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Star Trek-TNG-Novel-Imzadi 2-Triangle

Peter David

  Imzadi II


  After the scream, he had more or less been numb.

  He had held the body of his beloved Jadzia Dax, his wife, in his arms, and he had howled the Klingon death scream. Even though she had not been truly Klingon, in many ways she had attended to the teachings and standards of his race with more diligence than he had.

  And now he had shut down.

  Jadzia was dead. It had been so futile, so pointless, and above all, so sudden. They had just been speaking of having a child, just that very day, and just like that, she was gone.

  Once upon a time, the Klingons had had gods. But then they had killed the gods because they were too much trouble. As a result, Klingons knew that once one was put into the universe, one was on one's own. There was no looking to a god or gods for answers, for none were ever going to be forthcoming. There was no court of higher appeal for the unfairness of life, there were no prayers to be served up asking for personal gain, support, or understanding. At this particular moment, Worf wished with all his heart that there were gods once again....

  He stood in his ...

  ... their ...

  ... his ... quarters . . . preparing for the funeral. And yes, oh yes, he desperately wanted the gods back again ... so that he could find a Klingon god, wrap his fingers around the god's throat, and demand whatever explanations there were to be provided before he crushed the deity's windpipe and slaughtered all the bastards personally this time.

  In their quarters, he growled to himself. And what he growled was:

  "I did everything right."

  It was an incomprehensible statement for someone who was not sharing Worf s thoughts. The burly Klingon, serving in a permanent position on Deep Space 9, was speaking to no one in particular. It was simply a general address to the universe at large.

  "I did everything right," he said again, and couldn't comprehend why things had turned out the way they had. It just wasn't right or fair.

  "I tried to change ... tried to learn ... and grow ... do everything they taught me ... and it made no difference. IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE!" Losing control completely, Worf swept his hands across the fairly stark furnishings of their quarters.

  All her things were there. Scents and makeup, souvenirs, irreplaceable knickknacks representing a life that had spanned decades. For Jadzia Dax was a gestalt being, a combination of a humanoid host and a worm-like symbiont called a Trill. When a Trill began a new life, contact with the old was strictly forbidden. Worf was suddenly-just like that-part of Jadzia Dax's past. He had no idea what was going to happen. Whether the Trill would return in another body, whether the new incarnation of Dax would still love him, whether he would love her...

  .. . her?

  .. . him? That would be all he needed.

  And the pain, the anger, the rage he was feeling was unprecedented for him.

  His impulse, barely restrained, was to rage, to strike out at

  anyone and anything, to vent the fury that was sweeping through him like something palpable.

  The fact was that he had never felt like this before. But it wasn't as if this were the first time he had ever faced loss.

  First and foremost, there had been his parents, torn from him at a young age during the raid on the Klingon outpost of Khitomer. They had died beneath the hammering of a Romu-lan assault, and Worf himself had been buried alive beneath a ton of rubble. Many were the nights he had lain awake, staring at the ceiling in the home of his adopted parents, and his line of thinking was always the same: First he would blame his parents for leaving him, and then he would blame himself for surviving them. It was an attitude he had grown out of, more or less ... indeed, even as an adult, there was the occasional sleepless night and flicker of condemnation directed in one of several different directions.

  But it wasn't the same as losing Jadzia.

  Then there was K'Ehleyr. The Klingon emissary with whom Worf had had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship that had resulted, rather unexpectedly, in the conception of a son, Alexander. But K'Ehleyr had been killed by Duras; Worf had held her dying body in his arms and mourned her loss. He had then embarked on a tempestuous relationship with his son, who even now served the Klingon Empire to the best of his abilities. K'Ehleyr, who had seemed in every way a match for him. Whom he had even proposed to, although she had declined the offer.

  But it wasn't the same as losing Jadzia.

  And then there had been Deanna....

  "Deanna," he grunted. The very recollection of the name was enough to rekindle a burning anger within him. He remembered the last time he had encountered Deanna Troi, ship's counselor of the Enterprise, and William Riker, the first officer, during the Borg assault on Earth. The Defiant had been badly wounded and Worf had been one of the crewmen evacuated. His first impulse once he had been brought aboard the Enterprise was to stay down in sickbay, but his pride and

  sense of duty would not allow it. So he had insisted on being brought up to the bridge, even though the prospect of looking at Riker and Troi, of seeing them together, was almost more than he could tolerate.

  He had not shown it, of course. That would have been unprofessional, and childish, and weak. And Riker didn't make it easier. Knowing the bad blood, the anger between them, Riker had made some poorly thought-out comments, passing for what he had considered to be humor. Upon learning that the Defiant was damaged but salvageable, he had noted, "Tough little ship." Worf had promptly glared at him, growling, "Little?"

  As if that hadn't been enough, when Picard had assigned Worf to tactical, Riker had drifted over to him and inquired innocently, "You do remember how to fire phasers?" If they had not been in the middle of an emergency situation, Worf might have responded with anger. Realizing that his attempts to lighten the situation had backfired spectacularly, Riker had grinned, shaken his head, and put up his hands in a "Just kidding" manner. Fortunately enough, as far as Worf was concerned, subsequent events resulted in his having very little interaction with Riker and Troi for the remainder of their involvement with the Borg, and once the emergency was over, Worf couldn't get back to Deep Space 9 fast enough. Apparently, despite the time Worf had spent with the clerics at the monastery on Boreth, the anger still burned within him far more fiercely than he had realized.

  It could have been so different. ...

  The thought came to his mind, unbidden, but once it was there he could not rid himself of it. If matters had not gone so wrong with Deanna, if he had not lost her, if they had married, if it had not been for Riker, and the kidnapping, and Deanna's damned mother, and the byzantine plot hatched with the intent of wiping out millions of innocents . ..

  It was as if all the fates in the galaxy had conspired to find a way to totally destroy the intended relationship between Worf and Deanna Troi.

  It was Troi's fault...

  Lwaxana's fault...

  Riker's fault. . .

  ... the Romulans' fault... the universes' fault... the fault of those damned gods who were supposed to keep their noses out of everything ... it was . . .

  ... it was . . .

  He stared into a mirror, gazing at himself, as if he could peer straight into his own soul.

  "Does it matter?" he finally asked himself. "I am still alone ... in any event..."

  But it did matter. It mattered to him, to his determination to try and make sense out of the senselessness of it all.

  And Worf, suddenly feeling bereft of strength, sank down into a nearby chair. It had been one of Jadzia's favorites; her scent still clung to it. He breathed deeply of her ...

  .. . and thought of times past. . .




  kiker had no warning before the shock prod tapped him in the small of the back. Immediately he died, temporarily, from the waist down. He hated the occasions when it happened, the feeling of total helplessness. The knowledge that the fall was inevitable was more grueling and hurtful to him than the fall itself.

  He hit the ground hard, as he always did on such occasions. He dropped his ore breaker in the hopes of cushioning some of the fall with his hands, and he was partly successful-but only partly, as the base of his hands crunched into the hard ground. He felt the jolt all the way up his elbows, and he gasped low in his throat. Then he braced himself for the inevitable kick. It came just as he had expected, a sharp blow to the stomach. In his first days in captivity, that had always been the worst, those stomach blows. Over time, however, he had learned to anticipate them, and he was able to condition himself against them. Just before the impact, he consciously tightened the muscles of his stomach so that a good deal of the impact was blunted. In his fantasies, his gut became so unassailable that his tormentor wound up breaking his ankle.

  It was a very nice fantasy.


  "Get up, Riker," said his captor, and he was kicked again. This time he didn't let out so much as a grunt, and the lack of response on his part seemed to incite his tormentor all the more. "Well?"

  And Riker managed to get out, "Please, sir ... I want. . . some more . .."

  The guard stared down at him in utter confusion. "All right... if that's your true desire . . ." He was about to kick Riker a third time, and then a sharp voice stayed the blow.

  "That's enough," it said.

  The Cardassian jailer lowered his foot and turned his attention to the individual who had spoken. The jailer, whose name was Mudak, was a beefy fellow, but anyone thinking him fat would have been in for a rude shock. Any excess on his frame was pure muscle, and when he moved it was with speed that was blinding. Mudak could be standing two feet away, his hands at his side, and you could suddenly be knocked on your back before you had the slightest awareness that a punch was coming.

  He was also tall, and his eyes were the most striking thing about him. They were dark and pitiless; one would get more sympathy from a black hole than from those eyes. When Riker looked into those eyes, they reminded him of a shark's. They regarded him, and the other prisoners, with an air that clearly indicated that he didn't care whether they lived or died.

  Mudak looked at the individual who had interrupted his sport. It was a Romulan, a head taller than Mudak, with graying hair and a darkly imperious look. In truth, the Romulan had no more status in this place of torment than did Riker. It was as if, in his manner and deportment, he was not interested in acknowledging his relatively low status in the grand scheme of things. From his attitude, it would have been unlikely that any bystander would have realized that Mudak was the jailer and the Romulan the prisoner.

  Yet despite the Cardassian's ostensible authority over the Romulan, Mudak did not seem inclined to press the point.


  Instead he said, with a level voice that bordered on malevolence, "This is none of your affair, Saket."

  Saket looked from the fallen Riker to Mudak. "It is now, Mudak. And you will leave this human alone."

  "He was moving too slowly," Mudak retorted. "He was daydreaming."

  Saket took a step closer so that he was almost in Mudak's face. "Leave him his dreams, Mudak. In the final analysis, what else have we in this place?'

  Mudak considered this for a moment, and then he laughed low in his throat. It was an eerie noise, as if he were exercising muscles that were nearly atrophied from disuse. In a low voice he rumbled, "Someday, Saket, you will lose your usefulness to my superiors. And on that final day, you will pay for your arrogance."

  "We all pay on the final day, Mudak," Saket said imperturb-ably. "Jailors and jailed alike; we all pay then."

  Mudak's hands idly twisted on the shaft of the shock prod, as if contemplating shoving it down Saket's throat or into an even more inconvenient bodily orifice. But apparently he thought better of it. Instead he lightly tapped the now-deactivated end of the prod against his forehead in a sardonic salute and moved off. Saket then crouched next to the fallen Riker. "You should be able to feel something in your legs by now. He had the prod on one of the lower settings."

  "I thought as much," grunted Riker. "This time around it was just agonizing instead of incredibly agonizing."

  "You see? Your sense of humor returns already."

  Saket stood, got a firm grip under Riker's arms, and hauled him to his feet. For a moment, Riker felt practically nothing beneath him, and Saket had to move him around bodily to try and get some sense of motion going. "One leg after the other," intoned Saket, "that's it, lad."

  Under Saket's urging, Riker forced himself to move his legs and started to feel growing strength with every step. "Keep going," urged Saket, helping Riker move in a small circle. Within minutes, Riker was walking about in a manner fairly


  close to his normal strength and stride. "Come, Riker ... let us go for a walk, you and I." And with that, the two of them made their slow way across the compound. "Were you out of your mind just before? Saying you wanted more?"

  "It was ... it was a quote . . . from a book, actually . .. about orphans, Oliver Twist. Author's name was Dickens ... I felt it appropriate .. . since in a way I don't have a mother or father . . . I'm just sort of... of here . . ."

  "You're babbling, Riker."

  "No, I'm fine .. . truly. Dickens . . . great author ... you should read him ... Bleak House . .. story of my life . .. Tale of Two Cities. . . about two men who look alike, and one sacrifices himself for the other .. . never realized when I was reading him as a boy . .. how much resonance . . . he'd have for me . . ."

  "Whatever you say, Riker," Saket said, shaking his head.

  "Saket," Riker said, "we haven't known each other long. But we're friends .. . you can feel free to call me Thomas. Or Tom, if you prefer."

  "Actually, I prefer Riker," replied Saket. "Always have. Stronger-sounding name. Sounds more pleasingly harsh to the ear."

  "Guess it really doesn't matter," Riker admitted. "As long as you continue to call me 'friend.'"

  They trudged past one of the central deutronium-processing centers, and Tom Riker was impressed-not for the first time-over the carefully crafted futility that filled the day-today existence in the Cardassian labor camp of Lazon II.

  Tom Riker, the bizarre and perfect duplicate of William Riker who had been created through a strange transporter accident during a rescue operation at a station on Nervala IV. The fact that there had been a second Riker running around had been disconcerting enough to the original item. But after an abortive career in Starfleet, Tom Riker-taking his new name from his (their) middle name-had wound up joining the revolutionary group called the Maquis and endeavored to



  steal the starship Defiant. The result had been his incarceration on Lazon II.

  Lazon II was a fairly desolate world, and the vast majority of it was uninhabitable. One section had been terraformed into someplace where humanoids could survive, and that was the section in which Tom Riker, Saket, and about fifty or sixty-odd enemies of the Cardassian state were currently living out their life sentences. It wasn't that the sentences they had been given were actually called life sentences. There was usually some limit, around twenty or thirty years. Unfortunately, the mortality rate on Lazon II was quite high. Sentencing to Lazon II therefore became a de facto death sentence.

  Lazon II had never actually been intended as a work camp. Originally Lazon II had been of particular interest to the Cardassians since the planet was rich in deutronium ore. Processed deutronium had been a popular fuel for various Cardassian weapons systems and some earlier models of their war vessels. Since the Cardassians had already depleted the deutronium supplies on such worlds as Preplanus, the discovery of a sizable deutronium store on Lazon II had been gree
ted with much enthusiasm. The terraforming project on Lazon II had begun rather promptly . . .

  . . . and then tapered off. There had been new advances in Cardassian technology during the intervening time, and deutronium as an energy source now served a minor need at best. Most of the weaponry and such that had utilized deutronium had become obsolete.

  It was at that point that Lazon II was developed into a penal colony and hard-labor camp. And it was a masterful way in which they did it, because hard labor was bad enough. But hard labor for no real purpose was far worse. The prison populace of Lazon II would spend day after endless day working in weather that was either sweltering or else bitter cold. That was all at the control of the Cardassian wardens of the place, a convenient perk thanks to the terraforming equivalent that governed their little slice of the galaxy. The work


  consisted of taking massive chunks of deutronium ore and using handheld ore crackers to break the ore down into small, manageable pieces. The pieces were then hand-fed into blazing hot refineries that were antiquated beyond belief. It was the equivalent of embarking on interplanetary travel with the only speed available to you being impulse drive, knowing full well that faster-than-light capability existed for everyone else but you. Piles of deutronium that could be processed in minutes using modern facilities instead took days, even weeks. The processing was dangerous, to boot, as the ancient machinery tended to break down in spectacular fashion, usually killing one or two operators before the latest malfunction was locked down and contained. And once the deutronium was processed, it then sat, stockpiled, in Cardassian warehouse facilities, for the supply of deutronium far outstripped the demand. In short, all of the effort that the prisoners ofLazon II went to was a colossal waste of time. This the prisoners knew all too well. This was designed to help morale disintegrate, and it was quite effective.

  They passed the fearsome twin towers that were the defense grids ofLazon II. There was a forcefield in place that covered the compound, but that was only one of the protective systems. Riker looked up as light glinted off the muzzles of the massive pulse-blasters, capable of inflicting cataclysmic damage on any potentially attacking vessels. There was also a sensor scrambler: a rather insidious device that made it impossible for any ships to lock on, via transporter, to anyone in particular on the planet's surface, whether it be via communicator or sensor readings. For instance, there was one Andorian on Lazon II. Under ordinary circumstances, an Andorian rescue vessel could take a stab at pounding the forcefield into oblivion, and then beam the target up to the ship while safely out of range of the blasters. Not so with the scrambler: They would have to come down and actually get their intended "rescuee," and by that point the blasters would reduce the attacking vessel into scrap.