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Part of the Star Trek Novel Verse, one of four books released under the "Section 31" banner. For those who don't remember them from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or Star Trek: Enterprise, Section 31 is an illegal covert operations division within the United Federation of Planets, dedicated to protecting that entity regardless of the legal or moral restrictions it would place on them.

In this novel, Captain Jean-Luc Picard learns of Section 31 while dealing with a diplomatic dispute between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, who both seek to court an inhabited planet (Chiaros) that will grant access to the local region of space to whichever it ends up joining.

The novel is perhaps, in retrospect, most notable for introducing the character of Ranul Keru, who would go on to greater things in the wider Star Trek Novel Verse.

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Tropes:

  • Alien Blood: Chiarosan blood is gray.
  • Apocalypse How: The subspace singularity apparently has the potential to cause a Class X-4 (universal destruction) should the worst-case scenario occur.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: A rare instance of each participant using the other man's native language.
    Zweller: Mnek'nra brhon, Orrha. (Good morning, Mr. Chairman.)
    Koval: Morning? An odd choice of words, Commander Zweller, considering where we are. But I must compliment you. Your accent is virtually undetectable. Section 31 trains its operatives very well indeed.
  • Blast Out: What happens during the Peace Conference on Chiaros IV. It's never even revealed who fired the first shot, but the casualties include Ambassador Tabor and La Résistance leader Falhain.
  • Blatant Lies: Lampshaded when Geordi, obviously exhausted and nursing a headache, claims that he's just fine when Data asks if he's all right.
    Data: I have noticed that, among humans, even the closest of friends will, on occasion, deliberately prevaricate to one another. I believe that your response constitutes what Commander Riker would almost certainly describe as a "whopper".
    Geordi: Guilty as charged, Data.
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  • Call-Back: To the Bar Brawl with the Nausicaans that led to Picard needing an artificial heart (which becomes a plot point in the latter half of the novel).
  • Carnivore Confusion: Played with; Captain Blaylock enjoys sushi, but hasn't been comfortable eating it since Glebuk joined her crew, Glebuk being an Antedean.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: When Hawk tells Picard about Section 31, he seems to expect that he'll be in serious trouble. Picard does lecture him about the importance of being honest from the beginning, but also commends him for doing the right thing in the end.
  • Deal with the Devil: Zweller sees the deal between Section 31 and the Tal Shiar as this.
  • Eidetic Memory: Lieutenant Hawk. It's one of the reasons why Tabor wants to recruit him into Section 31.
  • Endless Daytime: On one side of Chiaros IV, while the other side is Always Night, as it is a Tidally Locked Planet.
  • Fictionary: The Romulan Rihannsu language makes another appearance.
  • First-Name Basis:
    • Tabor encourages this with Hawk while making the recruiting pitch.
    • Hawk is a bit surprised at one point when Picard calls him "Sean" instead of "Lieutenant Hawk". Of course, Hawk had just saved Picard's life, as Picard himself points out.
  • Framing Device: The aftermath of Star Trek: First Contact. Picard starts reflecting on the Chiaros mission while reading the casualty list from their battle with the Borg, and the book ends with him and Keru visiting Hawk's parents on Mars.
  • Gesundheit: This joke is used when Gomp the Tellarite sneezes very loudly.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Subverted with Tabor, who encourages Batanidies — his lover — to catch up on old times with Picard. This gives him a chance to do his work for Section 31.
  • He Knows Too Much: Basically why the Romulans destroy the Slayton.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: The Tellarite Gomp is a doctor, not a tricorder.
  • Insane Admiral: Picard is unpleasantly surprised that Admiral Batanidies is with Starfleet Intelligence, possibly fearing that she'll turn out to be corrupt like Pressman was. Ultimately subverted — she proves to be a Reasonable Authority Figure who's furious to learn about Section 31 and vows to do what she can to stop them.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Up to Eleven, as the Romulans hide the subspace singularity within a cloaking field big enough to conceal a gas giant.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Section 31's deal with the Tal Shiar to let the Romulans have the Geminus Gulf in exchange for a list of Romulan spies in The Federation. Zweller muses that if they'd known about the subspace singularity, they wouldn't have made the bargain.
  • Jumped at the Call: Lieutenant Hawk. He allows that Starfleet was a natural choice for him; having grown up with a novelist mother who specialized in adventure stories, he found the idea of a "normal" desk job unbearably dull.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Re the elections on Chiaros IV — as the events unfold, Picard accepts that the Federation has lost its bid on the planet and focuses instead on dealing with the subspace singularity.
  • Man Bites Man: Doctor Gomp, a Tellarite medical officer, takes on a Chiarosan warrior by biting into his arm.
  • The Mole:
    • Cortin Zweller is Section 31's mole aboard the Slayton (until her destruction).
    • Ambassador Tabor tries to recruit Hawk as a mole aboard the Enterprise.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The whole plot essentially revolves around one, though it's not apparent at first. A subspace singularity of great power lies in the disputed region; this is why the Romulans are so eager to claim an otherwise barren stretch of space. The singularity releases a subspace distortion wave that hits the USS Slayton, because the Negative Space Wedgie needs to have some sort of negative effect on a starship...
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Because of the aforementioned threat posed by the singularity, Picard decides that the best course of action is to permanently shove it into subspace.
  • Not So Different: Koval compares The Federation to the Borg in terms of conquest.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: How Koval regards Batanidies disguising herself as a mere lieutenant, as he already knows who she is.
  • Peace Conference: One which ends horribly, with Ambassador Tabor and several Chiarosans dead.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Koval may be a Manipulative Bastard who wants to harness an extremely dangerous phenomenon, but he doesn't approve of killing if it's not necessary. He even executes the commander of the warbird that destroyed the already-crippled Slayton.
  • Proud Warrior Race:
    • The Chiarosans, explicitly referred to as such.
    • There are two Balduk among the Enterprise crew in this novel; Balduk are themselves a Proud Warrior Race.
  • Psychic Static: Zweller knows mental techniques that let him block Troi from reading his emotions.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Yeah, the Romulans gain control of Chiaros IV and the entire Geminus Gulf, but they lose the subspace singularity they wanted, meaning that there's absolutely nothing else in the area that's of use to anyone. It's also hinted that their control of the Chiarosans may not last as long as they want.
  • Rescue Romance: Hawk and Keru met when Hawk injured himself spelunking and Keru came to help him. They've been an item since.
  • Redshirt Army: Everybody on the Slayton, save for the survivors on Chiaros IV.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Common in Romulan politics, and this novel is no exception. Koval pulls it on Pardek, whose daughter is "such a lovely child".
  • Spider-Sense: During the Peace Conference, Troi gets a sudden "Oh, Crap!" face and pushes Picard out of the way of a phaser beam, and everything goes straight to hell.
  • Stealth in Space: The Romulans manage to hide a region of space containing their Negative Space Wedgie by surrounding it with buoys that carry cloaking devices, whose cloaking fields overlap.
  • Straight Gay: Ranul Keru and his partner Sean Hawk.
  • Stunned Silence: When Data delivers a report to Picard and Batanidies regarding Zweller and his possible involvement with Chiarosan rebels.
    The silence in the room was palpable. Data couldn't have shocked his superiors more if he had suddenly broken out into a soft-shoe song-and-dance routine.
  • Talk to the Fist: Batanides clocks Zweller when she realizes that he and Tabor were working together for Section 31.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Batanidies reacts to Tabor's death by smashing a vase.
  • The Unfettered: Hawk starts to see Section 31 as this, and decides that he wants nothing to do with it.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The rescue plan is well-discussed; it goes wrong when the rescue shuttle is destroyed, forcing our heroes to hijack a Romulan scout ship.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Zweller's involvement with Section 31 and the events on Chiaros IV pretty much ends his friendship with Picard and Batanidies.
  • Written by the Winners: Grelun comments on this.

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