, Beam Me Up, Scotty. And I still had my day job at DC Comics to keep things interesting.

  Now, let the thank-yous begin. First, with editor emeritus Kevin Ryan, who gave us a chance to team up again and kept the schedule as flexible as possible. Second, a big thanks to John Ordover, who remained patient and supportive as we petitioned for extension after extension—so that an October deadline became a January deadline and then a June deadline without too much screaming or loss of hair.

  Peter, of course, thanks his family: the ever-loyal Myra and daughters Jenny, Shana, and Ariel.

  Mike tips his hat to his family as well—his lovely wife Joan and sons Brett and Drew. He would also like to acknowledge the example of Doc Gooden, who showed us the human spirit can endure the roughest of times and still shine.

  As for me … I'd like to thank my family, too. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?) In this case, the ever-patient Deb and enthusiastic Katie and Robbie. I also appreciate the patience of my DC boss, Terri Cunningham, and my long-suffering assistant, Liz Seward.

  Finally, but certainly not least, a big thanks to you, the readers, who have encouraged us all along and always seem to find the right things to say. You've been there to let us know when we were on target and when we might have done something just a bit better. We appreciate those comments (especially the complimentary ones) and look forward to your feedback here—especially since we're serving up the meeting between Lieutenant Ro and Major Kira, the one you've been clamoring for since DS9 debuted.

  We'll see you next in the Delta Quadrant as we complete our tour with a Voyager book—just as soon as a really good idea blossoms into a proposal, which begets a contract, which spawns a manuscript, which is born into a paperback …

  And so on.

  —Bob Greenberger


  June 1996


  THE SMELL IN the tavern was not insignificant.

  A meeting place for all manner of underhanded, disenfranchised, slightly shady, and outright unscrupulous sorts—in short, barterers of everything from bodies to souls—it was situated just off the main boulevard of downtown Sorshaq. Sorshaq was not one of the main cities of Bajor, but that was a matter of choice rather than happenstance, for the residents of Sorshaq tended to keep to themselves. Like shadows, certain insects, and—some joked—various members of the Bajoran provisional government, Sorshaq did better in the darkness than in the light.

  The tavern had no other name than "the Place." Brigands and scoundrels, dubious traders and cut-rate brides-of-all-men, would simply say "Meet me at the Place," and anyone who was in the know would show up there. Anyone who wasn't in the know had no business being there in the first place.

  As for the smell … no one was entirely sure just what it might be. It seemed to defy description. There was some good old-fashioned sweat, mixed in with free-floating smoke.

  Added to that was a dash of blood. Apparently, the management had never quite managed to get the stain out of the floorboards, no matter how hard they tried.

  The lighting was dim, as were the waiters and waitresses. But they weren't hired for their brains. The ceiling was low and tended to spring leaks during heavy rains. This was actually something of a blessing because the rainy season was pretty much the only time the floor got washed.

  One would have thought that the Place would do the bulk of its business at night, but that was not the case. Rather, the Place was busy all day and all evening with a fairly consistent crowd throughout.

  It was about midday, and the Place was deep in its customary hustle and
bustle, when the door swung open and a short but heavyset Terran strode in. "Afternoon, everybody," called the Earthman.

  A shout of "Gnome!" went up from all and sundry. "Gnome" was not his real name, of course. Then again, most people in the Place tended to be hailed by some pseudonym or nom de guerre. It tended to simplify matters, particularly if the authorities were sniffing around in search of someone specific. One's real name tended to stick with one, but a false one could be discarded and replaced on a moment's notice.

  Gnome sauntered across to the bar and sidled up to the Bajoran bartender. "So you're back in town, Gnome?" asked the bartender, whose name was Sandon.

  Gnome gave him a pitying, even patronizing look, since the answer to the question was rather selfevident. "What tipped you off?" he asked.

  Sandon smiled gamely. "Gnome, you're such a kidder," he said, which was what he always said when Gnome had made a statement that had gone over his head. "Got something cooking?"

  "You could say that," said Gnome. "Looking for someone. A lady by the name of Varis. A Bajoran. Anyone come by and identify herself by that name?"

  Sandon shook his head.

  "Well." Gnome sighed. "Maybe she'll be along soon." He rapped on the bar in front of him, which was all he needed to do to indicate he wanted a drink to occupy that space.

  Sandon complied. "Hey," he said. "Got one for you. What's the difference between a black hole and the Bajoran High Council?"

  Gnome shrugged. "I give up. What?"

  Sandon was about to reply when he heard one particular customer, a Tellarite, raise his voice to an extremely loud and annoying level. Not only was he bothering other customers, but he was making it impossible for Sandon to finish the joke.

  So the bartender pulled out a disruptor from under the bar and shot him.

  The Tellarite uttered a screech and then fell forward over the table. There was a brief smattering of applause, and while a waitress cleaned off the table, Sandon turned back to Gnome. "Where was I?"

  "The difference between a black hole and the Bajoran High Council."

  "Oh, right. Okay, the answer is: one of them sucks in everything and gives back nothing … and the other is a dead star."

  Gnome smiled thinly. "Make that up yourself?"

  "Yup," said Sandon proudly.

  "I could tell."

  Sandon studied him quizzically for a moment and then his face brightened. "Gnome, you're such a kidder," he said.

  At that moment the door to the Place opened, and everyone turned to glance in the direction of the new arrival.

  She was wearing simple traveling garments and a hood that obscured most of her face. It was clear, however, that she was Bajoran. She hesitated, then looked around, her eyes narrowing to accommodate the difference in light between the bright sunshine outdoors and the dimness of the Place's interior.

  The fact that she didn't back down from the olfactory ambiance of the Place garnered her a few quick respect points from the regulars.

  Gnome cast a silent glance at Sandon and moved off toward his customary table. The glance was filled with meaning; Sandon was to tactfully probe the female's reason for showing up at the Place. If she passed muster and was indeed who Gnome was supposed to be meeting, then Sandon would forward her to Gnome himself.

  Gnome sat down, the chair creaking slightly under his weight, and nursed his drink as he watched Sandon engage the young woman in conversation. He was quite accomplished at appearing friendly and conversational, yet also rather good at extracting needed information. The exchange lasted several minutes.

  And then, as Gnome watched with ever-suspicious eyes, Sandon made a head-nodding gesture in Gnome's direction. The young woman turned toward Gnome. Their gazes met.

  Gnome was skilled at assessing people's state of mind just from a quick glance into their eyes, and this case was no exception. The young woman had an unmistakable nervousness in her eyes, but by the same token there was an undercurrent of strength. She was clearly determined to try and mask her apprehension.

  With a lesser judge of character than Gnome, she might well have succeeded. As it was, her mild agitation was obvious to him.

  The woman crossed the room, slid into the seat opposite him, and said softly, "You are the Gnome?"

  Gnome nodded. "And you are Varis?"

  "Yes. Where is it?"

  He smiled broadly. "You like to get right down to it, don't you?"

  "I see no reason to delay," she said briskly. "Do you have what I came for?"

  "Yes. What I don't have is the payment."

  "Half the credit transfer has already been made, and the rest will be attended to on delivery."

  He studied her as a scientist might study a microbe. "How do I know you can be trusted?"

  She reached into the folds of her robe and pulled out a small blinking transmission device.

  "Let me guess," he said. "That's a triggering device for a bomb. If you don't get what you want immediately, you'll blow us all to kingdom come."

  Varis looked at him with a mixture of pity and amazement. "Prophets, how you think. No … this is a computer link. I'm already hooked into the financial system. The transfer is ready. All I have to do is punch in the authorization code, and the funds will be released to the sources you indicated. You can then, contact your sources and verify the transfer. Will that satisfy you?"

  Gnome drummed his thick fingers on the table for a moment, and then he rose without a word. "Come along," he told Varis and headed for the door. The young woman followed him.

  Once they were out in the open air, Varis took the opportunity to suck in a huge lungful of air—though she tried not to make it obvious. Nevertheless, Gnome noticed. It was clear that the atmosphere in the Place had been repulsive to her, but she had held up anyway. Apparently, she had sensed that weakness was simply not an option when dealing with people like Gnome.

  Gnome considered her for a moment. He knew little about her other than the basic information he'd been given in order to carry through the deal.

  In his organization, no one ever had all the information. That was as it should be, since it meant that any interrogation upon capture could only yield dribs and drabs of information—but not enough to do any real damage to the organization itself.

  What he did know was this: her family name was Varis, she was connected somehow with a small village to the east, and the village was having problems.

  Then again, mused Gnome, what village on Bajor wasn't having problems? Sandon and his peers could make all the jokes about government they wanted, but the situation was far from funny. Everyone in the quadrant knew that the Bajoran government was in complete disarray.

  Dozens of petty bureaucrats and self-aggrandizing politicos had tried to establish power bases for themselves. Serving the people, after all, was a far less interesting pastime than serving oneself.

  The war-torn planet was bleeding from the wounds it had sustained under Cardassian rule, and now it was hemorrhaging out its economy.

  And if you lived in a small starving village, you were just out of luck. Your needs had to wait until the government got around to attending to them. With things the way they were, that could be a hideously long time.

  What all of it boiled down to was that concerned citizens such as Varis, eager to do whatever they could to help their fellow Bajorans, were often moved to take desperate measures—like dealing with Gnome.

  He moved quickly and expertly through the streets, Varis hurrying to keep up with him. Finally he stopped outside a building that even the relatively inexperienced Varis could identify as a hangar bay.

  Gnome entered a combination into the lock and the door promptly slid open. He looked right and left, making a great show of exaggerated subterfuge, and then sidled into the room. Varis likewise looked around, unsure of why she was doing so, but positive that there must be a reason for it. Once inside, the door slid shut behind them.

  Inside the building was a large runabout. It looked somewhat tired,
which prompted a bit of a scowl from Varis. Gnome, however, looked upon his "seasoned" craft pas a badge of honor, and he patted its side affectionately.

  "I've run more than a couple of Federation blockades with this baby," he said.

  "It shows," Varis responded doubtfully.

  "Care to inspect the cargo?"

  Varis nodded and followed him in. The light inside the runabout was dim, although not quite as dark as it had been in the Place. However, her eyes seemed to adjust more quickly than before.

  There were transport containers in the back. She went to one and cracked it open, her fingers practically clawing it. First she looked inside, then back to him.

  "This is it," she said with excitement.

  Gnome nodded. "Replicators and the raw materials required to make … well, to make whatever the latest Bajoran cuisine is. No offense, but your food always gives me the trots. Now … the credit transfer, if you please?"

  "Of … of course." Varis removed the padd from her robes and typed in a series of codes. She waited a moment for a response, and then it began to blink with serene confidence. "All right. It's done."

  "Give me a moment," he said, and moved to the communications board inside his ship.

  As Varis opened the other crates and found more of the same, her head began to spin. She felt short of breath.

  It was going to work. It was actually going to work. She was going to save her people, and …

  Gnome approached her and began replacing the lids on the cartons. She looked up at him in confusion.

  "What?" she asked. "What? The transfer went through, didn't it?"

  "Oh, yes," he told her. "It went through. But there's a bit of a problem."

  She clutched one of the large lids to herself. "What sort of problem?"

  He smiled an oily smile. "Well, you see, the price has gone up."

  "Gone up." Her voice sounded odd to her. "It … can't have gone up. The price was agreed upon."