New FrontierPeter David
Seated, left: Captain Calhoun Seated, right: Commander Shelby Standing, from left to right: Lieutenant Lefler, Ambassador Si Cwan, Doctor Selar, Lieutenant McHenry, Lieutenant Commander Burgoyne 172, Lieutenant Kebron, Lieutenant Soleta
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Book One: House of Cards
Twenty Years Earlier . . . M’K’N’ZY
Ten Years Earlier . . . Soleta
Two Years Earlier . . . Selar
Now . . .
Book Two: Into The Void
Book Three: The Two-Front War
Book Four: End Game
The Great Bird of the Galaxy
The Star Trek: New Frontier Minipedia
To The Fans . . .
You Know Who You Are
I would like to thank Paula Block for her help in turning New Frontier into a reality, Peter David for the fantastic new characters he peopled the New Frontier with, and Gene Roddenberry, whose sandbox we’re playing in.
—John J. Ordover,
HOUSE OF CARDS
FALKAR REGARDED THE REMAINS of his troops and, as the blazing Xenex sun beat down upon them, decided to wax philosophical about the situation. “It is not uncommon to desire killing a teenager,” he said. “However, it is not often that one feels the need to send soldiers to do the job.”
His men regarded him with a surprising amount of good cheer. It was surprising they had any left, for the battle between themselves and the Xenexians had not only been brutal, but also extremely unsatisfying. Although not particularly unsatisfying for the Xenexians.
They were a somewhat bedraggled lot, these survivors. Their armor, their clothing, hung in tatters. Their weapons were largely energy-depleted, and when they had fled the scene of their final rout, they had done so depending heavily on short swords and knives to hack their way to safety (or what passed for safety). Weapons that hung at their sides largely for ornamentation, for decoration, for a symbol of achievement. Most of them had never touched the bladed weapons except to polish them for display purposes. Not one man in fifty could remotely consider himself expert with their use. As Falkar studied the barely two dozen men remaining to him, it was as if he could read what was going through their minds.
Falkar drew himself to his full height, and as he was six and a half feet tall, there was something to be said for that. His skin was a dark bronze, as was that of all the people of his race. His build was an interesting combination of both muscle and economy. There was no denying the power in his frame, but it stretched across his body in such an even manner that—despite his impressive height—it was easy to underestimate just how strong he was. His hair was long and black, and usually was tied neatly, but now it hung loosely around his shoulders in disarray. When one is beating a hasty retreat, it’s hard to pay attention to keeping one’s hair properly coiffed.
His eyes were solid black, his nose was wide and flared, and his incisors were particularly sharp.
“Perhaps we deserved our fate,” he said tightly.
His men looked up at him in surprise. If these were words meant to comfort an already dispirited band, they were not doing the job.
“We have ruled the Xenexians for over three hundred years,” he said tightly. “Never, in all that time, has there been any uprising that we were unable to quash. Never has our authority been questioned. And because of that, we have allowed ourselves to become sloppy. Become overdependent on hand weapons.” He was striding back and forth in front of his troops. “We came to believe,” he continued, “that we would be able to win battle upon battle, not because we were the better prepared or the better armed . . . but simply because we were entitled to do so, as if by divine right. Well, the Xenexians showed us differently, didn’t they?”
“It was that damned boy,” one of the soldiers muttered.
Falkar spun and faced him, his dark eyes glittering. “Yes,” he said, voice hissing tightly from between his teeth. “That damned boy. That damned boy. The one who rallied his people. The one who outthought us at every turn. The one who anticipated our moves, who was not intimidated by us, who gave his people hope. Hope, gentlemen. The worst thing people such as these could have. Because hope leads to action, and actions lead to consequences. And the consequence of these actions is that we are now faced with a people who stand on the brink of liberation. We fight them and fight them, and they keep coming back and defeating us. Our government, gentlemen, has made it clear to me that they are beginning to consider Xenex more trouble than it is worth. And that damned boy is the cause.”
Falkar had been standing on the uppermost reaches of a plateau. Now he pointed out at the formidable terrain before them. It stretched on for hundreds of miles, seemingly in every direction. The ground was hard and cracked. Small mountains dotted the landscape, and there were small bits of vegetation here and there clinging desperately for life.
“He’s out there, gentlemen. Out there in the Pit. Providence has potentially put him within our reach. His vehicle was seen spiraling out of control in that direction during the battle’s waning moments. He’s separated from his troops, from his followers. He is alone. He is no doubt scared. But he is also very likely dangerous, as would be any trapped and injured animal.” Falkar turned and looked back at his men. “I want him. Alive, if possible. Dead, if not. But if you capture him alive and he ‘accidentally’ meets his demise in transit, make certain that all injuries he sustains are to his body. I want his face pristine and uninjured, easy to identify.”
One of his soldiers frowned. “I don’t understand, sir. Certainly he could be identified from DNA record
s in any event.”
“True,” said Falkar. “But I’m referring to being able to identify his face . . . when his head is stuck upon a pole in the great square of Xenex.” He surveyed the terrain one more time and then said, “Find him. Find M’k’n’zy . . . and let’s put an end to this rebellion once and for all.”
• • •
M’k’n’zy felt his left arm stiffening up again. The blood that covered his biceps had long since dried; the large piece of metal that had embedded itself in his arm had cut him rather severely, and it had been a hellish few minutes to pry it out of where it had lodged itself. That wasn’t the major problem though. The big difficulty was that he had dislocated the damned limb. The pain had been excruciating as M’k’n’zy had braced himself and, agonizingly, shoved it back into place. It had been so overwhelming, in fact, that M’k’n’zy had fainted dead away. When he came to a few minutes later, he cursed himself for his weakness.
He treasured the small bit of shade that he’d managed to find for himself as he extended his fingers and flexed them, curved them into a fist and straightened them once more. “Come on,” he muttered to himself through cracked lips, expressing annoyance with the uncooperative portions of his body. “Come on.” He worked the fingers, the wrist, and the elbow until he was satisfied with the movement in them. Then he surveyed the territory, trying to assess his situation.
While Falkar was wild of mien by the moment and by happenstance, M’k’n’zy had that look to him all the time. His skin also had a burnished look to it, but had more of a leathery texture to it than Falkar’s, most likely due to the fact that he spent so much time out in the sun. His hair was wild and unkempt. The Xenexians had a reputation for being a savage people, but one look into M’k’n’zy’s purple eyes bespoke volumes of intelligence, cunning, and canniness. No one who thought him a simple scrapper could hold to that opinion if they looked into his face for more than a moment.
One would never have thought that M’k’n’zy was merely nineteen. The years of hardship he had endured gave him a weathered look, with several deep creases already lining his forehead. And more . . . there was something in his eyes. Whatever innocence he had once possessed was long gone.
Those savage eyes scanned that section of Xenex called the Pit. It was an area approximately thirty miles across that was well known to the people of M’k’n’zy’s home city of Calhoun as someplace from which people should—under ordinary circumstances—steer clean For starters, it was extremely inhospitable, filled with small life-forms that had developed various nasty abilities required for surviving in the desert environment. Moreover, the weather was severely unpredictable, thanks to a combination of assorted fronts which would slip in and become trapped within the mountains that ringed portions of the terrain. Fierce dust storms would whip up at any time, or torrents of rain would fall—sometimes for days—to be followed by such calm and dryness that one would think that there had been no precipitation there for ages. In some areas the terrain was cracked and dry, while in others the ground was exceedingly malleable.
Beyond the physical challenges the place presented, there was something else about the area as well. Something that bordered on the supernatural. Those who were advocates of pseudoscience would claim that the Pit was a source for a rift in reality. That it was a sort of nexus, an intersection for multiple realities that would drift in and out as easily as dust motes caught up in vagrant breezes. Those who were not of a pseudoscientific bent just figured the place was haunted.
Either way, it was the most unpredictable piece of real estate on Xenex.
But although modern Xenexians gave the Pit a wide berth, centuries previously it had been part of a fundamental rite of passage among Xenexian youth. When a Xenexian reached a certain age, he or she would trudge into the midst of the Pit to embark on what was called the “Search for Allways.” It was believed that, if one wandered the Pit for a sufficiently long enough time, visions of one’s future would reveal themselves and one would come to understand one’s true purpose in life.
However, the Search for Allways began to take a significant death toll as young Xenexians would fall prey to the dangers that the Pit presented. As a consequence, the Search disappeared from the practiced traditions of the Xenexians. This did not mean, however, that it vanished from practice altogether. Instead, it went underground. A sort of dare, a test of one’s bravery and character . . . and, if truth be told, ego. Those who felt that they had a destiny—whatever that might be—would take it upon themselves to embark on a Search of their very own. Parents would try to emphasize to their children the folly of such actions, just as their parents had before them. And in most cases they were no more successful in dissuading their own children than their own parents had been in discouraging them.
By the time M’k’n’zy was thirteen, he had no parents who could try and talk sense into him (although, to be fair, even if his parents had been alive, the odds are that they would have not been successful). Loudly proclaiming to his peers that he was a young man of destiny, M’k’n’zy set out for the Pit to discover just what that glorious future might be. As the (unofficial) tradition dictated, he went out into the Pit with no supplies save for a supply of water that would last him—under ordinary circumstances—one day.
Even with rationing, by the fifth day he had used up the entire supply.
It was day eight when his big brother D’ndai found him, unconscious, dehydrated, and muttering to himself. D’ndai brought him home and, when M’k’n’zy was fully recovered, he told his friends of the remarkable visions he had seen. Visions of his people free from Danterian rule. Visions of a proud and noble people rising up against their oppressors. And he recounted these visions with such force, such conviction, and such belief that they were attainable goals, that it became the basis for the eventual uprising of the Xenexian people.
The truth was, he hadn’t seen a damned thing.
It was his great frustration, his great shame. It was the last thing he wanted to admit. And so, when his friends had pressed him for details of what—if anything—he had seen, he began to string together a series of fabrications which grew with every retelling. In fact, somewhere along the way even M’k’n’zy allowed himself to believe that his claims were reality.
Deep within him he knew this wasn’t the case. But, like most men of destiny, he wasn’t going to allow trivialities such as truth to stand in his way.
• • •
The Danteri made their way slowly through the Pit’s northwest corridor. They moved with caution, surveying literally every foot of land before them. All of them knew that the Pit could be merciless on anyone who didn’t keep his guard up at all times.
Falkar kept a wary eye on the skies overhead, trying to be alert to any sudden change in the weather. He’d never actually explored the Pit, but its reputation was formidable.
Falkar’s aide, Delina, suddenly stiffened as he studied the readings from a sensor device. “What is it?” Falkar demanded.
Delina turned and looked at his superior with a grim smile. “We’ve got him,” he said. He tapped the sensor readings. “He’s stationary, approximately one hundred yards west.”
“He’s not moving?”
“Not at all.”
Falkar frowned at hearing that. “I don’t like the sound of it. He could be sitting there, knowing we’re looking for him, trying to lure us into a trap.”
“But isn’t it just as likely, sir,” suggested Delina, “that he’s injured? Helpless? That he’s resting in hopes of remaining in hiding? How does he even know he’s being pursued, sir?”
Thoughtfully, Falkar stroked his chin and stared in the direction that the sensor indicated. Stared with such intensity that one would have thought he could actually see M’k’n’zy with unaided gaze. “He knows, Delina.”
“With all respect, sir, you don’t know that for sure. . . .”
Falkar fixed his gaze on Delina. “When our troops moved in for the surprise raid
on Calhoun . . . he knew, and the city’s defenses repelled us. When we were positive that we had them cornered in the Plains of Seanwin . . . he knew, outflanked us, and obliterated five squadrons. When my top advisors assured me that the Battle of Condacin could not possibly be anticipated, that it was—in fact—the preeminent military strike of the century . . .”
Delina’s face darkened. “My brother died at Condacin.”
“I know,” said Falkar. “And the reason was that M’k’n’zy knew. I don’t know how. Maybe he trucks with the spirit world. Maybe he’s psychic. All that matters is that he knew then, and he knows now.”
“Let him,” said Delina fiercely. “Let him for all the good it will do him. If you’ll allow me, sir, I’ll rip his heart out with my own hands.”
Falkar studied him appraisingly. “Very well.”
“Thank you, sir.” Delina snapped off a smart-looking salute.
With confidence, the Danteri headed after their prey.
The confidence lasted until they moved through a narrow passageway that led to the hiding place of M’k’n’zy. Then there was a faint rumble from over-head, which quickly became far more than faint. They looked up just in time to see a massive landslide of rocks cascading toward them. There was a mad scramble forward as they tried to avoid the trap. Screeches were truncated as soldiers disappeared beneath the heavy stones. There was a brief moment of hesitation as the Danteri tried to decide—with death raining down around them—whether they should advance or fall back. Falkar was shouting orders, but was having trouble making himself heard above the din.
Falkar, in turn, did not hear Delina’s shout of warning. All he knew was that suddenly Delina slammed into him, knocking him back against a wall. For a split second his breeding objected strenuously to such handling, but it was only a split second that he felt that way. Because a moment later the boulder that would have struck Falkar instead landed squarely on Delina, who hadn’t been able to get himself out of the way in time. Delina vanished under the boulder, wearing an expression of both outrage . . . and satisfaction.