If you’re like us, you’ll agree that Fall is the perfect time to sit down with a new Star Trek novel! We just can’t wait to join the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise in this latest saga set during the original Five-Year mission — Star Trek: The Original Series: A Contest of Principles by Greg Cox. Captain James T. Kirk is dispatched by Starfleet to be an impartial observer during the planet Vok’s first free election in years, Dr. Leonard McCoy goes missing from a mission on the nearby planet Braco, and First Officer Spock and Christine Chapel lead a team in search of the missing chief medical officer. The stability of an entire sector is at stake in this novel, and we’re excited to share an exclusive excerpt and audio clip!
Galileo touched down on a paved landing pad at the foot of the hills, below the town. The landing party gathered up their gear and supplies and exited the shuttlecraft. A brisk wind chilled McCoy’s bones, making him wonder if he should have put on a jacket over his uniform. All three humans had been inoculated against Rigelian fever before leaving the Enterprise, so there was no chance of them contracting the disease or spreading it when they departed, provided they maintained proper sterilization protocols. They glanced around the landing pad, which appeared empty except for a few rusty vehicles that looked as though they had been sitting there since Pike captained the Enterprise. Weeds sprouted through cracks in the pavement. Only rustling brush greeted them.
“No reception committee?” Levine asked.
“Apparently not,” Chapel said.
“This is damn strange,” McCoy said. “It’s not as though I was expecting a red carpet, but where is everybody?”
The lonely stillness puzzled him. If the outbreak was as bad as advertised, the place should be swarming with emergency medical personnel. Even if the local doctors and nurses were ill equipped to combat the fever, you’d think they’d be on hand to treat the victims’ symptoms and try to ease their distress.
“That’s what I was wondering,” Chapel said. “Perhaps the whole area has been placed under quarantine?”
“Maybe,” McCoy said, “but there still ought to be doctors caring for the patients inside the restricted zone, unless somebody decided to callously write off the entire town in order to contain the infection.”
Sadly, such heartless measures were not unknown. Plague-ridden communities had sometimes been walled off by panicked authorities, both in Earth’s past and on other worlds. It was hard to imagine that such atrocities could occur in a warp-capable civilization, but McCoy had seen too much to think that technological progress always went hand in hand with ethical advances. Just look at the Klingons and the Romulans, for example.
“I don’t know,” Levine said. “In that case, wouldn’t there be barricades and guards to keep people from entering or leaving the quarantined area? Nobody ordered us away.”
“Good point,” McCoy said. “Are we sure we have the right coordinates?”
“Absolutely.” Levine activated his tricorder. “I’m picking up some life signs up ahead, although it’s hard to get a clear reading from this distance.”
That’s encouraging, McCoy thought. “Guess we need to get closer then.”
A steep pathway, cutting between two tall ridges, led up to the town. Moving walkways had once assisted visitors, but, like the derelict vehicles on the landing pad, the people conveyors had obviously been out of commission for some time. The long-term neglect could not be attributed to the recent outbreak; McCoy could only assume that the mining outpost had fallen on hard times long before the fever struck. He shook his head at the forlorn conditions; he’d seen failed colonies in border systems that were less run-down. How many people still lived here, and how many of them were left?
The path was poorly maintained, and the fading sunlight didn’t make it any easier to navigate. McCoy stumbled over a bulge where a thick root had warped the paving. Chapel grabbed his arm to keep him from falling.
“Watch your step, Doctor.”
“I’ll do that.” McCoy regained his footing. “Thanks for the assist.”
“Anytime.” She let go of his arm. “Last thing we need is another patient on our hands.”
Assuming there are still fever victims left to treat, McCoy thought. He was starting to have his doubts about that. This place felt like a morgue, not a community teeming with sick people. Was it possible even the doctors had succumbed to the fever already?
To McCoy’s slight amazement, they made it to the top of the path without breaking their necks. An empty square provided no ready answers. Silent buildings surrounded them. No faces appeared in the darkened windows. Weeds clotted the gravelly floor of the square. A collapsed roof rendered a nearby storage shed unusable. Dislodged solar panels littered the ground. A derelict zee-gee forklift had toppled over onto its side. Vines had grown up around the wreck. Stagnant puddles filled depressions. A small lizard-like creature, no more than eight centimeters long, slithered away from the newcomers’ approach, vanishing into a murky sewer grating. Nothing else seemed to notice their arrival. Nothing else seemed to be there to notice.
“It’s like a ghost town,” Levine said.
“Not like a ghost town.” McCoy looked around, his eyes adjusting to the dimming light. “No fever could do this in only a matter of days. Something’s not right here.”
“Hello?” Chapel called out, raising her voice. “Is anyone here?”
Her voice echoed off the silent walls encircling them. McCoy grew increasingly uneasy. “You might as well save your breath, Nurse. I’m getting a bad feeling about this house call.”
Levine looked apprehensive as well. He glanced back the way they’d come. “Maybe we should turn around and—”
A bright yellow disruptor burst came from one of the darkened windows, striking Levine before he even knew what hit him. He collapsed onto the weeds and gravel.
It’s an ambush! McCoy realized. They lured us here like lambs to the slaughter!
Star Trek: The Original Series: A Contest of Principles releases in paperback, audiobook, and electronic format on November 10. Learn more here.