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Retired and happily married, James Kirk believes his adventuring days are over, until he returns to Earth for the first time since his "death" and encounters a mystery with origins elsewhere in the universe that may provide his greatest challenge yet
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William Shatner is the author of three previous Star Trek novels: Avenger, The Return, and The Ashes of Eden. In addition to his ongoing role as Captain James T. Kirk, he has also appeared in such hit plays as The World of Suzie Wong and A Shot in the Dark, in such notable films as The Brothers Karamazov and Judgment at Nuremberg, and on television in T.J. Hooker and Rescue 911. He is also the author of several other novels, including the popular TekWar novels, which inspired a hit television series. Shatner lives in Los Angeles.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
His shadow stretched before him in the blazing light of Chal's twin suns, but James T. Kirk stood alone.
For a year he had known that this day would come. This final moment when all he had worked for on this world would end in victory, or in final, ignominious defeat.
All or nothing.
It was the way Kirk liked it.
The hot suns of Chal burned at his back. But he did not let their assault deter him from what he must do --
With a sharp intake of breath, Kirk wrapped his arms around the wrinkled gray covering of his enemy -- the beast that had relentlessly mocked him all through the year.
His muscles strained. Sweat poured from him.
His vision blurred with the effort.
All or nothing.
And then --
He was doing it! He dug in his feet, struggled as he had never struggled in his life until --
-- with a startling crack a band of fire shot through his lower back like a phaser burst and he collapsed to the soil of Chal, gasping in agony.
James T. Kirk's back had gone out.
And the malevolent tree stump, that last gnarled mound of deadwood that was the final obstacle in the field he had cleared, the field where his new house would be built and his garden planted, remained in place. Mocking him still.
Kirk tried to sit up.
His back made him reconsider the idea.
He lay there for an endless time, finger tapping the soil. The pain did not bother him so much as the forced inactivity. Where's Dr. McCoy when you need him? he thought.
Then a shadow fell over him. A very short shadow. The sound of its owner's approach so silent he had been taken by surprise.
"What'sa matter, mister? You having a nap?"
Kirk raised his hand to shield his eyes as he stared up at...The child's name escaped him.
"Who are you?" Kirk asked.
The young boy, no more than six, put one finger up his nose as if performing exploratory brain surgery on himself. "Memlon."
Kirk remembered him now. Memlon lived two farms along the road to City. Like most of the people of Chal, his features combined a suggestion of Klingon head ridges with a slight Romulan point to his ears. Like those of most children everywhere, the knees of his white trousers were smudged with grass, his cheeks with dirt.
"Do your parents know where you are?" Kirk asked, hoping to send him on his way.
"Uh-huh." Memlon nodded slowly as he withdrew his finger from his nose to hold up his right hand to show Kirk his subspace locator bracelet, a civilian spin-off from Starfleet's communicators.
"Then isn't there something else you should be doing?"
Memlon wiped his finger on the white tunic he wore. The tunic showed evidence of previous similar maneuvers. The child shook his head. "What are you doing?"
Kirk sighed as he realized that his back still wasn't going to let him sit up. So he rolled onto his side and pushed himself into a sitting position ... slowly. "I am trying...to remove that tree stump...from what will be my new dining room."
Memlon studied the twisted stump with the practiced eye of a six-year-old who had all the answers. "Don't you got a phaser?"
"No. I don't...got a phaser."
"My mom has a phaser." Memlon drew a bead on the stump with his finger, then did a remarkably realistic imitation of a phaser's transonic squeal, followed by a less-than-realistic "Pow!" The child looked back at Kirk with an expression of pity. "You want me to ask my mom if you can borrow it?"
"No. I am going to take that stump out by myself. With my own hands."
The child stared at Kirk as if the adult had suddenly begun speaking in an ancient Vulcan dialect. "Why?"
"Memlon," Kirk said. "Look around this field. Do you remember what it was like last year?"
Memlon held up his hand, fingers spread. "I'm six," he announced. As an afterthought, he held up one finger from his other hand as well.
Kirk took that to mean that Memlon had no memory of what this field used to look like. But Kirk did.
Three years ago, it had been like any other part of Chal's legandarily beautiful tropical islands: a slice of paradise, an Eden. Two years ago, the planet's plant life had been deliberately exposed to a virogen -- a hideous disease organism which had reduced Chal's islands to an apocalyptic landscape of brown stubble and withered yellow vegetation. Not a flower had bloomed on the planet in more than a year.
But then, in that same year, Kirk had returned to this world eight decades after his "death" during the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B. With Spock and McCoy, and with Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his new generation of Starfleet's finest, Kirk had discovered the conspiracy that had inflicted that hideous act of environmental terrorism on the worlds of the Federation. With the interplanetary civilizations of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants on the brink of environmental collapse, he and his allies had helped the Federation defeat the Vulcan Symmetrist movement. McCoy came up with an antivirogen, and the ecosystems of a hundred worlds were now being restored through their own natural healing processes.
Kirk had not saved the Federation, but he had bought it extra time to consider the fate that awaited it. In the next thirty years, he knew, and now others did too, that a new strategy of expansion and exploration must be embraced to allow humanity, and all the people of the galaxy, to live as part of the galactic ecology, not as its exploiters and spoilers. Otherwise, the next time environmental crisis struck, there would be no last-minute redemption.
But that was a challenge for Picard and his contemporaries. Kirk had fought his own war, too many times. So he had once again returned to Chal, and to his love, Teilani.
The spaceman had hung up his rockets. He was on this world to stay. To find a simpler life.
He had found it in this small patch of forest.
It was no more than a clearing in the midst of newly reborn vegetation, alive with birds and insects, ringed by vibrant green leaves, wreathed with flowers of uncountable colors. But it was Kirk's new home, new world, new universe.
A year ago, Teilani at his side, her hand in his, their hearts entwined, Kirk had stood in this clearing and, in an electrifying moment of self-realization, understood that he was Chal.
Born of conflict.
Subjected to incredible trials that had brought both to the edge of extinction.
And now, against all odds and expectations, reborn.
Kirk had never been one to waste the moments of his life, though he had too often been driven by his heart and by the moment, not by his intellect and reflection.
Here in this field, where his mind's eye in that instant had seen a simple wooden home, ringed by a veranda, powered by a simple windmill, and had seen the crops in the plots of soil to be carefully tended, Kirk resolved that his life would change.
Teilani had looked at him then, into his eyes, and so great was their love, so close their connection, that Kirk had not had to explain a word of what had arisen in his mind.
"Your'e right," Teilani had said with perfect understanding "We'll build here. A house. A home."
And so in this field, Kirk had toiled.
Each tree he had cut down had been carefully stripped and planed to be used for that dwelling, so that nature's bounty wasn't squandered. Each tree had been replaced by a new seedling, precisely planted to provide shade for that dwelling and to maintain the balance of this world, so that nature was respected.
With a team of ordovers -- the horned, horselike beasts of burden of Chal -- pulling a hand-forged plow, Kirk had leveled the hillocks and filled in the depressions. He had carried the rocks that now strengthened the bank of the stream that flowed at the edge of the clearing. His skin had darkened beneath the suns of Chal, and since he no longer ate the precisely fortified and artificially enhanced foods Of Starfleet, his hair had become threaded with silver. But each week, the rocks had become easier to lift, the ax easier to swing. New purpose had given him new strength and vitality.
The first time he had come to Chal, more than eighty years ago, he had believed his life to be at its end. The Enterprise-B was about to be launched. His career was over. The universe had seemed to have no more need for James T. Kirk. Had his life truly ended when history had first recorded it on that maiden flight of the new Enterprise, it would have been fitting. What additional contributions could be expected of him? How much more could the universe demand?
But as Spock was fond of reminding him, there were always possibilities. And Kirk felt certain that not even the Guardian of Forever could have predicted all the further adventures that had remained for him. Kirk himself still could not fully comprehend the gifts that life had bestowed upon him, and how his career had continued past any expectation or dream he had held at its beginning.
But, at last, even those adventures had come to an end, and it was to Chal he had come home.
Thus, where once he had roamed the galaxy, now he seldom strayed farther than the small cabin he shared with Teilani, and this field where he toiled. At this time in his life, after all he had accomplished, there was challenge here enough.
And the focus of that challenge was that one last miserable stump.
"Are you okay, mister?"
Kirk blinked at the little boy. "What?"
"Were you asleep?"
"I was thinking."
The child nodded sagely. "That's what my dad says when he lies on the hammock on the porch. He snores a lot when he thinks. Do you snore?"
Kirk was glad Teilani wasn't here to answer that question. "No," he said.
"We're you thinkin' about the stump?"
"How come you don't blow it up?"
This time, Kirk thought about the problem at hand: how to explain to a child the reasoning of an adult. "Memlon, someday, when you're grown, you're going to pass by this field. And there will be a house built right where we're standing -- "
"You're not standing, mister."
Kirk ignored him. " -- where we are right now. And you'll see the crops, and the trees, and you'll be able to say to your children, Jim Kirk made that field the way it is. He planted every tree, took out every rock and stump, hammering every nail into every board of that house. That's Jim Kirk's field."
Kirk smiled as he contemplated that image. He wanted to build something with his own two hands. Create something that was uniquely his.
But Memlon frowned. "Who's Jim Kirk?"
Kirk sighed. He remembered speaking with computers that were as exasperating as this child. "I am."
The boy peered at him suspiciously. "Are you...Cap'n Kirk?"
Here we go, Kirk thought. Even after so many years, that old rank still followed him. Haunted him. The two great truths of the universe were that the future could never be foreseen, the past never escaped.
"Yes, I am," Kirk said.
Memlon didn't seem convinced. He leaned forward as if he might be able to see right through Kirk. "You don't look crazy."
Kirk tried to stand but his back screamed at him, making him grimace again. He coughed to cover the sudden expression of discomfort as he remained planted on the ground. "Who...says I'm crazy?"
Memlon shrugged. "Everybody."
The shrug became more exaggerated. "I dunno."
The sound of that new voice was like a wave of cool water to Kirk. He turned quickly, as if he were a teenager again, awaiting his first love at a secret rendezvous. "Teilani!"
And Teilani rode into the clearing, a vision, a dream come to life, her white wrap billowing from her as she sat bareback on Iowa Dream. The horse was a spectacular animal, a genetic re-creation of one of Earth's antique breeds, known as a quarter horse. He had been a gift from Picard -- a peace offering, Kirk suspected, considering the tension that had still remained between them after their last encounter.
Iowa Dream -- the name chosen by Picard as well, in memory of an ancient champion and their own first meeting -- stepped precisely from the trail to the center of the clearing, as magnificent as any other manifestation of nature on this planet.
Kirk didn't even bother to try to stand -- he knew he couldn't make it -- and he could see the look of amusement on Teilani's lovely face as she realized why he remained seated on the ground.
Memlon, on the other hand, shot off toward Teilani like a photon torpedo. "ghojmoHwl'! ghojmoHwl'!" he shouted. It was the Klingon word for "teacher," and Kirk realized that the child must be part of Teilani's weekly reading group.
Teilani expertly dismounted, her simple white leggings and tunic floating across her lithe body like wisps of clouds. Kirk had never seen anyone more beautiful, and in this setting, on this world, at this instant, his heart ached with his love for her.
Teilani walked over to Kirk, holding Memlon's hand, her bare feet sinking into the rich soil of Chal. She glanced at the stump. "The beast still mocks you?" she asked gravely.
"It started to move," Kirk said.
Teilani gave him a knowing smile. "But your back moved more?"
Kirk's face admitted the truth.
Teilani untangled her hand from Memlon's, then held out both to Kirk. "Keep it straight," she said with the voice of experience. "Use your legs."
Keeping his back rigid, Kirk pulled himself up with Teilani as his brace. Then his lips were only centimeters from hers, and it was as if time had stopped in that moment, each detail of her appearance only serving to entrance him once again.
In human terms, Teilani might appear to be fifty, though like that of a Vulcan's, her unique genetic heritage thoroughly concealed the fact that she had lived for more than a century. Her hair, tied back for riding, was even more silvered than Kirk's, though to his eyes, it was as if she were wreathed in stars.
From the subtle ridges of her brow, past an eye and across one cheek, the angry slash of a virogen scar still flared. The same genetic engineering that had enhanced her health and longevity had also served to make her flesh resistant to protoplaser treatment. McCoy had proposed an experimental grafting procedure that might reduce the raised evidence of the scar tissue, making it possible to disguise the disfigurement with makeup. But Teilani had told him, No.
Whether it was the Klingon in her that made her choose to wear the blemish to her beauty with honor, or that she had come to understand that outward appearance meant nothing when measured against those qualities that dwelt within a warrior's heart, Kirk didn't know. And he didn't care. For when he looked at Teilani, he no longer saw the scar, nor the silvered hair, nor the lines that age brought even to those of Chal.
He saw only the ...
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Book Description Star Trek, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0671008803
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