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Star Trek-TNG-Novel-Imzadi 1

Peter David

  A Brief Fore^w

  This novel, the last premise of mine to be

  approved by Gene Roddenberry, is the first one

  I've written since his passing. He said, at

  the time he okayed the idea of a novel exploring

  the history and depth of the Deanna

  Troi/william Riker relationship, that he

  looked forward to reading it. Which he never had the

  opportunity to do.

  The amount of time we have on this sphere

  to accomplish what we want is always limited,

  no matter how much we like to pretend otherwise.

  That's something always to be kept in mind.

  Thanks must go especially, once again, to my

  family. The girls, Shana, Guinevere, and the

  newest--in case you were wondering--Miss Ariel

  Leela David. No, she wasn't born on

  the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek.

  She was born on Labor Day, which is--ffbe

  honest--j as good.

  And most of all, to my wife, Myra, who

  naturally didn't invent the term Imzadi, but

  is, to me, the incarnation of it.



  "Let's get the hell out of here."

  A gentle, eerie howling was in the air, which

  seemed to be permeated with the haunting and lonely

  cries of souls that had existed or might never

  exist or might be in some state of limbo in between.

  In the distance was the city. Its name was unknown and

  would forever remain so. The air was dark and filled

  with a sense that a storm might break at any

  moment. It was that way all the time. The storm never

  did break. It just threatened to do so. The very

  withholding of the actual event implied that, should that

  storm ever arrive, it might very well bring with it enough

  power to wash away all vestiges of that remarkable

  intangible called reality.

  None of that mattered to the man who was the leader.

  The man in the greenish yellow shirt, whose mind was

  elsewhere and elsewhen. Behind him stood his friends, his

  crew. They waited patiently. For a moment it

  appeared that he was wondering just how long they would be

  capable of waiting. What were the limits of their

  patience? The limits of their confidence in the man

  who was their captain?

  But it was clear that he was not going to test those

  limits. A man who had been driven to go out and

  explore new places, discover new frontiers

  ... this man had finally found a place filled with

  potentially endless vistas of exploration.

  Anywhere, anywhen. And his response was not

  to embrace it. No, all he wanted to do was

  leave it behind, to get as far away from it as


  "Let's get the hell out of here." The ^ws

  hung there a moment, startling in their vehemence, in

  the longing and resignation and overall sense of

  Oh, God, I can't stand it anymore, get

  me away from here, away to a place where I

  don't have to think or feel, to a place where I can

  just be numb.

  The crew took several small steps closer

  to each other. To a degree it was out of reflex,

  to make sure that they would be well within range of the

  transporter effect. But there was something else as

  well this time. It was an unspoken desire to try

  to lend support by dint of the fact that they were there for

  him. There was nothing they could say or do. Indeed,

  they didn't even fully understand what was going through

  the captain's mind.

  They did not yet know the sacrifices their

  commanding officer had made. Did not know that, in the

  best tradition of romance, he had found a part of

  his soul existing in a woman and had been drawn

  to her. And then had lost that part of his soul, which he

  hadn't fully realized he was missing in the first

  place. Lost it beneath the screeching of tires, under

  a truck's wheels ...

  Not just the wheel of a truck. A wheel of

  history, an unrelenting, unyielding cog that had

  ground up his love and his soul and spit them both

  out, bloodied and battered ... and broken.

  Yes, that was the difference that the crew sensed this

  time in their captain. Many a time had he been

  battered ... but as the old saying went,

  "Battered but unbowed." This time, though ... he was


  They got the hell out of there.

  And Commodore Data watched them go.

  She was simply called Mary Mac. Her

  last name actually began with a sound approximating

  "Mac," but the rest was a major tongue twister.

  As a result, the other scientists addressed her

  as "Mary Mac."

  Mary Mac was extremely peculiar. For one

  thing, she was an Orion. This in itself was not

  particularly unusual. She was, however,

  fully clothed. This .was unusual, as the vast

  majority of Orion women existed purely to be

  the sex toys of men in general and Orion men in

  particular. They were known as vicious and deadly

  fighters and radiated sex the way suns

  radiated heat ... and indeed, some thought, a bit

  more intensely.

  Mary Mac's skin was green, as was standard for

  an Orion woman. In every other aspect,

  however, she was markedly different from the rest of her

  kind. She wore loose-fitting clothes ...

  deliberately loose so as to do nothing that could

  potentially emphasize the formidable curves of

  her body. Because she liked her arms unencumbered,

  her tunic was short sleeved, although an

  off-the-shoulder cape was draped stylishly around

  her. She had long, jet-black hair, but rather

  than hanging saucily around her shoulders, it was

  delicately and elaborately braided ...

  certainly not an ugly hairstyle, but hardly one

  that would inflame the senses.

  Most incredibly ... she wore

  glasses. They had a slight tint and huge


  Nobody wore glasses. They were considered

  to be phenomenally ou-of-date as well as


  Which is why she wore them.

  Mary Mac regretted, every so often, that she

  felt a need to "dress down," as it were, so

  that she could operate within society. She was,

  however, used to it. There were precious few

  prejudices that one had to deal with in the day-to-day

  operations of the United Federation of Planets, but

  one of the few remaining was that all Orion women were

  nothing but animalistic sex kittens. It was an

  understandable notion because that description did indeed

  fit virtually all Orion women, including

  most of the ones whom Mary Mac had ever met.

  It did not, however, fit her, and if she had

  to go to extremes to get h
er point across, well

  ... then so be it. Her "look" had gotten her quite

  far. It had, in fact, been something of a plus.

  People would be interested and amused by her as she would

  discuss some involved or arcane bit of

  scientific lore ... interested because usually

  they'd never heard an Orion woman put together

  a sentence of more than five or so ^ws, and amused

  because they'd smugly be waiting for her to revert

  to type any moment. She never did, of course.

  She'd trained too long and too hard to allow that

  to happen. As a result she was always a bit of a

  surprise, and throughout the galaxy, people loved to be


  Which is why Mary Mac had worked her way up

  through the ranks and eventually landed the assignment of

  project administrator on Forever World.

  The planet did not have an official name.

  Somehow it had seemed presumptuous for any mere

  mortal to give it one ... somewhat like painting a

  mustache on the face of God. It had simply

  been nicknamed Forever World, and that was what had


  She passed her associate coordinator,

  Harry, who didn't seem to notice her. A

  muscular and dark-hued terran, Harry's

  attention was fully on a set of equations or some

  other bit of scientific data on a

  palm-sized computer padd. "Hi, Harry," she

  said to him as he walked past. He waved

  distractedly and continued on his way. He had

  probably already forgotten that he'd been

  addressed at all, much less by Mary Mac.

  Mary Mac made her way across the compound, or conversing briefly with other scientists

  on the project. One of the odder aspects of

  conversation on the Forever World was that one tended to speak

  in a hushed voice. There was no particular reason

  for it. It certainly wasn't mandated by law or

  tradition. But somehow, particularly when one was

  standing outside and the eerie howling filled one's ears

  and one's soul, the speaking voice tended to drop

  to a soft tone that could best be described as

  "subdued" ... and perhaps even a bit fearful.

  Mary had once commented that it always seemed as if the

  cosmos was hanging on your every ^w here. It was an

  assessment that had been generally agreed with.

  The gravel crunched under Mary Mac's

  boots as she got to the other side of the compound and

  headed toward the reason for the perpetual presence

  of a half dozen or so scientists on the Forever


  Just ahead of her was the only other constant

  noise that existed aside from the mournful sigh of the

  wind, and that was a steady, constant hum of a force

  field. She stepped over a rise, and as always,

  there it was.

  As always was not a term used lightly, or

  incorrectly. As near as anyone could tell, the

  Guardian of Forever had always been there, and would

  most likely always be there.

  The force field that had been erected around it was

  ostensibly to protect the unique

  archaeological discovery from any potential

  ravagers. But in point of fact, it was there for a

  subtly different reason. Namely, to protect

  life (as it was known) from itself.

  Erected just outside the force field was a

  free-standing platform about two meters tall. An

  array of readouts charted the energy fluxes that

  surged around the Guardian of Forever within the force

  field. There were, in addition, two small

  lights, one brightly glowing red, the other pulsing a

  very soft green.

  To the right of the platform was a large screen. It

  offered, in essence, a taped delay. When a

  request for a period was made on the Guardian,

  it ran so quickly that the best anyone could hope

  to perceive was fleeting images. But the screen would

  then capture those images and play specifically

  requested moments in a more accessible fashion.

  At this particular moment, the Guardian

  had finished yet another run-through of a particular

  era. It was now silent, displaying nothing, waiting

  with its infinite patience for the next request from an


  Standing outside the field, staring at the

  Guardian, was an android. Playing out on the

  screen, having been recorded moments before for

  replay, was a scene very familiar to Mary Mac.

  She stopped and simply took in for a moment the

  irony of the situation. On one level, what she

  was seeing was one machine watching another. But neither

  of them were simple machines. Both of them had

  sentience, which raised them from the level of machine

  to the status of ... something else. Something


  The very thought of something that could not easily be

  labeled or pigeonholed was anathema to Mary

  Mac, and yet at the same time the existence of such

  things was a pleasant reminder that no one could ever

  fully know every wrinkle that the universe had to offer

  ... and that, therefore, a scientist's work would never,

  ever, be finished.

  Her first inclination had been to think of the android,

  despite the rank of commodore, as an "it." Just

  as she had thought of the Guardian as an "x" before coming

  to the Forever World. However, shortly after she'd met

  Commodore Data, she'd found herself forced

  to revise her opinion and mentally elevate the

  commodore to a "he." As for the Guardian, she was

  still trying to get that sorted out. The best she could come

  up with at the moment was a "whatever." Or perhaps, more

  accurately, a "whenever."

  Data stood there, his back to Mary Mac,

  hands draped just below the base of his spine. The stark

  black and green lines of his uniform, with the silver

  trim on the arms and trouser cuffso, seemed

  to shimmer in the perpetual twilight of the

  horizon. His attention shifted momentarily from the

  Guardian to the scene being replayed on the


  Mary Mac heard a familiar voice, a

  voice filled with resolve and yet hidden

  trauma. And the voice said, "Let's get the

  hell out of here."

  She smiled and called out, "That figures."

  Data turned and looked at her, his face

  calm and composed as always. His gold skin

  glittered in the half light. "Pardon?"

  She pointed at the Guardian. "That moment.

  It's one of the most popular."

  Data nodded slowly and looked back. On the

  screen, the crew of explorers was drawing closer

  to its leader and then, moments later, shimmered out of

  existence. "That's not surprising, I suppose,"

  said Data. "Although there are many moments from

  history that would be far more impressive in their

  scope, the history of James Kirk and the crew

  of Enterprise would certainly hold some degree

  of fascination. People would probably feel more

>   empathy toward someone who is closer to their own

  frame of reference. What I find interesting is

  how primitive the transporter technology


  Mary Mac looked at him in surprise.

  "You know, Commodore, I've seen so many people

  watch this moment. The story of Kirk's ordeal

  with the Guardian, and what he sacrificed for the

  sake of history ... it's become so well

  known. One of the few modern-day legends we have.

  And I've seen so many reactions, ranging from

  hysterics to mourning. I've never heard anyone just

  comment on the technology ... especially not when

  they're seeing it for the first time."

  Data glanced at the screen. "It's not the first

  time. It's the second."

  "When did you see it before?"

  "When it was displayed on the Guardian, one

  point three minutes ago."

  She blinked in surprise. "You were able to make

  out something that played on the Guardian himself?"

  "Of course. The image feed may be rapid

  for you, but for me it's relatively sluggish. Still,

  I wished to see it on the replay screen in the

  event that I missed some sort of nuance. But I


  She shook her head. "You are a rather different

  customer than we usually get around here,

  Commodore, I must admit. Most people don't quite

  know how to react when they see their ancestors

  brought to life, or shadows of life"--she

  gestured to the Guardian--?bbf their very eyes."

  "Understandable," said Data. "However, the

  difference is ... I have no ancestors."

  "You were made. Other androids existed before you,

  even if not in direct lineage. If they're not

  ancestors, what would you call them?"

  He considered it a moment. "Precedents," he


  She smiled broadly and clapped him on the

  back. "Come on. We have dinner up

  back at the compound. We'd be honored if you

  joined us."

  "I'd like to touch it."

  Her hand stayed on his back, but her expression

  slid into a puzzled frown. "Touch what?"

  "The Guardian of Forever."

  "Whatever for?"

  He looked at her in such a way, with his

  gold-pupiled eyes, that Mary Mac felt a

  slight chill. The same sort that she had felt

  when she first stood in the presence of the Guardian.

  As if he had been reading her mind, Data

  said, "To be honest ... I'm not entirely

  sure. The Guardian and I ... we are