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While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavouring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….


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This novel contains examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Played for laughs, as Kirk fancies Janith-Lau (comparing her to Spock several times), who asks him if Bones is seeing anyone, and he finds the switch around funny.
  • Be Yourself: The aesop everyone says the Warborn must embrace, but since they're living weapons, that's a tricky one. The logical contradiction in being told to be yourself and not being allowed to do the thing they were designed for, even if it's of their own free will, causes the poor things no end of angst.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Nyota’s brother Malcolm is angry at her at first for not coming to see her family after her mind wipe, but soon warms up, and volunteers for the emergency program as the crisis is connected to his sister.
  • Call-Forward:
    • The book takes place before the second movie, with Cartwright warning Kirk that he needs to play by Starfleet rules and not become a maverick.
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    • Kirk remembers Khan and how both he and Starfleet had moved on from that matter maybe a little too swiftly.
    • Seven year old Demora Sulu is annoyed by Starfleet calling her Honorary Uncle Pavel during dinner, and refuses to join them until they stop interrupting people while they’re busy.
    • Spock and Kirk are on separate missions, but they’re still connected, “as we have been and always shall be”.
  • Canon Immigrant: Uhura's uncle comes from the IDW comics for the Kelvin timeline. Apparently the fates were kinder to him in this timeline, since he's not dead.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The novel begins with a bunch of kids from Starfleet Academy having snuck out to have some fun on Argelius. Their shuttle is hit by a Negative Space Wedgie, killing everyone but them. The Reliant manages to save them and patch them up, but Chekhov tells them their parents have been told... and they're very unhappy.
  • Central Theme: Kirk’s plot brings up that for all Starfleet’s talk of peace, everyone under it is still expected to fight as it’s a military outreach of the Federation.
  • The Chew Toy: Chekhov suffers once more. Naturally, when the Negative Space Wedgie hits the Reliant, guess who gets it right in the shoulder. Before he passes out, Pavel even notes how it's still happening to him.
  • Classified Information: Kirk actually did want Ceti Alpha V designated an official penal colony, partly in the hopes of giving Khan and the Augments positive attention. Then Starfleet got worried about the Klingons learning about them, and buried all the information. They promised Kirk they'd keep an eye on things, and he believed them. Oops.
  • Classy Cane: Rhen, Kirk's former XO from The Captain's Oath, has gotten herself one in the intervening years. She doesn't really need it, thanks to advances in medical tech, and couldn't really be called "classy" by any means, but she keeps it because it looks fancy.
  • Clear Their Name: As the flares have something to do with where Uhura has visited, Cartwright accuses her of being against the Federation, something that both Kirk and Spock try to tell him is ridiculous.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Chekhovs' introductory scene has him thinking about the events of "Wolf in the Fold". His absence from the episode is because he was on shore leave on Argelius III. In true Chekhov "never gets the girl" fashion, Lt. Tracy (one of Redjac's victims) was a gal he had a crush on.
    • The First Klingon War gets mentioned. Kirk was serving on the Farragut at the time. L'Rell gets a name drop shortly thereafter.
    • When trying to work out what's causing the disasters, Starfleet wonders if warp drive is weakening subspace, but this is dismissed because they're not happening near major activities of space travel like Earth or Vulcan.
    • As he did in the similarly Bennett-penned Ex Machina, McCoy complains about the newest Starfleet uniforms.
    • The current Klingon Chancellor is Kesh, the guy before Gorkon, as established in the novels In the Name of Honor and the Mere Anarchy series.
    • At the academy, a long-banned hazing practice is known as “the Finnegan”.
    • One of Uhura's old crewmates remembers one of her friends was an Orion girl, but her name eludes her memory.
    • The mind sifted-suffering Reppert only remembers Spock from Pike’s ship, which he thinks is “Discovery”.
    • The V'Ger incident is brought up again. The fact the refitted Enterprise was The Only One is brought up again, with the new justification that between the First Klingon War and general Starfleet weirdness, they were stretched too thin.
    • Bones repeats Kirk from “A Taste Of Armageddon”, “we know we’re killers, but we can decide we won’t kill today”, Janith-Lau finds that attitude very cynical.
    • At the end of the novel, Simok and T'Viss of the Department of Temporal Investigations get a mention.
  • Control Freak: Janith-Lau gently calls out Bones, Spock and Kirk on all being terrible at delegating responsibility.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Uhura gets a plot all to herself, dealing with the Mind Rape of “The Changeling” as the author found it to be treated as an afterthought in the episode.
  • Deconstruction: Uhura’s plot is about how NOMAD erased her mind of her past, and the trauma she feels over having to pretend she was alright not remembering her family.
  • Depending on the Writer: Lampshaded, as Portia protests nobody can agree what Starfleet is (an imperialist military or full of diplomats) and asks Kirk how he can reconcile it all.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Portia responds to being framed by grabbing some phasers and taking Ashley and her pacifists hostage. It's pointed out, and she eventually concedes, that this was pretty stupid no matter what way it would've turned out, but she had absolutely no idea what else to do, and panicked.
  • Discredited Meme: Kirk’s in-universe opinion of “risk is our business”, it sounded better before it was quoted all the time.
  • Ditto Aliens: Due to the nature of their origin, all Warborn tend to look identical, even lacking a lot of sexual characteristics, so the ones at Starfleet Academy must wear specialized uniforms so people can tell them apart. Of course, this means if one Warborn wanted to frame another, all they'd have to do is copy their mannerisms and clothing...
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The effects of the mind-sifter bear a striking resemblance to dementia.
  • Dramatic Irony: A little, but early on everyone in Starfleet is worried the Romulans, their alliance with the Klingons having broken up, might be rearming for Round 2 with humanity. Readers familiar with TNG know it's not Starfleet who should be concerned.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Uhura doesn't usually give people her first name because it means "star", and she didn't want the teasing that comes of being someone called "Star" in Starfleet.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: As he's going over Warborn biology, Bones realises that by technicality they're a One Sex Race, and from there figures that the Warborn responsible for murder doesn't have to be one of the female ones...
  • Hot-Blooded: Portia, the Warborn. However, it doesn't make her a Jerkass. It does make her easy to frame, though.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Starfleet’s military leanings don’t go unnoticed by Spock, looking around Kirk’s apartment at all the antique guns adorning his walls. Nor by Bones, who has always complained about Kirk identifying himself more of a soldier than a diplomat. That and Starfleet meaning different things to different people is a Central Theme of that plot.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Bones isn’t a very good cook, Janith-Lau points this out and he feigns offense with “I’m a doctor, not a restauranteur”.
  • Jerkass:
    • Cartwright is a paranoid asshole, blaming anyone he can, but keeping enough decorum to keep under the radar.
    • Styles, the future captain of the Excelsior, makes an appearance during a briefing. He's generally just smug and smarmy.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Since "The Changeling" is pretty important to the plot, there is a bit of acknowledgement about some of its odder moments, such as Spock noting Tan Ru was ludicrously overpowered for a simple probe, and figures it might've been designed for something else. The similarities between NOMAD and V'Ger are acknowledged; turns out Roykirk was inspired by the Voyager probes. And the whole "programmed to recognize Roykirk" thing? The man was an egotistical sort who recorded a message on NOMAD emphasizing how great he felt he was.
    • It’s mentioned that Uhura rarely gave out her first name, and only to people she trusted.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: As is common with Christopher L Bennett, vid dramas portray Kirk as a womaniser and Kirk starts believing his own rep, with Bones annoyed because he knows his friend isn’t like that and Janith-Lau not interested because she’s heard he sleeps around a lot.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Lampshaded, as Terrell teases Chekov that the Enterprise crew always has to be at the centre of everything.
  • The Matchmaker: Bones tries to set up Kirk with someone because the man is lonely, and he thinks of himself as a lost cause anyway.
  • Meaningful Name: Horatio, the real killer, poisons himself and gets a “good night sweet prince” from his sister, before snapping his neck.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Nyota causes a lot of grief, both in her past friendships and the problem of the week, by trying to move on after NOMAD wipes her memory and ignoring all of her past.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Kirk admits to Portia that a lot of the peaceful terms he came to with a lot of enemies came after really wanting to fight, and brings up “Errand Of Mercy” as he and Kor were forced to accept the treaty.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: The late John Gill has gone down as a laughingstock in the historian community for the whole "recreate Nazi Germany" thing. Uhura's family get a good chuckle over it at their reunion.
  • Resolved Noodle Incident: The Acturian backstory broadly resolves the Maltuvis plot from the Enterprise relaunch novels, which had suddenly ended before that plotline could be finished. Turns out Maltuvis tried invading Actura, and with their army of supersoldiers, they kicked the crud out of him.
  • Seen It All: Having been threatened by a lot of people over her career, Uhura isn't remotely intimidated by Admiral Cartwright, even without knowing he's just as clueless as everyone else.
  • Sex for Solace: Alluded to, as Kirk tries to hint to Spock that Uhura is allowed to have unaccounted for hours on shore leave to do… whatever she wants.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The B-plot has a group of Warborn being inducted into Starfleet Academy, kickstarting lots of debate about whether they belong there, and the ethics of their very existence. Eventually, one of them snaps and murders several of the others. The remainder, meanwhile, ruin their chances of staying at the Academy anyway, and decide to go into retreat on Vulcan.
  • Ship Tease: Uhura and Scotty are very close, even aside from bonding over NOMAD trauma, and Spock mentions that Uhura used to be flirty with him.
  • Shout-Out: Toward the end, Portia tries quoting Hamlet at Kirk, namely the old "to thine own self be true" line. Of course, since she's dealing with Kirk, who's got some intimate knowledge of Hamlet himself, he points out the source of the line is Polonius, a Seemingly Profound Fool.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Ashley Janith-Lau is interested in Bones because he’s a healer, and not Kirk because she’s “heard about his reputation” and he’s a military man.
  • Theme Naming: The Acturan supersoldiers are all named after characters from Shakespeare. They really like Shakespeare.
  • Trauma Button: Kirk decides to not mention to the Acturian that he’s talking to that their rendition of Hamlet reminds him of Tarsus IV.
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