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Back Cover Text:
Without warning, a Starfleet ship is overwhelmed by a mysterious, alien aggressor -- one who appears to possess an intimate knowledge of the vessel's tactical technology. Then a second Starfleet ship is attacked. And a third.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer -- a Constellation-class starship -- is ordered to help form a desperate line of defense against the aggressor. But it seems nothing can stop the aliens' headlong plunge into the heart of the Federation.
Or rather, nothing in front of them can. Trailing one of the alien attack formations is a tiny Starfleet shuttle with a half dozen crewmembers aboard. One of them is Picard's first officer and best friend, Gilaad Ben Zoma.
Can Ben Zoma and McAteer work together to unlock the secret of the alien assault? Or will their differences sabotage their effort -- and deprive the Federation of its last hope for survival?
Despite growing tensions along the Ubarrak and Cardassian borders, Admiral McAteer orders the Stargazer to conduct a routine survey of the already explored Delta Compara system. He comes aboard to conduct crew interviews prior to calling a competence hearing against Picard. McAteer then takes a shuttle to rendezvous with the USS Antares, accompanied by Ben Zoma, Paris, and a security detachment. The USS Cochise, USS Gibraltar, and the Antares all come under attack from an unknown force. The enemy ships easily disable and board the Starfleet vessels, though they stop short of taking any lives or cargo, then depart.
The Stargazer is ordered to locate and aid the Antares while the shuttle, still en route and caught behind the advancing invaders, is to find a safe haven. Instead, Ben Zoma hatches a plan to infiltrate the enemy fleet and collect vital intelligence, though he and the deskbound McAteer disagree over each other's command prerogative.
On the Stargazer, Ulelo's espionage is discovered and he is arrested. Commander Wu's interrogations produce no valuable information, as Ulelo has none to give. He now realizes that he has never before questioned his complete lack of knowledge of his patrons' identity or motivation and becomes increasingly aggitated. Most of the crew are shocked by Ulelo's betrayal, especially his friend Emily Bender, who suggests that he was made a puppet of the enemy against his will. Medical exams and supposition suggest that Ulelo suffers from a schizophrenic fantasy, and that his secret transmissions were sent to no one. However, this quickly proves to be false, as Ulelo's communiques are the key to the enemy's advancement.
It is discovered that each fleet consists of several warships trailed by an automated cargo drone. The shuttle crew boards the drone, then smuggle themselves aboard a warship via a cargo pod. They access the enemy computers and fight their way to a transmitter to send the intel to Starfleet Command. The team succeeds but is captured. McAteer and Ben Zoma are brought before the (enemy) D'prayl leadership, and though the admiral antagonizes their captors, Ben Zoma works out a compromise. The D'prayl reveal that one faction of their people were behind the invasion, though they have since been removed from power. The current leadership only wants the return of their undercover operative, a man posing as Dikembe Ulelo.
Starfleet assembles an armada to intercept the advancing invasion, while many more ships are disabled. Ben Zoma and Paris are released to deliver the D'prayl's demand to Starfleet, though they only narrowly avoid being shot down by friendly fire. They provide a code word that restores "Ulelo's" true memories, and Picard delivers him to the D'prayl. The enemy fleet returns the rest of the shuttle crew and the real Ulelo, held captive for months, then departs without further hostilities. Though Picard broke ranks to recover Ben Zoma and free the impostor, he is hailed for saving the fleet from what would have been a very costly battle.
Simenon engineers a new containment suit for Jiterica, granting her a more feminine and humanoid shape and giving her greater mobility control. Jiterica and Paris take their relationship to the next level with an extended synthesis session. Kastiigan regrets being unable to endanger himself and wonders if he'll ever get the opportunity to do so. Bender mourns the loss of the fake Ulelo, as she had come to think of him as a friend. Gerda berates Greyhorse for his failure to determine Ulelo's true form and intentions and ends their relationship. Vigo takes a leave of absence to return home and reexamine Pandrilite society for himself. McAteer unsuccessfully tries to sway Ben Zoma to help him bring down Picard.
Nikolas resigns his Starfleet commission, taking a berth on the civilian cargo hauler Iktoj'ni. He tries to adapt to the rougher civilian crew and the ship's technical limitations, but still can't escape the ghost of his lost love. The freighter's captain, Rejjerin, refuses Starfleet's warnings to steer clear of the invasion zone, and the ship comes under attack. Nikolas regains consciousness after the battle to find the ship deserted but for a mysterious alien individual and environment belowdecks.
- Gerda Asmund • Idun Asmund • Gilaad Ben Zoma • Emily Bender • Carter Greyhorse • Jiterica • Peter Joseph • Nol Kastiigan • Ed Locklear • Arlen McAteer • Mehdi • Andreas Nikolas • Obal • Cole Paris • Jean-Luc Picard • Redonna • Bill Refsland • Ernesta Rodriguez • Sesballa • Shastakovich • Phigus Simenon • Surat • Dikembe Ulelo • Urajel • Avul Vayishra • Vigo • Elizabeth Wu
- Referenced only
- Benderrek • Boothby • Caber • Joseph Caber • Calabrese • Crajjik • Tabitha Jenkins • Jor'fasi • Oonnoommi • Reynolds • Santana • William Shakespeare
Starships and vehiclesEdit
- USS Antares (Constellation-class) • USS Cochise (Constellation-class) • USS Excalibur (Ambassador-class) • USS Exeter (Ambassador-class) • USS Gettysburg (Constellation-class) • USS Gibraltar (Constellation-class) • Iktoj'ni (cargo hauler) • USS Jor'fasi (Starfleet starship) • Livingston (Starfleet shuttlecraft) • USS Stargazer (Constellation-class) • USS Yorenda (Starfleet starship)
- Referenced only
- USS Etreclmya • USS Excelsior • USS Hathaway • USS Hood • USS Magellan • USS Manitou • USS Ojanju • USS Valdemar • USS Victory • USS Zhukov
Races and culturesEdit
- Andorian • Binderian • Dedderac • Gnalish • Human • Kandilkari • Nizhrak'a • Pandrillite • Rigelian • Vobilite • Vulcan
- Referenced only
- Cardassian • Klingon • Mizarian • Ubarrak
States and organizationsEdit
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Together Again, for the First Time