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       Star Trek: New Frontier®: Blind Man’s Bluff, p.1

           Peter David
 
Star Trek: New Frontier®: Blind Man’s Bluff


  Praise for Peter David and

  Star Trek: New Frontier®

  “Peter David mixes wry humor… with tense drama…. [His] narrative is populated by a vast array of previously minor characters from the screen incarnations of Star Trek, all vividly fleshed out into well-rounded personalities.”

  —Sci-Fi Online

  “Peter David is the best Star Trek novelist around.”

  —Starburst

  “A new Star Trek novel by Peter David is always a good bet.”

  —SF Site

  Star Trek: New Frontier novels by Peter David

  In chronological order

  House of Cards

  Into the Void

  The Two-Front War

  End Game

  Martyr

  Fire on High

  The Captain’s Table #5: Once Burned

  Double Helix #5: Double or Nothing

  The Quiet Place

  Dark Allies

  Excalibur: Requiem

  Excalibur: Renaissance

  Excalibur: Restoration

  Gateways #6: Cold Wars

  Being Human

  Gods Above

  No Limits (anthology edited by Peter David)

  Stone and Anvil

  After the Fall

  Missing in Action

  Treason

  Blind Man’s Bluff

  Gallery Books

  A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  ™, ® and © 2011 by CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc.

  This book is published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., under exclusive license from CBS Studios Inc.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book

  or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information,

  address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department,

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

  First Gallery Books trade paperback edition April 2011

  GALLERY BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  ISBN 978-0-7434-2960-3

  ISBN 978-0-7434-2965-8 (ebook)

  Contents

  Chapter 1: Xenex

  Chapter 2: Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

  Chapter 3: Tendara Colony

  Chapter 4: Bravo Station

  Chapter 5: U.S.S. Excalibur Computer Core

  Chapter 6: Starfleet Headquarters

  Chapter 7: Xenex

  Chapter 8: U.S.S. Excalibur

  Chapter 9: The Daystrom Institute

  Chapter 10: Xenex

  Chapter 11: Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

  Chapter 12: Xenex

  Chapter 13: U.S.S. Excalibur, En Route to New Thallon Minus Her Captain

  Chapter 14: Daystrom Institute

  Chapter 15: U.S.S. Excalibur, Orbiting New Thallon Ten Hours Later

  Chapter 16: Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

  Chapter 17: Xenex

  Chapter 18: U.S.S. Excalibur

  Chapter 19: The Spectre

  Chapter 20: U.S.S. Dauntless

  Chapter 21: Xenex

  Chapter 22: U.S.S. Excalibur

  Chapter 23: Brethren Transport Vessel

  Chapter 24: The Spectre

  Chapter 25: U.S.S. Excalibur

  Chapter 26: U.S.S. Dauntless

  Chapter 27: U.S.S. Excalibur

  Chapter 28: U.S.S. Dauntless

  Chapter 29: Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

  Chapter 30: U.S.S. Excalibur

  Chapter 31: Xenex

  Xenex

  Now

  M’k’n’zy of Calhoun was alone, which prompted him to wonder, Where the hell are they?

  M’k’n’zy kept his back against the rocky wall of the mountain behind him. His breathing was light and shallow, and anyone listening in—and he was certain there was no one around—would have been hard-pressed to hear any manner of stress or strain in it. Furthermore, if any observers had happened to have biological sensors with them and been monitoring his heartbeat from a distance, they would have discovered that his pulse was slow and steady. Had he been lying out on a towel at some comfortable beach resort, he would have displayed about the same level of readings.

  In short, anyone who was studying M’k’n’zy’s current situation would never have guessed that he was fighting for his life.

  One might have surmised it was because M’k’n’zy had been fighting for his life for as long as he could remember, and had simply grown beyond both the fear and the adrenaline rush that others had when they were in similar situations. This, however, would have been an underestimation of the man. It had nothing to do with repetition. Instead it stemmed entirely from the way he had trained himself since the beginning of his career as the warlord of Xenex.

  It hadn’t been that way in the beginning. When, at the tender age of fourteen, he had killed his first enemy, his breath had come in ragged gasps, and excitement had pounded through his body. It had taken long minutes for him to calm down as he stared at the corpse of his enemy and both savored and feared the fact that it had been his hand that had struck the lethal blow.

  But he had learned in short order that such unfocused concepts as fright or excitement reduced his efficiency as a killer. That’s what a warlord was, after all: A killer who was very, very good at his job. So good, in fact, that others were willing to follow him through the gates of hell if it meant conquering an enemy.

  So M’k’n’zy had ruthlessly trained himself to get a solid grip on his own biology. To him, his reactions (or lack thereof) were simply another tool or skill set to be honed, along with aim and swordsmanship. He would observe the men he led into battle, and he would see the fire in their eyes and the fury in their movements, and he wished he could impart some of his own cold-bloodedness to them. But he knew that ultimately everyone had their limits and they did the best they could with whatever the gods had given them. It was simply one of M’k’n’zy’s gifts—along with an ability to sense danger that bordered on the supernatural—that he was able to go into battle with such dispassion that he might as well have been a passive witness instead of a participant.

  As a result, some who watched M’k’n’zy in action came to the conclusion that he was indifferent to the outcome of his battles. Some even whispered to each other, when they were sure he wasn’t around, that he had some manner of death wish.

  Nothing could have been further from the truth. M’k’n’zy had no desire to die. This was the reason he had developed the technique of disconnect that had served him so well. Too many people perished in skirmishes because they allowed the heat of the battle to overwhelm them, and thus either made mistakes or got themselves in so deep that they froze in fear, suddenly believing that they would not get out of the situation alive. To allow for the possibility of your own death was to see it in your mind’s eye, and mental visualizations could lead to real-world consequences. Imagining what
would happen if an opponent succeeded in splitting your skull open with an axe or blowing it off with a blaster was exactly the thing that could lead to your decapitation.

  He who hesitates is lost. A worthwhile and salient human saying, and one with which M’k’n’zy readily agreed.

  So removing oneself emotionally from the fray was the best way to survive it. This was the philosophy under which M’k’n’zy had lived his life and, as a result, he had continued to live.

  It was uncertain, however, just how much longer he was going to be able to claim that status.

  Where the hell are they? M’k’n’zy wondered yet again. He did not allow fear for his followers to cloud his concerns. It was more irritation that they were not where they were supposed to be. He had waited long enough to realize they were not going to meet with him as intended. That meant one of two things: they had been wiped out to the man, which of course he hoped was not the case; or, the enemy had managed to cut off their route to the rendezvous point. Naturally M’k’n’zy had anticipated that possibility, and so he had arranged a backup meeting place.

  The only remaining question was whether M’k’n’zy would be able to make it there.

  He reached out with his finely honed senses, endeavoring to determine if he was truly alone. The rocky pass in which he was secreted was an excellent place for an ambush. He was under a stone overhang that shielded him from the view of anyone who might be above him, while offering a clear sightline into a passageway below. Anyone trying to make their way through the crevasse running through the mountain would be a perfect target for him.

  He had to work on the assumption, though, that the enemy would not be that stupid. If they were, well, then it was a gift and he would take full advantage of it. But there was no point in sitting around and waiting to see if anyone showed up that he could try to pick off from hiding, particularly if it delayed his meeting up with his troops.

  It wasn’t as if the enemy was especially stealthy; their armor made a distinctive clanking when they approached. Then there was the fact that his sixth sense for danger, which had never let him down before, wasn’t alerting him to any immediate threat. He was safe, or at least as safe as the current situation permitted.

  M’k’n’zy knew his way around the mountains of Xenex better than any other man alive. He knew that, from where he was positioned, there was an angled, sheltered pathway that would get him to the ground without exposing him to attack. It would be an easy matter to make it to that path unobserved.

  The ideal course of action would have been to wait for night, but he had no desire to remain separated from his troops for that long. They needed him. They were up against a devastating, even overwhelming enemy, and his leadership and skill were an absolute necessity. He cursed his inability to communicate with them over long distances, and resolved that—once this business was done—he would make certain that the Xenexian army was properly outfitted with the sort of equipment necessary to fight a war. Certainly he had to assume that their enemies possessed the ability to stay in touch with each other, as if the Xenexians didn’t already have enough disadvantages.

  The sun was not quite at its zenith, and M’k’n’zy decided not to wait any longer. Keeping to the wall as closely as possible, he started making his way toward the path that would take him to the ground. From there he would head due east, trying to stick to areas of cover as much as possible. There would be a few points along the way where he would be vulnerable to observers, but it couldn’t be helped. He would just have to trust his reflexes and experiences to see him through.

  Frequently the planet itself was the single greatest defense against intruders, because off-worlders typically found the brutal Xenexian climate to be nearly overwhelming. Unfortunately that was not the case now. The enemy that M’k’n’zy was facing was as indifferent to the heat as was M’k’n’zy himself. He could not count on the environment to wear them down or make them think that departing Xenex in exasperation was the best option. If he and his men were going to get rid of them, it was going to have to be done by outthinking and outmaneuvering them.

  The long minutes crawled past. The entire way down, M’k’n’zy kept waiting for some sort of attack. He was holding a sword in his hand, keeping it firm and steady.

  Ten feet shy of reaching the ground, he stopped dead.

  Something was wrong up ahead. He wasn’t sure what it was, but that alone was enough to bring him to full alert. He strained, trying to see what could possibly be waiting for him that presented a threat, but there didn’t appear to be anything. Nevertheless the hairs on the back of his neck were prickling, and that was enough to keep him rooted to the spot.

  He glanced down and picked up a rock at his feet. It had some decent heft to it. He cradled it for a moment and then lobbed it down the stony, uneven path before him. It clacked and clattered its way down, and for a few moments, M’k’n’zy was sure that his sixth sense had betrayed him. He wasn’t quite sure how to react to that: Was it better that someone wasn’t trying to kill him, or that the instincts upon which he had depended for so long had somehow gone awry?

  The ground exploded in front of him.

  Landmine screamed through his head even as the blast knocked him backward. He cursed himself for his sloppiness; he should have braced his back against the rock wall again rather than standing there like an idiot, waiting to see what would happen. He fell back heavily, scraping his elbows, pain shooting through his arms. In a strange way, he welcomed it. It was a harsh reminder that he could take nothing for granted and had to allow for every possible eventuality.

  He heard a familiar clanking from below. His sharp ears told him that it was only one person approaching him. A lookout must have been left behind to monitor the booby trap. And that sentinel, M’k’n’zy realized, would likely think that he was going to come upon the remains of a badly shredded body instead of an enemy who was ready for battle.

  With the thought came instant action; hesitation simply was not part of M’k’n’zy’s genetic code. He was still about ten feet above the pathway below, and without pausing, M’k’n’zy scrambled to his feet and vaulted off the uneven path. For an instant he hung in the air, and it felt free and liberating, and then he landed noiselessly on the ground below. He had kept his arm extended and away from him so that he didn’t chance landing on his own sword, since that would certainly be an ignominious way to end a storied career.

  He sprinted forward, silent, and within seconds saw exactly what he knew he was going to see.

  An armored figure, with a helmet that completely encased its head so that no hint of features was visible, stood at the base of the path that twisted upward into the hills. It was scanning the area, using the thermal imaging that M’k’n’zy knew provided it with the ability to see its surroundings. He also knew that he had scant seconds before the armored figure became aware of him, and he raced toward his enemy.

  He was not quick enough.

  The armored figure turned and looked right at him, and then brought its palm level with M’k’n’zy. It was frustrating to M’k’n’zy that his enemies did not carry sidearms. Blasters or disruptors or phasers could be knocked out of their hands, rendering them weaponless and giving him an advantage. These bastards had all their weaponry built right into their armor, and that made disarming them impossible. The only option left was killing them. Not that M’k’n’zy would hesitate to do so, but it seemed a waste, making it impossible to take one of them down and grill him for information. They had two modes: attack and dead.

  The one thing that M’k’n’zy had going for him was that, when his enemy did fire, the weapon required a few moments to recharge. By contrast, M’k’n’zy’s sword didn’t need any time at all.

  Energy crackled in the palm of the armored figure’s metal gauntlet and M’k’n’zy knew he was going to have to time his movement perfectly. He also needed to get his attacker to commit to the assault. He charged with all of his body weight leaning forward, howling a defi
ant battlecry, conveying in every way the image of someone totally committed to this particular path and trajectory, either unaware or uncaring of whatever offensive strategy the enemy might employ.

  The armored figure unleashed a blast of energy when M’k’n’zy was still ten feet away.

  M’k’n’zy never slowed his attack. Instead he leaped to the side, rebounding directly off the mountainous wall to his right. He felt the air sizzling just to his left, and some of his hair crispened slightly. If the blast had struck home, or even provided a glancing blow, he would have been finished.

  As it was, the angle of his attack brought him within range of his assailant. He saw the target that he needed: the small vent on the side of the helmet, the one that permitted the creatures to keep their inner temperature balanced. It was incredibly narrow, seemingly impregnable. A flaw in their armor that should not have put them at risk in any way.

  M’k’n’zy drove the point of his sword forward, trying to stab deep into the vent.

  He almost made it.

  The armored being moved with a speed that belied its appearance. It brought up its hand and brushed aside M’k’n’zy’s blade just before the sword could strike home. The enemy’s weaponry had not recharged yet, but it didn’t matter. The soldier swung his fist around in a pile driver move that struck M’k’n’zy in the temple, knocking him to the ground. Scalding heat radiated along the glove and seared M’k’n’zy’s skin. M’k’n’zy cried out as he hit the ground and the sword was jolted out of his grasp.

  M’k’n’zy twisted around and saw the bottom of his enemy’s boot driving straight toward his head. He rolled to the side, barely evading the attack, and instead the foot came down on his sword, shattering it.

  Quickly M’k’n’zy got to his feet and tried to find a new direction from which he could come at his opponent, but the armored figure wasn’t giving him the opportunity. Instead it brought its hand up again, its weapon fully charged, and from this distance it seemed there was simply no way that it could miss him.

  The armored figure fired.

  And missed.

  M’k’n’zy had dropped to the ground faster than would have seemed possible, and the air again fried over his head. The cliffside behind him exploded, rock fragments flying. Pieces rebounded around him, and he brought up his arms to shield his head. There was a series of rapid pok sounds as the debris ricocheted off his opponent’s armor.

 
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