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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 © 1991 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: 0-7434-2060-8

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

  Table of Contents

  Introduction and Technical Notes


  Chapter One


  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight



  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen


  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  This one is for Richard,

  the biggest windmill I know

  Introduction and Technical Notes

  For those who actually keep track of my career and heard about my upcoming projects, no, this isn’t the book with Q. That’s in a few months.

  When Rock and a Hard Place came out, I cautioned readers up front that it was going to be somewhat more serious—even slightly morbid—in tone than my previous Trek book, Strike Zone. Readers seemed to appreciate this. I feel no such statement of dramatic style is required with Vendetta. Considering that the Borg are back in force with this novel, you know this isn’t going to be a laugh riot.

  Vendetta, as a work, owes its existence to a few people. First and foremost, to Pocket Books editor Kevin Ryan, whose idea this all was. Kevin is also the only person I know who can tell you that a manuscript is great, wonderful, fantastic, the best thing you’ve ever written, and then fax you six pages of requested changes. He should be in Hollywood. He’d fit in great there.

  Then there is the incredibly understanding phalanx of editors with whom I work, who were willing to cut me slack on my monthly comic book assignments so that I could get this novel done. Not that they had much choice, since I had my remarkably rude answering machine message-screening my calls.

  There is also my family—wife Myra, and daughters Shana and Guinevere, who have come to understand that the phrase “Daddy’s on deadline” means that you tiptoe around the house until the damned thing is done.

  Then, of course, there is Next Generation itself, celebrating a quarter century of the durability of Gene Roddenberry’s dream, which by introducing the formidable Borg, gave us a race that makes the Klingons and Romulans combined look like campfire girls.

  And now, something totally alien to my usual writing—technical notes. I found myself leaning very heavily on the Star Trek Writer’s Technical Manual, that marvelous document created by Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda that is the official, unvarnished, accept-no-substitute guide for anyone trying to write for the TV show. Whereas usually I give the manual a casual glance in the course of writing a book, to double-check bridge stations or something, with Vendetta I kept it to my immediate right and referred to it constantly.

  In Vendetta you will find discussions of the capabilities of warp drive, phasers and respective settings, setups of the engine room, etc., etc. All of this is taken directly from the Technical Manual, with a few extrapolations of my own tossed in along the way. This serves a twofold advantage. First, it gives Vendetta, I would hope, a feeling of authenticity. Second, it means that when fans come complaining to me about my depiction of warp speed limits and the like, I can just turn them on Sternbach and Okuda. The Tech Manual is the final, official word of the Star Trek office, so if you take issue with anything in Vendetta, don’t gripe to me about it. I just work here.

  Special thanks to an advertiser in Comics Buyer’s Guide whose nom de plume I borrowed for a character herein.

  And lastly, an acknowledgment to Miguel de Cervantes, who knew squat about warp drive but everything about what drives the human heart.



  Chapter One

  JEAN-LUC PICARD leaned against a wall and ran his fingers through his mop of thick brown hair.

  His feet tapped a vague, disassociated rhythm, more stream-of-consciousness than anything else. His mind was wandering in the way that it often did—analyzing any number of facts, figures, and other bits of information that were tumbling through his head while, simultaneously, drawing together possible connections.

  It was called “thinking empirically” by his teachers. According to his father, it was called “being able to see the forest for the trees.”

  “Step back, gentlemen. Give the young man room.”

  Picard didn’t even glance in the direction of the slightly taunting voice. “Just thinking, Korsmo. No need to make such a fuss over it. Since you do it so rarely, you probably didn’t recognize the process.”

  Korsmo, to the amusement of other cadets nearby, staggered back slightly, as if he’d been stabbed to the heart. “Oh,” he moaned, “Oh! The stinging wit of Jean-Luc Picard. Shot to the heart. How can I ever recover?”

  Picard shook his head. “Don’t you ever take anything seriously, Korsmo?”

  Korsmo was tall and lanky, rail-thin. His eating habits were legendary, but his body burned up the food so fast that he never gained weight. His black hair hung just in front of his eyes, and he would periodically brush it back out unconsciously. “There’s a difference between being serious and being dead. You should learn it, Picard. You’re the biggest stiff in the Academy. Legend has it, the only bigger stiff in the Academy’s history was James Kirk.”

  “I would consider it an honor,” said Picard archly, “to be placed in such august company.”

  The corridor outside the classroom was becoming more crowded as the rest of the cadets began to show up, one by one, for the lecture. They watched with amusement the cautious and long-accustomed sparring between Picard and Korsmo. It had been going on since practically the first day of the first year. The two men weren’t exactly friends, but they weren’t exactly enemies. Instead they saw things in each other, instinctively, that they simultaneously disliked and envied. After three years the give and take of their routine had an almost comfortable familiarity.

  “Your concern is heartwarming, Korsmo,” Picard continued. “Some of—”

  His vo
ice trailed off as he saw something at the far end of the hallway.

  There was a woman there. She seemed almost insubstantial, fading into the shadows at the corridor end. Picard noticed immediately that she was not wearing a Starfleet uniform, but, instead, some sort of almost diaphanous gown.

  Though Picard had never seen her before, there was something about her, something that made her seem as if she were there, but not—as if his mind were telling him that he was seeing nothing at all.

  Korsmo was saying something and Picard wasn’t paying the least bit of attention. Korsmo realized it and tapped Picard on the shoulder. “You got a problem, Picard?”

  Picard’s gaze strayed to Korsmo for a moment, refocussed, and then he said, “Who’s that woman?” “What woman?” asked Korsmo.

  He turned and pointed to the end of the corridor, and there was no one there.

  Picard’s mouth moved for a moment, and for the first time that Korsmo could recall, Jean-Luc Picard actually seemed flustered. “She was there,” he said. “She was right there.”

  The other cadets were looking where Picard was pointing and turning back to him with confusion. “One of you must have seen her,” said Picard urgently.

  Korsmo was trying to keep the amusement out of his voice, but not all that hard. “This another example of the famed Picard humor . . . no, wait. I just remembered. We’ve never seen an example of the famed Picard humor, so who could tell?”

  “Dammit, Korsmo, this is serious. There’s some woman walking around here, and she’s not authorized and—”

  Korsmo, a head taller than Picard, took him firmly by the shoulders. But his words were addressed to the others. “Gentlemen . . . our fellow cadet states that security has been breached. His claim must be followed up. Spread out, gentlemen and ladies. Let’s see if we can turn up Picard’s mystery woman.”

  There were brisk nods, the youthful banter quickly being set aside, as a potential problem presented itself. Picard felt a brief flash of gratitude to Korsmo, but realized within short order that Korsmo’s main interest was trying to show him up.

  In this, it appeared, Korsmo succeeded. The cadets deployed themselves with admirable efficiency, and had the entire floor covered in less than a minute. But there was no sign anywhere of the alleged intruder.

  Picard was shaking his head in utter befuddlement. He paced furiously in place—just a small area, forward three steps and back three steps. When Korsmo approached, he didn’t have to say anything. It was clear from the taller cadet’s attitude that no one had been found, and that left Picard looking like something of a fool.

  “She was there,” said Picard stubbornly. The others were gathering around now, but again Picard said firmly, “I saw her. I’m not imagining it.”

  “I checked with the front security area,” said Korsmo. “No non-Starfleet personnel were granted access to the premises today, not even for a casual visit.”

  “I don’t think Jean-Luc is claiming she was supposed to be here,” offered up Cadet Leah Sapp. Picard flashed a quick smile at her. Leah was always the first to step in on Picard’s side when there was any kind of dispute. He knew damned well that she had a bit of an infatuation with him, but he didn’t take it seriously. He took nothing seriously except his studies. Gods, maybe he was the biggest stiff in the Academy at that.

  “No, I’m not,” Picard agreed. “All I’m saying is that perhaps we should—”

  There was a loud, throat-clearing harrumph, and the cadets turned towards the source. Professor Talbot was standing in the doorway of the classroom, his arms folded, his dark face displaying great clouds of annoyance.

  “I am not,” he rumbled, “in the habit of waiting for classes to come to me in their own sweet time.”

  “We were trying to help Cadet Picard find a woman,” Korsmo said helpfully.

  Picard rubbed his forehead in a faint, pained expression.

  “Indeed,” said Talbot thinly. “Cadet Picard, kindly maintain your sex life on your own time, not mine.”

  “I . . . yes, sir,” said Picard, swallowing the response he really wished to make. Something told him that any response would not do him one shred of good and, quite likely, a fairly large dollop of harm.

  The students filed into Professor Talbot’s course on Starfleet history. The classroom was meticulously climate-controlled, and yet it always felt stuffy to Picard. As he took his seat, he pondered the probability that the perceived stuffiness was pretty much in his head. Somehow, talking about great adventures and sweeping voyages of great Starfleet officers was stifling when it was discussed in a classroom. Picard didn’t want to sit around and review the adventures of others. He wanted others to be studying his adventures.

  Intellectually, he knew the impossibility of the latter without a solid grounding in the former. If he could not learn how to imitate the successes and avoid the failures of his predecessors, then what sort of Starship captain (for such was his goal) would he be?

  A dead one, most likely.

  He was snapped immediately back to attention by Talbot’s brisk statement of, “Picard . . . you have, of course, been reviewing the topic of the life and career of Commodore Matthew Decker, have you not?”

  Picard was immediately on his feet, his shoulders squared, his gaze levelled and confident. “Yes, sir,” he said with certainty.

  “Would you care to tell us of the commodore’s final mission?”

  “Yes, sir.” There might have been times when Picard grated on the nerves of other students with his singlemindedness and utter devotion to making a name for himself in the fleet. These things preyed on him and sometimes made him wonder—there, in the darkness of his quarters at night, when there was no one around except he himself and his uncertainties—whether he would ever be able to sufficiently command the respect of others that was so necessary to become a starship captain. Such self-doubt, however, never existed when it came to pure academics. On facts and history and raw information, he was always on top of his game.

  “Commodore Decker’s ship, the Constellation, had encountered a planet-destroying machine,” Picard continued. “It came from outside the galaxy and, using planetary mass as fuel, was progressing through the heart of our galaxy as part of a perpetual program of destruction.”

  “Go on,” said Talbot, arms folded.

  “His ship was incapacitated, and he beamed his crew down to a planet which was subsequently destroyed by the planet-eater. With the aid of the Enterprise, NCC-1701, the so-called doomsday machine was incapacitated, but not before Commodore Decker sacrificed his life in combat against it.”

  “What were the details of that combat?” asked Talbot.

  Picard frowned. “Enterprise logs merely state that Decker died heroically. Details were not recorded.”


  Picard ran through the various possible scenarios in his mind, any and all that made sense. Finally he said, “It was the destruction of the Constellation within the bowels of the planet-killer that caused its deactivation. That much is recorded. I would surmise that Commodore Decker, choosing to go down with his ship, piloted the Constellation himself into the machine. Enterprise transporters might well have suffered damage in the course of the battle with the planet-killer, and were unable to transport him back in time.”

  “A very reasonable surmise, cadet,” said Talbot. He slowly circled his podium. “Since, as you so accurately noted, the details are not recorded, we can never know for sure. Can we?”

  “No, sir,” said Picard, and started to sit down.

  He froze in a slightly ridiculous, half-seated position, because Talbot was glowering at him in an expectant manner that seemed to indicate he wasn’t quite finished with the cadet. Unsure of what to do, Picard stood fully once more, waiting patiently for instruction from his professor.

  “Do you think Decker felt guilty, Picard?”

  Picard raised a questioning eyebrow. Somehow the thought of guilt or concern or any other human feeling never
seemed to enter into the study of history. One studied facts, figures, distant events, and strategies—not people.

  “I’d never given it any thought, sir.”

  “Think, now,” invited Talbot. “We’ve all the time in the world.” Talbot gestured expansively and then leaned back in a carefully cultivated casual manner.

  Picard didn’t let his gaze wander. The last thing he wanted to do was glance at bemused fellow classmates. “You are referring to guilt over the deaths of his crew.”

  Talbot merely nodded, waiting for Picard to continue.

  “The commodore made the correct decision,” said Picard. “Given the same circumstances, it would be perfectly in order for him to do it again. Therefore, he had nothing over which to feel guilty.”

  “Even though his people died.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Even though he could doubtlessly hear their cries of anguish as the planet that was supposed to be their haven was cut to pieces beneath their feet.”

  Talbot’s voice was laden with disdain, but Picard refused to back down. One of the first lessons in command school—the first lesson, in fact—was that when you made a decision, you stuck to it. Nothing eroded crew confidence as fast as waffling.

  “Even though, yes, sir.”

  Talbot continued to circle his desk, absently rapping his knuckles on the surface, as was his habit. “I will pray for you, Picard, that you never have to find out firsthand what it is to lose a crew. But I fear the prayers are in vain, because space is a vast and unforgiving mistress. She does not treat the overconfident especially charitably.”

  Picard did not say anything. No response seemed required, or appropriate.

  Confidence. Well, that he most certainly had. And the thought of ever losing a crew was an alien one to Picard. That sort of thing happened to commanders who were unprepared, who were caught short or flatfooted somehow. The way to avoid such a fate was, quite simply, preparation, preparation, and more preparation. And that was a commitment that Jean-Luc Picard was more than ready to make.