Keith R.A. DeCandido
was born and raised in New York City to a family of librarians. He has written over two dozen novels, as well as short stories, nonfiction, eBooks, and comic books, most of them in various media universes, among them Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Marvel Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, Resident Evil, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Farscape, Xena,
and Doctor Who
. His original novel Dragon Precinct
was published in 2004, and he's also edited several anthologies, among them the award-nominated Imaginings
and two Star Trek
anthologies. Keith is also a musician, having played percussion for the bands the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players, the Boogie Knights, and the Randy Bandits, as well as several solo acts. In what he laughingly calls his spare time, Keith follows the New York Yankees and practices kenshikai
karate. He still lives in New York City with his girlfriend and two insane cats.
Chapter 1: Qo'noS
Sunrise on Qo'noS had lost its appeal for Ambassador Worf.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the best part of his day was the very beginning, when he would enter his office in the Federation embassy and watch the sun blaze over the horizon through the huge picture window that took up most of the office's back wall. In the almost four years he had served as Federation ambassador to the Klingon Empire, the one part of his daily routine that he could count on enjoying was the spectacular view of the sun casting its fiery glow across the First City at the top of the day.
Recent events had dimmed that enthusiasm considerably. The actions of others less honorable had forced Worf into a position where he had to compromise himself in order to serve the greater good. The alternative was to allow an even greater evil, and he could not permit that to happen, regardless of the consequences.
It was a state of affairs that was all too familiar to the son of Mogh.
A little more than a month ago, he had used his position -- as an ambassador, and as a member of the Klingon chancellor's House -- to give his former crewmates on the U.S.S. Enterprise
a weapon of sorts that they could use to prevent a Klingon Defense Force fleet from engaging in a suicidal attack on the planet Tezwa. Officially, no one could prove that he provided the Enterprise
with the prefix codes that would disable the fleet; unofficially, it couldn't have been anyone else.How many times? he asked himself. How many times have I sacrificed my own honor to protect the unworthy? And how many times will I have to do it again?
"It's supposed to be fairly hot today," came a voice from behind him.
Sighing, Worf turned around. Another part of the routine: his aide, Giancarlo Wu, would enter the office and make some offhand comment about the weather, thus signaling the start of the workday. Wearing his usual monochrome shirt, matching pants, and different-colored vest -- today he went for red and green -- Wu stood in the doorway to the office, reaching into the vest's pocket.
However, he did not pull out his padd, as Worf had expected -- that padd was always either in Wu's hand or in his vest pocket, to the point that the ambassador honestly believed that his aide would suffer withdrawal symptoms if separated from it for any length of time. Instead, Wu removed an optical chip and walked it over to where Worf sat at his desk. "I think you'll want to see this first thing, sir. It was sent to you on a secure channel by T'Latrek."
After regarding the chip for a moment, Worf plugged it into the slot on the side of his terminal. Besides representing Vulcan on the Federation Council, T'Latrek served as the councillor for external affairs and was, in essence, Worf's superior.
The screen lit up with the logo of the Federation News Service. Odd,
Worf thought. Why would T'Latrek send me a news story?
A female Pandrilite face replaced the logo. "The top story is the surprise resignation of Federation President Min Zife. In a move that has shocked the entire quadrant, President Zife, his chief of staff, Koll Azernal, and Nelino Quafina, the secretary of military intelligence, have stepped down from office, effective immediately. This statement was issued across the Federation this morning."
The image then cut to Zife sitting at his desk in the presidential office in Paris, his arms placed in front of him, resting on the large desk, which was currently empty of anything save the Bolian's blue-skinned hands. The flag of the Federation hung on a pole behind the president, in front of the huge window that provided a panorama of the City of Light that made Worf's own view of the First City pale in comparison. The Tour Eiffel was the only landmark in sight."It is with a sense of both regret and joy that I announce my resignation as president of the United Federation of Planets, as well as the resignation of Koll Azernal, my chief of staff, and Nelino Quafina, my military intelligence secretary. Regret because achieving this office has been the culmination of a lifetime of service to the Federation, and one that has been incredibly rewarding for myself and, I hope, for the Federation, particularly during the dark days of our war against the Dominion.
"Joy because I feel that this resignation is perhaps the greatest of those services that I can now give to the Federation. While my chief of staff and I were able to serve our nation well in war, we were, it seems, less suited for peace. As the war grows more distant in our past, it has become increasingly obvious that Koll and I need to step down for the good of the Federation. The model by which we survived during the war, and even during the first few months afterward, is no longer tenable as we and our allies attempt to bring a new era of peace.
"One of the truisms of sentient life throughout the galaxy is that different leadership is required for different circumstances. On Bolarus, one of our most revered historical figures is a monarch from a time before the planet was united, named Queen Vaq. She led the nation of Alnat to its most prosperous era after winning several consecutive wars. What most forget is that when Alnat became the greatest power on Bolarus, and all her enemies were defeated, Vaq was forced to abdicate, for without an enemy to fight, she led the nation to economic ruin.
"Unlike Vaq, I will not wait for a coup d'état to remove me from power. I was given a mandate from the people of the Federation -- not once, but twice -- to lead them through uneasy times, to make quick and difficult decisions for the greater good. Now, though, serving that mandate has proven more problematic. Quick and difficult decisions are not what is best for the Federation, nor for our allies. The time has come when I can best serve the people's mandate by stepping down, by allowing the people to choose someone who can lead us in peace as effectively as I was able to in war.
"As per the Federation charter, an election will be held within the month. The Federation Council will continue to administrate on a pro tem basis until a new president has been elected.
"I thank you all very much for your support, your patience, and your understanding. Good-bye."
Back to the Pandrilite: "The Federation Council made no comment regarding the resignations, but did release a statement: Councillor Ra'ch B'ullhy has been appointed president pro tempore, and the Council will be accepting petitions for presidential candidates immediately. The ballot containing the names of those who fit the criteria for candidacy will be announced by the Council one week from today. The election will be held at the end of the month.
"At present, the front-runners for presidential candidacy include T'Latrek of Vulcan, the current councillor for external affairs, who has held that position for eight decades; Nan Bacco, the planetary governor of Cestus III; Fel Pagro, the chief special emissary for Ktar; and Admiral William Ross of Starfleet. Naturally, speculation is already running rampant as to what led President Zife and Chief of Staff Azernal to their decision at this particular juncture, especially with the next election less than a year away."
The screen reverted to the FNS logo, then went blank.
Worf leaned back in his large leather chair. "A -- convincing fabrication."
"Zife and Azernal's reasons for resigning begin and end with Tezwa."
"I suspected as much, sir. Still, the general public can't very well be aware of that, can they?"
Worf folded his arms. "No. This willing resignation is a far more palatable solution than admitting to secretly arming the Tezwans." If Martok or the Klingon High Council ever found out that the Federation president armed an enemy of the empire, it could lead to yet another abrogation of the Khitomer Accords, and possibly war between the Federation and the empire. Neither nation was in a position to wage a prolonged war against the other, and the collapse of their alliance would destabilize the Alpha Quadrant at a time when it could ill afford such a thing.Yet another secret I must keep from a man I have called brother,
Worf thought bitterly. "I sometimes regret the day I chose to enter the realm of politics," he muttered.
Wu tilted his head. "I should think that after all these years, sir, you'd be used to it."
Glowering at his aide, Worf said, "The time since I accepted the ambassadorship is hardly 'all these years.' "
"My apologies, sir, I thought you said you regretted entering the realm of politics. That happened when you entered the Great Hall thirteen years ago in order to defend your father against accusations that he aided the Romulans at Khitomer."
Worf's glower intensified. "Excuse me?"
Wu put his hands in his vest pockets. "You accepted discommendation in order to cover up the crimes of the House of Duras and preserve unity on the High Council, but kept your brother -- a high-ranking officer in the Defense Force -- shielded from the dishonor. When Gowron needed help during the civil war, you were then able to use Kurn's position to restore your House and keep House Duras from gaining power." He removed his hands from his pockets, taking the padd out with his right hand. "Each of the last two chancellors, not to mention the emperor himself, owe their positions directly to you. You've probably had more impact on the face of Klingon politics than any single person in the last twenty years. Your accepting the ambassadorship was simply the continuation of a process you'd begun long before."
The aide's words mirrored similar ones spoken to Worf by Ambassador Spock three years earlier on a shuttle trip to a diplomatic conference. He had dismissed them then as exaggeration. He was tempted to do so now, but hesitated. Neither Spock nor Wu were prone to such things. Indeed, Wu had always, at Worf's own insistence, been completely...