(written from a Production point of view)
In the mid-21st century, Zefram Cochrane's invention of the "fluctuation superimpellor" – later called "warp drive" – changed the course of history. But Earth was hardly in rosy times – the Optimum Movement, a new Nazi-like movement, was on the rise, and war was brewing back home. Though the Optimum was destroyed in World War III, traces of it lived on, evading death itself and pursuing Cochrane across time.
- From the back cover
- At last! The long awaited novel featuring both famous crews of the Starships Enterprise in an epic adventure that spans time and space.
- Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 are faced with their most challenging mission yet – rescuing renowned scientist Zefram Cochrane from captors who want to use his skills to conquer the galaxy.
- Meanwhile, ninety-nine years in the future on the USS Enterprise-D, Picard must rescue an important and mysterious person whose safety is vital to the survival of the Federation.
- As the two crews struggle to fulfill their missions, destiny draws them closer together until past and future merge – and the fate of each of the two legendary starships rests in the hands of the other vessel...
The book begins with an aged James Kirk, ready to retire from Starfleet, visiting the Guardian of Forever one last time. The Guardian has been inactive since a few years after he discovered it, (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever") and a researcher there requests that he ask it a question. He does, and it doesn't respond. But when the researcher walks away, leaving Kirk alone with his regrets, he whispers the word "Why?", and the Guardian answers.
Zefram Cochrane has just returned from his historic first warp flight – to Alpha Centauri and back in just eight months. His friend and patron Micah Brack warns him that the Optimum – a militaristic political movement bent on the eradication of any person deemed genetically and/or ideologically "inferior" – has taken an interest in his work, and that a high-level officer, Colonel Adrik Thorsen, will arrive in a few hours. Brack explains that he's about to release the warp research he funded, royalty-free, because he believes the Optimum's rise will result in a bloody, planet-levelling war, and he wants extrasolar colonies established well before then. He arranges for Cochrane to be taken to a secret lab where he can continue his research outside the Optimum's grasp.
Nearly twenty years later, Cochrane returns to Earth. The Optimum has taken power across most of the civilized world, suspending the Constitution in the United States, imprisoning the British royalty, and everywhere making sure to "contain" nonoptimals. Thorsen captures Cochrane and demands that he explain how to build a "warp bomb."
During early research on the warp drive, an accident caused an antimatter explosion. Everything within eighteen meters of the equipment disappeared without even a trace of radiation. The diameter was determined by the laws of physics and couldn't be changed – but Thorsen refuses to believe that.
Cochrane eventually escapes, nearly killing Thorsen in the process – making him suboptimal. With prosthetic enhancements, Thorsen survives World War III and comes after Cochrane in his old age, killing the scientist's wife. Cochrane flees his home in the Alpha Centauri system and disappears.
Years later, the Enterprise, under command of Captain Kirk, is called to answer for a mysterious transmission from a person who appears to be Nancy Hedford, who was thought to be dead. The Enterprise discovers that Cochrane has been kidnapped by the Optimum. They rescue Cochrane, and eventually begin to head toward a black hole to escape the Optimum.
Meanwhile, Picard's crew has been working to acquire what they believe to be a Borg artifact from a Ferengi in a Romulan warbird, eventually learning the artifact is in the possession of Romulans who want to trade it for assistance in leaving the Romulan Star Empire. After some brief interference by a loyal Romulan warbird, the Enterprise takes possession of the artifact in its shuttlebay.
After study, the artifact is determined to be a fake with the exception of a Preserver artifact within it. That artifact is hooked into the ship's computer and promptly infects it with a worm program, causing the ship to change course towards the same black hole Kirk is going to in the past, and flooding the ship with anesthizine gas. The program also has the ship expose the shuttlebays to vacuum, nearly killing Picard, Geordi La Forge, and Wesley Crusher, who were put into a shuttlecraft by Data to save them. Using the shuttle to make their way to the bridge while having taken an antidote to the gas, Data attempts to disable the program but becomes infected himself. Afterwards, he tells the others to call him Thorsen and threatens to kill anyone who disobeys him.
Arriving at the black hole, they find the Oberth-class USS Garneau there already. The captain of the Garneau says that they are there to retrieve a "special science package" from the black hole, which was put there 99 years ago. Thorsen, who wants to enter the black hole, orders Worf to destroy the Garneau, but he refuses and Thorsen seizes the tactical station and fires on the Garneau himself. This delays them long enough for the Enterprise to enter the black hole. Once inside, the Crushers are able to shut Data's body off.
In a strange twist of black hole physics, both Enterprises end up trapped inside the same black hole, time having been compressed. The two ships cannot communicate with each other in order to preserve the timelines. Eventually, the Enterprise-D is able to rescue Cochrane, and both ships escape the Optimum. Thorsen's consciousness is destroyed when Picard destroys an ancient artifact containing all that is left of him.
The Companion is dying, and the only way to heal her is to return to her planet. However, in this timeline, her planet has has been destroyed. With no other option, Cochrane and the Companion give in to death, in the form of a cloud of light. Picard and Beverly Crusher look rest in the peace they leave behind.
The story fast forwards to just after the Enterprise-D is lost on Veridian. Picard and Riker are on Titan, when Picard receives a letter that had been written to him before his birth. He discovers it is from Kirk, who is finally telling him the entire story.
The final scene is back at the Guardian, where we discover that the entire story was a revelation to Kirk, an answer to his question, "Why?"
"How surprising. I thought he would be the stiff-upper-lip type. 'So sorry to bleed on your carpet.' That sort of thing."
- - Colonel Adrik Thorsen
- - Jean-Luc Picard
"When Starfleet hears about this, I don't know if they're going to give you a medal or a court-martial"
- - Riker to Picard
"Though we have drawn on established Star Trek lore for many of the events in this book, we must add that much of the early history of the Federation, and Cochrane's adventures prior to and after inventing the warp drive, are extrapolations solely of our own creation and thus could be superseded by official adventures in the years to come."
- - the authors, in their "Acknowledgements" section
- The audiobook version was abridged by George Truett.
- This book was written before Star Trek: First Contact was ever conceived, and much of the future history it laid out was seemingly invalidated by that movie, although Federation's events could work with those of the film, assuming that a few of the novel's 21st century-era dates are realigned with those in First Contact.
- The novel was one of four to be re-released with an updated cover in late 2006 to honor Star Trek's 40th anniversary.
- Canon characters listed below are linked to the main article about them. Non-canon characters are not linked, but those that recurred, appearing or being mentioned in more than one story, are defined further in Pocket TOS characters.. The story contains many Pocket TNG characters.
Regular and recurring characters
- Adrik Thorsen
- 62nd Rule
- Algeron's Tears
- City of Utopia Planitia
- USS Excalibur
- J.P. Hanson
- USS Garneau
- USS Lexington
- Starbase 324
- Starfleet insignia
- One scene (pp 137-139 in the paperback edition) has a captive Cochrane explaining to villain Adrik Thorsen the principle behind warp drive. He starts by drawing a star and explaining that the line bisecting it represents light speed. He then draws a high, symmetrical curve, saying that it represents the infinite power needed to reach warp speeds under general relativity. Then he draws a much lower, asymmetric curve, with its peak after the imaginary light-speed line, stating that it represents the power usage of warp drive. The resulting graph strongly resembles the Starfleet emblem, especially as seen in TOS; later in the book, Captain Picard refers to the symbol as the "Cochrane delta".
- Wolf 359
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