Read Atonement Online

Authors: Kirsten Beyer

Atonement

BOOK: Atonement
13.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Thank you for downloading this Pocket Books eBook.

Join our mailing list and get updates on new releases, deals, bonus content and other great books from Pocket Books and Simon & Schuster.

or visit us online to sign up at
eBookNews.SimonandSchuster.com

For Catherine “Cady” Coleman

“From books
and words come fantasy, and sometimes, from fantasy comes union.”

—Rumi

HISTORIAN'S NOTE

The Borg Invasion has left billions dead, worlds shattered, and Starfleet in tatters (
Star Trek: Destiny
).

Now, Starfleet Medical believes a catomic plague is spreading on the worlds that managed to survive the Invasion. Doctor Sharak and Lieutenant Samantha Wildman have learned that a rogue Starfleet commander has artificially magnified the plague. Meanwhile, Seven—who is just beginning to understand the true nature of her catoms—has become a captive of the Commander. Axum, a former drone, may be working in concert with the Commander, while seeking to forward his own agenda: forcing a new Collective on all who possess the advanced Caeliar technology.

Admiral Kathryn Janeway has risked the Full Circle Fleet's safety, and ultimately, her life, in an attempt to help the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant make peace (
Star Trek Voyager: Acts of Contrition
).

This narrative begins in early March and continues through May 2382.

Prologue

SCION

F
orm was insignificant. It was a shell, a garment, a means to an end.
But it was real.
Flesh, muscles, organs, bones were composed of cells built from molecules containing atoms expressing subatomic interactions.

The dun scutes that covered the surface of this form looked and felt solid. Large obsidian pupils tinged with golden irises stared coldly beneath impressive cranial ridges. Claws filed to fine points extended from the three digits of each hand and were quite lethal, as the original inhabitant of this form, Voth Minister Odala, had felt keenly in the last few moments of her life.

But were they real?

A thought, faint as a whisper, and the image reflected in the smoky glass surface before her shifted.

A human woman.

Barely.

Little more than a girl stared at her now. The black uniform with blue trim made this form look even smaller than it was. The face was pale, dominated by large, pleading eyes. Weak hands were meant to comfort, to administer care. Her only power lay in a small piece of technology that both created and was suspended within her photonic matrix.

What consciousness had once belonged to this “Meegan” had dissipated like the morning mist as soon as she had chosen the hologram for her vessel. The device meant to hold Meegan's program was now hers to command. Over the last several months, necessity had required her to assume dozens of new forms, each essential to gathering allies. She tried to think of her new existence as a gift.

But it did not
feel
real. She missed the beating of a heart. Inhalation. Exhalation. Hunger pangs. Pain that burned, ached,
stabbed. The pleasure of a cool breeze or the gentle graze of fingertips. She would never have come so far so quickly had it not been for this hologram's manipulative properties. But the thought of spending eternity encased in a shell of light, incapable of experiencing all that made eternity worth attaining, was unimaginable.

“Soon,” she said softly to her reflection.

Soon, she could shed this form. Soon, subterfuge would no longer be required. Soon, she and the others who had been forced into agonizing solitude would be reunited. Soon, the short-lived species infecting this quadrant would rise as one under the patient tutelage and loving care of their betters to a new understanding of the true nature of existence and all of its wondrous possibilities.

Soon, she and her companions would finish the work that had begun so many millennia ago.

Soon.

A series of short tones sounded, alerting her to an incoming communication.

“It is time.”

Emem.

Devore Inspector Kashyk
, she reminded herself.

The form she had chosen for him resembled the ancient Seriareen more closely than any of the others. His smooth flesh was paler than the last he'd worn, but his features were strong and pleasantly arranged apart from slight cranial crests above each eye. Emem had chosen to keep Kashyk's thick, dark hair cut short in the Seriareen fashion for males, out of vanity as much as utility.

Kashyk was too short, of course. No matter how he struggled to maximize the potentials of a Devore body, Emem would never attain the physical strength, agility, or heightened senses of the Seriareen. But the Devore had been easy to rally to her cause because of these limitations. Their fear of the mental acuity of others had led them to dull their own, rather than develop them.

Still, their technology was formidable and their aggressive natures well suited to her purposes. At least Emem could eat
again. At least his flesh could rise in anticipation of her touch. At least he could
feel
satisfaction in all they had achieved. At least he could love her again.

She could not do the same.

Much as she wished to give herself again to him mind, body, and soul, without said body, it was impossible. The fierceness of his passion for her had not been dimmed by the millennia they had spent confined. But there were other changes that troubled her. Not that it mattered. Her new form was capable of wonders, all of which satisfied Emem's needs while leaving her unable to achieve any sense of real connection.

Dispirited, she broke a promise she had made to herself when she had first learned of her ability to assume any form she wished.

Another fleeting thought, and the last Seriareen body she had known prior to her confinement appeared before her.

She stood half a meter taller than Meegan, with skin the color of burnt umber, merciless moss-colored eyes, and a mane of pitch-black hair that tumbled in loose waves down her back. Wide strips of soft, well-worn rouge hide rode the curves of her body like a second skin. A delicately carved tusk circle cinched the black belt around her slim waist, the garment's only ornament.

The memories of that life caused significant mental distress, but without the accompanying churning of the stomach, pounding of a pulse, or tensing of muscles, the distress was a distant echo.

“Release me.”

The sound of Obih's voice returned unbidden. It had been her constant companion during the centuries of insensate darkness. It could not keep her warm, but it had breathed continuous life into the faint sparks of defiance that had remained when this body had been lost.

She no longer stood in the dimly lit quarters of the Voth minister's personal ship, the
Scion
. Instead, the deck plates of the
Solitas
shook beneath her feet.

A series of loud concussive blasts pummeled what remained of the ship's shields, and acrid smoke burned her lungs with every breath. Emem worked furiously at the weapons terminal, determined to send as many of their enemies as possible into oblivion. Xolani was attempting to seal multiple hull breaches, shouting status updates over the chaos that engulfed the ship's central control station. She worked desperately to keep their course steady as the next swarm of aggressors assumed attack formation.

Only Obih seemed calm.

“Seriareen vessel, stand down,”
a harsh voice demanded.

“Release me,” Obih said again, turning to her, the ornate hilt of his ceremonial dagger mere inches from the hands she pretended were preoccupied with flight control.

“Our reinforcements are on their way, Obih,” Emem assured their leader.

“They are already too late,” Obih reminded them. “The hax must survive.”

“The other ships,” she began.

“They are all Nayseriareen now,” Obih reminded her. “Release me,” he said again.

To what?
she wondered. To release him now was to all but admit defeat, and that was impossible.

Xolani had seen the truth before she grasped Obih's intention. To release Obih was to ensure ultimate victory. Xolani's was the hand that accepted the hilt she had refused. His was the arm that reared back and struck with all its might, burying the dagger in Obih's heart.

The cry that escaped Obih's lips in response reverberated through the
Solitas;
absolute refusal to yield.

Obih fell to the deck just as another ear-splitting roar obliterated all other ambient sounds, including further calls for their surrender. She had no choice but to begin searching the heavens for a new body.

“Lsia?”

Emem had entered her quarters soundlessly and stared at her now in suspicious pity.

“Did you not hear my summons?”

“Since
when do you summon me anywhere?” she asked.

“It is time,” he said again. “The others are already aboard the
Manticle
.”

“They can wait.”

“We have all waited much too long,” he reminded her.

“This is a mistake,” Lsia said for the tenth time since Emem had hastily assembled the officers selected to determine the fate of their prisoner, Admiral Kathryn Janeway.

Lsia had argued from the first that a formal trial be convened, an advocate assigned to the prisoner, and testimony be elicited through open questioning of the available witnesses by expert counsel. While more time consuming, the process would have demonstrated to the Confederacy that the
Kinara
were a fair and civilized alliance, intent on the pursuit of justice rather than revenge.

Emem had favored making a decisive example of the admiral through a military tribunal, and Janeway had obliged him by insisting that she would represent herself during the proceedings.

The first consul of the Confederacy, Lant Dreeg, had initiated contact with the
Kinara
several days prior to their armed confrontation and agreed that Admiral Janeway should be turned over to their custody prior to continuing negotiations. A swift resolution to the “Janeway issue” would please him and push the Confederacy and the Federation further apart.

To Lsia's consternation, Emem had easily swayed Tirrit and Adaeze. Rigger Meeml, the sole representative of the Skeen, Karlon, Muk, and Emleath forces and the only
Kinara
leader present not currently hosting one of her Seriareen companions, had seemed inclined to agree with Lsia, but ultimately they had been voted down. Emem had called this “democracy at its finest” despite the fact that he had nothing but contempt for representative forms of government.

Emem shook his head in warning. “It has been agreed.”

“She could still be of use to us.”

“The Confederacy must not be permitted to embrace the
Federation as allies. Revealing her treachery will end any doubts Dreeg's superiors may still nurture. If we allow her to live, she will counter us at every turn. And with each moment that passes, those she commands repair the damage we inflicted and plan her rescue. That cannot be allowed. The Federation must see our determination. They must know our power. They must fear us.”

“You sound more like Kashyk every day,” she chided him. “This will not make them fear us. It will make them hate us more.”

“Are there degrees of hate? Surely they hate us already.”

Lsia did not agree. But she had already lost this argument.

Reluctantly, she returned to the form of the saurian female, Odala.

Soon,
she thought again as she followed Emem from her quarters.

BOOK: Atonement
13.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Murder on Waverly Place by Victoria Thompson
Breath on the Wind by Catherine Johnson
Captive Heart by Scarlet Brady
Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis
Someone Else's Conflict by Alison Layland
JOHNNY GONE DOWN by Bajaj, Karan