The final Star Trek novel from Pocket Books in 2009 takes us into the mirror universe, with David Mack’s "The Sorrows of Empire". Originally a novella in the 2007 "Glass Empires" anthology, Mack has expanded the story of Mirror Spock’s rise to power in the Terran Empire. Even if you read the original novella, this new novel is twice as long, so there is plenty of new material. See below for our exclusive chapter preview.
EXCERPT: Star Trek Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire
by David Mack
NOTE: Contains spoilers.
The Sleep of Reason
Death was close at hand; Empress Hoshi Sato II felt it. The shadows of her bedchamber vibrated with its icy promise.
Candles flickered on the periphery of the ornately appointed room. A haze of lavender incense smoke lingered like a gauzy blanket above her bed; her Andorian physician, Dr. th’Nellis, had chosen it for its cloying, quasi-medicinal sweetness, in a futile effort to mask the odors of the Empress’s ancient, dying body.
Hoshi II found the fragrance repugnant, but after all Dr. th’Nellis had done to extend her life, she didn’t wish to embarrass him by ordering it removed. The soft-spoken thaan had spent most of the past decade supervising the Empress’s gene therapy, and transplanting vital organs and transfusing fresh blood from lobotomized clones of her predecessor, the original Empress Hoshi Sato. His efforts had verged on the heroic, but there was nothing more to be done.
Her body felt insubstantial, as if it were a feather on the wind. She was as weak as the winter sun, as tired as a dream that wanted to die.
Not yet, she thought, willing herself to live. She had words she needed to speak, a sacred charge she needed to impart.
She beckoned with one withered hand. “Come closer, sister.”
Soft footfalls broke the silence as her teenage twin, Hoshi Sato III, stepped out of the gloom to stand by the bed. The youth caressed a strand of gray hair from her elderly sibling’s cheek with one hand; in the other she held a wineglass filled with cabernet the color of blood. The young woman’s touch was warm, but her expression was cold as she gazed down at the Empress. “I’m here,” she said.
“I don’t have much time left,” the Empress said, her once-melodious voice reduced to a dry rasp.
The cloned echo of her youth replied without pity, “So I see.”
The Empress summoned the last of her failing strength. “I never gave you a chance to know me.”
“I know your reputation.”
“Then you know only a fiction.” A sharp pain in the Empress’s chest stole her breath. When it passed, she continued. “Like the first Empress Sato, I wanted more for the Empire than war and slaughter. I wanted it to be secure. Stable.”
Her heir-apparent let slip a soft snort of derision. “Forgive me for correcting your history, Majesty, but all your predecessor wanted was for her dynasty to be secure, and she saw the Empire as little more than a means to that end. That’s why we exist — because she wanted to make sure her empire had her face forever. We’re nothing more than copies of the biggest narcissist in galactic history.”
“We bear her likeness, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to live in her shadow. We can chart our own path, sister.”
The future sovereign smirked. “An ironic statement, coming from you.”
“I ruled according to my conscience, not hers.”
“Strange, then, that your actions and hers proved so similar. In fact, the only substantial difference I see in your respective reigns is that she had to conquer the Empire to became its tyrant. All you had to do was inherit it.”
“A despot is what I became,” the Empress said. “Not what I meant to be.”
“Let me guess: you aspired to a benevolent dictatorship.” She rolled her brown eyes and shook her head. “How banal.”
The sovereign’s voice faltered as she weakened. “I’d hoped to reform the Empire. Curb its excesses. Steer it toward a nobler path.”
“A reformer? You?” Hoshi III laughed angrily. “The Murderess of Andoria? The woman who redefined ‘ruthlessness’ for a generation?”
The Empress exhaled heavily and squeezed shut her eyes in anger and shame. “I confess, I fell for the seductions of power. Couldn’t resist serving my whims … my obsessions … my base desires. It was too much. I … I lost sight of myself.”
Recoiling and adopting a suspicious mien, the younger Sato asked, “Why are you telling me this, Majesty?”
“So you can learn from my mistakes,” the Empress said. “I no longer have the strength or time to chart a new course for the Empire. You do.” She reached out and grasped her twin’s hand, which was smooth and supple with youth. “You can steer the Terran Empire back toward honor.”
Young Hoshi’s brow knitted with confusion and amusement. “Why would I want to do that, Majesty? I’ve spent my whole life preparing to rule. And now, on the cusp of my coronation, you expect me to renounce the plenary power that’s my birthright? To shoulder the burdens of a prince’s throne while denying myself its most cherished perquisites?” She brusquely pulled her hand from the Empress’s grasp. “Have you finally lost your mind?”
“No, I’ve finally found my reason.”
The nineteen-year-old lunged forward as if to pounce on the bedridden sovereign. Perched on her fists, she hovered over her crone of a sister and let her lips curl into a menacing snarl. “You’re just a confused old woman,” she said, her voice freighted with contempt. “Honor? Nobility? You mewl like a coward fresh from a Klingon mind-sifter, or a child on her way to the agony booth.”
Regret swelled in the heart of the Empress. There would be no counseling her successor, no mitigating the ferocity or terror of the reign to come. This new monarch was a child of raw power and old privilege, a twisted product of the corrupt imperial court, a scion of cruel ambition.
“Heed my words, or don’t,” said the Empress. “But do not mock me, child.” She waved her hand dismissively. “I need to rest. Leave me.”
“In a moment,” the teen replied, locking eyes with the Empress.
Empress Sato II inhaled and savored one last breath tinged with lavender incense. She knew what was coming next.
The girl grabbed a pillow from the bed and pushed it down on the Empress’s face, leaning into it with all her weight and strength.
The Empress flailed feebly with her emaciated arms. Through the smothering mass of the pillow, she heard her successor pretend to comfort her.
“Shhh. Sleep, sister. It’ll be over in a moment.”
Within seconds the last spark of the Empress’s will faded, taking with it her panic and fear. Her arms came to rest at her sides.
Poised on the edge of oblivion, she expected to hate her killer.
Instead she felt only gratitude — because the Empire had at last become someone else’s problem.
The official release date for "Star Trek Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire" is December 29th. You can pre-order it from Amazon.