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An all-new adventure starring Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Data, Worf, and all your favorite characters! En route to a wedding celebration, the U.S.S. Enterprise™ is redirected to the Romulan homeworld. A civil war there has opened the possibility of a peace treaty with the Federation. And the new Romulan Praetor has arranged to have the Enterprise, and specifically her famous captain, Jean-Luc Picard, brought in to discuss the future of the galaxy. No more Neutral Zone? An end to centuries of hostilities dating back to the first encounter with the Romulans? Is this too good to be true? Picard, Riker, Data, Worf, La Forge, Crusher, and Troi are prepared to negotiate a peace treaty. But upon their arrival the crew is faced with a threat that could lead to the destruction of the planet Earth. And Picard encounters the man who could be his most dangerous adversary yet -- and a surprisingly personal nemesis.
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J.M. Dillard is the author of numerous Star Trek novels, including the movie novelisations GENERATIONS, FIRST CONTACT, INSURRECTION and NEMESIS, and the bestselling non-fiction pictorial history WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Worlds away, on the planet Earth in the area known as Alaska, Captain Jean-Luc Picard rose from the table at which he sat, and for a moment, gazed beyond the people gathered before him at his magnificent surroundings: the Denali mountain range, snow-capped against a blue sky. The open-air pavilion was heated to a comfortable temperature, but on occasion, Picard drew in a breath of cold, pristine oxygen tinged with evergreen.
The natural beauty only added to the poignancy of the moment: to gather himself, Picard concentrated on the discomfort generated by his white-dress jacket, the white tunic beneath fitted tightly at the neck, and kept his expression resolute, even stern.
"Duty," he intoned, to the officers at the bride and groom's table with him. To his right sat Beverly; to his left, Will Riker and Deanna Troi, flanked by Geordi, Data, and Worf. In front of the large, central table were dozens of smaller ones, occupied by other crewmates and friends. "A starship captain's life is filled with solemn duty. I have commanded men in battle. I have negotiated peace treaties between implacable enemies. I have represented the Federation in first contact with twenty-seven alien species. But none of this compares to my solemn duty as..." He paused for effect. "Best man."
From their center seats at the table, Will and Deanna laughed along with the rest of the guests -- all except Data, who watched the ritual with avid curiosity. Deanna's skin seemed to radiate the precise color of her gown -- iridescent pale rose, gleaming like a newfound pearl. Quite a bit of skin there was, too, with the low-cut, sleeveless bodice, but her legs were covered by the sweeping skirt. One shoulder bore a corsage of cabbage roses; a cascade of roses swirled about the skirt from waist to hem.
A pink pearl, Picard thought, amidst a sea of white and gray uniforms; all officers other than the captain wore gray tunics beneath their white dress jackets.
He continued to feign sternness, though his mood was a mixture of joy and melancholy. "Now, I know that on an occasion such as this it is expected that I be gracious and fulsome with praise on the wonders of this blessed union...But have you two considered what you're doing to me? Of course you're happy! But what about my needs?! This is all a damned inconven-ience..." He continued despite the crowd's laughter. "While you're happily settling in on the Titan, I'll have to train my new first officer. You all know him. He's a steely sort of fellow who knows every word of every paragraph of every regulation by heart; a stern martinet who will never, ever, allow me to go on away missions."
He glanced at the golden-faced android, Data, who looked up at him with those peculiarly guileless eyes. "That is the regulation, sir," Data said earnestly. "Starfleet Code section twelve, paragraph four -- "
"Data," Picard countered, in a more casual tone.
More laughter came from the crowd, especially Deanna, whose dark hair was swept up into a graceful chignon. Picard turned his sights on her and affected his best curmudgeonly tone.
"Then there's the matter of my new counselor," he said. "No doubt they'll assign me some soft-spoken, willowy thing who'll probe into my darkest psyche as she nods her head and coos sympathetically. Isn't that right, Deanna?"
The broad grin disappeared from Deanna's face; instead, she conjured a wide-eyed, strikingly concerned expression and cooed -- sympathetically, of course. Beverly, who had served as matron of honor, leaned toward her laughingly and clapped.
"I notice Doctor Crusher laughing along with the rest of you," Picard continued. "As most of you know, the doctor will also soon be leaving the Enterprise, to assume command of Starfleet Medical." He spread his hands in mock supplication. "Again, I'm forced to ask, Beverly, have you considered what you're doing to me? I'll probably get some old battle-axe of a doctor who'll tell me to eat my vegetables and put me on report if I don't show up for my physical on time."
"It'll serve you right," Beverly called back spiritedly.
Picard sighed and regarded Will and Deanna again. "Really, it's not too late to reconsider..." And when they both, grinning, shook their heads, he added, "No? Very well then." At last, he surrendered his sarcastic tone, raised his glass, and smiled affectionately at the two.
"Will Riker," he said. "You have been my trusted right arm for fifteen years, you have helped keep my course true and steady." He paused to gaze at the bride. "Deanna Troi, you have been my conscience and guide, you have helped me to recognize the best parts of myself." To both he said, "You are my family. And in proper maritime tradition, I wish you clear horizons...My friends, make it so."
Picard and the rest of those gathered upended their glasses.
A band had begun to play, and the guests to mingle; Picard began to make his way toward Riker and Crusher, but in midstride he paused once again to take in the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree sight of the Denali range, framed at its base by stands of tall evergreens. The mountains, white set against glistening white, formed a jagged horizon against the clear Earth-blue sky. They appeared permanent, eternal: but in spring, Picard knew, their collective face would change; great patches of white would give way to dark earth and dark greenery, giving a dappled light-and-shadow effect.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, his brother Robert had always said, but Picard saw no validity in the statement -- especially not on this day. Things were changing, quite radically in fact, and he failed to see how his life would ever be the same.
Beverly Crusher appeared before him -- much older than on the day they first met, something less of a mystery, but certainly no less beautiful, with her red-gold hair that seemed a reflection of her warm personality. His maudlin thought must have affected his expression, for she picked up on his feelings at once and teased, "Sort of like losing a son and gaining an empath, isn't it?"
Picard grimaced sourly at her. "You're being a big help."
She put a hand lightly on the crook of his elbow and said playfully into his ear, "If you start tearing up I promise to beam you out. Level one medical emergency."
He had to smile at that. As the two of them made their way through the crowd toward Will and Deanna, young Wesley Crusher -- surprisingly mature-looking in a Starfleet lieutenant's uniform -- crossed their path.
Wesley grinned broadly. "Mom!" Then, with a more formal air as he straightened his shoulders, added: "Captain."
"Hello, Wesley," Picard said easily. "It's good to see you back in uniform."
"Suits him, doesn't it?" Beverly said. She was suddenly incandescent with pride; Picard tried to imagine what it would have been like to raise a child, then finally see him one day grown and in uniform, and felt the stirrings of wistful jealousy. There were many paths he had chosen not to take in his life -- children included -- and Beverly's proximity served to remind him of other lost opportunities.
Nevertheless, he returned Wesley's grin. "Are you looking forward to serving on the Titan?"
Lieutenant Crusher's words tumbled out with the enthusiasm of youth. "Very much. I have the night duty shift in engineering, we have a double-refracting warp core matrix with twin inter-mix chambers that..." He stopped abruptly, his attention seized by the appearance of a young woman who waved in his direction. "Oh, excuse me. See you later, Mom."
At once he was off, in pursuit of the girl. Picard could only smile and gently shake his head at the fleeting attention span of youth; had he ever really been that young? Beverly's smile was a bit more rueful.
Once again, they headed for Troi and Riker.
Nearby, Engineer Geordi La Forge sat at the bar nursing a glass of synthehol while talking with Guinan. Like most of his crewmates, he was in a state of near-shock: Troi and Riker had been an item years before they worked together on the Enterprise, and for their several years as crewmates, they had remained good friends, nothing more. (Although, of course, LaForge had always known Will Riker was still carrying feelings for Deanna.) Then the courtship began anew -- but the notion that the couple might actually make their relationship more permanent -- well, it just seemed like one of those things crew members liked to speculate about, but which would never happen, rather like Captain Picard suddenly professing love for Dr. Crusher.
La Forge shook his head, laughing. "I still can't believe he finally popped the question!"
Ever-serene and self-confident, Guinan leaned forward to prop her elbows against the bar. "What makes you so sure he popped the question?"
"Counselor Troi?" Geordi set down his flute and raised his eyebrows. "You gotta be kidding." He had always thought of Commander Riker being the one to pursue Troi, of Riker having to convince Troi to love him -- but perhaps he, Geordi, had always thought of things that way because he was male, and it always seemed to him that he had to work to earn a female's affection. Or did the insecurity work both ways?
"You have to keep an eye on us quiet, soulful types," Guinan said mysteriously, her lips curving upward in the small smile-that-was-not-quite-a-smile.
Her answer gave Geordi a thought, and that thought made him grin. "You ever think about getting married again?"
Guinan looked past him, at the Alaskan skyline, her voice trailing. "Maybe..." And then her gaze and voice promptly returned. "But like I always say, why buy the Denubian seacow when you can get the milk for free?"
Geordi barely snickered, then picked up his glass; as he did, the Klingon Worf sat heavily, with a slight groan, on the stool beside him. The normally bronze skin beneath Worf's eyes was ashen, his thick eyebrows knit together beneath his bony forehead, which was furrowed even more deeply than usual. The Klingon had continued to let his hair grow, and now wore it in a simple braid down his back.
"Romulan ale should be illegal," Worf rasped. He referred, of course, to Riker's bachelor party, held the night before: the Klingon had been less than circumspect in his imbibing.
Geordi dared not smile, but he did allow himself the comment, "It is."
"Then it should be more illegal," Worf said with conviction. He groaned -- loudly this time -- and set his head down on the table while Geordi and Guinan shared a knowing glance.
Meanwhile, Picard and Crusher had at last made their way to Will Riker and Deanna Troi.
Troi smiled warmly at Picard with her ebony eyes, and touched his forearm with her hand. "It was a lovely toast."
"It was from the heart," Picard said honestly.
"And you needn't worry," Deanna added. "I'll brief your new counselor on everything she needs to know."
"The hell you will," the captain replied with gruff humor. "You already know too much about me. Now you promised there are no speeches during the ceremony on Betazed."
Will and Deanna shared a bemused look. Should I remind him? Will's expression asked, and Deanna's said, Go ahead.
"No, no speeches," Riker said, failing entirely to hide the impishness in his eyes. "No clothes, either."
Picard gave him a sharp look -- apparently he'd assumed that non-Betazoid guests were exempt from this traditional marital ritual -- but his former second-in-command wasn't joking, even though his new wife laughed at Picard's reaction.
Before Picard could come up with a witty reply, the band stopped playing; at the sound of Data's voice, all turned to face the bandstand.
"Ladies and gentlemen and invited transgendered species...In my study of Terran and Betazoid conjugal rites I have discovered it is traditional to present the 'happy couple' with a gift. Given Commander Riker's affection for archaic musical forms I have elected to present the following as my gift in honor of their conjugation."
Will shot Deanna an amused glance. Conjugation?
Data began to recite a verse; gradually, the band joined in.
"Never saw the sun
Shining so bright,
Never saw things
Going so right,
Noticing the days
When you're in love,
My how they fly!"
The band launched full voice into a style that Picard recognized as twentieth-century Earth swing. Data began to sing:
Smiling at me,
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see.
Singing a song,
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long."
The rhythm was irresistible -- to all except Worf, who raised his head from the table and groaned loudly over the music, "Ugghhh...Irving Berlin." And with a great thump, his head struck the table again. Picard turned away to hide his smile; he had left Will's bachelor party early, lest his presence inhibit any of the celebrating, but by that time, Mr. Worf had already imbibed enough Romulan ale to account for his current condition.
Beside the captain, Will was tapping his foot to the beat; the groom gave his bride an anxious little glance, like a child asking permission to go join the fun.
Deanna smiled at him indulgently. "All right, go ahead."
Riker ran up onto the bandstand, where his trombone rested off to the side; he grabbed it and began playing.
Picard turned to Deanna and proffered a white-sleeved arm. "May I have this dance?"
She grinned. "With pleasure, Captain."
They swirled out onto the dance floor.
Meantime, Beverly Crusher took pity on Worf's misery and decided to distract him from it. The Klingon could very well have come to sickbay and asked for treatment which would have gotten rid of his apparent hangover -- but perhaps Worf would have considered such help a sign of weakness.
Besides, Crusher hadn't seen him in some time and would not see him again for -- well, at the very least, years, and quite possibly forever. She had teased Jean-Luc Picard about becoming emotional at this wedding reception -- but she may as well have been talking to herself. It had been hard enough when Wesley left the Enterprise years ago, but now she was leaving; leaving Jean-Luc and Will and Deanna all at once, and the sense of loss was staggering. There had been a time, when she had first been offered the position of head of Starfleet Medical, that she had actually considered turning it down. Her life was on the Enterprise, she had told herself; she had made deep ties with many people here -- so deep that she considered them as much her family as her own son.
But the more she considered the offer from Starfleet, the more she realized she could not turn it down. She was a seasoned space traveler, but there had been times, especially in the past few years, when her longing for home -- for Earth -- became overwhelming. Soon it became persistent -- and then the current head of Medical announced his retirement...
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