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(written from a Production point of view)
In the aftermath of Kirk's death, Spock is confronted by his past and must come to the aid of another old friend.
- Just over a year ago, Captain James T. Kirk was lost in the Nexus while saving the USS Enterprise-B from destruction. Aboard the science ship USS Intrepid II, Captain Spock, commanding some of his old crewmates, must face the loss of his closest friend. But while still in mourning for one friend he must come to the aid of another.
- Spock's childhood friend David Rabin, now a captain, has been assigned to a harsh desert world much like Vulcan, where the Federation is determined to protect the lives of the inhabitants. But Rabin's efforts are being sabotaged and he has asked for Spock's help against the unknown forces that may destroy the society he has come to save.
- While reflecting on his youthful adventure with Rabin – the adventure that set him on the path to Starfleet – Spock joins with him to face an enemy out of their shared past and confront deadly Romulan treachery. In the process, Spock will decide if the path of his life now leads back toward the family traditions he had once sought to escape.
This book explores Spock's decision to defy his father and the tradition of his people to join Starfleet, and it looks ahead to how the old USS Enterprise-A stalwarts cope with the loss of Kirk to the Nexus. The story reveals the cold logic of the Vulcan mind, the ruthless pragmatism of the Romulans, and the violent passion that sometimes erupts between them. And it shows Spock's adolescent rite of passage, how he first learned to deal with Humans on their own terms, and how much progress he has made over the years.
The story introduces David Rabin, a Human who befriends Spock at his presentation at Mount Seleya, and the plot shows two intersections in the lives of Spock and Rabin, once as boys and then years later when both have the rank of Starfleet captain. The two plot lines run in parallel. In the earlier plot line, a dissident Vulcan visionary named Sered disrupts a ceremony at Mount Seleya and takes a group of hostages, both Vulcan and visiting Federation dignitaries. Sered's plan is to restore the qualities lost by the Vulcan people when they were sundered from the Romulans; he brings in Romulan allies to further his end.
Spock and Rabin, alone, trek across the harsh desert known as Vulcan's Forge, even across its volcanic heart, a hellish place known as the Womb of Fire. In a confused melee involving hallucinogenic lichen and improvised weapons, Spock kills a Romulan to protect the hostages. Raised to respect life, even to the point of being a vegetarian, Spock is forced to take a life to protect others for the first time. He realizes that his curiosity about the universe is too large to be contained by the Vulcan Science Academy, and that peace sometimes requires effective action to secure the needs of the many. He applies to join Starfleet on the recommendation of David's mother, Captain Nechama Rabin. The conflict between Spock and Sarek erupts for the first time here.
Many years later, Captain David Rabin is posted to a Federation outpost on the backward world of Obsidian, near the Romulan Neutral Zone. Rabin's efforts to protect the people of this radiation-scarred world makes little impact, partly due to a series of setbacks and unfortunate coincidences. When the wells of Kalara City are poisoned and the storehouses set ablaze, Rabin suspects the forces moving against him are more than just local malcontents. He calls for help, and the nearest Federation ship responding is the USS Intrepid II under the command of Captain Spock. Spock comes to the aid of his old friend Rabin, while Dr. McCoy comes to the planet to try to find solutions to the endemic problems of solar radiation, and Spock's second, Commander Uhura, holds the bridge while he is on the planet. Obsidian is a pre-industrial world with crowded cities and nomadic tribes, giving a Lawrence of Arabia cast to the setting. The local hermit mahdi turns out to be a certain familiar Vulcan, with a new contingent of Romulan henchmen. Again Rabin and Spock must cross hostile terrain, on a landscape that makes Vulcan's desert look positively lush by comparison. McCoy is captured by natives and Romulans.
The story ends with logical introspection and a new transition. Spock's facility for dealing with non-Vulcans gives him new options.
- A sequel, Vulcan's Heart, was released in 1998.
- The paperback edition of this novel contained Chapter Ten of the serialized novel Starfleet: Year One.
- Davin Rabin
- Nechama Rabin
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