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Authors: Unknown

Fire On High

THE SHUTTLE BAY DOORS

REMAINED SEALED . . .

.
. . but Morgan Lefler, mother to Lieutenant Robin Lefler, did not see that as being a problem for much longer.

From the shuttle's control panel, she targeted the bay doors and opened fire. The phasers blasted outward, pounding into the doors and easily smashing through them, sending large pieces of the triple-layered duranium doors tumbling into space.

She prepared to lift off . . . and that was when something ricocheted off the front of the shuttle, tumbling away. Then she heard something much fainter, a bump against the lower section of the ship.

"I don't believe it," she said.

Ambassador Si Cwan, former prince of the Thai-Ionian Empire, was clutching the right warp nacelle of the shuttle, with bare seconds to live before the howling vacuum of space dragged him to his death. . . .

FIRE ON HIGH

PETER D A V I D

New Frontier concept by

John J. Ordover and Peter David
POCKET BOOKS

New York London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents 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.

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

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Copyright © 1998 by Paramount Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

STAR TREK is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures.

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FIRE ON HIGH

ELSEWHERE . . .

THE ONLY SOUND ON THE PLANET Ahmista is the sound of a woman singing.

Oh, there are a few other sounds as well, but they are merely the sounds of the planet itself. The gentle breeze glides across the plains, moving the ashes through the air with subtle urging. (The ashes have been there for quite some time, but they dwindle in quantity with every passing day and every vagrant breeze, to say nothing of the cleansing provided by the occasional storm or downpour.)

There are also the normal grindings of tectonic plates, and a continent away there's an island of volcanoes that can raise a particularly impressive racket. Birds flap their wings against the wind; waves lap against shores, occasionally leaving a film of ash decorating the beaches.

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Peter David

But other than that . . . nothing.

The noise is rather conspicuous in its absence. No noise of a living, breathing population. There are none of the sounds of industry. Nor are there the sounds of people laughing or talking, or children crying out to be tended to. There are no sounds as subtle as lovers whispering in the dark, or as officious as bombs whistling through the air.

Nothing but her singing.

It is an odd song in that the tune seems to vary from one moment to the next. She lilts her way through it, never stopping except at those times when her fatigued mind and body require sleep. She does not like to give in to those urges, because it interferes with her vigilance, but every so often her head simply droops forward of its own accord and sleep steals into her head. Hours can pass with her in that condition, but then she snaps awake and is neither conscious nor caring of how much time has genuinely passed.

Even if there were sounds of any living beings on Ahmista, it is unlikely that she would hear them. She lives upon a mountain, if such a term as "lives" can be applied to her existence. It is not the highest mountain on Ahmista, but it is a fairly nice one, as mountains go. She is not quite at such an altitude as to feel a significant chill . . . not that she would even if it were subzero temperatures, because her lover keeps her warm.

In fact, her lover does more than that. Her lover keeps her company, her lover keeps her close. Her lover is the be-all and end-all of her existence on the planet, of her existence in the universe. She feels her lover in her mind, and she is content.

Her lover is sleek and gray, vaguely cylindrical in
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Star Trek New Frontier

shape but with a variety of sections branching off in an assortment of directions. Its sections are inserted directly into her nervous system at a dozen points. In a way, her lover looks like a great thorny bush with limbs trailing off and intertwining with one another.

And ultimately, all the branches come back to her, and she comes back to it, for together they are one.

Together they are a whole. They complete one another.

She is singing to her lover more than she is to herself.

Her lover never tells her what it thinks of her songs.

That's okay, really. She doesn't need to hear her lover's approval, because she knows she already has that. How could she not? After all, she has given her life over to her lover. She neither needs, nor wants, anything else. Her lover gives her so much. Gives her nutrients, gives her life and the ability to live. And all she need do is make her lover her entire reason for living. That she has managed to do.

It suddenly pulses in a different manner beneath her fingers. She has been drifting slightly, but the alert manner of her lover snaps her back to full focus. She reaches out with her mind, reaches out through her lover.

There is a creature.

It has just hatched from an egg, approximately twenty miles away, deep in a forest that is otherwise devoid of life. It is small, covered with fur, and looking for a mother who is long since dead. It has no claws, not yet. It's fairly helpless, really, at this point.

Without its mother, it might very likely die on its own. However, it might be resourceful enough to survive, to grow and thrive. And possibly someday be
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