Keith R.A. DeCandido proves that his murderous pen is willing to strike at just about anyone in the Star Trek universe, given the chance, as the Library Computer looks at A Gutted World, the second tale in the "Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions" anthology. We have a review, author interview and excerpt.
REVIEW – STAR TREK MYRIAD UNIVERSES: ECHOES AND REFRACTIONS
Part 2: A Gutted World
Keith R. A. DeCandido has a pretty simple recipe for an alternate universe. Don’t allow Bajor to find its independence, and force the Federation to deal with one of the greatest threats it has ever known without the benefit of the Bajoran Wormhole. DeCandido makes the most of the setup, and manages to give fellow Trek-novelist David Mack a run for the title of "Most Sadistic Author" in A Gutted World.
Many familiar faces make an appearance in A Gutted World; Picard and his crew, Janeway, Sisko, Kira, Dukat, Gowron. Each of them faces a universe of Cardassian annexations and political intrigue, and of bungling and mismanagement in at the highest levels of government.
A Gutted World more then lives up to its title billing, and there isn’t a single page where DeCandido’s writing fails to captivate. The narrative is strong, clear, and hilariously serious (so much so that I read the entire story in one sitting), and what the story lacks in depth (hard to overcome in the short novel format) it more than makes up for in punch. The end is a definite surprise, the action is robust, and people die… by the boatload.
with Keith R.A. DeCandido
TrekMovie: Of all the Myriad Universes stories, yours is quite possibly the most epic of them all. Did you set out to create what went to print, or was there an earlier, more reserved version.
Keith R.A. DeCandido: No, what you saw is exactly what I was going for. I wasn’t really going for epic — I only had 50,000 words, for one thing — but I did want to go for sprawling. I wanted to show the consequences of what was happening all across the galaxy. My biggest concern actually was that I was spreading the story too thin, but I think I struck a good balance…
TM: In composing A Gutted World, was there a specific character whose narrative you were most deeply interested in?
KRAD: Probably Picard. There’s a wonderful bit in Insurrection when Picard enters the turbolift, and he gets this incredibly sad expression on his face and plaintively asks, "Does anyone remember when we were explorers?" Picard is at heart a diplomat and an explorer and a man of peace. I already addressed how miserable he’d be in a war in my short story Four Lights in "The Sky’s the Limit", and I wanted to take it a step further. I was also especially interested in Kira, simply because she was probably the person who was least affected by the changes around her, because she was still fighting passionately for what she believes in.
TM: The end of the story lands in the reader’s lap like any good cliffhanger from Star Trek history, just begging for more. Any chance of a Gutted World II?
KRAD: Geez, I wasn’t going for cliffhanger at all. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind doing a sequel, but I think the story stands on its own just fine.
DeCandido is currently finishing work on "A Singular Destiny", which will deal with the fallout from this fall’s Destiny trilogy by David Mack. He has written a script for one issue of IDW’s forthcoming Alien Spotlight II miniseries, focusing on the Klingons, and has at least two piece of short fiction coming in 2009. DeCandido also has upcoming articles in Titan’s Star Trek magazine, and may soon have information on further projects with IDW. Beyond Trek, he is working on both a manga series and a novel in the StarCraft universe. His second Supernatural novel "Bone Key" will be released in September, and he has some other comic book projects lined up. You can keep up to date on his projects at his website, DeCandido.net, or through his blog, kradical.livejournal.com.
STAR TREK MYRIAD UNIVERSES: ECHOES AND REFRACTIONS
A Gutted World by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Space Station Terok Nor
In orbit of Bajor
"I can assure you, Dalin, that I am but a plain, simple clothier. I’ve no idea where the shapeshifter might be."
Corat Damar—who still wasn’t used to being referred to by his newly acquired rank of dalin—glared at the placid face and beatific smile of the man in the guest chair of his office. Behind him was the large glass door, currently closed against the noise and bustle of the Terok Nor Promenade. This whole thing is a waste of time. But Damar was a soldier, and his commanding officer had given him an order, so he followed it, and interrogated Elim Garak.
For all the good it will do.
"According to one of my sources," Damar said, "you were friends with the shapeshifter before he disappeared."
"I was hardly that, Dalin," Garak said. "In fact, Odo and I only spoke a few times. As a shapeshifter, he had no use for my services, and as a clothier, I have very little use for the ins and outs of station security." Holding up a hand, he added, "Present company excepted, of course, Dalin. And may I say, congratulations on your well-deserved promotion. I’m sure the Promenade will be far safer under your tutelage."
"Thank you." Damar said the words as insincerely as he could, which took little effort. He wanted nothing from the tailor save information that he knew he’d never get. The security file on Garak was huge and yet said absolutely nothing. He might have been Obisidan Order. He might have been a target of the Order’s recently retired head, Enabran Tain. He might have been protected by Tain.
Damar hated the Order, and hated dealing with people who were even suspected to be agents.
But he had one more spin of the dabo wheel to make before he let Garak go. Holding up a padd, he tossed it onto the table in front of Garak, where it landed with a metallic clack. "And then there are the purchases."
"I make many purchases in my line of work, Dalin."
"Yes—textiles, sewing machinery, display units. And yet, the parts on this list don’t conform to any piece of equipment that’s registered for your shop. However, my colleagues on the station’s engineering staff have informed me that these parts are essential to creating a containment unit."
"Really? How fascinating."
"Do you deny that you are creating a containment unit, Mr. Garak?"
"Please, Dalin, it’s just Garak—plain, simple—"
Damar rose to his feet. "There is nothing plain or simple about you, tailor!" Immediately, he brought his temper under control. "What is it that you intend to do with this equipment?"
"Simply a tinkering project I’m working on in my spare time. Business has been slow of late. Fewer Cardassians have come to my shop, and most Bajorans cannot afford my wares. If not for the Ferengi, I fear I would go out of business entirely. While the walk-in business is always appreciated from ships passing through, it’s regular customers who keep the modern business alive, and those—"
Feeling the interrogation slip through his fingers again, Damar sat back down. "I don’t care about the ins and outs of shop management, Garak. Just answer the question."
Garak shifted in his chair. "Yes, well, I’m afraid I’m not very . . . comfortable with telling the specifics to such a man as you, Dalin. You see—the device in question is . . . "
When Garak’s hesitation threatened to go on for ten seconds, Damar repeated, "Answer the question!"
"It’s a gift for a friend. A fairly salacious one, if you must know. You see, it enables the two users—or more, if they’re so inclined—to—"
The sexual practices of Garak’s friends was even lower on the list of things Damar wished to be informed of than the economics of Garak’s business. "I want you to produce the device you’re creating for your friend."
"Dalin, I really don’t think this is the kind of thing that an officer of your standing should be exposed to. Really, it’s quite crude."
Getting to his feet once again, Damar walked around to the other side of the desk. "I believe I’ll be able to tolerate it." He grabbed Garak by the arm and hoisted the tailor to his feet with one hand. With the other, he picked up the padd with the equipment list. "Come on."
In truth, Damar knew this was a waste of time. Garak wouldn’t have told the lie if he didn’t have physical proof to back it up. If he was creating a containment unit—of the type, say, to hold the liquid contents of a shapechanger, similar to that used by Dr. Mora Pol on Bajor shortly after discovering Odo—he wouldn’t make it obvious, and would have in fact disguised it as something else, such as a sex toy.
If he was telling the truth, then Damar was wasting his time and would look like an idiot.
Damar had never understood why Dukat had put the shapechanger in charge of security after Thrax’s departure in the first place. True, he’d gained a reputation for mediating disputes on Bajor, and in the seven years he’d served at the post, he’d proven to be an able investigator, but to put him in charge of security on the Promenade? That was simply asking for trouble. No one knew what his species was, and he was cared for by a Bajoran scientist—yes, one who’d proven loyal to Cardassia, but still…
Odo’s recent disappearance was welcome to Damar, and not just because Damar got his job—along with the promotion from glinn to dalin, which meant a significant pay increase as well as more prestige in Central Command. No, the shapechanger was trouble, and always had been. He was always fair to the damned terrorists down on Bajor. Dukat had said that made him an asset; Damar never subscribed to that notion.
He kept his iron grip on Garak’s arm—and ignored the clothier’s protests about it—all the way down the Promenade to the shop. Some garresh or other—Damar had yet to learn the names of all those under his command—stood at the door, which had been security-sealed for the duration of Garak’s interrogation.
"Remove the seal," Damar told the garresh.
As the young soldier did so, Garak said, "I must once again protest the need for such a seal, Dalin. It creates the impression that my shop is a den of iniquity. That’s all well and good for Rom’s Bar—the Ferengi thrives on that sort of thing—but I run a legitimate business, one that suffers if it becomes a focus of attention from security personnel."
"That isn’t my concern," Damar said. "Besides, it’s standard procedure." He didn’t bother to add that it only became standard procedure when Damar took over security.
"If you say so," Garak said with a shrug. "As I said before, my knowledge of security is limited."
Damar didn’t believe that for a second. Once the seal was broken and the doors to the shop parted, Damar all but threw Garak over the threshold, then held up the padd. "You will produce every piece of equipment on this list and place it on your counter."
Straightening his outfit and making a small bow, Garak said, "Of course."
Someone on the engineering staff had shown Damar what the containment unit would probably look like. What Garak produced looked nothing like that. It didn’t look like much of anything, in fact. But Damar did his duty and looked it over, and saw that all the parts were accounted for, and that it looked nothing like a containment unit. Damar could, if he squinted, see how it might be used as a sex aid. Frankly, Damar preferred Rom’s holosuites—they offered a more complete package, and he didn’t feel like he was cheating on his wife—but to each his own.
"Is there anything else, Dalin, or may I put this . . . rather distasteful object out of the way?"
"If it’s so distasteful," Damar asked, "then why create it in the first place?"
"Friendship sometimes demands that one put aside one’s own aesthetic sense."
Damar rolled his eyes. "Rationalize your perversions however you want." With that, he turned and left the clothier’s, signaling for the garresh to follow. Once they were out of the shop, he said, "Keep an eye on him. I want someone on the Promenade patrol to be watching his store at all times."
As he spoke, he saw that Gul Dukat was walking into Rom’s. "If anyone needs me, I’ll be in Rom’s," he said.
"Yes, sir!" the garresh said.
Quickly, Damar strode across the Promande, heading for the bar. Damar was grateful for the destination, as he’d found the Ferengi establishment to be the only place he felt comfortable on the entire station.
In truth, Damar hadn’t wanted the position on Terok Nor. It was too far from home and family, and it was, he had thought at the time, a backwater assignment.
Legate Parn had assured him otherwise. Damar had been hearing rumors that Cardassia would pull out of Bajor, that what resources the world had left were not worth putting up with their tiresome resistance. Certainly, the time Damar hadn’t spent in his ever more fruitless search for his predecessor had been spent cleaning up messes made by the damned resistance.
But Parn had said repeatedly that Terok Nor was a critical station to Cardassia’s future, and that there was no danger of Cardassia leaving Bajor any time soon.
Damar had, of course, heard other rumors, but he dismissed those. His stock in trade was evidence—following rumors just led you to a dead end.
Glancing back at Garak’s shop, he added dolefully to himself, And sometimes even the evidence takes you there.
The Promenade was filled with people, but was not very noisy. The Bajorans knew to keep quiet, and everyone else was usually on their way somewhere else. Once he walked through the doors to Rom’s, though, the ambient noise level went up considerably—especially since this was the "somewhere else" that many were on their way to. Both dabo tables were fully occupied, with winners screaming with joy and losers cursing. The dom-jot table had a wait, and most of the seats were occupied.
There was, however, a clear path from the door to the bar, because at the end of that path was Skrain Dukat. Everyone on the station knew to stay out of the gul’s way.
As Damar approached the bar, the proprietor placed a large glass of kanar in front of the station prefect. "Uh, here you go, Gul Dukat. It’s at the temperature you like—and it’s, uh, on the house, of course."
Inclining his head, Dukat grabbed the glass. "Thank you, Rom. How is business?"
"Oh, it’s fine. Although—" The Ferengi hesitated. "—one of the holosuites is down. I’ve tried to perform maintenance, but—"
"Say no more," Dukat said with a smile after swallowing some of his drink. "I’ll have Karris take a look at it before she goes off duty."
Rom gave a wide, snaggletoothed smile. "Thank you, Gul! That’s very nice of you."
"Nonsense. Your holosuites are one of the station’s main attractions. I’m simply looking out for the station’s well being." He took another sip of kanar.
Damar remained standing behind Dukat. He knew that the gul had registered Damar’s presence, and he’d been serving on Terok Nor just long enough to know better than to interrupt. Dukat would speak to him when he was ready, not a moment before.
"How fares your brother?"
Rom sounded almost petulant. "How should I know? Quark hasn’t spoken a word to me since he sold me this place and bought his moon! It’s like I don’t even have a brother!" Rom blinked a few times. "Actually, that’s kinda nice, now that I think about it."
Dukat chuckled and gulped down more of his drink, before finally turning to look at his security chief. "Ah, Damar. Please tell me that you’ve made progress in your search for our elusive shapeshifter."
"I’m afraid I can’t, Gul. I questioned Garak, but he claimed to know nothing."
Frowning, Dukat said, "I thought you said he’d obtained the pieces for a containment unit that could hold one of his kind."
"Yes—he showed me what he was building with those parts. Trust me, it wouldn’t hold Odo, or much of anything else."
"You believe Garak to be a false lead?"
Damar hesitated. "I can’t tell if he is a false lead, or if he is sufficiently good at covering his tracks. There’s circumstantial evidence to support the notion that he’s hiding something, and you’ve seen the same anomalies in his records I have—it practically screams the Order. But, as usual for the Order, there’s no evidence. And he could simply be who he says he is—a plain, simple, very annoying clothier."
Laughing, Dukat put what he probably thought was a reassuring hand on Damar’s shoulder. "I understand your frustration, Damar, believe me. I have my own—shall we call them issues?—with Garak. I believe you should search his shop—top to bottom. Leave no dress unturned. Anything that cannot be accounted for as belonging in a clothier’s is to be confiscated."
This struck Damar to be as big a waste of time as questioning Garak—if he really was Order, he wouldn’t be that sloppy—but he knew many of the people under his command didn’t like Garak, and would take joy in ripping apart his store. If nothing else, it’d be good for morale. "It’ll be done tomorrow morning, right when he opens."
"Good. Now, then—"
Whatever else Dukat was going to say was interrupted by an explosion, followed by the sound of an alarm. Before he even fully registered the alarm, Damar’s feet were moving, running to the exit and toward the ore processors.
His people were already evacuating personnel. The acrid stench of burning conduits filled his nostrils, and the air was thick with smoke. There was evidence of a fire, but the internal fire-suppression systems appeared to have done their work.
Activating his communicator with one hand while clearing smoke from his face with the other, he said, "Damar to infirmary, medical emergency in Ore Processing, Section 9."
"On my way," said the voice of the doctor on duty.
Seeing one of his officers, Glinn Comra, Damar asked, "What happened?"
Comra handed him a data clip. "An explosion. Looks like pretty typical resistance stuff—and this proves it."
Damar glared at Comra, then took the data clip and activated it, at which point it played an audio file.
"This is the Kohn-Ma. We have destroyed this ore processor to remind the Cardassians that we will not stand for their remaining on our world. We—"
Angrily, Damar turned off the clip. He’d heard this tired rhetoric before.
Dukat approached the scene. "The resistance, I assume?"
"Yes." Damar handed the clip to Comra and said, "Continue rescue operations, then get a forensic team in here. It’s past time the Kohn-Ma was ended."
Nodding to both Damar and Dukat, Comra took his leave.
Staring at Dukat, Damar said, "Why do we continue to remain on this useless rock? Even without incidents like this, ore production has gone down every year for the past five years. Meanwhile, rebel attacks have grown worse, especially after you had their religious leader killed."
Dukat let out a sigh. "Yes, killing Opaka Sulan did serve only to make her a martyr to their cause, didn’t it? Still, nothing to be done. This station is far too important to abandon now, Damar."
With that, the prefect left the scene, leaving Damar to oversee the rescue operations. A medical team had arrived, and started treating the wounded—the Cardassians first, obviously. The Bajorans could wait. As likely as not, the injured Bajorans were the ones who set off the explosion—or they knew who did. He made a mental note to interrogate them before they were treated—to use the promise of treatment as leverage for getting answers.
It probably wouldn’t work—it almost never did—but it was worth trying on the off chance that he’d find one person who couldn’t stand the pain. A chain only needed one weak link to break, after all.
Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions
is available for preorder at Amazon
(ships in August)
About Myriad Universe
Over the years, several alternate universe tales have been told in various forms of Trek media, but Myraid Universes, the new anthology series from Pocket Books goes beyond the well-known ‘Mirror Universe’ and instead farms other potential historical aberrations. The two new large sized trade paperback anthologies ("Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism" out now and "Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions" due in August) contain three novella-length stories a piece. Each story is set in a different Trek era (and different Trek universe).
TrekMovie MU Reviews & Excerpts:
Echoes and Refractions: Part 1
COMING NEXT WEEK
Next Week the Library Computer wraps up its look at the "Myriad Universes" series with a look at Chris Roberson’s Brave New World, a look at how the universe might be different with a bevy of androids about.