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[Star Trek TNG] - Double Helix Omnibus

Peter David



  John Gregory Betancourt


  Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch

  Red Sector

  Diane Carey


  John Vornholt

  Double or Nothing

  Peter David

  The First Virtue

  Michael Jan Friedman & Christie Golden

  Look for STAR TREK fiction from Pocket Books

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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  Infection copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  Vectors copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  Red Sector copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  Quarantine copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  Double or Nothing copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  The First Virtue copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

  STAR TREK is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures.

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  ISBN: 0-7434-7393-0

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  John Gregory Betancourt


  Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch

  Red Sector

  Diane Carey


  John Vornholt

  Double or Nothing

  Peter David

  The First Virtue

  Michael Jan Friedman & Christie Golden

  Look for STAR TREK fiction from Pocket Books

  Part 1:

  The Coming of the Plague


  WHEN HE REACHED the broad windows of his hotel room, Solomon paused in his security sweep. Fifty meters below, on the far side of the square, seethed an angry-looking mob of humans. He couldn’t really make out faces in the growing twilight, but he knew their type. Rabble-rousers. Troublemakers. Fifth-and sixth-generation human settlers on Archaria III, gone back to a more primitive mindset. To a man they dressed in simple brown clothes—shirts, pants, and boots. All the men sported long bushy beards, shoulder-length hair, and smug attitudes of cultural and species superiority.

  Solomon snorted. Superior? Hardly. Stubborn, closed-minded, and prejudiced against nonhumans…in a word, fools. He never had time for fools.

  Still, he continued to watch. The mob continued to grow. He estimated their number now at more than a hundred. They milled about in the square, beyond the black marble fountains, and continued their angry posturing. As water jetted from the mouths of ten larger-than-life Earth lions, as gold and silver fish darted through the meter-deep series of oval pools, he heard their voices begin to chant: “Veritas…Veritas…Veritas!” loud enough to reach even where he stood.

  He swung his gaze around the square, noting how dozens of shopkeepers—smooth-cheeked humans, gray-skinned Peladians, and even a couple of Ferengi—had already begun to trundle their wares inside to safety. Pottery, fruits, souvenirs, it didn’t matter what they sold—they weren’t taking chances. Solomon chuckled. They could read the signs as clearly as he. Another riot was brewing. As he watched, durasteel shutters snapped shut one by one across the stores’ entrances and windows. He could imagine the merchants inside busily throwing bolts, latching latches, and retreating to the safest parts of their buildings. Poor paranoid fools, he thought. Race riots are the least of your worries. From the look of things, in five minutes every building facing the square would be locked up tighter than a Romulan clam. Not that it would save any of them in the end.

  Still more bearded men streamed into the square from the side streets. Solomon leaned forward, searching for a leader, but saw no sign of the elusive man called “Veritas.” The chanting built to a crescendo.

  Snorting derisively, Solomon took a step back. I really don’t have time for this nonsense, he thought. It was too easy to get swept up in the excitement. Business calls.

  “Computer, engage privacy mode. Black out the windows. Filter extraneous noises.” Civil unrest always made money for someone. But not me, not today. He sighed with regret. After all, he had bigger projects to finish before he even thought about fun.

  The windows’ glass darkened to the color of charcoal, and the room grew hushed. Not even the ventilators made a sound. Raising his tricorder, Solomon continued his security sweep. Good—no unexpected EM readings, no bugs, no monitoring devices. Business as usual on Archaria III; no one suspected him of being anything more than another buyer for the Interstellar Corn and Grain Combine. ICGC always made a great cover on farming planets like this one. He smiled a bit wryly. All he’d had to do was flash his business ID at the front desk and the hotel had rolled out the red-carpet treatment, complete with complimentary fruit basket and bottle of wine from a local vineyard. Second-rate stuff, of course, and he hadn’t touched it; the best wines always came from Mother Earth.

  Crossing to the bed, he lifted a small silver suitcase and gripped the handle long enough for the smartlock to scan his DNA. When it beeped acceptance, he flipped open the latches without triggering the small explosive device embedded in the handle. In fifteen years of illegal activities, he had never once lost his equipment…but the Orion Syndicate never believed in taking chances. And all due precautions were necessary on this particular job. The client had paid extra for them.

  Nestled inside the case lay the pieces of a narrow-beam long-range subspace transmitter. He assembled it deftly, then used the tricorder to aim the short conelike antenna to the proper coordinates, about 20 degrees up and toward the square.

  When he activated the device, a flickering holographic image filled the air before him: burning red eyes, a shock of long white hair, skin the color of milk: the General. I hate this part. Solomon blinked, but the General’s features had already begun to change, thanks to the security scrambler: now the General had the prominent nose, black hair with blue highlights, and upswept eyebrows of a Vulcan. It would be this way throughout their whole conversation, as the scrambler shifted the General’s features from one race to another. Solomon found it strangely disconcerting. There’s nothing like face-to-face meetings. Next client….

  “Report!” the General barked, voice flat and artificial, revealing nothing about his species. Undoubtedly it had been so crunched and mangled by computers on his end that no trace of the original spoken words remained.

  “Stage One has begun,” Solomon said matter-of-factly. Keep the client happy, the first rule of any service industry, even terrorism.“All ten bombs are in place. The plague virus will be released per your timetable.”

  “Acceptable.” The General nodded, the deep red wattles under his chin shaking to match his three antennae. He began to grow horns and ivory-co
lored tusks. “I will transmit the second third of your payment to your accounts on Ferenginar. The final installment will follow successful completion of this phase of the plan.”

  Solomon licked his lips. “General…”


  “The vaccine—you’re sure it will work?” If he was going to expose himself to some new genetically enhanced plague, he wanted every assurance that it wouldn’t kill him.


  “The Orion Syndicate does not tolerate damage to its membership,” he added pointedly.

  “I would not risk wasting talent such as yours. I will need it again.” The General waved a puckered yellow tentacle as his gray-green face grew the cheek gills of an Eshashu. Then, with a brusqueness that matched his suddenly Klingon features, he severed the connection.

  Solomon sat on the bed and chewed his lip for a second. He felt sweat trickling down his sides and back. Waiting always made his stomach churn. He felt control begin to slip away. It was one thing to belong to the Orion Syndicate, the most successful criminal organization in the Alpha Quadrant. Extortion, arson, blackmail, and even murder had long been a part of his life. But it was quite another thing to take a freelance job planting exotic diseases in unknown aliens and then sit calmly and wait for a virus to strike.

  What if the cure didn’t work? What if he wasn’t immune? What if—

  He drew a deep breath and forced himself to relax. Steady, steady. No need to panic. I’m safe. Probably the safest man on the planet. He didn’t like invisible dangers, but at least he had been inoculated against them. The Archarians must have done something to earn this strong a reaction from the General, he thought grimly. Poor bastards. Then he forced such thoughts from his mind. He couldn’t allow himself to start to feel sympathy.

  Business was business, after all, and he was getting paid more than amply. Even after the Syndicate took its cut, he’d be well ahead for the quarter. Risa was getting boring; perhaps a well-earned vacation on Lomax or Gentree or one of the other up-and-coming pleasure worlds would soothe his nerves.

  He glanced at the chronometer on the tricorder, still counting down to the carefully timed release of the plague. Just a few ticks more….

  “Nothing personal,” he murmured to the million-odd humans and Peladians on the planet as the counter reached zero. He felt his heart skip as the moment came and passed, but he heard no sounds, no thunderous explosions, no vast collection of voices raised in cries of pain or sorrow or anguish as the invisible virus entered the planetary atmosphere. In his mind’s eye, he saw it riding into the city on soft breezes, drifting like a fine mist through every street, into every home and business, into every set of lungs.

  “Poor bastards,” he whispered again. What had they done to the General?

  Calmly he began to pack up the transmitter. Now, to see to the final part of the plans…he had to monitor how quickly the disease spread—and how quickly planetary authorities and the Federation dealt with it.

  Let it be fast, he thought.

  Chapter One

  Stardate: 41211.0 Captain’s Log, Supplemental

  The Enterprise continues on its mission to Archaria III, a planet jointly colonized by humans and Peladians. A new disease has cropped up, terrifying the inhabitants. So far, more than five thousand cases have been confirmed.

  The only drug at all effective in treating this disease is a rare compound called Tricillin PDF, which seems to prolong life, though only for a week at most. The Enterprise will deliver a supply of the drug, quarantine the planet, then stay to oversee research into finding a cure.

  “—AND RENDER WHATEVER AID the Archarians require until the emergency is over,” Captain Picard said, leaning forward at the conference table and gazing at each of his senior staff in turn.

  William Riker, Geordi La Forge, and Worf looked uncomfortable at the mention of the plague, and he didn’t blame them; he had always felt ill at ease when faced with intangible dangers. Deanna Troi looked deeply concerned, and Dr. Crusher looked…intrigued? She has dealt with plagues before, Picard reminded himself. She knows how to contain them.

  The persistent low rumble of a starship at maximum warp filled the room. None of his crew spoke. They feel the tension building already, he thought.

  “Captain,” Dr. Crusher finally said, “I may have to bring samples of this virus aboard the Enterprise for study, and perhaps a few patients.”

  “Understood, Doctor. So long as all necessary security precautions are maintained, I see no problem. In the meantime”—he slid a data padd across the conference table to her—“the doctors of Archo City Hospital have prepared a full report, which you may find useful.”

  “Thank you.” She pulled the padd in front of herself and began skimming the opening remarks.

  “Something else is troubling you, sir,” Deanna Troi said softly.

  Picard hesitated, then gave a curt nod. Best to get it out in the open. “What disturbs me most is the thought that this whole problem may be of our own manufacture…a biological weapon.”

  “Impossible—how could that be?” Riker said, shaking his head dismissively. “Legalities aside, it’s against everything the Federation stands for!”

  “We do have treaties with most sentient races which prevent the development and use of biological weapons,” Data said. “With all due respect, sir, the deployment of a genetically designed plague on a remote agricultural world such as Archaria III seems highly unlikely.”

  “Not necessarily,” Picard said. He cleared his throat. “Archaria III is in many ways a throwback to human civilization two or three hundred years ago. It was settled by religious zealots early in the twenty-second century, and although they have largely come into the Federation’s fold, old prejudices and resentments still bubble to the surface from time to time.” The room was quiet for a moment while Picard allowed his point to sink in.

  Riker finally broke the silence. “Sir, if I may ask, what is it that leads you to conclude this disease is a weapon?”

  “Might be a weapon, Number One. A radical political group called the Purity League claims the plague is an act of God against ‘blasphemous unnatural unions.’”

  Riker gave him a blank stare. “Sir?”

  Picard cleared his throat. How to phrase this delicately. He said, “The Purity League is opposed to interspecies mating—‘mixers’ as they call such people.”

  Again the rumble of the ship’s engines filled the room. They can’t believe it, either, he thought. Humanity is supposed to be beyond such prejudices.

  He noticed that Deanna Troi, half human and half Betazoid herself, hid her inner feelings behind a mask of professional calm. He would have given a lot to know her true reaction. Undoubtedly she was even more shocked and horrified than he had been. To think that some humans are still capable of such petty resentments….

  He forced himself back to the problem at hand. “Mixers—or anyone else suspected of adulterating the purity of the human race—are treated as second-class citizens in many places on Archaria III,” he continued. “Officially such prejudices are prohibited, of course, but in the backwater towns discrimination apparently still runs rampant. Only in the half-dozen large cities do humans and Peladians work and live together with something approaching harmony. In the country, things have apparently become so bad that most full-blooded Peladians now live in isolated enclaves surrounded by their own kind.”

  Riker said, “That sounds like a ghetto system.”

  “It is. Those of mixed heritage are even less fortunate, since they belong fully to neither the human nor the Peladian world. They were relocating to the cities in record numbers—until the plague struck. Now they’re fleeing into the countryside once more, living like vagabonds in tent camps.” Picard looked down at his clenched, interlaced fingers resting uneasily on the table. He didn’t bother to feign relaxation. Sometimes it was good for the crew to see him share their anger.

  Deanna Troi asked, “How many people of mixed blood a
re on the planet?”

  “Nobody is quite sure. Estimates range from between 150,000 and 200,000 people. Obviously, those mixers who most closely resemble humans hide the truth to avoid conflict with the Purity League.”

  Data said, “I am aware of the Purity League, sir. The Federation has monitored their activities for many years, but has deemed them a minor nuisance with little actual influence.”

  “Their influence is growing,” Picard said firmly. The private reports he had read gave alarming statistics; according to confidential surveys, fully half of the planet’s human population harbored feelings of support for the Purity League, though the League’s actual membership numbers were open to conjecture. It was certainly in the tens of thousands if not the hundreds of thousands.

  He went on. “The Purity League’s leader, Father Veritas, is using the plague as a rallying point for anti-alien sentiment. Apparently Veritas is responsible for inciting dozens of race riots in the last few months. The whole planet is in turmoil. The nonhuman population—and especially the partly human population—is running scared. The plague’s growth has only served to make the situation worse.”“Veritas,” indeed, he thought, grimacing. If ever there was a misnomer….

  “Sir,” said Deanna Troi, “Archaria III has a long history of interspecies problems, including wars, assassinations, and racism. Its history is part of several planetary evolution courses at the Academy. I believe everyone here has studied it to some degree.”