"The true test of a warrior is not without...it is within."
Sins of the past collide with hopes for the future as Martok fights for the right to lead the Klingon Empire. With the secret of his usurper exposed, the ousted chancellor and his ragtag band of followers embark on a desperate plan to retake the empire.
But while Worf, Ezri Dax, and the crew of the IKS Rotarran go in search of the Klingons' most revered icon of power, Martok is dealt the most crushing blow of all -- driving him to make his final stand on the ice-strewn cliffs of sacred Boreth. As that frozen world reverberates with the song of armies and bat'leths clashing, the mystery of Martok's past, and the future of the Klingon Empire, is revealed.
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Jeffrey Lang has authored or coauthored several Star Trek novels and short stories, including Immortal Coil, Section 31: Abyss, The Left Hand of Destiny, “Foundlings” (in the anthology Prophecy and Change), and “Mirror Eyes” (with Heather Jarman, in the anthology Tales of the Dominion War). He lives in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, with his partner Helen, his son Andrew, an irascible cat named Samuel and a fearful hamster named Scritchy.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Angry Fire from Star's fair daughter / Scorches earth with icy fingers / Wielding flame and cold, She hails their doom...The ancient Trill rune-verse cycled through Ezri Dax's memory like an errant two-year-old child in the aisles of a market on a festival day, getting in the way of unwary travelers, pestering, nagging, demanding attention.More...important...things to think about, she reprimanded herself. Focus, Ezri -- Inhaling too much of the foul, smoke-choked air, Ezri hacked and retched, wishing she could stop for a moment and slide on the helmet to her EVA suit, but those were precious seconds she could not afford to lose. A wave of dizziness threatened to capsize her.
At least she had thought to activate the magnetic soles of her boots, which meant that she could keep her feet under her, more than any of the others on the Rotarran's bridge could claim. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Worf clinging to the main weapons console and Alexander right beside him, valiantly trying -- but failing -- to keep his footing.
A Klaxon blared. Drawing on Dax's memories of time spent on Klingon ships, Ezri "recalled" that the alarms, coded by duration and intensity, helped crew members specifically identify the danger the ship faced. This one indicated a major coolant leak in the secondary hull, the kind that would result in a warp-core breach without quick action. More by sound than by sight, Ezri knew that the two damage-control engineers who had come onto the bridge at the beginning of the battle had abandoned their stations and headed for the lifts. Bridge repairs were secondary to what was happening back in the engineering section. All Worf's clever plans would be for naught if the core breached.
The deck slid to the left under Ezri as she lifted her left foot to take a step toward tactical. Her right ankle twisted and she fell hard, her right hip and shoulder crashing into the unpadded floor. The heavy Klingon spacesuit -- more like a suit of plated armor than any EVA garment she'd ever donned before -- prevented her from cracking either her collarbone or pelvis, but even as it was, Ezri knew she would ache in the morning -- assuming there was going to be a morning.
All right, then, Ezri thought, slapping on her right thigh the patch that deactivated the magnetic boots. If I can't walk, I'll crawl. She slapped another patch on her left thigh and the knee magnets pulsed to life. A limp, bleeding body she recognized as the navigator Ortakin slid past her as the deck seesawed. A gaping wound in his chest destined him for certain death. Ezri looked on helplessly, unable to attend to the dying man. Another buck and the body vanished from view. Since the filtration units had ceased spinning, the bridge was submerged in greasy smoke billowing from the sizzling and sparking environmental control panels. Fire-control foam that had been gushing from a nozzle in the floor sputtered and died and the flames guttered, then flared. As if we weren't burning up enough atmosphere as it is, dammit. Might need the helmet after all.
She reached around and felt to make sure the helmet remained attached to her equipment belt. It was difficult to be sure, since she couldn't feel it bang against her hip, but, yes, there it was. Almost as an afterthought, she strained to extend her reach a little farther, patting along her back to make sure the other package -- the whole reason they were in this stupid situation -- was there, too. She found it right where she had strapped it on.
Leskit, the pilot, regained control of the ship, leveling out the Rotarran. A throb raced through the deck under her hands and knees and, moments later, Worf and Alexander cheered exultantly. A hit, Ezri thought. Good for them. Now all we need is about twenty more of those and we might survive....The deck bucked up underneath her and Ezri's arms and legs collapsed. Her ears rang, tiny lights flashed behind her eyelids, and her chest throbbed as though someone had picked up the starship and slammed it into her ribs. She imagined she could feel the symbiont squirming inside her and pictured the new tenant of an unexpectedly raucous hotel slamming on the ceiling to quiet the upstairs neighbors. Another one like that, she thought, struggling to remain conscious, and Dax is going to need a new host.
The cloud of gray, grimy smoke dropped lower and Ezri lost sight of Worf and Alexander, though she could still hear them impassively discussing what to do next. Strangely, through all the background noise and the blare of the Klaxons, it was difficult to tell when the father spoke and when the son. The timbre of their voices was entirely different, but the pauses, the cool, gruff starts and stops, were remarkably similar. She wondered if anyone else had noticed this, then realized that her mind was wandering. Oxygen deprivation, she decided, and reached around behind her for her helmet, realizing that Worf and Alexander had been speaking through breathing masks. Her fingers felt clumsy, and not just because of the thick gauntlets. If I don't do this soon then wielding flame and cold She hails their doom...STOP THAT!
"My old teachers would be thrilled I could still remember after all these years," Ezri muttered to no one in particular as she fumbled with the helmet's
clip. "Never mind that the distraction might get me killed...."
As she slid the helmet down into the suit's neck ring, another shudder rumbled through the deck, but this one didn't feel like either a weapons strike or an internal explosion. Ezri twisted the helmet into place and heard the connections click into their slots. Cool air rushed into the helmet and Ezri felt her head clear almost immediately. Status lights flickered into life, no doubt signalling something important about the suit's status. When Ezri relaxed and concentrated, she could call on her past hosts' extensive repository of matters Klingon to keep up with such details, but not under the current circumstances. Instead, she tapped the sequence Worf had showed her on the gauntlet's control set and checked the HUD on the upper left corner of the faceplate. The reading troubled her.
Ezri learned that she had used up a considerable amount of oxygen during her spacewalk. Yes, she was carrying a supply meant for an adult Klingon and her Trill physiology was not nearly as demanding; as she had expected, her air supply was sufficient to last until the current crisis had played out. On the other hand, her dangerously low battery power threatened to run out before she asphyxiated. A suit this large and heavy would be impossible to move without servomotors and she had been relying on them -- much more than a Klingon would. Checking the status display, Ezri found she had ten, perhaps twelve minutes left.
Damn. Not good. Oddly, this knowledge did not alarm her. In fact, she felt quite calm, much calmer than she should have. Ezri wondered briefly which part of her many-faceted nature was responsible for that, then realized she didn't give a damn. She may never have planned on being joined, but she wasn't going to question the benefits, whether consciously utilized or not. Best get to work, then.
Having lost her orientation in the dense smoke, Ezri crawled until she ran into a console. Dragging herself up to her feet, she found that her aim was better than she could have expected, having crashed into tactical. The station appeared to be intact with most of the controls still functional. Where in the hell are we, and what the hell is going on? she thought, trying to coax the console into action. A quick check revealed that the main sensor grid was offline. If she could pull a visual reading from off of auxiliary feeds, she might be able to ascertain the Rotarran's position relative to their attackers. The main monitors had gone down during the first wave of the attack, but the backup grids should be able to provide a visual....Yes, there we go, she thought, grateful for the time her symbiont had spent on Klingon vessels. She tapped in the command that directed the feed to the closest functioning monitor.
The smoky gloom suddenly became brighter at one end of the bridge. The computer must have directed the visual feed there, she thought, squinting through the haze. Ezri was too far away to make out details, so she half hopped, half staggered the few meters to the glowing monitor, praying fervently that it was still keyed to main exterior camera and not some useless auxiliary view. Somewhere behind her, seemingly an eternity away, she heard Worf shout, "Torpedoes -- fire!" So, at least two other people were still alive, unless Worf was issuing himself orders.
The bottom edge of the monitor image was shot through with fine spiderwebs from one of the direct hits to the Rotarran, but it otherwise appeared to be functional, though the picture made no sense. Ezri had expected to see either the black of space dotted through with glowing blobs when a ship decloaked and fired or the white arc of the planet below them. But this -- a crackling white rush -- the visual feed must be malfunctioning.
No. It isn't. Ezri staggered away until she collided with the navigator's console, then grabbed it with both hands, as much for reassurance as to steady herself. She wasn't looking at static, but at ice.
The flaming Rotarran was plummeting toward the icy surface of the planet Boreth, and they were already much too close for the ship to pull away.
Angry fire from Star's fair daughter, she thought, mouth agape. Scorches earth with icy fingers...The silver-white peaks of mountains winked in the sun as the ship spun in, down, down, and the edges of the image reddened with the heat of their passage. Wielding flame and cold, She hails their doom.
Copyright © 2003 J. G. Hertzler & Jeffrey Lang
Based upon Star Trek® created by Gene Roddenberry
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