Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  


Peter David




  Assignment: Eternity—Greg Cox




  STAR TREK: New Frontier collector’s edition

  Books One to Four (hardcover)—Peter David


  The Best and the Brightest—Susan Wright


  Vengeance—Dafydd ab Hugh


  STAR TREK: New Frontier #5

  New Frontier Book Five—Peter David


  Vulcan’s Forge—Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz


  STAR TREK: New Frontier #6

  New Frontier Book Six—Peter David


  Dyson Sphere—George Zebrowski/Charles Pelligrino


  STAR TREK (hardcover)

  Spectre—William Shatner


  Avenger—William Shatner


  Planet X—Mike Friedman


  STAR TREK Captain’s Table #1

  War Dragons—L.A. Graf


  Table #2 Dujonian’s Hoard—Mike Friedman



  … pounding the Redeemer ship. The opposing vessel twisted away, backing off as the starship drove toward it, firing relentlessly.

  Shelby pounded the arm of her chair. “Report! Did we hurt them?”

  “Not to any measurable degree,” reported Boyajian.

  The Redeemers’ phaser weapons blasted at the Excalibur, targeting the engineering and saucer sections. The ship trembled under the pounding as, throughout the vessel, crewmen who weren’t belted in to their stations tumbled to the floor.

  “Shields at seventy percent and holding!” said Boyajian. “Whatever they’ve got, it packs more wallop than our phasers do!”

  “Fire photon torpedo spread and phaser barrage. Double-barrel,” Shelby said grimly.

  The Redeemers’ shields sparked under the assault, but otherwise held firm.

  “They’re firing again!”

  “Evasive maneuvers!”

  McHenry tried his best, but the Excalibur was slowed by the damage she’d sustained. He avoided two blasts, but a third struck at the upper right nacelle.

  “Shields at forty percent and falling!” Boyajian warned. “We won’t survive another direct hit …”

  For orders other than by individual consumers, Pocket Books grants a discount on the purchase of 10 or more copies of single titles for special markets or premium use. For further details, please write to the Vice-President of Special Markets, Pocket Books, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-6785, 8th Floor.

  For information on how individual consumers can place orders, please write to Mail Order Department, Simon & Schuster Inc., 200 Old Tappan Road, Old Tappan, NJ 07675.

  The sale of this book without its cover is unauthorized. If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported to the publisher as “unsold and destroyed.” Neither the author nor the publisher has received payment for the sale of this “stripped book.”

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products 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.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  Copyright © 1998 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: 0-671-02036-6

  ISBN-13: 978-0-671-02036-1

  e-ISBN-13: 978-0-743-45571-8

  First Pocket Books printing March 1998

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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

  Printed in the U.S.A.


  ONTEAR COULD TELL which way the wind was blowing. Even so, it seemed that everything and nothing was clear to him as he looked at the Zondar horizon. The smoke that hovered over the cityscape far in the distance was drifting off to the north. It was not his favorite direction, for the stench from the charnel pit was wafting in as well.

  How many of his people had died, he wondered, during the bloody civil war that had enveloped the planet? One million? Two? He’d lost count. For that matter, he’d even lost interest, which was both ironic and unfortunate, considering that the war had been fought in his name.

  Ontear felt old … older than he had felt in quite some time. He had been sitting at the entrance to his cave, but now he rose to his feet, stretching his cramped legs. He was bald … indeed, completely devoid of body hair, as were all his people. His skin was leathery and shiny, with a sheen that made it look as if the Zondarians were perpetually wet or glistening. His eyes were set wide apart, and when he blinked, it was with eyelids that were clear and made a soft clicking sound. His nostrils flared visibly as the charnel stench moved toward him and then past. He wondered how many bodies burning there were people he knew. People he had blessed, or at whose birth he had officiated, or weddings he had performed. For that matter, how many of them had come to him for guidance, had sought out the wisdom of the prophet Ontear? Ontear, the prophet who had seen a great and glorious destiny for Zondar. Ontear, who knew all that was to come. Ontear, who could not help but feel that he was single-handedly responsible for the chaos that had erupted all around him.

  He had long felt that he was in direct communion with the gods. But today, of all days, he believed that the gods were going to communicate with him directly, and with a vengeance. Today, Ontear felt, was going to be his judgment day.

  He heard scambling below him, heard grunts and arguments and words of indecision. He was being approached by acolytes. They were not exactly being subtle about their advent, and whatever it was that was on their minds, clearly it was accompanied by a certain degree of volume. This was not of tremendous consequence to Ontear, because truthfully there was very little any acolytes could say that would come as a surprise to him. This was an inevitable state of affairs, after all, when one is a prophet.

  There were three of them, approaching Ontear with bedraggled and exhausted mien. It was not the easiest of climbs, for Ontear’s cave was set upon the upper ridges of a small mountain. There were paths that led to the plateau where Ontear was seated at that moment, but they were not forgiving for the clumsy of foot. There was a thick layer of pebbles along several lengthy patches, and those wishing to come and visit Ontear oftentimes felt the ground slipping beneath them and they would skid several yards back down the steep path before regaining their footing and slogging forward once more.

  Based on the difficulty of approach, no one was quite sure just how Ontear managed to survive there. There was no food to speak of, although water might be available through a mountain stream (not that anyone could really be sure). Perhaps Ontear
had hidden resources. Perhaps he had unknown allies. Perhaps, as some speculated, he was actually dead, and merely a very animated and lively corpse.

  The trio continued to approach, and Ontear recognized the closest of them as Suti-Lon-sondon, one of his oldest and most dedicated students. He remembered the first time that Suti had come to him, scared and confused, daunted by the task that had been put to him: to approach the prophet and learn at his feet. That had seemed an eternity ago.

  It had not been difficult to convince Suti of his veracity as a prophet. Indeed, it was no more difficult than it had been to prove it to anyone else. Unlike other prophets, false prophets, who had contented themselves with speaking in broad and unspecific predictions (the more precious of them choosing to quote their vagueness in rhyme, as if that added some aura of respectability), Ontear had been amazingly specific in his prognostications. He had predicted the great earthquake of Kartoof. He had predicted the rise in power of Quinzar the Wicked and Krusea the Black, and the defeat of Krusea’s son, Otton the Unready.

  Oh, there were the skeptics who believed that Ontear’s predictions were so specific that they became self-fulfilling prophecies. For instance, his prediction that a conqueror named Muton would be born in the eastern territories and dominate half the region had resulted in no fewer than two thousand eastern territory newborns in the last year being given the name “Muton.” The confusion this created in schools alone was nothing short of calamitous.

  But the debates over Ontear meant nothing to Suti, for he believed in the man and his powers. There was a serenity about Ontear, a confidence that seemed to lift him above all that surrounded him.

  Suti was surprised to see Ontear seated in front of his cave. Ontear rarely left the confines of his rocky home. He had a particular spot that he simply sat upon, apparently day and night, for Suti never saw him move from it. Yet here was Ontear, outside, apparently taking a tremendous interest in the skies which were darkening overhead. Suti gestured for the others who had accompanied him to hang back, desiring to address Ontear on his own first. Slowly he drew near to the prophet, and Ontear acknowledged his approach with a slight nod of his head. Suti began to speak, but Ontear put out a raised hand and Suti promptly lapsed into a respectful silence.

  “Can you smell it, Suti?” asked Ontear after a short time. “There is a storm coming. A storm of great significance. I have foreseen it.”

  This, to Suti, did not exactly seem to be the stuff of prophecy. One did not have to be a seer to tell that a storm was on its way. One merely had to look at the growing blackness. Of far greater concern to Suti, however, was the smoke on the horizon. The smoke that was a lingering and mute testimony to the war that had enveloped Zondar. A war that had begun in the western regions but had spread to consume the whole of the planet.

  “I do not dispute that, Ontear,” Suti said, “but we have other matters to consider at the moment.” Suti’s skin had the same characteristic sheen that Ontear’s possessed, but his eyes were darker and the contrasting youthfulness in his face was quite evident.

  “Other matters?” asked Ontear.

  Suti drew close and knelt nearby Ontear. “The war, Ontear. The great war.”

  “Wars are never great, Suti,” Ontear said softly, thoughtfully. “There can be great acts of heroism. There can be great causes. But the wars themselves are always terrible, terrible things.”

  “The Unglza, Ontear. The Unglza refuse to surrender.”

  “Do they?”

  Suti was beginning to feel frustrated. It was as if he was having an impossible time just managing to capture and hold Ontear’s attention. “They refuse to surrender,” he repeated, trying to give added significance to the statement through weight in his voice.

  “Yes, so you have said.”

  “But you said they would!”

  “Yes, so I did.”

  Suti could hear mutterings from his companions nearby, and he did not like the sound of it. He began to pace furiously, the incoming wind whipping the hem of his acolyte gown. “Ontear … this … this war is because of you!”

  “Is it?” Ontear still seemed to be only partly paying attention to what was being said.

  “For years, Ontear … for years, the Unglza and the Eenza have desired the extermination of each other. They are two peoples who have racial and border disputes going back centuries! Every time there has been a move toward peace, the talks have broken down and new bouts of attempted genocide on the parts of both peoples broke out once more! But it’s never been a full-blown civil war before! Never spilled over into … into an unyielding bloodbath! That’s what it is, Ontear! A bloodbath!”

  “That can be a good thing, Suti. A cleansing thing.”

  Suti made no attempt to keep the astonishment from his face. “A good thing? Ontear, as of six months ago, there had actually been greater advancement in the peace talks between the Unglza and the Eenza than ever before! And then you suddenly came forward with your … your …” He waved his hands about as if unable to find the words.

  “Prediction?” Ontear prompted gently.

  “Yes! Your prediction that there would be a great war! Your prediction that the Unglza would surrender, bow in defeat! Your prediction that the Eenza would finally dominate their hated rivals, once and for all! These were statements from your own lips, Ontear! I was there when you made them! We heard them. We all heard them.”

  “I remember, Suti,” Ontear said patiently. “I was there. I may be old … I may even be approaching the end of my days … but my mental faculties remain as sharp as ever.”

  “But don’t you see? When you made your predictions, the talks broke down!”

  “I knew they would.”

  “But to what end?”

  “End?” Ontear actually seemed puzzled by the question. “The end is the end, Suti. I am not responsible for—”

  And to the shock of Ontear—in fact, to the shock of Suti himself—Suti grabbed Ontear by the front of his robes, and turned and pointed urgently at the haze of smoke hanging on the horizon. “You are responsible for that!” he bellowed. “You are responsible for the Eenza breaking off talks, emboldened by your predictions that the Unglza would be crushed! Don’t try to deny that you had a hand in that!”

  “I deny nothing,” Ontear said with apparently infinite calm. “But the actions taken by the Eenza are ultimately governed by their own free will. My predictions are merely that. They are not absolutes, nor are they designed to absolve the participants of their own culpability.”

  “People are dying, Ontear!”

  “People have died for eons before I came along, Suti, and will continue to do so long after I am gone.”

  There was a crack of thunder from overhead, as if the gods hidden by the rolling clouds agreed with him. Suti did not release his hold on Ontear. “Why haven’t they surrendered? The Unglza—why haven’t they?”

  “They will.”

  “They haven’t! Your predictions have only strengthened their resolve! They have sworn to fight to the last man, woman, and child!”

  “Have they indeed?”


  Ontear shrugged. “They are to be commended, then.”

  Suti was stunned. He felt his fingers go numb, and Ontear gently disengaged Suti’s hands from their grip on his robes. “Commended?” asked Suti incredulously.

  “Yes. They fly in the face of prophecy. They fight a hopeless battle. It is only the hopeless battles, Suti, that are the truly interesting ones.”

  “The Eenza are asking me when the Unglza are going to surrender, Ontear! I don’t know what to tell them! And I have asked you, and your response has simply been, ‘Soon.’ In the meantime, hundreds of thousands have died! Perhaps millions! When is ‘soon’ supposed to be, Ontear?”

  And there began to be something in Ontear’s eyes … something that Suti had never seen before. A sort of burning intensity that caused a chill to spread down Suti’s back. “That depends upon your point of reference, Suti
. To you, ‘soon’ means sometime within your immediate lifetime. Days, weeks, months at most. For one like myself, ‘soon’ relates to the galactic whole. What may seem an infinity of time to you is barely a fraction of heartbeat in the body of the great cosmos. I speak within the frame of reference of our world’s vast history, Suti. I speak on behalf of Zondar, and within the time frame of Zondar, the Unglza will surrender soon.”

  “You’re …” At first Suti was having trouble framing words, so paralyzed was he by the enormity of what Ontear was saying. The other acolytes, who were outside of hearing range but could see the stunned reaction on Ontear’s part, looked at each other with growing apprehension. “You’re saying … that the Unglza may not surrender in my lifetime? Within the lifetime of my entire generation? That their surrender could be centuries away?!”

  “Of course.”

  Suti’s entire body began to tremble. “You’re … you’re insane!”

  Ontear drew himself up, looking annoyed for the first time, and his glistening brow darkened in anger. “Do not take that tone of voice with me.”

  “Tone of voice? Tone of voice? Our people are dying on your behalf! The Eenza fight under the banner of Ontear, in the belief that their triumph is imminent! And you’re telling me that you have absolutely no idea when the Unglza will surrender!”

  “The Unglza and Eenza need no excuse to battle each other. Theirs is a hatred that transcends generations.”

  The wind was getting louder, and it was getting harder and harder for Suti to hear. “Ontear, you have to tell them!” he cried out. “You have to tell them that you were wrong! You have to—”


  “You have to—”

  “Wrong?” and his time his voice was audible above the increasing howling of the winds. And with a fury that seemed to mirror the anger of the storm clouds overhead, Ontear shoved Suti with a strength that was far greater than Suti would ever had suspected possible in the old prophet. Suti stumbled backward, losing his balance and hitting the ground with a bone-jarring thud, his elbows absorbing most of the impact and sending a jolt of pain through him. He gaped in utter astonishment at Ontear. High above, the entire sky had become black, and currents of air were beginning to surge. Ontear was buffeted by the gusts, but didn’t appear interested in acknowledging it. “Wrong?” he shouted over the noise of the wind.